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Homepage. This page: Photos from the 1960s of a Stage 3 tuned 'Frogeye/Bugeye' Sprite Mk1.

Austin-Healey Sprite Mk1.

It's always a pleasure to receive "in period" photos of cars now referred to as classic cars, especially when the background story to the images is also available from the person, or persons, shown in the photos. Such is the case with the following excellent set of old photos, all sent over by Ian Moorcraft of the Mk1 Austin-Healey Sprite that he purchased back in 1965. His fondness for simple rear-drive British cars continues to this day, as he owns a particularly smart Austin 7 saloon and also a Chummy, buying his first 7 way back in 1962.
My great thanks to Ian for sending over all the photos, and also providing a write-up on his memories of the car. Does anyone know what happened to his Sprite, registration 893 FHU? It doesn't show up on a search of the DVLA site, but it could be around somewhere, un-registered. This site has had previous success with uniting former owners of cars with later and current owners, so maybe someone out there can shed more light on where the Sprite ended up after Ian sold it? Anyway, to Ian's story ... beginning with a scan of the original purchase invoice for the car from John Dangerfield Sports Cars, plus a letter from the BMC Special Tuning Department at Abingdon (dated 1968), and a Special Tuning booklet specifically for owners of the Sprite Mk1.
BMC Special Tuning leaflet

1959 Frog-Eye Sprite 893FHU.

"I bought my Frog-eye two months after my 21st Birthday in 1965. Although only six years old it was already, like most 1960's cars, beginning to look rough around the edges, especially the inside trim and paint. I joined the Austin Healey Club soon after, the black and white photos (below) show me competing in one of their driving tests on the top floor car park of the now demolished Fairfax House in Bristol. The course was set among the concrete pillars and walls, unforgiving if you hit one!"
The first photo shows Ian at the wheel, pushing hard in the Sprite during the autotest in Bristol. At this point it sported a pair of extra Lucas spotlamps and racey bullet wing mirrors. The date was 1966.
(Please click the thumbnails to view the full-size images.)
Austin-Healey Sprite on an auto-test
Continuing the autotest in the Austin-Healey
"One of the Club's other events was a visit to the Abingdon works to see the cars being built and also a special opportunity to go into the Special Tuning Department to see the preparation of all the works rally cars of the time. BMC also supplied a huge feast of just about anything you could eat and drink, including whole fresh salmon on oval silver platters, it really was a fabulous day apart from it pouring with rain for most of the day."
Photo number 3 is a colour photo of the Sprite, resplendent in its BMC green paintwork and (at this time) still wearing original Sprite steel wheels. Extra lamps have been set into the grille, close to the AA badge, while small badges bearing Ferrari's prancing horse have made an appearance. A sturdy but rusty commercial vehicle can be seen in the background.
Colour photo of the green Austin-Healey
Next, photos of the car at a chilly time of the year. The young lady (who became Ian's wife) is certainly well wrapped up, a reminder that heaters in British cars - which were far from a universal fitment in the early 1960s - couldn't always be relied upon to raise the cabin temperature of a car much above tepid. A rear-facing Lucas spotlamp, wired as a reversing lamp I would imagine, and a de-rigueur STP sticker so often seen on tweaked cars of the 1960s and 1970s, can be seen here. A twin-pipe Peco exhaust system is also visible.
Rear view of the car
In the same location, a snap of Ian posed with the car.
Another rear view
"Over the years I upgraded the car. With the help of the BMC Special Tuning booklet brought the car up to tuning condition stage 3, I fitted a set of flat top pistons a special 88G camshaft with new special valves and springs, with timing changes and carb needles. The combined tuning conditions 1, 2 and 3 gave an increase of b.h.p up to 50 and the r.p.m range was increased to 5,800. All this topped off with a Peco twin pipe straight through exhaust, a set of Koni adjustable shockers and also an anti-roll bar on the front."
Next, a front view of the Sprite ...
Sprite Mk1 front view
... followed by a photo of 893 FHU parked alongside a pale yellow example.
Side view
"The picture of the car from the side shows the rear wheels have been increased in width by two inches and was achieved by cutting the rim in two and welding in a steel band. Tyre size was increased to 165s. This was all the rage at the time and everyone was doing it especially on Minis. Soon after I had the front wheels increased by two inches as well, I then found that the cars handling was severely compromised. White lines and trenches repaired with different tarmac pulled the car off course, sometimes quite violently. Still, they looked great!!"
Banded rear wheels
"I also cut back the rear panel of the boot to just forward of the hood making a more usable space behind the seats, this was similar to how the later models were done. As you can see from the receipt I paid 275.00 for the car and sold it five years later for 250.00! It was a terrific little car and we did many thousands of miles in it. It would be great to find it is still going strong, or maybe resting waiting to be resurrected, if you see it let OCC know as I would love to see it again. It's strange when you become part of social history, and more importantly when people like yourself do so much to record it for hopefully posterity. Now at 74 I look back to those times and probably only remember the 'good' bits, carefree times.
Ian Moorcraft."
The final image in this set shows Ian and his wife sat enjoying a picnic on a grass verge. This is my favourite of all the photos on this page, it sums up "1960s" to me, and could easily have been from an album cover, or a period sales brochure. Great stuff. Thanks again Ian.
Picnic time with the Austin-Healey Sprite
Return to Page 20 in the motoring photographs archive, or visit the main index here.
A further page of period (colour and b&w) photos featuring standard and modified Mk1 "Frogeye" Sprites, may be found on this page, here at OCC.

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