Crappy Carpet: 1959 Austin Healey Sprite Mk1 – SOLD!

by | Jun 2022 | Classifinds, Sports Car Saturday

(To stop the slideshow and expand the pictures, click on the current photograph below)

July 8, 2022, Update – We confirmed the seller of this “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

Sometimes we come across a car that features something that makes us shake our heads and ask, “Why?” In the case of this 1959 Austin-Healey Mk1 Sprite originally listed in June 2022 on Craigslist in Lexington, Kentucky, it’s the use of beige carpeted better suited for a bedroom than a Bugeye. That faux pas aside, the seller reports their Sprite runs and drives well.

Currently offered for $12,800, Classic.com, the analytics and search engine for the collector car market, confirms the ask is slightly below the one-year rolling average of this guide’s summary for Mk1 Sprites produced between 1958 and 1961.  By clicking on the green dots in the graph below, you can navigate to each comparable car sold as a way to help you evaluate the price of the car featured here:

As a second data point, the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls between this guide’s #4 “Fair” estimate of $8,450 and its #3 “Good” appraisal of $14,300.

Austin-Healey produced its entry-level Sprite sports car from 1958 to 1971. British Motor Company (“BMC”), contracting with Don Healey at that point, launched the car in late May 1958 in Monte Carlo, two days after that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. It was intended to be a low-cost model and spiritual successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven.  While Donald Healey designed the Sprite, BMC’s MG factory at Abingdon handled production.

The Mk1 Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the “frogeye” in the UK and the “bugeye” in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. The car’s designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; a similar arrangement was used many years later on the Porsche 928. However, cost-cutting by BMC led deletion of the flip-up mechanism, giving the car its most distinctive feature. This gave the car its appeal as a result of its much-loved cute appearance.  The car’s distinctive frontal styling bore a strong resemblance to the defunct American 1951 Crosley Super Sport. In total, BMC produced nearly 50,000 Mk1 Sprites between 1958 and 1961.

The problem of providing a rigid structure to a small open-topped sports car was resolved by Barry Bilbie, Healey’s chassis designer, who adapted the idea provided by the Jaguar D-type, with rear suspension forces routed through the body shell’s floor pan. The Sprite’s chassis design was the world’s first volume-production sports car to use unitary construction, where the sheet metal body panels (apart from the bonnet) take many of the structural stresses. The original metal gauge (thickness of steel) of the rear structure specified by Bilbie was reduced by the Austin Design Office during the prototype build.  However, during testing at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) distortion and deformation of the rear structure occurred and the original specification was reinstated. The two front chassis legs projecting forward from the passenger compartment mean the shell is not a full monocoque. The front sheet-metal assembly, including the hood and fenders, was a one-piece, rear-hinged unit that swung up to facilitate access to the engine compartment.

Healey sourced the 43 brake horsepower, 948 cc overhead valve engine from the Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000 models and upgraded with twin 1​18 inch SU carburetors. The rack and pinion steering was derived from the Morris Minor 1000 and the front suspension from the Austin A35.  The front suspension was a coil spring and wishbone arrangement, with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was both located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, again with lever-arm shock absorbers and top links. The wheels were 13″ fitted with either 520X13 cross-ply tires or upgraded with 145HR13 Pirelli Cinturato radial units.  There were no exterior door handles; the driver and passenger were required to reach inside to open the door. There was also no boot lid, owing to the need to retain as much structural integrity as possible, and access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment was achieved by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck, which resulted in a large space available to store soft baggage.

The Jay Leno’s Garage YouTube Channel just posted this video of Jay’s latest collection edition: an unrestored Bugeye Spite:

Moss Motors, a major restoration supplier for British sports such as this 1959 Austin-Healey Spite Mk1, makes a reproduction-quality carpet and underlayment kit. That would be the first thing we would install once this car arrives in our garage.

Here’s the seller’s description:

“FOR SALE:
1959 AUSTIN-HEALEY SPRITE
GREAT CONDITION – ONLY 50,567 MILES
RUNS – DRIVES GREAT
ASKING $12,800 / OBO
SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY

Keep or toss: What would you do with the carpet in this 1959 Bugeye Sprite?  Please comment below and let us know!

1 Comment
  1. GC

    Cute little Bugeye. These are great little cars, and I wouldn’t be put off by the color of the carpet. It’s what is under the carpet that’s important. I have owned a couple 59 Bugeyes, and you would really need to inspect it under the carpet and under the seats for rust, as it can be a big structural issue with the frame rails and spring perches, not to mention the floors. Surprised, also, there are no under hood photos.

    Reply

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