The History of the Austin-Heley 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.
Perhaps the Austin-Healey 3000 is the best known of all the Big Healeys. The 3000 is similar to the Austin-Healey 100-6 and it came in two versions, the 3000-BT7 and the 3000-BN7. The 3000-BT7 was the company’s four-seater model of which it built 10,825 examples. The 3000-BN7 was the two-seater model of which Austin-Healey built 2,825 examples.
The 3000 models were built in the period 1959-1961 and this Austin-Healey model represents the company’s “golden age”. In those days, the cars were known for impressive class wins and victories on road rally circuits across Europe. In this period, sports car enthusiasts from across the globe started to pay great attention to the performances of Austin-Healey’s models.
There are quite a few community colleges in Michigan that offer automotive restoration courses and use 3000 models for their projects. Highly motivated students that want to partake in these projects are encouraged to apply even if they don’t hold a high school diploma.
The schools will actively help these students to take GED practice tests offered for free by BestGEDClasses.org, earn their high school equivalency degrees, and continue their automotive restoration education in college. Great efforts and a fantastic opportunity for skilled students that, for whatever reason, couldn’t finish high school.
Austin-Healey’s Sprite Mark III was produced in the years 1964-1966 (Series HAN8). The Mark III was actually Austin-Healey’s transition model between its predecessor (the Mark II) and the Mark IV convertible, its follow-up model. Whereas the Mark III came with roll-up windows like a convertible, the car still came with a button-down, easily detachable, soft top like a roadster.
The Mark III was absolutely an improvement regarding protection from bad weather conditions but it still wasn’t a real convertible. The car was just as handsome as Austin-Healey’s Mark II Sprite and it came with the same engine (1098cc) as the Mark II HAN7 Series, though this time, the engine produced 3 more horsepower (59BHP). In total, Austin-Healey made 25,905 examples of the Mark III Series.
Austin-Healey’s Sprite Mark II (Series HAN6 & HAN7) was produced between 1961 and 1964. The Mark II was quite differently styled than the Bugeye, its rather awkwardly-looking predecessor. The Sprite Mark II’s headlights were now placed in a more conventional spot and fenders, or “wings”, as well as a trunk or boot lid, was now added for easier access to the car’s trunk. The Mark II is a handsome car, though less striking than the Bugeye.
Austin-Healy made two variations of its Mark II, the HAN6 model that came with the 948cc engine that was also found in the Bugeye (though with 3 more BHP at 46). The company produced 20,450 examples of the HAN6 Series.
In the fall of 1962, the HAN7 Series was launched and though identical in looks and dimensions, it came with a considerable performance upgrade. The HAN7 contained a bigger engine of 1098cc that resulted in 56BHP and the car was also outfitted with disc brakes at the front to better handle the extra power. In total, Austin-Heley made 11,215 HAN7 Series examples. All of the company’s Sprite Mark II cars were roadsters with side curtains and a detachable top.
Donald Healey designed the Austin-Healey Sprite as an open, small sports car. The car was introduced in 1958 by BMC (British Motor Corporation) as a rather small, low-cost open sports car developed for that market segment that was left open after the pre-war Austin Seven was taken out of production.
The Austin-Healey Sprite used an updated version of Austin’s A-Series engine as well as a large number of other components used in already existing cars to keep the cost as minimal as possible.
The Austin-Healey Sprite was built from 1958 through 1960 and is in North Amerca better known as the “Bugeye” and in other parts of the world as the “Frogeye.” The car owes its nickname to the unique way the headlights are mounted, on the car’s bonnet in the pods. This feature was, in fact, one of the results of the many cost-reducing design measures. The original design of the car had retractable headlights and the pods were designed as rotating for lights-off times.
Most probably, the Austin-Healey 3000 model is the most sought-after British classic sports car ever built. The 3000 has been very desirable to many enthusiasts from the very moment the car was launched. The 3000 model had already reached classic status while it was still being produced, something that only very rarely occurs.
Though quite an achievement, that wasn’t entirely unexpected considering Austin-Healey’s reputation and heritage in combination with the company’s earlier achievements in the history of motorsports. Since the 3000 model was introduced, the car particularly excelled in some of the most prestigious race circuits and rallies across the globe.
The 3000 model by Austin-Healey looked quite muscular when the car was launched in mid-June of 1959. The bodywork was made by the Jensen Motors Company while the car was assembled at the BMC plant in Abingdon. The 3000 model was actually like the natural evolution from its predecessor, the Austin-Healey model 100/6 and it came with a few important improvements compared to the 100/6 model.
The Austin-Healey 100 model was introduced during the Motor Show in 1952 and came with a beautiful body designed by Donald Healey’s Motor Company and with an engine by Austin that had been previously used in Austin’s light trucks and the company’s A90 Atlantic model.
The early models had a 4-cylinder engine so they are now referred to as Austin Healey 100-4s. The first significant changes to this model took place in 1956, the year that the company replaced the 4-cylinder engine with a 6-cylinder engine. The Austin-Healey 100-6 model was slower and heavier than the 4-cylinder model, the car’s interior was completely redesigned, and its wheelbase was increased slightly which allowed for two additional but very small seats so this model was called the 2+2 version.
In 1946, Donald Healey established his Motor Company in Warwick, United Kingdom, with the purpose of designing and producing sporting cars. His company set out to design and develop a chassis and suspension to be combined with a Riley gearbox and a 4-cylinder 2443cc engine that produced over one hundred BHP. The race cars that Donald Healey produced in those days are generally known as Warwick Healeys but they are also referred to as pre-Austin cars or pre-BMC cars.
It wasn’t long before Healey’s cars became far too expensive for the market so he started with new designs that included parts bins mass-produced by major manufacturers. One of the outcomes was the classic Healey 100, the number 100 indicating that the car’s top speed was 100mph. In 1952, after the Earls Court Motor Exhibition, Donald Healey struck a deal with Austin’s Leonard Lord to manufacture Donald’s car and renamed it the Austin Healey 100. Later, the more famous and more powerful Austin Healey 3000 was to follow.