Rare Arkley SS! 1969 Austin-Healey Sprite

I know an Austin-Healy Sprite when I see one, but an Arkley SS modified version? New one on me. Sprites, of course, are known for their early “Frogeye” or “Bugeye” distinctive headlight treatment but this fiberglass kit modification is built upon the later Mark IV version of the Sprite that was no longer endowed with the aforementioned peepers. Let’s see what this 1969 Austin-Healey Sprite/Arkley SS is all about. It is located in Gig Harbor, Washington and is available here on craigslist for $9,900. Many thanks to Ikey H. for this most unusual find!

As the seller states, “The Arkley refers to the fiberglass rebody kit introduced by English racer John Britten in the ’70s, consisting of a one-piece rear section that was bonded/glassed on to a cutaway Sprite or MG Midget body shell, and a one-piece flip-front bonnet/fender piece used in place of the original bonnet, front fenders, and grill. The “SS” version has the wider fenders. Approximately 1000 Arkley kits have been made“. And all of this is placed upon what must be one of the most diminutive of all British sports cars, the Austin-Healey Sprite. The Sprite was in production between 1958 and 1971 and the Mark IV version, which as previously mentioned, is the basis for this Arkley SS, was offered between 1966 and 1971. Total volume over the Mark IV’s six-year run was about 22K copies with ’69 being the last year for Sprite export to the U.S.

This Austin-Healey has been a work in progress with the body being originally installed in the ’90s and then undergoing refurbishment in the 2008-2010 era. The seller states that this is a rust-free example with older, driver quality paint. This car presents quite well and, best of all, it’s green! Additional work performed more recently has included an interior redo that, according to the seller, “is all-new, with panels to backdate it to the mid-60’s style, a modified dash, sport seats, and a style bar. The door windows have been removed (though included) and custom door caps made, and glass “wind wings” added to the windshield frame“. The interior environment is very purposeful looking. Also, a heater is included in the sale but it’s not currently installed.

Under the bonnet is a correct 1275 CC, in-line, four-cylinder engine that is internally stock. Originally rated at 65 HP, external engine modifications include a Weber 45DCOE carburetor and a stainless exhaust header with a Magnaflow performance exhaust system. These minor improvements should coax a bit more power from the modest engine. Also mentioned is the inclusion of an aluminum radiator and extensive suspension, wheel, and brake mods. The seller sums up this Austin-Healey’s road manners by stating, “It has the 3.9 rear axle ratio and has no problem with highway speed“.

The seller concludes by offering, “This is a fun, reliable, attention-getting car that could be taken to the autocross track, cruised through cars and coffee, or taken on a trip“. I would agree with his suggestions, this modified Healey does look like a fun little car; the addition of the Arkley SS kit integrates well and ups its image. Show of hands please, does anyone have familiarity with this Austin-Healey modification? It would be great to hear a bit about the ownership/driving experience.

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Last one of these I saw was on a ’74 Midget chassis. Overall a neat looking conversion with a couple of weird lines thrown in to tell you it was kit. The Spridgets are fun and even more so if you can do things like this to them.

    Like 2
  2. piston poney

    i feel as if i need this

    Like 1
  3. Little_Cars

    I have had a few opportunities to buy finished and some incomplete Arkley conversions. I’d like them a whole like better if the snout sat lower in the front, and one didn’t have to cut up the Spridget body from the B pillar back. The way this one looks, I find it hard to believe the base is a 69 Sprite…the front innards look like a factory rubber bumper 1500 Midget. Perhaps explains the statement “with panels to backdate it to the mid-60’s style.” ???

    Like 1
  4. Russell

    I’m surprised this hasnt sold yet. Its the second time I know of its been for sale in the last year. Almost called on it, but too small for me.

    • Little_Cars

      Even with all the work that has gone into this car, close to $10k is a bit of a reach… that’s about all the money. Truly limited audience and as stated many times — appeals to owners of diminutive size who can easily slip behind the wheel. I wasn’t enjoying driving my 74 Midget with a stock steering wheel until I lost weight so I wouldn’t graze the bottom of it. The removal of side glass to make this feel like an earlier car also limits how many months of the year you’ll actually drive it.

      Like 1
  5. Malcolm Boyes

    These are named after the little English town of Arkley just outside the London suburb or Mill Hill. I used to see a handful of these lined up on that country road on the way to a favorite pub (The Rising Sun is just down the road). I always liked them a lot and they claim to be considerably lighter with the new, much improved IMHO, bodywork. I think this makes up a very charming little sports car with as much character as the original Bugeye(Frogeye). Good luck with the sale of a nice, rare buggy.

    Like 1
  6. PairsNPaint

    Raised on Sprigets, MGBs, Spitfires, and GT6s, I always loved these conversions. Even bought a rolling Midget chassis to build one back in the 80’s. Installed a DOHC Fiat with 5-speed, but the project never got completed. Would love to have one now, but I’d be trying to fit 10lbs of potatoes into a 5lb. sack.

    Like 1
  7. Graham Line

    Fun to play with, but SCCA rules used to kick body-kitted Spridgets into Modified classes which generally had much more serious competition.

    Like 1
  8. Oliver Mcpherson Member

    what a great thing to do with an old/tired/rusted sprite midget. I cannot reach the 10K level unfortunatly so my (new) Arkley Kit (front panel and back panel) will soon have to be sold. I kinda regret it allredy but economic reality intrudes, even with spridgits and this 10K kit looks to be SO well built, even when I compare it to the roadtests in the english kitcar mags so carefully saved. Satch Carlson, a motor racing writer of Washington state, did an excelllent two-part
    test on a redArkley with chrome wire wheels that was being assembled/sold by the Fire-house garage in Portland, he loved it.
    These Arkleys seem to have a long history in the states, and the values are rising

    Like 1
  9. Martin Horrocks

    Nice car. Arkley was a contender, originally conceived by John Britten for club racing in UK I think.

    Weber is not a “minor modification” on an A series. To go to a Weber there need to be some serious mods inside that engine, as build might suggest

  10. bobhess bobhess Member

    A proper size Weber is a bolt-on for the 1275 with no mods to the engine. It’s about as “minor”as you can get. If you are going for much more power then you need the internal modifications like compression rise and a different cam.

    Like 2
  11. Little_Cars

    x2 what bobhess says. Not much increase in HP. Weber conversions are so prevalent these days the installation can be done in hours if you know what you are doing. However, you can expect to drink a weekend’s worth of your favorite beverage in a day to “dial in” the carb, test run the car, etc. Most likely will have to experiment with throttle adjustment along with surfacing the manifold — which invariably will have been manufactured in Spain, France or China… CHI-NAH!

    • Little_Cars

      Looks like the seller simply added what our Malcolm Boyes wrote on BF! Man, those are some sharp edges where they trimmed the inner front fenders to accommodate the Arkley schnozola. I would have run a little pinch weld coverup around that — I know I’d snag a shirt sleeve or worse, carve out a bit of flesh every time I reached over to check something in the engine bay. (radiator, shocks, carbs, drive belt).

  12. Jim Gruber

    There is an Arkley FB site for those interested. Original molds for these kits are owned by Mike Maloney in Tipp City OH. GR rescued them from being scrapped out. He’s mgoctagons@aol.com

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