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Austin Healey Bugeyed Sprite
Austin Healey Bugeyed Sprite
Austin Healey Bugeyed Sprite
1960 Austin Healey Sprite

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Austin-Healey “Bugeye” Sprite

Otherwise known as “Frogeye” or “Spridget”, the Austin-Healey Sprite was manufactured from 1958 – 1971.

The “Bugeye” nickname was given based off of the pronounced headlights atop the car. These headlights were originally designed to retract upward into the hood when not in use, but this was later scrapped to cut market costs of the vehicle.

The design of Bugeyes was all about creating a low-cost automobile. A small build (11’ long and 4’5 feet wide), as well as a partial monocoque structure, were huge components to cutting costs.

With the structural support of the chassis being routed into the floor pan of the vehicle, the Sprite has a mostly monocoque design. This single-structure build helped cut costs drastically.

Sprite models were originally sold for only £700, about half the price of a Big Healey at that time. The price of a Sprite in combination with its size helped target the market of “everyday chaps” that could fit their vehicle into a bikeshed.

Mark I

The original Mark I Austin-Healey Sprite was produced from 1958 – 1961.

The Mark I has a four-speed gearbox to access the .9-liter A-series engine. The A-series engine produces only 40 horsepower, but this isn’t a problem for a vehicle only weighing 1500 pounds. This car runs similar to an oversized go-cart.

There were many things that Austin-Healey did to cut the costs of the Sprite, one of which is the storage space. The Sprite doesn’t have an openable trunk from the rear but instead features a storage space accessible behind the bucket seats within the cab.

Interestingly, the Mark II also didn’t have outside door handles. In order to enter, the driver and passenger needed to reach over to use a lever located inside the door.

All features were also as manual as possible. Turning signals could be turned on or off using a switch on the center console, same with the heater, and headlights. The Sprite featured a windshield cleaning fluid that sprayed from a manual pump within the car.

Although this car was sold as a low-budget sports car, it still handled extremely well for its time. The Sprite is known for incredibly nimble steering, and overall fun driving experience.

The Sprites performance:

  • Top speed of 85.8 mph
  • 0-60 mph in 20 seconds
  • Fuel consumption at an average of 43 mpg

Mark II

Produced from 1961 – 1964, the Bugeye Mark II featured modifications that drastically changed the appearance of the car.

The Mark II saw the repositioning of the headlights from the original “Bugeye” central location, to a wider seat on the wings. This change probably would have happened to the Mark I if not for the last-minute elimination of the retractable headlights to cut costs.

Many of the appearance changes were based on the MG, including additional metal being added to the rear bumper for practicality.

Other revamps of the Sprites aesthetic included a wider grill and more squared-off sidebar. These features took a more sophisticated appearance being referred to as the “Square Body” model compared to the Bugeye.

The Mark II also now featured an openable trunk lid, unlike the first model. All of these additional features costed an added weight of around 100 pounds, but many enthusiasts agree that it was worth it.

The performance differences of the Mark II include:

  • Larger twin SU carburetors
  • Close-ratio gearbox

Sprite Mark II stats:

  • Top speed of 83 mph
  • Fuel consumption at an average of 43 mpg

Mark III

The Mark III saw production from 1964 – 1966

The differences made to the Mark III are limited, but include:

  • Minor trim work
  • Wind-up side window
  • Exterior door handles
  • Soft top roof
  • Engine Casting
  • Modded rear suspension

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