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Austin Healey Sprite Images and Technical Specification



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The British Mark I Sprite was known as the Frogeye in the U.K. and the Bugeye in the U.S. because of its distinctive headlights mounted on top of the centre bonnet (hood). The mounted headlights were not actually part of the original car design; they were originally going to be mounted into the front of the car so they could "flip up" when they were in use, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use. However, mounting production costs lead to the flip-up headlight idea being abandoned and so the headlights were simply mounted in a permanent upright position giving rise to the car's most distinctive feature. The front sheet-metal assembly - bonnet and wings - was a one-piece unit, hinged from the back, that swung up to allow access to the engine compartment. Both the 43 bhp, 948 cc engine (coded 9CC), rack and pinion steering and suspension were derived from the Austin A35 & Morris Minor 1000 models, also BMC products, but upgraded with twin 1 1/8" inch SU carburettors. The front suspension was a coil spring and wishbone arrangement, with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was both located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, again with lever-arm shock absorbers. There were no exterior door handles - you reached inside to open the door. There was also no boot (trunk) lid, and access to the spare wheel and rear storage was gained by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck, a process likened to potholing by many owners. The Sprite's chassis design is notable in that it was the world's first volume-production sports car to use integrated construction, where the sheet metal body panels (apart from the bonnet) take many of the structural stresses. The two front 'chassis legs' which project forward from the passenger compartment, however, stop the shell being a full monocoque.

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