CarFest South 'Pride & Joy' Auction 2012

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1959 Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite

Lot No.: 101

Registration: 921 FTU
Chassis Number: AN5/6336
Engine Number: 6025
Number of cylinders: 4
CC: 950
Year of Manufacture: 1959
Sold for (£): 8,736

The Austin-Healey Sprite is a small, open sports car which was announced to the press in Monte Carlo on 20th May, 1958, just before the Monaco Grand Prix. It was intended to be a low-cost model that 'a chap could keep in his bike shed', yet be the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven. The Sprite was designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, which received a royalty payment from the manufacturers, BMC. It first went on sale at a price of £669, using a mildly tuned version of the Austin A-Series engine and it shared many other components from existing cars to keep costs down. The little Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the 'Frogeye' in the UK and the 'Bugeye' in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. Originally the designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; but cost-cutting by BMC led to the flip-up mechanism being deleted. The front sheet-metal assembly, including the bonnet and wings, was a one-piece unit, hinged from the back that swung up to allow access to the engine compartment. The 43bhp, 948cc engine was upgraded with twin 1 1/8" inch SU carburettors. The rack and pinion steering and suspension were derived from the Morris Minor with the front suspension made up of a coil spring and wishbone arrangement with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was both located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, again with lever-arm shock absorbers. There were no exterior door handles; the driver and passenger were required to reach inside to open the door. There was also no boot lid and access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment was achieved by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck.
Finished in the original Speedwell Blue paintwork, 921 FTU is a good solid example of a very early 'Frogeye' Sprite. The history file includes the original bill of sale and the official Austin Healey certificate of warranty , along with various bills, MOT's, the owners handbook and schedule of repairs. There is also a receipt for an engine rebuild just over 5000 miles ago. The vendor reports good oil pressure on cold start and tells us it really is great fun to drive. It comes with an aluminium luggage rack, period Philips radio, a rare hardtop and detachable side windows. The car has never been fully restored, although it was re-sprayed a while ago the paint is starting to show signs of its age. Structurally it is very good, with no inherent rust/rot problems, the 'A' posts are very nice with factory body numbers still in place. Body panels are straight and the floors are structurally sound.
Overall, a very pleasant classic car that brings a smile to driver and pedestrians every time it is driven.