Last weekend, the Austin Healey Club held a big party for a very little sportscar as it celebrates 60 years of the affordable Frogeye Sprite
The UK’s oldest motorsport venue, Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb, was buzzing with the sound of red-lining A-Series engines over the weekend, as almost 200 Austin Healeys assembled to celebrate the Frogeye Sprite’s diamond jubilee.
Yes, it’s six decades this year since BMC created the affordable sportscar market with the diminutive Sprite priced at just £678.
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While the focus of Sprite 60 was on the Frogeye, there were plenty of other related classics there, including road and race Big Healeys, a smattering of later Sprites and MG Midgets and even a sprint-prepared Jensen Healey in Gulf Racing colours.
Lined up in the bays in Shelsley’s paddock there were well-used Sprites sitting alongside concours contenders, ex-works cars and period-tuned examples.
One of those responsible for organising the event was Mark Knight. He says: ‘With owners coming from places as far afield as Germany and Holland – and even Australia – this has become a truly international gathering.
‘When the Sprite was launched it was the only mainstream affordable sportscar and while prices have risen significantly in recent years, it’s still a very relevant classic as it provides so much fun for relatively little cash.
‘These cars are easy to tune, restore, race or just enjoy in standard form. Plus the social scene around the Sprite is also fantastic which is why so many people have travelled so far today.’
One of those who travelled the furthest was Sven Eckhardt, making the journey from southern Germany. His 1959 Sebring Sprite’s head gasket had failed on the Saturday then again on the Sunday, so he was busy with his spanners trying to get his sick engine to work properly.
Sven was not fazed by the car’s histrionics however. He says: ‘I bought this car as a bag of bits three years ago and it’s needed a lot of love and attention to get it this far. It’s one of five Mk1 Sprites that I own and it was originally rallied by Stan Annis, with the car wearing the registration 4444DA back then. Before Annis bought the car it was owned by Eric Davis who competed in the car with his registration E700 – it’s a well known car within the Austin Healey community and I am very lucky to now own it.’
The Austin Healey Club celebrated the Sprite’s 50th anniversary at Goodwood and the group has a history of celebrating its key models at every opportunity. So, if you missed Sprite 60 you’d better get ready for Sprite 70, which is bound to be another truly international event.