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Austin Healey Sprite & MG Midget

Austin Healey Sprite & MG Midget Published: 5th Sep 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Austin Healey Sprite & MG Midget
Austin Healey Sprite & MG Midget
Austin Healey Sprite & MG Midget
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The Austin-Healey Sprite and the MG Midget are one of the same and ‘Spridgets’ are the collective byword for cheap, classic sports car fun

Why it’s a winner

Spridget is the well worn nickname given to Austin-Healey Sprites and MG Midgets and is a compliment for these fun loving sportsters. For their money, few cars can touch a Spridget for raw fun while their simple mechanicals – based upon the Austin A35 and the Morris Minor – means no other sports classics are as cheap or simple to maintain.

As a sort of cut price Caterham (well, why not?), the appeal of Spridgets is even more enduring than ever and they make superb starter sports classics.

History

1958 Launched initially as the Austin- Healey Sprite with distinctive Frog-eye look, the car is powered by a special twin carb 948cc engine. The Austin A35 provided the platform albeit with better Morris Minor rack and pinion steering.

1961 MG Midget is introduced with new less extrovert frontal treatment which also became part of the Sprite MkII.

1962 A more powerful 1098cc A-Series engine was adopted for both models, together with an improved gearbox and front disc brakes as standard.

1964 MkII Midgets and MkIII Sprites. These featured worthwhile ‘luxuries’ such as an improved hood, proper winding windows (wow!) and a revised dashboard layout.

1966 MkIII Midget and MkIV Sprites launched with a 65bhp 1275cc version of the A-Series engine, plus an improved hood design.

1968 1275cc models were slowly improved during the decade, with a higher-geared differential from October, for slightly more relaxed motorway cruising.

1969 A new black front grille replaced the more stylish chrome affair plus there were some interior trim design changes.

1971 That January, the agreement with Healey expired and the Austin-Healey Sprite was just called the Austin Sprite from then on, the car being killed off altogether in July.

1972 Midget remains however and features the now desired round rear wheelarches, instead of the squared-off type.

1974 Radical changes in October saw the old-style square arches re-introduced because they made the car better protected against a rear impact, as dictated by the ever tightening US legislation. But 1974 saw the ruination of this great little sports car when rubber bumpers were grafted on, again for US crash legislation reasons, plus the ride height was also increased for the same reason. The A-Series engine was ditched in favour of arch rival Triumph’s 1493cc unit, as fitted in the Spitfire, allied to a Morris Marina gearbox. Sacrilege?

Driving

The real joy of these nippy cars today isn’t their performance (although you can easily tune them, especially the A-Series versions) but it’s their razor-sharp steering and agile handling which still set them apart against both cars of that era as well as many moderns for that matter. All Spridgets are as crude as a Caterham and the cockpit is a tight fit for anybody approaching six foot.

Best models

The 1275cc A-Series versions remain the pick of the bunch still, not least because the cars didn’t suffer the insult of ruined chassis and looks. If you opt for a later Triumphengined car you get marginally better performance, but the engine has less scope for tuning. Rubber-bumper models have value on their side and ride that bit better although it’s still pretty harsh. Original Frogeyes are a different entity and originality counts the most – unlike Spridgets where many remain modified and this good classic even better we reckon.

Prices

The very best non Frog-eye Sprite or Midget (the A-H name carries little price premium on this car but this could well change-ed) would have to be something special indeed to be worth over £10,000 and most examples will sell for nearer half this. At this price, and with values hardly soaring, it’s arguable that restoration of a shed isn’t economically viable, especially if you’re considering a re-shell – unless the car is particularly special to you or like working on classics as much as driving them that is!

Logic would dictate that you buy the best example you can find for around £5000 and just try to keep it that way. Anything under £2000 is likely to be more body filler than steel, since rust is the worst enemy of these cars along with penny pinching repairs. Frog-eyes are worth double a Spridget, rubber-bumper cars the least expensive and so are excellent value.

Verdict

Spridgets put the fun back into driving and is the ideal starter sportster classic. You’ll enjoy the sort of experience that Morgan and Caterham owners spend thousands of pounds to achieve for just pennies plus a Spridget is as simple and cheap as a Morris Minor to keep! It’s the perfect budget sports car.

Five top faults

1. RUST All rot in a big way and the vast majority will have seen repairs. Check rear springs where they meet body behind the seats as first port of call along with the floor, the bulkheads and so on
2. BODGES Thanks to their low value, penny-pinching has always been rife and most cars will have some filler in them – somewhere… So watch for recent shiny home resprays
3. ORIGINALITY Look for engine swaps (Marina 1275 etc). Conversion to Rover K-Series is quite ok
4. TRIUMPH Wear of the crankshaft bearings and its thrust washers are common on this unit
5. http://www.frogeyespares.co.uk has all you need, including Mk1 Sprite bodyshells, to repair any model



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