Designed by Donald Healey in partnership with BMC, the MkI Sprite was launched in 1958 and proved such a hit that it spawned a whole new generation of factory-built, back-to-basics sportscars, killing off the budget home-build kits that had formerly turned redundant Austin 7 and Ford 10 chassis' into quasi-sportscars at a stroke.
Based around humble A35 underpinnings and powered by a twin-carb 948cc A-Series engine driving the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox, it was capable of over 80mph with lively road manners that won many fans. The body was a simple design with no external boot access, sliding windows and minimal decoration, hence the meagre £669 launch price.
The one-piece bonnet was originally designed to include pop-up headlamps, however the mechanisms proved too complex so the lamps were mounted in fixed pods instead, a quirky styling feature which just added to the car’s cute appeal and quickly lent it the ‘Frogeye’ nickname.
Updated in 1961 with a more orthodox front-end, the MkII replacement was also badged as an MG, the basic design of which soldiered on until the late '70s, finally ending with the demise of the rubber-bumper Midget 1500.
First registered in London in August 1958, this pretty Speedwell Blue Frogeye has had just two owners from new, according to the V5C, the first keeping it right up until 2015 when the vendor acquired it. At this point the Sprite had been in storage for well over 20 years and required substantial restoration.
A former engineer, the vendor set about the task with some enthusiasm in order to keep himself busy in his retirement. The bodywork was restored as necessary including new sills and floor pans, although the steel bonnet was in good condition and required little attention.
The engine was professionally rebuilt and bored out to 1,095cc with new big end bearings, timing chain etc, and the head converted for unleaded fuel (invoice on file). A new clutch kit, radiator, fuel tank, fuel sender unit and wiring loom were also fitted, along with a new exhaust system including a three-branch manifold. The braking system was also fully overhauled with many new parts and Minilite-style alloys fitted.
Since the car was completed it has had virtually no use due to health issues (hence the reason for sale), but the vendor states that it runs well with excellent oil pressure. Supplied with a detachable hard top in good condition, it also has a soft top and a tonneau cover but these are not quite so good and would ideally be replaced.