A look back at the Austin Healy Sprite Mark IV

The Austin-Healey Sprite’s most famous and endearing feature was its Kermit the Frog’s quirky appearance. Both cars were manufactured around the same period, with Kermit debuting in 1955 and the “Frogeye” Sprite entering production and debuting in 1958.

British Motor Corporation was created in 1952 when several British car manufacturers, including Austin, Morris, Wolsley, Riley and MG, merged to form the British Motor Company. This merger not only secured the survival of a number of British car brands that would otherwise go out of business, but it also led to a collaboration between the companies and the designs.

Essentially, this meant that BMC would produce a number of nearly identical vehicles, but with different name badges, grilles, and trim, in order to reduce production costs and develop the new model. The Austin-Healey Sprite was born into this environment, although in its first iteration, it was designed as a standalone model, only as an “engineering badge” for Mark II and subsequent models.

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How It All Began: Austin Healy Sprite Mark IV Previous Generations

The Austin-Healey Company was founded in 1952 as a collaboration between two automakers: Austin, then a subsidiary of the British Motor Corporation, and The Donald Healey Motor Company. By the mid-1950s, the Austin Healey was a hit with its 100-4 and 100-6 Roadster models, which were front-engined, rear-wheel drive, body on a frame, and two-door roadster models. They are popular as road cars and competition cars for beginners. The problem was that not everyone could afford the “Big Healeys.”

Austin and Donald Healey collaborated on a concept of a low-cost sports car that could sell well in both European and American markets. As a result, the first Austin Healy Sprite was born. The Austin-Healey Sprite was introduced in 1958, with a small chassis wrapped around a 948cc Austin A-series inline-four-cylinder engine sourced from extensive BMC parts boxes. The car’s dual SU carburetors produced approximately 43 horsepower and 52 pound-feet of torque, which were sent to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission.

In the name of structural rigidity, the car is built as a semi-monorail, one of the first mass-produced monocoque cars, with frayed body panels and no trunk accessible from the outside. Despite its tiny 1,500-pound weight, the Sprite took about 20 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph, and its top speed was barely more than 80 mph.

The second generation was the small Sprite, which was a big seller and got a major facelift at the end of 1961, with a new body that included a straighter nose with better integrated headlights, full-width fenders, and a true trunk lid, which required more structural stabilization and added weight. a little. While engine displacement has remained unchanged, the SU’s carburetor size has been increased to produce approximately 47 horsepower.

The MG Midget, a variant of the MG-branded Sprite, was launched in 1961. The name was inspired by MG’s earlier low-cost MG sports cars of the pre- and post-war periods. All imps and dwarves received a larger 1.1-liter (1,098 cc) engine with 56 hp in 1962. Front disc brakes replaced previous cylinders, the gearbox was improved with stronger Porsche-style synchronizers, and wired wheels were optional to handle the extra power ( Pressed steel wheels were still standard).

The third generation evolved in 1964, with the Sprite and Midget finally closing the exterior door handles, glass side windows, and a reworked rear suspension to improve ride comfort. Minor engine tweaks resulted in another boost in power, this time to 59 horsepower and 65 pound-feet of torque, while the die-casting and main bearings were hardened to handle the increased output.

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Geometric Brilliance: Austin Healy Sprite Mark IV Master Class

The Austin Healey Sprite Mark IV was revealed at the London Earls Court Motor Show in October 1966, and it differed significantly from previous models. The removable soft top has been replaced by a folding soft top that does not need to be removed and stowed in the trunk/trunk, which was one of the most welcome changes. The interior has been significantly improved, with the addition of reclining chairs.

The engine has been replaced with a somewhat malfunctioning version of the same base engine found in the high-performance Mini Cooper, according to BMC, in order to improve reliability. Of course, many enthusiasts had their cars tuned to a higher standard as an aftermarket upgrade.

The new engine was still an Austin “A” series, but it was 1,275 cc and developed 65 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 72 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. However, since the US was regulating emissions at this time in history, larger engines had to be manufactured with energy-reducing smog pumps, etc.

The hydraulic brake and clutch systems were also modified in response to regulatory changes in the United States. In 1969, the car’s electrical system was upgraded from the previous model’s dynamo and 12-volt positive grounding system to a more reliable alternator and 12-volt negative grounding system. Reverse lights have also been installed on the vehicles. This was the last year the puck was sold in the United States.

After BMC was absorbed into the British Leyland Group in 1968, the Austin-Healey Sprite Mark IV and Mark III MG Midget received some design revisions in 1970. The Sprite and Midget looks were rounded out together, resulting in their being called “Spridgets.” These cars received new badges and the body sills were painted matte black, adding to the car’s striking style. New steel wheels, designed to look like alloy wheels, were also installed on the 1970 cars.

Since the contract between Donald Healey and Austin expired in 1971, cars built after that date are no longer known as Austin Hills, but rather as Austin Spirits for the last 1,022 cars produced.

Sources: SiloDrome, MotorTrend

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