Already Gone? 1966 Austin-Healey Sprite Mark III

Titles are harder than a lot of people think. You want something that catches the eye, excites interest, and, at the same time, encapsulates the main point of the presentation. Thus, when selling a car, one might not wish to put “SOLD” in the title. Whether this 1966 Austin-Healey is sold or not, it is listed for sale here on eBay. Located in Arlington Heights, Illinois, the price tag is $7,000, but if that’s too much you can make the seller an offer.

1966 was the last year for the Mark III Sprite, which itself was the penultimate iteration of the model. Since its launch in 1958, the Sprite had gone through a gradual evolution, slowly progressing from the bug-eye Mark I to a small roadster that took many of its styling cues from its larger sibling, the MGB. Yet, through it all it bore essentially the same engine it started with, the A-Series I4, though displacement increased from 948 to 1098 with the Mark II. This provided the Mark III and its fraternal twin, the MG Midget, with 59 hp and 65 lb.ft of torque. These aren’t astonishing numbers, but they should be viewed in context: the tiny car has a curb weight of just over 1,500 pounds. Aside from the engine, new owners got a four-speed transmission and very little else– the Sprite was always a minimalist’s sports car. The Mark III was, in fact, the first version to offer exterior door handles and locks.

The example presented here looks to be in very good shape cosmetically. The red paint looks very nice in the photos, and while the carpet could use a refresh, the interior shows the care lavished on this little roadster by past owners. The seller reports surface rust on the underside of the vehicle, which is no huge surprise, and the pictures reveal some points where the chrome needs attention. I am inclined to believe that the dryer vent duct on the engine is not OEM. I am quite certain that the duct tape is not. Still, not a hard job as engine work goes, and replacement parts should be available.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of the car’s engine woes. The seller reports a loss of compression on one cylinder that has defied all efforts at repair. This is the problem that has prompted the sale, and if the current owner has found it so frustrating that he is willing to throw in the towel, it’s a serious issue indeed. The new owner should be prepared to consider a new block, or, should that fail, a new engine. That said, it’s rare to see one of these offered complete, relatively free of rust, and with an interior you can sit in without putting a blanket on the driver’s seat first. It could make a great little cruiser to take to the local car shows, or just enjoy some top-down, back road fun before winter comes.

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Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    I have a ’74 Midget.Fun cars to drive.
    I’m glad to see these finally getting some respect,
    & the values going up on them.
    I keep waiting for someone to be offended
    by the name of it,so I turned the “M” upside-down
    to avoid that.

    Like 12
    • 19sixty5 Member

      Your Widget reminds me of a 67 Le Maus I had… turned the “n” in Le Mans upside down.This is a nice appearing Sprite, I had a 70 MGB, it was a fun car. I never fit too well in the “Spridgets”, too tall.

      Like 2
      • Matt

        A friend of mine used to go to the car auctions all the time and I frequently went with. A car rolled through OVLOV … it was a friend of his who painted cars and was mildly dyslexic.

  2. Robert Carroll

    “Penultimate” (the very last)?

    The Sprite was manufactured in the UK from 1958 through 1971 and was available in the U.S. through at least 1969. I have owned a ’68 Mk IV Sprite since 1987 (restored it twice) and am restoring a ’69 model for a client. The Mk IV offered a 1275 cc inline 4-cylinder as well as a number of more practical amenities – such as roll-up windows and a padded dash.

    Upgrade the engine a bit and convert to tube shocks along with stiffer/lower front springs, and better wheels with a lower profile and you’ve got a car that is a blast to drive. Swap to a 5-speed transmission and you can cruise all day at 70 mph while sloloming in your own lane with just one hand on the steering wheel hub.

    Like 6
    • Jim in FL

      Penultimate means next to last. A lot of people think it means last. Cool car, basic and fun. How hard could it be to rebuild a little four cylinder? I like these, don’t know how I would fit at 6’2”

      Like 4
    • Kevin C McGoff

      Robert Carroll – Do you have any info on any project 1968 Mk IV Sprites? My dad had one and I’ve always wanted to rebuild one.
      Kevin Carroll McGoff
      704-995-0143

      Like 1
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    Too bad they didn’t fix the bent hood before the sale. Could be a nice car it if the engine just needs a basic rebuild. Lots of parts available.

    Like 3
    • Terrry

      Better yet, swap it out for a later 1275.

      Like 3
      • MrBZ

        Yep–if it ain’t original, make it better.

        Like 1
  4. Jim

    I had a 66 Sprite in high school. Biggest problem was having the headlights smashed by people in cars and trucks backing up into it when they parallel parked

    Like 2
  5. JudoJohn

    Nice little Sprite. I had to laugh at the dryer venting for the fan intake.

  6. OldCarGuy

    It’s usually not hard to figure out compression loss: remove the rocker gear, and make sure all valve stems are about the same height, which usually means no stuck valves. If they are OK, remove all the plugs, and put air pressure into that one spark plug hole: air coming out another plug hole usually means a warped head. Air into the crankcase means broken rings or piston. Remove the head, clean the head & the block mating surfaces, and check them with a good straight-edge. It doesn’t take much warpage to cause problems. If you still don’t have an answer, then now it gets weird: strange defects can act like compression loss, so check for very small bits of debris stuck between the valve & the seat; then check for a partial collapse of head material, possibly between the intake and exhaust passageways. If you still haven’t found the problem, my only suggestion is to consult someone in the palm or tarot card or tea leave reading field, because I have nothing else to contribute.

    Like 2
  7. Ward William

    These engines so simple that someone with even basic mechanical knowledge and skills could strip it down and rebuild it onto a new block in a weekend if well prepared. I would pop the head off and check all the valves first though.
    I’ve worked on Austins and Morris’ from this era when I was a teen and it is as easy as peeing the bed. If you can rebuild a 4 stroke lawn mower engine, then you can rebuild this.

    Like 1
  8. CliveRoberts

    I had a ’69 Midget and it was fun to drive but the crankshaft actually broke in two. Amazingly it still ran, very noisily. I was astonished when I stripped the engine down and took the crankshaft out in two pieces.

  9. Kelly Breen

    I have the less loved 1500, but it is still the most enjoyable car I have ever owned. If you do your own work and treat ownership like a bit of a hobby it will be an inexpensive and enjoyable experience. You WILL learn a lot about mechanics. For all the bad press British cars get midgets want to run and they will still struggle along even when they are sick.

    Like 1

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