One Of My Dream Cars: Arkley SS Project

Fellow Barn Finders, this is one of those TMI (Too Much Information) posts that we writers get away with every once in a while. You see, coming across one of your dream cars for sale is a hazard of writing for Barn Finds, and it exposes you in two ways. Number one, you can’t afford or store them all! Number two–folks tend to make fun of you when your dream car isn’t, say, a Tri-Five Chevrolet, a Mustang, a vintage Ferrari, or something similar. Well, here goes, readers, get ready to sling some mud; one of my dream cars is an Arkley SS! This particular partially-finished project car is listed for sale here on eBay with a starting bid of only $2,500, and there’s no reserve. The Arkley is 1,190 miles away from me (17 hours and 48 minutes of driving) in Denton, Texas. With apologies to the Blues Brothers, “It’s 1,190 miles to Denton. We’ve got a full tank of diesel, half a pack of pork rinds, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses…Hit it!”

The more observant among you will recognize the humble Spridget origins of the Arkley; the one pictured above was the subject of this previous Barn Finds post and illustrates how nice one of these little projects can be when finished! The front and rear fiberglass moldings were designed in either 1969 or 1970 (sources differ) by a Brit named John Britten as a way to recycle rusty MG Midgets and Austin-Healey Sprites into something lighter and more unique. Believe it or not, you can still buy a new kit from Peter May Engineering; Mr. May, who used to work for Britten, purchased the rights to the design in 1987. Kits have been distributed in the USA at various points, and my love started with tiny ads in my high school years that I think were in the back of AutoWeek or some similar magazine for a company called Faspec in Oregon. Sadly, they are no longer around as best as I can tell.

It’s not that hard to imagine this car being finished, as the hard (ok, it’s one of the easiest kit cars ever to construct, the front bolts on while the rear bonds into place) work has been completed. Most of the remaining labor and expense appears to be interior and trim-related.

It’s possible that the seat on the left started out life as a 1971 Midget seat (what this particular Arkley is based on) but I have no idea where the seat on the right originated. I’d want to find a matching one in either case! There’s not a lot of room in a Spridget, so choose carefully!

It looks like someone cared enough about this project to install a genuine Nardi steering wheel and uncracked or “Coverlay”-covered dash. On the other hand, I’ve been trying to figure out if the drivers’ side floor has been repaired with plywood (!) or if it’s just intended as an insulating layer–the seller states there is no known rust, though, so I’m optimistic. Sounds like an email to the seller is in order. You can also see the rather unique upholstery applied to the passenger-side door card–as if this car wasn’t odd enough already!

We’re told that the 1275 cc engine has been rebuilt but never fired; the SU carburetors have been replaced with a new downdraft Weber (I’d go back with SUs) and that the tires, clutch and pressure plate are also new. Now we get to the sad part–I neither have the room nor time to add to my project list. It’s a real shame, as this converted MG would look great next to my Hathaway Hunter converted Triumph. So–let the mud-slinging begin, and let me know if you are going to put me out of my misery by bidding on or purchasing this fine little project!

Comments

  1. RayT Member

    Amen, Jamie! I’ve seen exactly one of these little sweeties, and have never gotten over it. That goes double when they’re finished in BRG….

    With plenty of neglected Sprites and Midgets out there (at least as of a few years ago), this kit should have been far more successful than it was. Wish I had the time and space to build one, definitely with front discs, wire wheee\ls and a warmed-over engine (with SUs, of course).

    I think you need to bite the bullet and make the trip. They don’t take up all that much space!

    Like 7
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    According to the condition of the front inner fender wells this car took a front end hit. Parts are available to replace those. Agree with RayT that you need to jump on this one. Good price, not too many still left etc. and they are small. The ’60 Bugeye we are bulding into a Vintage race car was in Virginia and after finding out it was rust free and available at a low price we were heading north. Do understand we sympathize with your space problem as we already had two Bugeye race cars and a Lotus Europa to deal with. That plus the two trailers , a Van and a motor home pretty well filled up the homestead. Go for it!

    Like 6
  3. bobk

    I also really like the looks of these. However, when I found that they were built on a Spridget and thinking about my 36″ inseam, it quickly became a “no go”.

    Good luck to whomever picks it up. I think it would be hard to go wrong at the price.

    Like 2
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      bobk… If you look at the passenger compartment the rear of it goes all the way to the trunk lid. Move the seats back until they hit the bulkhead over the rear axle and you have all the room you need.

      Like 2
      • bobhess bobhess Member

        Note for the tall guys… We shorten the steering shaft and use 12 or 13 inch wheels to make it easier to get in and out of our Sprites as we have a roll cage to contend with. The removable steering wheel hub also makes ingress and egress much easier.

        Like 1
  4. Michelle Rand Staff

    Faspec was on SE 12th in Portland, Oregon. Stan Huntley ran it. Stan had a fondness especially for small British cars. He drove a Le Mans Sprite at Laguna Seca one year. Over the years, the showroom held any number of Bugeyes, a Crosley of some sort, the Sunbeam Alpine of Grace Kelly fame, an Arkley or two. I bought the advertisements Stan had over the cash register for West Coast races – great posters, worth nothing at the time but treasured by me. He sold me a set of hardened axles for my Bugeye, and a Judson Supercharger for same. I loved that place.

    Buy the Arkley.

    Like 7
    • Dave Peterson

      Michelle – Was the store down past Morrison on 12th? If so, it was very near the senior Tonkin’s Nash-Hudson store my father worked at in 1954-56. Dad and Marv became such friends he named my sister Rena. The days of an ambitious gas monkey finangling a franchise and building family-sized equity are becoming distant memories. In those days the men (and women – my Mom did everything Dad did in our store) were very close and all deals were handshake basis and they didn’t treat business as a zero-sum objective. The neighborhood from what was Union Avenue from Burnside to Powell to 12th was dotted with mostly orphan franchisees by the time I came along. The first emigration was to Sandy Blvd. then to 82nd and then to 122nd. I didn’t mean to hijack this thread, but the sight of the Crosley and this car evoked memories I haven’t visited for many years. Before he passed, my Father took me on a trip down memory lane showing me what was where and when. I found it very surprising that many buildings were still standing, even if re-purposed. Marv and Ron Tonkin, Joe Fisher, Wentworth and Irwin, the Damerow’s and Braley and Graham all started humbly and managed to build a good life for many people for many years. In the post-war years the west coast was wide open for an ambitious man with a little capital.

      Like 1
  5. CCFisher

    Love the enthusiasm in this piece! Thanks for sharing, Jamie. I say, GO FOR IT!

    Like 4
  6. RoughDiamond Member

    Great addition to the lead story, Michelle. Fascinating details and I can easily see why you loved that place. I’m hoping we will be seeing your Bugeye with the Judson Supercharger in the near future here on the pages of Barn Finds.

    Jamie, that Arkley has your name written all over it.

    Like 4
  7. Gord

    bought an arkley ss from the us, shipped to canada… loved the look but so small, i am just 6ft but it was the first car i had to WEAR not sit in… had to fold both legs up to get in…. so check you fit!

    Like 1
  8. Martin Horrocks

    Arkley kit was relatively successful in UK in the 1970s. John Britten was a prominent and very successful Spridget racer who got a lot of publicity when he converted his race-winning Sprite to Arkley spec.

    Britten was a serial and succesful entrepreneur. His garage ran great insoprirationally chatty ads in the Motor Sport in the 1960s, being a prominent dealer in TVRs as well as Morgan and MG. The Arkley was basically Britten´s affordable take on the Morgan 4/4, clever design and still very attractive.

    Later, through his connections with F1 driver Jonathon Palmer, Britten became a shareholder in Motor Sport Vision, which owns/runs most of the race tracks in the UK. An influential personality in UK racing, Britten died in 2009.

    Like 2
  9. Martin Horrocks

    Ref this car, something this simple, cheap and unusual has to be worth considering if you fit in. Doen´t pay to be tall or heavy in a Spridget.

    The downdraft Weber on an A series (if it is a Weber under the plastic cover) is pretty unusual. Fitting a single 40 DCOE is the usual A Weber racing tweek to an A series but most are happy to stick with SUs for road use.

    Like 2
    • Rallye Member

      The downdraft on the siamese port BMC isn’t as criminal as on an inline 4 with 4 ports (2 short and 2 long runners) like a Triumph or Volvo. I have an NOS DCOE manifold kit for sale. It can also be used with slight modification on a Crosley and all my Crosley, Jabro, Braje stuff is also for sale.

      Like 1
  10. Malcolm Boyes

    Growing up in North London we used to cruise out to the country thro the village of Arkley, Herfordshire and loved to see these cars lined up outside their workshop ( They named the car after the village obviously). I loved them then and I love them now..just a terrific improvement over a stock Spridget. As a sidebar..right around the corner from my childhood home we had “Speedwell Performance” ( SPEedwell was out cool local phone prefix). They had all sorts of cool stuff for BMC cars and Sprigets including the Sebring Sprite. The place was managed by future Formula 1 Champ Graham Hill! They were also the first importers of EMPI parts for VW’s. Now I have a 66 split screen single cab adorned with the flying “S” “Speedwell logo. I like to believe its what Graham would have used to deliver parts if they had one back then! Love this story and appreciate Barn Finds every day..

    Like 3
  11. Squigly

    Being a fanatic about anything from the English countryside (like my beautiful wife) I find this wonderful. Keep showing us great British cars. This web site is starting to grow on me.

    Like 4
  12. Chris

    Needs some work, but if it could be had for $2500, that is a steal.

    I have had scenarios like this presented to me that I did not jump on, and this is what regret is made of.

    Take a few days off work or whatever, grab a friend, take a road trip, get the dream car. Go!

    Like 2
  13. PairsNPaint

    You HAVE to buy this! I also have craved one for decades. Sometime back in the late ’70’s I bought a derelict Midget to build an Arkley. Stripped it down and rebuilt the chassis, was going to swap in a 1800 cc DOHC FIAT engine and 5-speed. My plan was to use wider rims from a Vega (same bolt pattern) and widen the fenders. Alas, one night a strong gale wind blew down my garage and crushed the poor thing.

    Like 1
  14. Russell

    A BRG one came up for sale in the Seattle area about a year ago, maybe 2. It was all I could do not to buy it, and it sat on CL for a couple months before someone bought it. Having owned a frogeye when younger I knew how much fun that platform can be. The only reason I didn’t go for it was because my 70 something self knew I’d get tired of the finesse of entry/exit with the top on. Looking back I should have bought it. Don’t over think this, just bid!

    Like 2
  15. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    OH, this is killing me. It has five hours to go and hasn’t even gotten a single bid…but…I really don’t have the room, time, or money to take on another project. I don’t. I keep telling myself that as I have the window open on my laptop watching the auction count down. Sigh.

  16. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    That was excruciating. No bids, car did not sell. Ouch, I have regrets.

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