What A Schnozz! 1965 Austin-Healey Sprite

s1

Thanks to Jim S. for sending in this unusually modified British convertible. It’s located in Wilmington, Illinois and is up for auction here on eBay, where the buy-it-now is $6,999 but lower bids are welcomed.

s3

I’ve seen some unusual body modifications on Sprites before, for example the Arkleys we recently featured, but I wasn’t familiar with this one before this post. It looks like the designer was trying to make it almost look like an AC Cobra in the nose, or perhaps a 50’s Ferrari (which makes sense, as a Ferrari Barchetta inspired the Tojero, which morphed into the AC Ace and then the Cobra).

s2

From the rear, there’s no real difference between this car and any other 1965 Sprite, although that isn’t a bad thing. The Spridget’s clean lines have stood the test of time well, and other than being occasionally mistaken for an MGB are quite distinctive. This one appears to be in excellent condition, although the paint is described as older with “character flaws.” I don’t think it looks bad at all, and the wire wheels look quite nice.

s4

While the interior isn’t stock, I don’t suppose it matters when the car has been modified like this. I really like contrasting piping on seats in a car like this, and matching the exterior color is a nice touch. The Mountney steering wheel looks very appropriate. I’m wondering why the door catch straps appear to be missing on both sides; speaking from experience that can make a mess of the A-pillar and I’d replace them quickly (not a terrible job, and they are readily available).

s5

The Weber DCOE is a nice performance upgrade (if it’s been set up properly!) and the period cast aluminum valve cover is a nice touch. It does appear that most of the detail work has been done to a high standard, albeit unoriginal on this car and I think there’s a lot of bang for the buck here (assuming you fit in a Sprite!) What do you think?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. ydnar

    Well, it does not have the typical “turned up” British nose. I like it, and would drive a car like this daily.

  2. rusty

    Interesting conversion and really could have made something different if they dared modify the rear end. I hate Webers on A Series motors damn thirsty & difficult to tune things..give me an SU or Two any day [one needle]. But I know every power chaser longs for webers on their morris minors or sprites…I sold off every one I had on my A Series motors and was better for it..hee hee

    Like 1
    • Kevin Harper

      I had to chuckle at this Rusty. I am known mostly for my Italian cars in which webers are common. Because of this I am getting more of the brit car guys with webers to tune them. I just did a MGB this week and as usual the jets were way off and the car ran terribly. After adjustment it runs very sweet, will get good gas mileage and will not go out of tune in 9 months like an SU.
      When I first started dialing in webers on brit cars I went to the Marque sites to try to get a good baseline, and that is when I found out there was such a controversy in LBC land. After doing this for a while I have determined that most of the problem is that people simply do not know the carbs, the function much less how to set them up. So yes that DCOE can be set up to perform very well both in terms of power and economy, and with reliability that the SU’s can only dream about.
      To give perspective I set up a lancia fulvia which has a 1300cc engine and twin DCOE’s and it gets mid 30 mpg with normal driving and low 20’s when driven like a hooligan. I think I could make a 1275 with a single DCOE give similar figures. I simply do not have a seat time in the LBC’s to give an accurate number but my customers are all pleased. Fuel economy on these is usually the result of having the main jets just 1 or 2 sizes to large. You can back them down without a loss in performance and with a significant increase in economy.
      So the problem is not the carb but really having someone who knows how to tune it properly.
      The only problem that I have with webers, and I deal with DCOE, DGV, IDF ect is the amount of money that I have invested in jets, emulsion tubes, chokes, and special tools is staggering. It was all purchased piece meal, but when I look at all those trays I know it adds up.

      Have a great day
      Kevin Harper
      BIF motors

      • z1rider

        Kevin, thanks for offering some additional perspective. Decades ago I was told often that Webers were as close to fuel injection as you could get and were certainly better than some of the earliest fuel injection efforts. I suspect part of the problem is that they are so infinitely adjustable that it makes for too many choices for a lot of tuners with limited experience. Everything on most Weber’s is tunable, Jets, Air bleeds, chokes, on and on………..

        And if one hasn’t made the investment in hardware (expensive hardware as you relate) then you aren’t fully prepared to make an engine run right.

        Many years ago I was privileged to do a rebuild of the 4 48 IDA’s on a 289 Cobra. I was under the guidance of an old timer who knew carburetors and loved Webers. He was suffering from very bad arthritis and could not do the wrenching but we made a good team, his brains, and my brawn. The Cobra was running chokes more suited to a 427 than a 289 so we put in smaller ones. The car was also running a hotter cam and the combination made low speed driveability a real chore. After the choke change and later some rejetting the car ran great and still pulled hard on the way to redline.

        Bottom line if your car won’t run right on Webers (IDA’s or DCOE’s) then it’s time to find a different tuner.

      • rusty

        Thanks Kevin. Totally agree with you on all but one thing .

        I agree if webers can be tuned by a knowledgable person they are great but in the late 70’s and 80s this Aussie who at a young age then could not afford to pay someone to dynotune them and gave up on them as a money pit.

        Every Morry Minor I got that had a weber on I sold off the weber for a good return and simply replaced with an SU. Thus getting rid of a carby that chewed gas and had terrible flat spots that meant riding the clutch. Sure that can be solved but not easily by someone on a shoestring and no way of having or knowing which needles nor access to a dyno. I never bought a weber on a car that was performing correctly and solved it with SU’s for no cost.

        The SU was simple chuck it on..It ran whether it was worn out or not.

        Tune a pair in next to no time. They were a dime a dozen and the weber was worth while selling .

        The only thing I will disagree with you is your statement that SU’s go out of tune. Actually they do not. What people think is going out of tune is the carby physically wearing out. It will run in worn out condition. Basically a good condition SU will not lose its tune. But many people buy a car with a worn out SU and think SU’s dont hold a tune. A good condition SU will always hold its tune.

        Thanks for your great info. Totally agree but they are not to me a home restorers carby…they need expert attention to get them right. Thats ok if you have that cash and many do but SU’s are cheap and simple carbies that if in good condition perform excellently and suit the restorer on a shoestring.

      • Ross W. Lovell

        Greetings All,

        Agree with you on the Webers, no one ever understood my “tackle box with $1000.00 plus of parts”. While I still have some DCO’s for racing , not the same as DCOE’s prefer SU’s for the 4 moving parts.

  3. Rob

    Neat Mod, but I’ll add this, “If you’re over 5’10”, ’tis a bit hard to get in and out of the Midgets or Sprites, unless of course you’ve a tad of a contortionist in ya”.. :)

  4. Dolphin Member

    I think the aftermarket front end of this Sprite was modeled on the 1950s Ferrari 250 TR. If you compare it with photo of that car above you can see the similarity. Back then cars used drum brakes, and for them to survive endurance races like Le Mans Ferrari needed to supply more cooling air to the drums. That’s why there is the cut out space between the cowl and the protruding fender front.

    I have never seen a Speed Line front end like this, but I like it.

  5. James

    This bonnet is known as a Denner (Thomas) and appears to be a continuation or the same as the contemporary Ferrari type bonnet form Dema Plastics, Inc of Springfield, PA.

    http://gerardsgarage.com/Garage/Tech/GRP/Denner.htm

    It’s Ferrari “style” but not early ’50s barchetta. It’s circa 1958 Testa Rossa V12, but in miniature – too small for the fenders to be cutaway aft of the front wheels. Thus it’s an unintended caricature of a Testa Rossa which Dolphin’s photo shows is an impressive machine.

  6. James

    Other, but by all means not all of the bonnet variations available for the Spridgets with an contemporary (old) photo of the Dema Plastics bonnet at the bottom of the page.

    http://gerardsgarage.com/Garage/Tech/fiberglass.htm

    Always preferred the various Speedwell and Sebring (different mfgs).

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      James and Dolphin, thanks for all the information! Cool!

  7. Jason Houston

    Yuk.

  8. mark

    the fact that the breather hose from the carb is even there shows some attention to detail and ‘getting things right’.

  9. John

    While the attention to detail is obvious, a couple of worries remain. First, where is the heater core. I lives right ahead of the battery. Second, why is the door striker plate all covered with thick red paint. It seems a bit incongruous that these things should have been left unaddressed by someone who took the time to run a proper crankcase breather. I see a roll bar under the top (which is a bit of a poor fit). I also see roll up windows and a later model windscreen. 65 Spridgets had side curtains not roll ups. I presume that this means that a 68 or later Spridget donated those doors. That may address the striker plate issue also I guess. Overall, this little Frankensprite is still a pretty neat little piece. I’d want to take along a magnet when I inspected it, but this is a very cute little car for someone looking for that and not a perfectly restored example. I’m begging my wife to let me submit a bid as I am writing this. I can’t imagine a car that would provide more fun per dollar.

    • John

      Oops. I just looked at my old pictures. My 65 did have roll-ups. All the better.

    • rusty

      Go for it John as you can address all those issues as you drive it

      that’s what classic car ownership is about..If you buy one restored or going you can tinker at your leisure.drive it as is or improve it or change it as its then your call

      In my country this would be very cheap buying

      If you get it keep us informed

  10. Mark-A

    A few of U guys seem to be missing the point of the Weber carb is the sweet noises they make when the Accelerator is embedded in the firewall! Just my Tuppenceworth.

    • rusty

      Hee hee maybe mark

      But i reckon all pommy engines have that sweet sound no matter which carby. Whether sprite, Morris minor , triumph , jag etc

Leave a Reply to rusty Cancel reply

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.