Pick of the Day: Classic British Steel on a budget

I went looking for a bargain. This Sprite needs TLC, but could be a great project/driver

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We’ve seen a plethora of cars on Pick of the Day. Many of those cars carry hefty price tags, and considering that a recent Pick, a coachbuilt 1936 Delahaye, had an asking price of $15 Million, certain cars can get priced right out of the “fun factor.”

This week when I went hunting for my Pick, I wanted to look on the other end of the spectrum. My premise was if I had only $7,000 in hobby money and wanted to find something interesting, what could I get? Here’s what I found that was of particular interest.

The Pick of the Day is a 1969 Austin Healey Sprite advertised on ClassicCars.com by a dealer in Stauton, Illinois. It’s a survivor of sorts and according to the seller, it drives. All for an asking price under my $7000 price point.

As I searched through the listings, I certainly came across a number of “projects.” I have no problem putting “sweat equity” into a car. As a matter of fact, for me it’s therapy. But considering that some of those projects had trees growing through them, that is a little more than my current one-car garage can handle. That’s not the case with this apparently ready-to-drive Sprite. 

The first series of Sprites, called “Frogeye” in the UK and “Bugeye” in the states, was designed to be a low-cost sports car that “a chap could keep in his bike shed.” In recent years, these fun little British roadsters have been gaining value on the auction block. I still kick myself for not buying one for $4,000 that I saw at Road America about 15 years ago.

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The whopping 65 horsepower at 3,000 rpm comes from a 1.3 liter inline-4 paired with a 4-speed gearbox. Over the years, many of these cars have been modified for racing and were quite successful. Austin Healey actually produced a Le Mans prototype of the Sprite in 1966. The 1.3 in that car produced 140 horses!

The model year for this cream-over-black Mark IV puts it squarely before the British Leyland merger of 1970. All the Sprites were built in the MG factory, along with its cousin, the MG Midget. By 1971, Sprites were discontinued.

For a drivable project, this could be a heck of a lot of fun.  But beware! Only a certain kind of enthusiast can own an old British car. Applicants must have patience, passion, mechanical and electrical prowess, and a hearty helping of finesse.  

The 1969 Austin Healey Sprite has an asking price of $6,650. 

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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Tom Stahler is the Managing Editor of the ClassicCars.com Journal. Tom has a lifelong love of cars and motor racing – beginning with the 1968 USRRC race at Road America, in a stroller, at eight months of age. His words, photos and broadcasts can can be found on a myriad of media. He has won the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and a Gold Medal in the International Automotive Media Awards.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Too bad I didn’t hang onto that bug eye Sprite we had years ago. But I don’t know where I would have kept it and it certainly exceeded my limited mechanical capabilities

  2. I worked in the parts department of the franchise dealer for these things here in New Zealand from the mid-seventies till the late eighties.
    These cars are stove simple. The mechanicals are mostly the same as Morris Minor 1000 so almost any breakdown can be fixed on the side of the road with nothing more than a hammer, a shifting spanner, a screwdriver and a roll of duct tape.
    These cars are more fun than a barrell of monkeys. A friend had one, he enjoyed the fact that he could touch the road over the door while sitting in a normal driving position.

    • I’m sure anyone has owned one has had happy — and sometimes frustrating — tales of owning a Sprite. Cheers!

  3. If I wasn’t 6′ – 8″” /300# I would own it.. I remember when they were new. I thought that they soooo cool when I was 9 yrs. Old
    And I still do

  4. Excellent find Tom
    I had a bug eye back in the 60’s
    My father and picked it up at Hallandale Fl
    The owner was not using it it was left on a parking lot the owner said if you get it going it’s yours
    Well we got it going we paid 150.00 a drove it home about 50 miles
    Grey with reddish interior

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