Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ranting Stan's Sunday Drive: Austin Healey "Frogeye" Sprite

The Frogeye Sprite was the sort of car which could never be made now as the concept actually sounds pretty ridiculous. Take a best selling, but ultimately mundane, basic and very slow car - the Austin A35 - make it a convertible with even more basic trim, add a second carb to the one litre engine and, hey presto! - you have a sports car.
Except, in performance terms, the Sprite was not much of a sports car with a 0-60 time of over 20 seconds and a top speed barely above 80 mph. With that sort of a pedigree it is amazing to think that the little Austin-Healey would not only be a success, but would encourage other manufacturers to copy the concept with MG, Triumph and others introducing their own cheap, no frills, two seaters.
Interestingly, the Sprite's most famous feature wasn't planned. The car was originally intended to have pop-up headlamps, but thanks to problems with the mechanism, this was altered to headlights mounted on the bonnet giving the car it's unusual and rather endearing appearance.
I personally think the Sprite demonstrates the difference between cars today and cars then. It was undoubtedly crude and basic, but rose above that to be a popular and, in some ways, ground breaking little car. It didn't just look different, it WAS different. How refreshing that seems today with cars now so bland and conservative I find it impossible to get excited about them.
The presenters of Top Gear (an excellent programme) may eulogise about today's cars and there is no doubt that they are incredible machines, but they are oh so boring, bland and samey. Modern cars are light years ahead of their sixties contemporaries in every respect - except style and appeal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How I would like to endorse your comments .Having purchased a sprite last march 08 I can only say how much fun this car is to drive .It does not go fast, but it certianly seems like it does.We also have an Audi TT 225 bhp,this car is totaly the opposite, it goes fast but seems slow.When the suns out so is the sprite ,the Audi is left at home, need I say more .