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Italian Sprite: 1965 Innocenti Spider S

UPDATE 3/23/12 – The car has been re-listed with a BIN of $4,000.

What happens when some Italians get a hold of a British roadster? Well, they came up with this; The Innocenti Spider. It was a styling exercise which took the already popular Sprite and mated it with a Ghia-designed body. The car featured today is an ‘S’ model, which features a 1098cc A-Series engine, disc brakes, and a semi-elliptic rear suspension. It’s available here on eBay, with bidding starting at $3,000 and only a day left.

Here is what this project could look like someday. Although it is commonly referred to as the “Italian Sprite” due to its underpinnings, the Innocenti did receive a few tweaks of its own. British Motor Corporation supplied the chassis, suspension, brakes, wheels, engine, gearbox and transmission, but Inncenti added a few upgrades such as windup windows. Most significantly, its styling was a departure from the Austin Healeys of the same era, thanks to a design created by Tom Tjaarda, the mastermind behind the styling of many famous cars including the De Tomaso Pantera.

With fewer than 18,000 built worldwide, and many of them remaining overseas, today’s Innocenti owners are often faced with the herculean task of sourcing parts. Some cars have even been turned into vintage racers instead of going through the trouble of finding original equipment, but this car seems to have many of its rare bits intact. The seller notes that this car still has its windshield, interior and trunk matting, seats, OSI emblems, and original drivetrain. Other hard to find components included are the front and rear bumpers, hubcaps, steering wheel, instruments, convertible top mechanism and rare side view mirror.

According to the seller, there are only 30 or so of these cars still in the U.S., and an even smaller batch that are actually road-worth and registered. After many years in dry storage, this example came up for sale when the seller had the opportunity to purchase a restored one. Although relatively complete, this Innocenti will require new floors, inner sills and rocker panels to undo the damage done to the Italian coachwork by rust gremlins. We would be sure to pay a visit to Wallingford, Connecticut, where the car is stored for a full visual inspection.

It appears that this particular car has popped up for sale more than once in the last few years, with the only change being that the engine has been removed since its last listing. Although we’d like to think otherwise, it’s a fair assumption that parts may have gone missing in its years of tinkering. Despite this, a car as rare as the Innocenti should be preserved to maintain its unique heritage: a classic British roadster with gorgeous Italian styling. With its wider track and lower stance, the Innocenti is just different enough to set it apart from its British brethren, and it’s unlikely you will see another one anytime soon.


  1. Dan

    The Sprites and Midgets that I have seen have quarter elliptic springs at the rear.

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  2. Rich

    From the looks of the grille, it looks like Triumph may have had a hand or two in the process. Even though that Triumph was not a part of BMC. Did they pick up the idea for the TR-6 from this car?

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  3. Bear

    These are nice cars.
    & this seller is a stand-up guy. (I bought 2 of these Innocenti Spyders from him years ago. But these cars are now in the garage of another collector.)
    The style of this car did get copied by many later Euro sports cars.
    Most drivetrain components are exchangeable with those of the more common Sprites & Midgets, so restorations are relatively easy.
    & there is a small but loyal group of owners who would gladly welcome a new member, and they can point this car’s new owner to rare parts suppliers.
    Hardest parts to get are trim pieces, tail lights, and that curved windshield. (But I know a guy who is having a mold made from the windshield that was in the complete but unrestored car that I sold him…)
    BTW: Early Sprites have 1/4 elliptical springs. Later models have full ellipticals.

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    • tom birch

      I still have my first car , 1965 innocenti s
      Most parts are in boxes
      I’m looking for windsheld and tail light lens and a few other parts
      please contact me if you can help

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      • Jay

        I probably have whatever you need. Contact me at jfishbein@snet.net

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  4. Catfishphil

    And the brake lights remind me of a TR-4…

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  5. Jay

    Actually, the Buy It Now has been lowered to $3,000 and the starting price lowered to $1,800.

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  6. Steve Bell

    Dear potential Innocenti Spider Buyers, Great car for restoration because they are somewhat rare and unique. But at the same time, that makes some aspects of restoration very difficult, meaning expensive! I have spent five years in a full restoration of an 1100 “S” version and I am just completing the metal work. There are no body panels available for this car. The outer sills are a serious problem issue and because of the Ghia styling of the body, the body lines extend through the sills and require some expert metal forming. Make sure any car you buy is complete! The drive train is Sprite based and those parts are easy to find and also reasonable priced. The Italian bits area completely different story. Some parts are the same as Fiat (reasonable price) others the same as Alfa (more expensive) and a few the same as Maserati (You don’t want to know!) Rust is a BIG issue when it involves the panels or the trunk. Due to the materials used, the plastic in the gauge faces have yellowed simply with age. Some of the lighting controls are Lucas based and obtainable. But other are Innocenti ONLY and I bit tougher to source. There is a loose international network of Innocenti owners who converse regularly and share information, photos and parts. You are welcome to contact me at scbell1@comcast.net
    I also have a parts car that I am still taking bits off of but will eventually become available. Glad to hear from you anytime.

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  7. Jay

    Thank you everyone for your inquiries and interest. I am happy to report that this car has been sold. The new owner is quite enthusiastic and promises to return another of these interesting cars to the road.

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