Skip to main content

Austin-Healey Sprite Mk1

Austin-Healey Sprite Mk1 1950s British classic sports car

The Austin-Healey Sprite Mk1 must be in the running for the cutest car ever made! Its most adorable feature? Some may plump for its seductive smile - in the form of an almost 'emoticon'-style grille. Most, though, would go with those foxy 'frog eyes' ... after which the car was nick-named. Ironically, they almost did not appear. Donald Healey - the Sprite's designer - wanted the car to have retractable headlights. Mercifully - for classic car buffs - the cost of fitting them proved prohibitive. So, 'pop-up' became 'pop-eyed' ... and a legend was born!

But, the Sprite was not only about styling. A top speed of 84mph was quite acceptable, at the time. Particularly, since the Sprite's in-line four engine produced just 43bhp. Capacity was 948cc. There again, there was not a lot to lug about ... the Sprite measured just 3.5m in length! The 'Frog-eye' was economical - 45mpg the reward for careful driving. Though, tweaking the 'A Series' engine was a breeze. The whole of the one-piece nose section came up, allowing for easy access. The Sprite's four-speed 'box served up the power in bite-size chunks.

The Sprite was the younger sibling of the '3000' - or, 'big Healey', as it was dubbed. So, BMC's shelves were laden with parts, to bolt straight onto the Sprite. Most components had also seen service on Morris Minors, and Austin A35s. 38,999 Frogeyes were built. However, Healey broke the mould after they had built the Sprite. Never again would a car be quite so cuddly!


Popular posts from this blog

FN Four

In terms of breakthroughs in the history of motorcycling, there cannot be many to rival the first in-line four engine. Belgium was the birthplace of this landmark layout. FN was the much-to-be-thanked manufacturer.The FN Four first hit the highway in 1911. It produced 4bhp. That, from a 491 cc capacity. At the time, such figures described state-of-the-art technology. Top speed for the FN Four was 40mph. Not bad - for an 8-valve inlet-over-exhaust set-up. Oh, it was air-cooled.The FN Four was light - tipping the scales at 165lb dry. Not only the motor, but the chassis, too, was avant-garde. It featured an early form of telescopic forks. A new-fangled clutch - and 2-speed 'box - only added to the FN Four's slick box of tricks. Solid shaft-drive output the power. Who, then, designed this visionary vintage? You will not hear the name Paul Kelekom shouted from motorcycling's rooftops. But, you should - for it was he who fashioned the FN Four. In so doing, he ki…

Chrysler Airflow

The Chrysler Airflow was where Art met Science! The lines of its bodywork were drawn from aerodynamics - at a time when that discipline was a mere glint in a boffin's eye! Certainly, it was far from being routinely used in automotive design. Indeed, the Airflow was the first production car to feature the fledgling craft. A 'wind tunnel' was duly developed. Even today, such systems are considered arcane ... but, in the early '30s, they were tantamount to a black art! The engineering wizards overseeing the project were Carl Breer, Fred Zeder, and Owen Skelton. Breer was the catalyst ... he had been first to be smitten by the science of aerodynamics. Zeder and Skelton soon followed suit. And it did no harm at all when Orville Wright - father of aviation - was brought on board! More than 50 test cars were built. By means, then, of painstaking refinements, the Chrysler Airflow gradually took shape.But the Airflow was not just about aerodynamics. 'Weight lo…

NSU Ro80

The styling of the NSU Ro80 was ahead of its time. At first glance, masses of glass were straight out of science-fiction. Closer inspection revealed the gently rising line of its profile - giving it a low front, high back stance - which would influence automotive design for years to come. The 5-seater body was supremely aerodynamic for a saloon car - making cruising at speed a breeze. So flawless was it outwardly that it was hardly touched in ten years of production. Just the tail-lights were modified, on later versions.The Ro80's handling was equally impressive. FWD - and precision power-steering - kept it perfectly pointed. The long-travel strut suspension soaked up bumps. High-efficiency disc brakes were fitted all round. The 3-speed semi-automatic transmission swept through the gears with aplomb. Top speed was a sound 112mph.But, of course, nothing is perfect. The Ro80 was powered by a twin-rotor Wankel engine. Unfortunately - in a rush to get the car into showroom…