A NEW APPROACH IN AN AGE OLD BUSINESS+44 (0) 1926 691 141
Sold for: £21,375
The Austin Healey Sprite was conceived during the early months of 1956 at a meeting between Austin's Leonard Lord and Donald Healey, to fill a gap in the market left by the demise of the MG TD and TF Midgets, which had been replaced by the larger MGA. The go-ahead was given for Donald Healey to design a small, inexpensive and fun sports car capable of filling the gap in the existing market. The target was to produce a sports car for the price of a Morris Minor - around £600. Primary responsibility for the project lay with Geoffrey Healey, son of Donald, with the chassis designed by Barry Bilbie and the body styled by Gerry Coker, the designer of the Austin Healey 100. The design had to be simple and inexpensive to produce - and this was certainly achieved with the new Sprite which, with its cheeky looks and smiley face, rapidly became known as the Frog Eye.
A home-market, right-hand drive car, XOX 772 was completed on 12/03/1959 with chassis number 13172 and was first registered on 07/04/1959. It has remained in the UK all its life and still carries its original registration number.
The car was purchased as a stalled restoration project from a Frog Eye Sprite enthusiast in Cornwall, by its current vendor, Memory Lane Classics, who are building an excellent reputation as restorers of these distinctive little cars, and XOX has been through their complete restoration program. The list is far too long to mention here but it is fully documented within the history file.
Briefly, the body shell was stripped back to bare metal, panels replaced as needed with new UK-supplied items, and then seam-welded to form invisible repairs. The entire shell was powder-coated to ensure a rust-free future, and then the whole of the car, including the underside and inner panels, was re-painted in its original colour of Iris Blue.
The mechanical works have been extensive with a total of 1,882 parts replaced. The complete drive chain, engine, gearbox, prop shaft, differential, and back axle have been re-engineered to better than original condition. The front suspension and steering mechanism have been replaced and all brake parts have been renewed. The electrical system has been upgraded to negative earth, including an alternator cleverly disguised to look like a dynamo, and electronic ignition and all new electric components have been fitted. In addition, the fuel system has been updated including a new fuel tank, fuel lines, electric petrol pump and inline filter and the carburettors professionally rebuilt.
The original chrome has been re-plated to better than original specification and the interior now looks fabulous with new blue seats, new blue carpets, new trim, and a new wood-rim steering wheel and gear knob. The dashboard has been recovered and all the gauges restored and re-calibrated. The hood frame has been stripped and powder-coated and a new blue hood and tonneau cover complete the restoration. The car will be supplied with its UK V5c, MOT (16/06/2020) and Heritage Certificates, several old original buff and green logbooks and a comprehensive list of all parts used in the restoration.
Memory Lane Classics hope to become renowned as the world’s best restorers of Frogeyes and are already becoming known for their fastidious attention to detail. Until recently it was possible to acquire a GRP-bodied Sprite replica with various upgrades but that's not what's on offer here. This is a fully restored (effectively new), period-correct Frog Eye Sprite with a build quality and standard of finish that would be beyond the dreams of the engineers at Abingdon way back in 1959.