Recently I posted about a book “Modified Motoring” that I had acquired that was written by Austin Healey Sprite guru John Sprinzel. That post about John Sprinzel sparked an interest in other folks who rallied the Austin Healey Sprite Mk1 in its original body shape. I was able to find a couple of other examples. The image below, found in “BMC Competitions Department Secrets”, shows Tommy Wisdom with Douglas Johns competing in a Sprite in the 1959 Monte Carlo Rally.
Tommy Wisdom/Douglas Johns At The 1959 Monte Carlo Rally
When the Austin Healey Sprite Mk 1 was first introduced it soon became affectionately known as the “Bug Eye” Sprite in the USA and as the “Frog Eye” Sprite in the United Kingdom. These nicknames were as a result of the headlights that were prominently mounted on the hood. Initially it was intended that the headlights would be retracted when not in use, but cost cutting by BMC led to the retraction mechanism being deleted, therefore the headlights were simply fixed in a permanently upright position.
Within a few years many race and rally competitors used a modified, more streamlined hood and front fender shape which was much improved aerodynamically.
The image below from “Works Wonders” by Marcus Chambers shows Tommy Wisdom taking part in a test (note that there is no navigator) in the 1959 Sestriere Rally in February in the same car as took part in the 1959 Monte Carlo Rally.
Tommy Wisdom Driving A Sprite In The 1959 Sestriere Rally
“Monte Carlo Rally: The Golden Years” by Graham Robson shows that Tommy Wisdom was still competing in an Austin Healey Sprite Mk1 in the 1961 Monte Carlo Rally as shown below.
Tommy Wisdom/Jack Hay In The 1961 Monte Carlo Rally
The Austin Healey Sprite was designed to be a very affordable sports car. As a result, where possible, BMC used parts that they had readily available. The standard Austin Healey Sprite MK1 engine was the 43 horsepower, 948 cc overhead valve engine derived from the Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000 models, but upgraded with twin 11⁄8 inch SU carburetors. The rack and pinion steering was derived from the Morris Minor 1000 and the front suspension from the Austin A35. This combination seemed to be successful for BMC.
If you have any comments or questions about the Austin Healey MK1 Sprite or this post, then leave a comment below or you can send me a private email message at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net