The British Motor Corporation, as the World’s largest producer of sports cars (in the past 18 years they have made nearly 350,000 Austin Healey and M.G. sports models, exporting nearly 90% of these, mainly to N. America, where their sports-car earnings total approx. 400-million dollars), naturally wish to keep these models of their wide range up to date. They have, therefore, recently revised the popular M.G. Midget and Austin Healey Sprite, introducing these, respectively, in Mk. II and Mk. III form, and given even more power to the rally-winning Austin Healey 3000, which is also now in Mk. III form.
It would seem that the smaller B.M.C. sports models have been chased by a Spitfire, because the revisions embrace wind-up windows and hinged quarter-lights, in lieu of the former awkward sliding windows. By endowing the A-type 1,098-c.c. twin-carburetter engine with a larger diameter (2 in.) crankshaft and the M.G. 1100 cylinder head, 59 (net) b.h.p. is developed at 5,750 r.p.m.—65 gross b.h.p. The old ¼-elliptic rear springs have been replaced by ½-elliptics, with bump-stops, as used on the M.G.-B. So, with Fiat also abandoning ¼-elliptics the last link with Roesch and Bugatti is severed, although the 3.8 Jaguar and 2½-litre V8 Daimler have short cantilever back springs which could be classed as ¼-elliptics.
Other alterations to the small B.M.C. sports cars include a curved windscreen, push-button external door handles, provision for locking both doors, adjustable rear-view mirror, and revised instrumentation with speedometer and tachometer angled slightly, each towards the driver. Dunlop Gold Seal tubeless nylon tyres are standard. Curiously, you have to pay extra for a headlamps’ flasher. The latest Austin Healey Sprite Mk. III costs £610 55s. 5d., the new M.G. Midget Mk. II £622 17s. 1d., inclusive of p.t.
I was able to drive a Mk. III Sprite a few miles. It remains the jolly, safe-handling, rather toy-like little 2-seater with light, “quick” steering. But it remains a very porous car, the gaps between screen pillars and doors that are a feature of an earlier staff Sprite and let in draughts and rain, being only too evident in the new version I sampled.
The Austin Healey 3000 convertible has a new, more luxurious, interior with highly-polished veneer facia, but is something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as although externally it looks Like the Mk. II, this Mk. III version develops 150 (gross) b.h.p. at 5,250 r.p.m., against 136 b.h.p. at 4,750 r.p.m. of the older model. This power increase is accomplished by a new high-lift camshaft giving longer periods of valve opening, and the use of 2-in. HD8 S.U. carburetters instead of 1¾-in. HS6 S.U.s. The silencing system has also been redesigned. A top-gear speed range of 15-130 m.p.h., with 0-80 m.p.h. in 15½ sec., is claimed, and if the Laycock overdrive (an optional extra) is ordered, 100-m.p.h. cruising is possible at not much more than 4,000 r.p.m. To cope, servo-assisted 11-in. Girling brakes (disc at the front) are fitted as standard. The price is £1,106 3s. 9d., with p.t.
B.M.C. have sold over 110,000 Midgets and Sprites since the introduction of these models in 1958 and 1961, respectively, 85% having been exported. During last year, 95.5% of Austin Healey 3000 production was sold overseas, mostly in N. America. The Sports Car Division of B.M.C. at Abingdon now produces over 1,000 cars a week, exports in 1963 totalling 43,661 sports cars, of which 84.39% were exported, including 23,895 to the U.S.A., 2,075 to Germany, 2,001 to France, 1,811 to Canada, and 1,273 to Australia.—W. B.