The 1961-1971 Austin-Healey Sprite was the restyled successor to the Mark I "bug-eye" Sprite, with a squared-up nose and tail grafted onto the original main body section.
The car retained the diminutive 80-inch-wheelbase chassis and suspension of its predecessor, though rear springing was changed from quarter- to half-elliptics beginning in spring 1964. Also at that time, BMC changed from sliding sidescreens to proper wind-up windows for the doors. The lift-up nose section and lidless tail on early models gave way to a conventional hood and opening trunklid.
Engines progressed through several displacements, but all were based on BMC's rugged A-series four-cylinder unit that had been around since the war. Trim and equipment were gradually upgraded over the years.
Following the end of Donald and Geoff Healey's association with BMC, their name was removed from the last 1971 models, known simply as Austin Sprite. The car also sold with the MG badge as the near-identical Midget, which continued beyond the end of Sprite production through 1979 with a total of 226,526 built.
A very basic sports car, the Sprite taught a lot of young Americans what British-style motoring was all about. It's still enjoyable as economical everyday transport, providing you can put up with its very cramped cockpit, hard ride, and crude controls.
Offsetting these drawbacks are nimble handling, open-air flair, and sturdy mechanicals just right for novice mechanics. The 1961-1967 cars are preferred as federal safety and emissions controls robbed later models of some power and, to an extent, agility.
Pluses of the 1961-1971 Austin-Healey Sprite (& MG Midget):
- Better equipped, more practical than "frog-eye"
- Progressively better, though always modest, performance (0-60 in 15-20 seconds, top speed 85-100 mph)
- Cheap to buy and run
- Parts still relatively plentiful
Minuses of the 1961-1971 Austin-Healey Sprite (& MG Midget):
- Cramped accommodations
- Low-geared, buzzy engine
- Oxcart ride
Production of the 1961-1971 Austin-Healey Sprite (& MG Midget):
- Mark II: 31,665
- Mark III: 25,905
- Mark IV: 22,793
Specifications of the 1961-1971 Austin-Healey Sprite (& MG Midget):
Wheelbase, inches: 80.0
Length, inches: 137.5
Weight, pounds: 1,550-1,650
Price, new: $2,000-$3,000 (U.S.)
Engines for the 1961-1971 Austin-Healey Sprite (& MG Midget):
|ohv I-4||948 cc (58 cid)||46||1961-1965|
|ohv I-4||1,098 cc (67 cid)||56/59||1965-1968|
|ohv I-4||1,275 cc (78 cid)||65||1968-1971|
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