The Austin-Healey Sprite MKII was produced between 1961 and 1964 alongside the MG Midget MKI. It looks like the later Spridgets while retaining some of the eccentricities of the Frogeye Sprites (no exterior door handles, no windows).
Full Disclosure: The British Motor Corporation wanted me to drive this so much they built it over 50 years ago and let it pass through an untold number of hands until I happened upon it on Craigslist at a price I could not turn down when it was being sold by an Austin-Healey enthusiast to make room in his garage for a “big Healey”.
Exterior - 8/10
While the Frogeye Sprites are more iconic, the second generation was still a great looker. While it may be a slightly understated design, I believe there are no flaws to it. The lines are simple and clean. There are no exterior door handles which allow the shape continue from the headlights to the tailights uninterrupted. It is also quite small, at just under 11ft long and 4.5ft wide.
Interior - 5/10
While the interior has a very attractive aesthetic, it does lack in comfortability. Simple bucket seats that cannot be adjusted are bolted directly to the floor of the tub. These seats can begin to get uncomfortable after an hour or so of driving. The interior cabin itself is quite small and anyone much taller than me (5’8”) would have difficulty fitting, especially if they attempted to drive with the top on. The transmission tunnel can get warm at times and the only way to get cool air flowing is to drive. There is room to put a small duffle behind the seats and you can put golf clubs there too provided you don’t mind your clubheads hanging out into traffic. You can also easily shut the passenger door from the driver’s position when it starts to come open around a curve due to a previous passenger not shutting it correctly.
Toys - 3/10
There are nice classic Smiths gauges (gas, tachometer, speedometer, oil pressure, temperature), however, if your car is like mine, only half work. Mine also has a stereo installed, though it sounds awful. Some accessories can also be tricky to add due to car being designed with a positive ground. The best toy on the car has to be switches and pull knobs for operating the electrics. The turn signal is a switch in the middle of the dash; flip it left to indicate left, right to indicate right, but it is not self-canceling so always remember to flip it back to the middle before you look like a buffoon driving down the road with your turn signal on. The side-curtains can be cool too, but I’ve never used mine.
Audio - 1/10
As I said in the above section, a stereo could be installed, but I find the sound of the exhaust and the environment around me more pleasing.
Acceleration - 3/10
Considering the stock 948cc engine has 46hp and 53lbft of torque, there isn’t much to be said about the acceleration other than it is slow.
Braking - 4/10
With drum brakes at all four corners, the braking can be lacking at times. Later MKIIs with the 1098cc engine got discs on the front and I would assume they brake better. Due to the light weight of the vehicle, braking is adequate for normal driving.
Ride - 5/10
Driving this car, you have a connection to the road. Its one of the most visceral feelings I’ve ever felt. With the connection to the road, you will also feel every bump in the road. If you drive for a couple hours on average roads, you will likely feel it the next day. The size of the car can be intimidating at times on the highway, especially when a semi passes. Surprisingly, the cabin is pretty wind resistant and one can hold a conversation with a passenger pretty easily.
Gearbox - 5/10
The four speed manual has an unsynchronized first gear and once up to speed on the highway, you could use another gear. Otherwise, its perfectly acceptable.
Handling - 7/10
This car is great fun to drive. It possesses great tossability. With its small stature and light weight, it can be thrown around the curves. Lots of aftermarket support and owner knowledge available to improve the stock handling as well.
Value - 10/10
I gave $2500 for mine in running, driving, stopping condition. I have not had to do anything to it to keep it running or to get it on the road. While I definitely got a deal, I’ve seen others in better condition than mine for around $5k on Craigslist. Parts and knowledge are plentiful on the internet, and I think For the amount of smiles the car has given me and others, I would say its the best $2500 I’ve ever spent. MKII Sprites/MKI Midgets can be hard to find as they were only made a few years, but the MKIII Sprites/MKII Midgets are great value as well and have larger more powerful engines.
Total - 51/100
While the total sounds pretty low, it doesn’t factor in the amount of fun this car gives. Every time I drive it, I see someone in another car take a picture of it. Every time I stop at a gas station someone will tell me about how their aunt/cousin/grandma had one just like it. Everyone should own an old British roadster at some point in there life, and the MKII Sprite is a solid choice. Just remember, if its not leaking oil, then you’re out of oil.
Unfortunately, the hood came flying up one day when my brother-in-law was driving the car. This caused damage to the hood and windshield. For now I’ve installed a yellow hood off of a later Midget and put Brooklands style windscreens on. I’ve secured the hood with belts, removed the bumpers, and added driving lights. Here’s how she looks now: