Very early Frogeye Sprite heads to auction

by Jon Burgess
26 April 2022 2 min read
Very early Frogeye Sprite heads to auction
Photos: Classic Car Auctions

A 1958 Austin-Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite, thought to be one of the first few hundred built, is to cross the block during Classic Car Auctions’ June summer sale.

The car consigned was, according to its British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Heritage Certificate, built on 21 April that year – just 21 days after Sprite production began at Abingdon (and barely a month before the model’s public debut in Monaco).

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Owned by the vendor for 17 years, it reportedly underwent ‘very sympathetic’ restoration in 2015 with the aim of preserving as much of the original car as possible.

1958 Frogeye Sprite

To that end, the bodyshell (and windscreen) was retained, keeping its flat chassis legs, twin seat rails, and rear chassis gussets. Early ‘Frogeyes’ had different bonnets to later cars, and this has been kept on the CCA car.

The car packs the standard 948cc A Series engine and unshrouded radiator, albeit rebored and attached to a newer ‘ribbed case’ gearbox; the matching, so-called ‘smooth case’ unit will be included in the sale. Its Cherry Red colour was specified from new by the first owner, who had it sent to Dreadnought Garage in Brighton, East Sussex.

The Sprite was a low-cost alternative to the relatively expensive Austin-Healey roadsters of the day; its simplicity, owing to A35 mechanicals, a stiff, Barry Bilbie-designed underbody and Gerry Coker-shaped shell that dispensed with a boot lid kept costs low, something that could be passed on to customers.

Its low price meant that many could afford a modern-looking sports car and it proved a particular hit in the United States. By the time the MkII arrived, in 1961, it had an MG-badged counterpart, in the form of the Midget.

A staunch following and growth in values mean that such an early ‘Frogeye’ won’t be quite as attainable in 2022. Estimated by CCA at £20-£25,000, the Hagerty valuation tool puts a Condition 2 ‘excellent’ example at £20,000 and Condition 1, representative of the best in the world, at up to £27,100.

To date, the market in the UK has found a peak of £22,000 for a 1958 Sprite, set by Brightwells in 2018. A similarly tidy car went for £21,280 during lockdown with Historics.

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