1958 Austin Healey Sprite
Lightweight sports car fun with a legendary name attached to it is why this 1958 Austin Healey Sprite is so alluring. These first-gen Frogeyes have become truly desirable collectors, and so it’s great to see a first-year example that is so well finished.
This one is coming off of over two decades of long term ownership, and so as you look over this whole car, you see a little bit of extra care that goes into a classic you want as a keeper. It’s in everything from the way the panels align to correct details, like the factory “AH” hubcaps. There’s also an overall appeal because these Sprites were all about the joy of driving. These first-gen cars seem to capture the spirit the best.
After all, you can’t help but smile when you see the styling that’s unique to these first few years. And while the design is endearing, this had a much larger purpose. It’s a featherweight machine that could even shed the roof and windshield for racing. And while the black vinyl top might be for temporary use, it looks good as it coordinates with the racing stripes. The green on this one certainly isn’t British Racing Green. Instead it’s a more modern Mopar color, but it feels like it fits here as part of the tradition of bold colors on British roadsters.
If you love the way the black roof looks against the green paint, then you’ll love the black interior, too. There are nice details, like the added comfort from the high-back bucket seats that also have the sporty vented pattern. While fashionable, we all really know the real purpose is to be a driver-focused machine. That’s why you get a grippy wood-rimmed steering wheel that makes it easy to see the clear Smiths speedometer. And this one doesn’t need a center console because your right hand rests perfectly and naturally on the gearshift.
The hood now hinges at the front for better access to the motor. This is a good thing, because it really gives everyone a chance to see the level of detail, too. It’s the correct 948cc unit, but there have also been a bunch of upgrades. It includes a Weber carburetor, Pierce intake, Flame Thrower ignition, Cobalt wires, and an aluminum radiator. It helps give a little extra pep to the engine, but really, the Sprite’s biggest performance advantage has always been its light weight. Also, part of the appeal is that it takes plenty of driver input from the four-speed manual transmission to get the most out of this mighty little motor. So you’ll be particularly happy to know the gearbox was replaced earlier in 2020. The last key to the Sprite being so good on the backroads is its unibody construction. It was revolutionary for a road car at the time, and it keeps the featherweight body nice and stiff in the turns.
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Location: Lutz, Florida, United States