The Austin-Healey partnership between Austin, part of the British Motor Corporation conglomerate, and Donald Healey Motor Company started in 1952, and was very successful with the ‘Big Healeys’ – the 100-4 and 100-6. These cars were relatively expensive however, and the idea for a smaller, less costly sports car that would sell in bigger numbers appealed to both – a car that "a chap could keep in his bike shed".
The result was the Austin-Healey Sprite, which was first announced in May 1958, in Monte Carlo, two days after that year's Monaco Grand Prix. The Sprite was designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, with production undertaken by BMC at the Abingdon MG factory, using many parts from existing BMC models, including the 948cc Austin A-series engine. The car was delightfully basic – it had a simple folding convertible top and plastic side windows to keep out the weather; there was no boot lid - good for structural rigidity, but meaning access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment could only be made by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck; there were no exterior door handles – the driver and passenger had to reach inside to open the doors. The bonnet was a clamshell-style unit with prominent fixed headlights either side of the central grille, leading to the ‘Frogeye’ nickname which the car quickly acquired.
The diminutive A-Series engine was mildly tuned, using twin SU carburettors driving the rear wheels through a four-speed transmission. Claimed output was 43 bhp and a contemporary UK magazine test reported a top speed of 82 mph and a 0–60 mph acceleration time of 20.5 seconds. By the time the quite different-looking Mk. II Sprite was introduced in 1961, around 49,000 Frogeye Sprites had been made.
This Mk.1 Sprite was first registered new, in the UK, in July 1960. We know little of its early history other than that extensive restoration work – both bodywork & engine/running gear – was undertaken at some point prior to its purchase by a new Jersey-based owner and importation to the island in 2010. There is a sizeable photographic record of this work.
With just two owners in Jersey, the car has seen relatively little use and the current recorded mileage is believed to be true (supported by the last UK MOT record in 2010). In 2015 considerable renovation works were undertaken and in 2017, a larger 1275 cc engine was fitted, swapping out the old 948 cc unit.