AAN10/87699G Round Wheel Arch Austin Sprite

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Front 3/4
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Austin Sprite
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Round wheel arches
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Rear 3/4
At the end of 1970, the long-running association with Donald Healey was terminated, and between January and July 1971, the last 1022 Sprites were badged simply as Austin Sprite.

AAN10/87699G was built on 2nd June 1971, painted Midnight Blue. In 1995 it was brought to Australia by a young English lass and her Australian husband. In 2001, two children later, they decided the Sprite had to go. As I had serviced and maintained it since coming Down Under, they offered it to me at a price I couldn't refuse.

Whilst basically sound, the car is currently suffering from rust in the sills and a small dent behind the left headlight. Cosmetics (such as carpet, soft-top) need replacing, and the ugly and torn vinyl-covered dash will be replaced with the correct painted one.

Round wheel arch (RWA) cars commenced in October 1971, badged only as MG Midgets and never as Sprites. Or so we are told. However, AAN10/87699G is clearly a RWA car. Close investigation shows that it has never been modified, yet body numbers and tags identify it as an Austin Sprite. If RWA Midgets were sold from October 1971, then clearly production of RWA body shells would have started much earlier in the year. How this particular car managed to acquire a RWA shell is hard to explain.

To quote in part from a letter from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust: "We have spent some time looking into the query of square or round wheel arches and find that your vehicle was manufactured at the change point and could have been either."

So is this car truly unique - the one and only RWA Sprite? Surely there couldn't have been many built, otherwise Terry Horler ("Original Sprite and Midget") and Anders Ditlev Clausager ("Sprites and Midgets") would not be so adamant that the RWA cars were only badged as MG Midgets.

Watch this space for an update!

28 February 07

The rust in the passenger's door sill was starting to become obvious.
LH sill

If we were going to get the rust repaired, then we might as well fix the dent on the left from mudguard, repair numerous scratches, fix the cracked windscreen, and respray the whole car.

Since I just hate overspray, and I don't like cheap re-sprays where everything gets masked off, it was time to dismantle the car.
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Dashboard, covered in vinyl
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Right hand sill
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Front panels

The quarter windows aren't out yet, as I will get the panel shop to do that. They have to fit them back, and align them with the windscreen, after the paint job.

Now it's off to The Hills Prestige Car Repairs for some repairs and a nice fresh coat of Midnight Blue.

20 June 07

Brendan (from The Hills Prestige Car Repairs) returned the re-painted Sprite in four weeks, and nothing has happened. I've been too busy working on customer's cars to spend any time re-assembling it. Then I realised: I'm always busy! If I don't devote some time each and every day, it will still be sitting there, unassembled, twelve months from now.

20 July 07

A few hours here, a few there, plus about five full days, and the Austin Sprite is finished.

The wiper motor was dismantled, steel parts bead blasted and repainted or Cadmium plated as appropriate, and re-assembled. The wiper drive tubes were also Cad plated. Re-shaping the drive tubes so that the inner cable moved freely, and so that the tubes didn't put pressure on the wiper wheel boxes, took five hours. Yup, that's five, as in 5, hours.

Nothing was going to clean the windscreen washer bottle, so I bought a new one. They're cheap anyway.

The Fuel Catalyst was re-located to the pedal box blanking plate. If it ever gets removed (unlikely) it's easier to weld up and re-paint the plate than it is the inner mudguard.
New washer bottle and Fuel Catalyst

The heater box was bead blasted and repainted in 2-pack epoxy. New decals were fitted. I removed, dismantled, cleaned, polished, and re-assembled the brass heater tap.
The heater box was bead blasted and repainted in 2-pack epoxy. New decals were fitted.

The radiator shroud was likewise blasted and painted, and gained the correct warning decal.
Radiator after painting

The engine splash guards were also blasted and painted. Yes, I know the radiator reservoir should be black, but don't you think it looks better with clear epoxy over the brass? And before you ask - no, the steering rack didn't come off the car. The Sprite was delivered to the paint shop as a rolling shell.
Radiator overflow tank in brass

Since we are into decals, there is the correct NEGATIVE EARTH decal on the firewall behind the battery.
Negative earth decal behind battery

Whilst oil coolers were always options, they were rarely fitted to UK cars. Seems now is a good time to fit one.
New oil cooler

The clutch and brake master cylinder were carefully taped up, bead blasted, and sprayed with Inox, a lanolin based preservative. They will need to be re-sprayed every time the engine bay is washed, but it should stop surface rust on the tin cans. I also made and fitted new brake and clutch pipes.
Rebuilt master cylinders

When I acquired the Sprite, it had been fitted with a 1.75" SU on a Mini manifold. Sadly, the Mini manifold sits the carby too high in a Sprite, and the top of the SU had put a dent in the bonnet. I removed the carby from the manifold, cleaned it, and fitted it to a Russell Engineering manifold. We milled the cylinder head and carby faces of the manifold to sit the carby lower, and we have approx 1/2" clearance now between the carby damper top and the underside of the bonnet.
Russell Engineering manifold

So the engine bay is now complete.
Finished engine bay - cute, huh?

You might remember that the dashboard had been covered in vinyl. That has been stripped off, and the metal dash repainted correctly in wrinkle finish black. Gauges were serviced. A new carpet kit was fitted. The seats aren't perfect, showing a little "patina" (aka: cuts and scratches) but I wasn't planning on this being a Concourse restoration. In fact, it's not a "restoration" at all, just a clean-up. The padding had sagged in the seats, so I had them stripped, re-padded, and re-assembled with the original covers. All the vinyl and carpet side trim panels were in good condition, so I simply cleaned and re-fitted them.
Refurbished interior   Reconditioned interior

Let's face it - bumper bars serve no useful purpose on a Sprite or Midget. This car had no bars when I bought it, and I do prefer the clean look with no bars. However, on the rear beaver panel, this leaves four holes on each side of the number plate for the bumper bar mounting brackets, plus another hole on each side for the wiring to the number plate lights. That's a total of ten holes all of which were filled with rubber plugs. "Brendan" I said, "fill the holes. If ever I decide to fit rear bumper bars, I know how to drill a hole."
Rear beaver panel with no holes

The front apron received the same treatment.
Front apron with no holes

So here's the final result. I hope you like it as much as I do.

And here's the Sprite with the new roof erect, hopefully for the last time.
Roof up, hopefully for the last time

and one for the road...