Race Roadster? 1961 Austin-Healey Sprite

For those of us who are more concerned with “go” than “show,” this 1961 Austin-Healey Sprite may – after a little tinkering – meet that preference. This one was sent in by a Barn Finds reader who found it here on eBay in Southold, New York. This no reserve auction has seen just 2 bids, making the current high bid $3,600.

The Sprite was offered from 1958 to 1971 and included 4 separate generations, known as Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, and Mark IV. The Mark I is where you can really see the origins of the “bugeye” nickname. There were 48,987 of the “bugeyes” built across 4 model years. This 1961 example is the final year of the Mark I. The Mark II was on the horizon, and while dimensions were largely unchanged, the Sprite would be sporting a much different look come 1962.

This Sprite likely won’t be taking home any “best in show” awards in its current condition. It was imported from Germany and has a German VIN tag to prove it. A number of those European exterior features are still in place, including French front turn lamps and Euro amber taillights. The windshield has been cut down and the side windows match. The floors have been patched, but there is rust underneath. Overall, this Sprite emits that race roadster feel. That fender-mounted side mirror is a nice touch.

The interior looks ready for driver duty. The bench seat is unusual, but I like the look. More unusual is that bench seat being covered with what appears to be blue upholstery while the rest of the interior is black. A floor shifter nearly butting-up against the bench seat and dash-mounted rearview mirror continue the race roadster feel.

Under the hood is the “proper” 948CC engine. We’re not told if it’s original, but it does look tidy. The dual SU carburetors were recently rebuilt. The seller does tell us the engine runs great and has good oil compression and continues: “European Lucas headlights work, as does the horn, turn signals, radio, gas gauge, tach, temp, speedo, and wipers.” While this Sprite runs great, it hasn’t been on the road for some time, so the seller suggests a proper check out before it sees extensive road use and welcomes an in-person inspection before bidding.

At the current price, this 1961 Austin-Healey Sprite appears to be a relative bargain. While some sorting may be required, it looks like a good start to a light project, especially if you’re like me and more into the “go” than “show.” That said, I must agree with the seller when they say this is a “great little Sprite to sport about this summer!”

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  1. RayT Member

    I think what we’re seeing is actually a ’62 Sprite fitted with a “Bugeye” front end, something I’ve seen done a time or two before. The taillights are definitely from a Mark II, as is the boot lid (Frogeye/Bugeyes never had them) making a hybrid I doubt came from the factory the way it is now.

    Also, the seats are wrong for any Sprite/Midget, no matter what the year. All had bucket seats. The steering wheel is obviously incorrect as well, though that’s easy to deal with. Since the seller admits to rust, and it appears a lot more has been repaired (one wonders how well), I’d be very wary.

    In fact, in all honesty, I wouldn’t bother. I’d love to replace my long-ago and long-gone Frogeye, but this doesn’t look like a particularly good candidate.

    • angryjonny

      Agree, there wasn’t a boot/trunk on a 61. And the rear is overall not proportional to what a 61 should look like.

  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    RayT hit it. Don’t have a problem putting the Bugeye front end on a ’62 Spridget but if those are the original Bugeye rear wheel openings then the later rear end was grafted on the Bugeye chassis. What it takes to open up the ’62 rear wheel openings and convert them to full open instead of the half covered version is a monumental project that includes installing the Bugeye outer inner fender well. I’m voting that the later rear bodywork was grafted on. If it was done properly and the car isn’t rusty it will be a bunch of fun to own.

    • RayT Member

      Good catch re the rear wheel openings, bobhess! Shows you how little I remember about the later Sprites/Midgets.

      I’m so used to seeing the openings enlarged — see: a lot of first-generation Ford Broncos — that it never occurred to me that you’d need to do more than cut away the visible metal.

      With the cut-down windscreen, you’d have a rough go of it in the rain, too! Unless, that is, you’re very, very short. Being 6’2″, I remember the standard screen as being barely tall enough for me as it was. Don’t recall ever driving mine in the wet, even though it had an aftermarket hardtop (immediately removed and set aside) when I bought it…

  3. L8BR8K

    Also, this “bugeye” has a trunk.

  4. CJinSD

    1972 MG Midget with MKI Sprite hood and doors. Those are the ones that combined the body-weakening rear wheel arches, big tail-lights and opening decklids.

    • angryjonny

      aka Spridget?

  5. Richard Richer

    Early 1974 1/2 midgets had the last of the round wheel openings and a look underneath would confirm the old sprite quarter elliptic suspension versus the newer versions. It’s a bitsa but still could be fun if rust isn’t a problem. But original? Not.

  6. Jeffry R Harris

    I think there is a story here that is not being told. Hum lots of questions…

  7. Marty

    If I was to duplicate this I would find it much easier to splice in the round inner and outer wheel arches. If I was to use a 72-74 Midget the deck of the quarters going to the trunk lid would need to be changed and the quarter section where the tail lamps mount must be changed. Also the late cowl would need to be changed to the early model. I could make both choices work I just think a 62-64 is easier to start with. I would also want a 1275 and disc brakes.

  8. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Everything I was gonna say has been said. The cowl is 58-63, look at how the windshield is attached. Also, no exterior door handles. As far as how hard it is to radius the rear wheel openings, a buddy of mine has done it successfully on two Spridgets. Not a weekend job, but not impossibly difficult with the right resources. As for that blue bench seat, maybe it came from the other Spridgets residing next to this one in the first photo?

  9. malcolm ward

    Jonny Collier. 61 was not the final year for the MK I Sprite, they were made for 3 years 58 through 60.
    61 was the first year for the MK II which is what this car is.

    • malcolm ward

      Also the 61 had no exterior door handles.

  10. John

    FrankenSprite?? This is an assembly of old BMC parts. Nothing more. But it’s cute. The windshield detracts And somehow, the MK2 rear fenders and taillights mess up the lines. But it would still be fun. All Sprites are fun.

  11. bobhess bobhess Member

    Car sold. This would be a good car for a tall owner. The ’62 and later cars had the big cutout behind the seats, as this car does, which makes it much easier for tall drivers and easier to use for additional storage. Also, no Spridget I’ve ever seen had a seat like that in it. Can’t tell from this picture but the rear edge of the hard top on my ’62 Midget sits right on the edge of the passenger area cutout.

  12. steve

    Yes a bob job.No trunk lid on bug eyes..Still looks clean under the hood

  13. TimM

    The bugeyed roadsters were so cool!! All that primer scares me a bit especially since it’s in NY the king of salting the roads state!! If there’s rust and bondo under that primer it could be a real mess to deal with!! The rest of the car seem pretty clean though!!

  14. TimM

    Wanted to bid and it’s gone already!!

  15. Euromoto

    Who cares if it’s a Frankenstein, might have some rust, etc., etc. Sold for chump-change and would be hella fun to bomb around in.

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