Austin-Healey Sebring Sprite

Following on the success of the Austin-Healey 100, Donald Healey and BMC teamed up to produce yet another sports-car legend, the Sprite. Introduced in 1958 and affectionately known as the “Bugeye” or “Frog-eye” by virtue of its hood-mounted headlamps, the Sprite combined a lightweight steel unit-body structure with a 948 cc BMC A-series four-cylinder engine and other mechanical components from the Morris Minor. The cars were prized for their remarkable steering response and handling, and quickly took the racing world by storm.

Well aware of the correlation between racing and sales success, Healey and BMC campaigned “works” Sprites in the most important American sports car races, particularly the Sebring 12-Hour endurance race. The name “Sebring Sprite” was described by marque experts John Sprinzel and Tom Coulthard in the book Spritely Years as a catch-all term, referring to racing Sprites that were homologated under FIA guidelines with four-wheel disc brakes, as well as other mechanical and engine upgrades. The Healey/BMC works team cars were taken directly from the BMC Abingdon production line and delivered to the Donald Healey Motor Co. in Warwick, where they were race-prepared under the able supervision of Geoff Healey.

In March 1959, the team launched its first assault on Sebring with four standard-bodied Sprites, sweeping the under 1.5-liter class with first, second and third place finishes. The team returned in 1960, with Stirling Moss taking first in class and fourth overall in the four-hour race, while John Sprinzel and John Lumkin took first in class during the grueling 12-hour event. The Sprites returned to Sebring in 1961, taking six of the eight top places in the four-hour race. Ed Leavens, Bruce McLaren, Walt Hansgen, Briggs Cunningham and Dick Thompson, as well as Stirling Moss and his sister Pat, drove the cars with a variety of GRP, alloy and coupe bodies.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2009 at the The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.

100bhp, 1,275 cc inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with upper and lower A-arms and coil springs, live rear axle with double trailing links and quarter-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 80".

Source: RM Auctions

Gallery: Austin-Healey Sebring Sprite