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Dirt Cheap Roller: $150 Austin Healey Sprite

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a stronger stomach for taking on projects that I may not have considered earlier in my automotive career. Credit an unfortunate knack for acquiring really decent projects for fairly short money with fueling my accumulation of larger-scale undertakings – but nothing as massive as this 1969 Austin Healey Sprite here on craigslist for $150 near Rochester.

The asking price seems good for even a rusty roller like this, but the rust problem is extensive: the seller notes corrosion has attacked the floors, sills, and the body, including inside the fenders. The doors, trunk, and hood register only as “potentially” saveable, to give you a sense of how rotten it is in places. Upstate New York is a cruel place to any car, especially a fragile vintage roadster.

You may notice the lack of a gearshift; that’s because the Sprite has no engine or transmission, another demerit when it comes to debating whether or not this car should be fully restored. Sprites are not terribly hard to find – perhaps more challenging than a Midget or later MGB – but not the kind of impossible that demands considering a car as far gone as this one as the basis for a project. Then again, the price of entry is so low – could it be justified?

One of the aspects of purchasing my junkyard find Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth that factored heavily in my decision to buy was knowing even a $5,000 car was going to have $10,000 in mechanical needs. I allowed for the fact that my car would need more time in a body shop than that $5K example, but there ultimately wasn’t much incentive for spending a few bucks more over my very cheap purchase price. Is a similar train of thought applicable here, or is this Sprite too common and too far gone?e


  1. Howard A Member

    There are so many clean Midgets around, strip the good parts, and “roll” it into the shredder. Those Spitfires were a much better deal.

    Like 3
  2. Pete Member

    Its repairable. 1275 engines and transmissions are available. Rockers are easily done, including the inner.

    Now, its a bunch of time and welding… Plenty of sanding that body and bracing it square as you proceed. All the metal is available to purchase too.

    I’m not about to attempt it any more!

    Like 3
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    Paid $1,500 for this rust free rolling chassis 3 years ago to make a Vintage race car out of. Total rust was a quarter size hole in the passenger floor and the leading edge of the right rocker panel. There are good cars out there to rebuild. Transportation would cost more than the buy price but in either case it’s a parts car. If you live in the area it’s worth getting if you are rebuilding a car. There are some panels that you just can’t buy new.

    Like 3
  4. Wayne

    Neighbor kid’s father died and left him a rotted out Midget with almost new mechanicals. ( all tires went flat and sitting in the dirt with no top for about 12 years) We found a non-rusty roller tub in the Auburn CA area for about $350 and a complete front clip with a great interior for about $400 in the LA area when I had to make a run down there for other reasons. (a complete assembled front clip fits nicely in the back part of my GMC bed. With the headlights looking at anyone behind peeking over the 5th wheel tailgate. ) He is currently prepping the body for paint and then the fun begins swapping over the neat stuff into/onto the fresh tub. This also means I have found a home for my set of Panasport 13″ wheels that did not fit anything I currently own. We are instructing him on the trials and tribulations of British car ownership along with general automotive skills. ( even took him to the Dixon CA show) Being a teenager in the Boy Scouts, a black belt in karate and on the baseball team. He is spread a little thin on extra time with his school work. But he dives in when ever he gets the chance.

    Like 7
  5. Little_Cars Little Cars Member

    I’ve dragged home worse, but not by much! Nothing overly significant about this 69 except the one-year only reflectors on the front fenders, aftermarket steering wheel, windshield, and maybe the style of radiator. This must’ve been a really cute car when it had its current color of paint applied. But now, I’m thinking buy/strip/ship off to the crusher.

    Like 2
  6. Ric Parrish

    The front end, steering components are worth about $400 because it up grades a bug eye to discs, etc.

    Like 1
  7. Ralph

    Blown LS swap with nitrous…..con the tech inspector and see if you can just end up with a steering wheel and a seat by the end of the 1/4 mile…….

    Like 0
  8. The Crow Flies In Square Circles

    I say swap a motorbike engine in it and go 24 hours of Lemons racing.

    Like 0
  9. Doug

    LS V12, supercharged with nitrous, Ford 9 inch, B&M Hydro, Cheater slicks, straight axle up front, and a 6 foot Rat Fink in the driver’s seat….. Gold leaf logo proclaiming “Tin Worm’s Revenge” on the sides.

    Like 0

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