A pair of Frog Eyed Sprites at Nantwich at the end of the Weaver Wander.
The Austin-Healey Sprite is a small open sports car which was announced to the press in Monte Carlo by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) on 20 May 1958, just before that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. It was intended to be a low-cost model that “a chap could keep in his bike shed”, yet be the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven. The Sprite was designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, which received a royalty payment from the manufacturers BMC. It first went on sale at a price of £669, using a mildly tuned version of the Austin A-Series engine and as many other components from existing cars as possible to keep costs down.
The Sprite was made at the MG sports car factory at Abingdon, Berkshire (actually now in Oxfordshire) and it was inevitable that the success of the design would spawn an MG version known as the Midget, reviving a popular pre-war model name. Enthusiasts often now refer to Sprites and MG Midgets collectively as ‘Spridgets’.
The little Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the ‘Frogeye’ in the UK (‘Bugeye’ in the US), because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet (hood), inboard of the front wings (fenders). The car’s designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted (like the much later Porsche 928) with the lenses facing skyward when not in use. However, production cost-cutting by BMC led to the flip-up mechanism being deleted and so the headlights were simply fixed in a permanently upright position, giving the car its most distinctive feature.