There were a total of 5 Austin Healey Sprite Models created over the production life of this popular little English sports car. The production life of the Austin Healey Sprite Mark I lasted from 1958 until 1969 for models sent to America and, until 1971, for those sold domestically in England.
Back in 1956, Donald Healey and his son started to come up with a concept car that would fill a void that was present in the market place. The void was for an inexpensive sports car the average worker could afford. By 1958, this concept car was a reality and released at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix as the first Austin Healey Sprite model.
Originally, it was designed to have pop up headlights but due to their weight and costs, this was eliminated and the legend of the bugeye was born. The name bugeye or frogeye originated from the placement of the headlights on the hood along with the grill lending the front of the car to have a face with pop up eyes.
This bugeye became very popular very fast. Not only was its appearance unique but also the price tag of less than $ 2000 is in America. The performance was moderate with a top speed of just over 80 mph, but since it was so low to the ground with only 5 inches ground clearance, its handling was fantastic.
The production of this first model went from 1958 until 1961 when the upper management misinterpreted a slowdown in sales as the car having outlived its life expectancy. A total of 48,987 cars rolled off the production line in those first 3 years. This is when major reconstruction on the appearance of the car took place.
At the end of 1961, the Austin Healey Sprite Mark Ii was introduced to the world. Because of the popularity of the Mark I, the MG Midget was also brought into production with its own version of the Sprite Mark II. Both cars were made, side by side, in the same production plant in Abingdon, England.
Because these two cars were almost indistinguishable, both were referred to as the Spridgets. Gone were the distinctive bugeye headlight placements. These were moved to the more conventional position on the wings of the front fenders.
There were a few other changes to the car. The overall length of the new Mark II was shortened, by 1.5 inches, to 136 inches total and the weight of the car increased from 1464 pounds to 1543 pounds.
In the engine compartment, the compression ratio of the engine also increased from 8.30:1 to 9.0:1. This helped to increase the horse power from 45.6 to 47.1.
Through the remaining models of the Austin Healey Sprite, the MG version was nearly an exact duplicate. There were a total of 31,665 Mark II made until this production run ended in 1964. From 1964 until 1966, the Austin Healey Mark III was produced with a total of 25,905 units made. This model had a larger 1098cc engine and the length was only slightly increased to 136.3 inches.
The last Austin Healey Sprite was the Mark IV. Its production run lasted from 1966 until 1969 with the production of 20,357 cars. At that point, the Healey name was dropped for the last 2 years of the cars production. It was simply known as the Austin Sprite, and 2,433 cars were made and sold only in the UK.
So technically speaking, only 4 Austin Healey Sprite Models were made under the full name, but the last two years are included by all Austin Healey enthusiasts to make the total number to 5.
Lily Wrick is a writer about the fun of doing a complete Austin Healey Sprite Models. If you prefer to join Austin Healey Sports Car Clubs you will want to click the second link.
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Restoring and driving an Austin Healey is great fun!