No Reserve: 1968 Austin-Healey Sprite Mk IV

Classic British sports cars have a dedicated following, and it’s easy to see why. While they don’t possess the outright performance of a genuine muscle car, they offer an engaging driving experience and a level of maneuverability that is lacking in larger and heavier vehicles. That is why I’m not surprised to find that the bidding on this 1968 Austin-Healey Sprite Mk IV has been pretty spirited since the owner listed it for sale here on eBay. It presents beautifully and is ready to be driven and enjoyed by its next lucky owner. It is located in Portland, Oregon, and the bidding has rocketed to $5,200 in a No Reserve auction.

The seller says that the previous owner had been this Sprite’s custodian for more than forty years. It hasn’t seen much use in recent times, but it has remained well stored and properly maintained. Its Tartan Red paint shines impressively, with no evidence of flaws or problems. The panels are close to perfect, but the best news with this classic is its rust-free status. This factor is vitally important because significant rust problems in a Sprite can represent bad news due to their unibody construction. Anyway, that’s one less thing for potential buyers to consider in this case. The Black soft-top is in excellent condition, while the rear window looks relatively clear. With spotless chrome and flawless glass, this little classic makes the best first impression possible.

Opening the Sprite’s doors (or dropping the top) reveals an interior with many strong points. The seats wear Black upholstery with contrasting White piping, and they look perfect. There is no visible wear or physical damage, while the carpet and door trims are okay for a driver-quality vehicle. The passenger door pocket and the driver’s door cap are both damaged, but I think a competent upholsterer would be able to fix these issues relatively cheaply. It seems that the previous owner may have fitted an aftermarket radio because there are speakers mounted behind the seats. However, the radio is gone, so the buyer will need to decide what takes its place. I’ve left the worst until last because the dash cover exhibits the cracks and deterioration that come with age and UV exposure. It has gone beyond the point of no return, meaning that the buyer will probably source a replacement. They are available, and while $420 might sound expensive, it still means that getting the interior to a high standard will not cost a fortune.

When the company introduced the Sprite Mark IV in 1966, it brought a welcome boost in overall performance. Slotted under the hood was a 1,275cc four-cylinder engine that sent its power to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. For 1968, that little four pumped out 62hp. That’s a modest number and means that this car would take 19.1 seconds to wander down the ¼ mile. Keep the pedal to the metal, and it would find its way to 94mph. While neither figure sounds impressive, brute muscle is not the Sprite’s strong point. They will cruise all day on the highway at 60mph, but they come into their own on country roads or twisting tarmac. That’s when their low overall weight (1,502 lbs) and nimble handling see these cars spring into life. Honestly, there are few cars more rewarding than a Sprite in those circumstances. When the seller found this gem, it had been sitting for a few years. That doesn’t mean that it had been neglected, and it meant that the seller needed to do little to return the car to active duty. He says that the motor runs well, the car drives nicely, and the transmission exhibits no vices or nasty traits. This little Brit is ready to hit the road for the type of fun I’ve just described.

For buyers seeking a turn-key British classic, this 1968 Sprite Mk IV has to be an attractive proposition. While the colder weather is closing in, it won’t take long for the weather to turn for the better, and that’s when this gem will come into its own. The new owner could decide to address its few shortcomings during those long Winter days and be ready and raring to go when the time is right. It seems that I’m not alone in my feelings, and the bidding history supports this. If you’ve never driven a Sprite, you’ve missed out on one of life’s great pleasures. It is a situation that you should address because it is one that you will undoubtedly enjoy. There is one word of warning; These are addictive little cars, and once you’ve experienced one, you will be tempted to join the bidding on this car. If you do, I could hardly blame you.

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Comments

  1. Motorcityman Member

    I’d rather have a 178hp 2007 Red manual Pontiac Solstice with 54,000 miles loaded with all options……oh wait…..I did, last year, should have kept it!

  2. Slomoogee

    I’ve driven many small British cars mostly in my misspent youth, and these are at the top of the list. 1275cc and 65 hp doesn’t sound like much but it’s perfect in these cars. If you need more there are plenty of affordable tweaks available for these. I’m a member of the it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast club. Make sure your appropriately sized for one of these. Unfortunately for me that ship sailed

    Like 5
  3. Gerard Frederick

    When very young an foolish, I bought a 1962 MG Midget (sister to the Sprite) at a MG-Volvo dealer in Sebring Fl. I drove it to visit my girlfriend in Chicago and from there to Ft. Irwin near Barstow, Ca. A buddy of mine rolled it, but it wasn´t any worse for wear. Eventually, I sold it in San Francisco. It was a great fun car to drive, especially on twisted roads. The top was such a nightmare to erect, I drove topless even in winter, despite the fact that it lacked a heater. The SU side draft carburators regularly needed new floats and I tightened up the screws holding the windshield in place once a week. Whitworth tools were a necessity, so an adjustable wrench came in handy. Checking the transmission oil, which was recommended by the factory, was quasi impossible without the special tool designed for it – hence it was never checked. The engine never used a drop of oil and ran beautifully – it was aways rearing to go; to let her rip on twisting dessert roads was a gas. Except my later Triumph TR-3 I have never had more fun driving a car.

    Like 3
  4. Alexander

    How did you get through this whole essay without using the word “Spridget”?

    The universal nickname for the AH Mk. IV and MG Midget of the era–I’m not even 100% sure whether or not there really are any differences other than the badges and detail bits……..

  5. Gerard Frederick

    You´re right – the nickname escaped me. As far as differences between the two goes, very slight difference in the styling here and there and the badges. Otherwise all the same.

    • Alexander

      I was talking to Mr. Clarke, the author of the post………….. >;-)

  6. Kelly Breen

    Probably the most superfluous addition to a Sprite or Midget is a radio. I have the much less desirable 1975 1500 and it has been an absolute joy.
    When I am on my own I listen to the exhaust notes. When I have a passenger we scream at each other.
    With the hood down the ride is anything but quiet. If we need music we’ll my son uses his smartphone and a tiny speaker that has better sound than the monster speakers that were the rage in the 80’s.
    But man, it is all about the wind and the exhaust note…. and maybe a bit of squealing around a tight curve.

    Like 1

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