AUSTIN HEALEY SPRITE MKI MODEL HISTORY
Developed by the Donald Healey Motor Company in 1958, the MKI Sprite was intended as a low cost car that a ‘chap could keep in his bike shed’. It used a tuned version of the Austin A-Series engine of Morris Minor 1000 fame, developing 43bhp and capable of getting the Sprite to 80mph. To keep costs down, as many parts as possible from existing cars were used. The front suspension was borrowed from the Austin A35, and the rack and pinion steering taken from the Minor 1000.
Built at the MG factory in Abingdon between 1958 and 1961. The MKI Sprite manufacturing cost saving is most visibly evident with the headlights. These were originally intended to be retracted when not in use, but that was deemed too expensive by BMC, so they were simply permanently fixed in that upright position. Hence the ‘Frogeye’ name we know and love today.
Despite there being no external door handles or boot lid (for structural integrity) requiring the spare wheel to be accessed by folding the front seats down, the MKI proved extremely popular. It had endearing driving characteristics and was great fun to run around in. Its simplicity meant that chap in his shed could indeed maintain a MKI Sprite with no more than weekend maintenance. It became one of the most desirable small British sportscars of its time. In total 48, 987 Frogeye Sprites were made before it was duly followed by the MKII, MKIII and MKIV variants through to 1971 when production ended.
This particular Frogeye was built on 22nd January 1960 and dispatched to “Cheltenham Car Mart’ in Old English White with Red trim and a black hood and tonneau cover.
Purchased by the first owner Mr M Lemon from ‘Steels of Cheltenham’ on 30th January 1960 and used over the next 6 years clocking up 12,250 miles. Ownership then changed to Mr W Moison of Southampton on the 6th August 1966 who ran the car as his daily driver until 1976 when it was stored having covered 71,334 miles.
The present owners Jim and Jan Finch purchased the car on 11th July 2012 from Mrs J Moison of Bournemouth.
A comprehensive nut and bolt restoration followed over a five year period with a detailed photographic record kept.
The car presents beautifully today and would be an excellent opportunity for an enthusiast or collector.