The History of the Austin-Healey Sprite (1962-1969)
The 1967 Austin-Healey Sprite Mk III is a 2-door, 4-cylinder (1098cc-59hp) much-loved convertible. This famous “Bugeye” Sprite was a relatively cheap, no-frills sports car intended for a lot of affordable fun and driving pleasure.
With this model, BMC (the British Motor Company) had found the right mix and the model turned out to be a well-selling sporting success quickly. In the years 1958 through 19621, almost fifty thousand Sprites were sold, mostly in North America. To keep the momentum going, the company updated and improved the Austin-Healy Sprite for the model that was introduced in 1961.
The Mk II Sprite (1961-1964) had the same body as the “Bugeye” but that was about it as the new model had gotten a total makeover. More conventional headlight settings and a new grille now came in place of the Bugeye’s earlier cheerful visage. The same styling and features could also be found on the car’s sister model that was launched a few months later as well as on the MGB model.
Initially, the Austin-Healey Mk II Sprites were fitted with virtually the identical 948-cc OHV 4-cylinder engines (A-series) as the earlier Bugeyes, but in October 1962, a 1098-cc engine version was introduced as well which increased the engine’s power by 10 bhp from 46 to 56. Though the new power and engine displacement limited the Sprite’s outright straight-line speed, the car’s low gravity center and pretty light weight made it terrific to handle and it wasn’t long before the Sprite was earning a great reputation in the world of on rally circuit racing.
In 1964, the Austin-Healey Mk III Sprite was launched, featuring a wide range of revisions and updates. The car now came with a curved, new windshield and there were also side windows that could be rolled up. The new model featured exterior new door handles and the revamped and updated new engine boasted three additional bhp as well as larger main bearings which improved the engine’s longevity. At the same time, the company had updated and improved the car’s rear suspension. All in all, great improvements and updates which boosted the model’s sales considerably.
In October of 1966, Austin Healey introduced the Mk IV Sprite model. Most notably was the car’s new 1275-cc, 65 bhp engine that was also used on another car, the Mini Cooper S. There were rising concerns, though, as in 1969, the big Healey models had not been made for some two years and the American dealer network had serious trouble to successfully market two practically identical cars. MG’s MGB model (the Midget) was still very successful while the Austin-Healey Sprite disappeared from the ranks.
These days, later Sprite models are much more affordable than Austin-Healey’s Bugeye Sprites while delivering an almost identical driving experience. This really makes the later models very good bargains though Sprite purists will always have a preference for the Austin-Healey Mk II Sprite from the years 1962-1964. More practical-minded Sprite enthusiasts, on the other hand, are usually preferring Mk III and Mk IV models mainly because of these models’ better and more comfortable suspension and improved weather protection features. All Austin-Healey Sprite models are relatively easy to work on and great cars to own. Mechanical work is pretty straightforward and parts are easily available. Additionally, performance enhancement is rather popular with all models so they still are used a lot for rallying. For details on the 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III, click here.