The Austin-Healey Sprite was a small open sports car designed by Donald Healey.
It release was announced by British Motor Corporation in 1958. It was a small, low cost sports car designed to fill the hole in the market left by the small pre-war Austin seven sports cars. The car was designed by the Healey Motor Company within the bounds of their partnership with British Motor Corporation.
It first went on sale at a price of £669.
It was based on the Morris Motor Company A-series engine and used as many components from existing cars as possible to keep the cost to a minimum.
The Mark I sprite was known as the Bugeye or Frogeye because of its distinctive headlights mounted on top of the centre bonnet, which hinged from the back in one piece together with the outer mudguards. It used a 948cc engine. Front suspension was coil springs and wishbones, using the arms of the rotary shock absorbers as the top suspension link, rear was semi-elliptical leaf springs again with rotary shock absorbers. There were no exterior door handles, one reached inside to open the door, and no boot lid, access to the spare wheel and rear storage was by tilting the seat backs forward.
The Mark II introduced a 1098cc engine. This engine actually has the same stroke and bore, and therefore capacity, as the Morris Minor 1000 and the Morris 1100, so the different nominal capacities of these three cars seem to be the idea of the marketing department. It also moved the headlights to a more conventional position in the mudguards, which were now fixed, adopted the tail lights from the Morris 1100, and introduced a boot lid and conventional rear bumber bar. The result was a far more conventional looking car but little extra weight. Twin carburetors and front disk brakes were also introduced, and wire wheels became an option.
There was a IIA with some engine improvements, notably larger camshaft bearings. This model was also rebadged as the Mark I MG Midget, without Donald Healey's consent or approval.
The Mark III was the last Sprite, and was also badged as the Mark II MG Midget. It introduced wind-up windows with hinged quarterlights and exterior door handles, and for the first time the car could be locked. The rear suspension went to fully elliptical leaf springs, and there was even an optional rear seat of sorts which could also be retro-fitted to the Mark II. The car had gained an appreciable amount of weight and was far more comfortable but not nearly so lively.
There were several more models of the MG Midget. The later MG Midgets used first a 1300cc Morris A engine and then a Triumph engine in its place. The Triumph engine having four exhaust ports as opposed to the three for the Morris A series allowed more performance development.
Sprites and Midgets are often called spridgets by fanciers.