In May of 2003 I lost my wife of 34 years to cancer. We had fought that disease for almost 2 years. Shortly thereafter I decided that I needed something to fill the void left in me. In July 2003 I acquired a ‘basket case’ 1960 Austin Healey Sprite. I had owned a 1965 Sprite before we were married and gave it up only when our second daughter arrived in July of 1970. The summers of the next five years were filled with the process of tearing it apart; replacing rotted body panels; sandblasting and repainting the newly refurbished body; rebuilding or replacing mechanical components; replacing the wiring harness, fuel and brake lines; and, installing new upholstery and carpeting.
The color – Leaf Green – was selected from color charts I had found. It was chosen simply because I wanted a stock color for that year and none of the others struck my fancy. For the interior color I opted out of the standard black and went with a Kelley green for the seats and carpet. I went so far as to strip the black vinyl off the cockpit surround, cleaned and polished the exposed aluminum. To make the dash my own the fascia was also stripped of vinyl and painted with ‘wrinkle’ finish black paint. “La Rana” was street ready late in the summer of 2008 and has become my summer ‘daily driver’ ever since.
I had never tackled a project of this magnitude before. It cannot be said that this car was ‘restored’ as many purists would be aghast at the changes I’ve made. There are front disc brakes, rear tubular shock absorbers, an alternator from a Mazda, electronic ignition, a radiator overflow tank, halogen headlights and LED lamps for turn signals and brake lights. As I said earlier she is not a ‘trailer queen’. She is my daily summer driver and is used whenever I need to run to the store.
My Sprite has been awarded First Place in three Northwest British Classics shows (2011, 2013 & 2014) – Second Place in 2009. We missed the show in 2012 because of a family vacation. “La Rana” took First Place in the Foreign Car category at the “Lost in the Fifties” car show in Sandpoint, Idaho in 2013. Last year I was bumped to second place by a professionally restored bathtub Porsche.
I’ve never even tried to calculate the total spent on parts or labor over those five years. A guesstimation would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $25,000. No matter what the total might be it was definitely cheaper than therapy and/or counseling. And, over the years she’s been a lot more fun!
I have dozens more pictures but chose these three as beginning, middle & end results.