This straight-piped Austin Healey barn find might be the perfect little hot rod
The definition of a hot rod is a times tough to pin down. Some would argue it’s not the motor or the sheet metal that matters most, but rather the attitude of the builder and the project in question. If that’s true, this little red Austin Healey Sprite in the U.K. is an absolute hot rod.
The red Sprite was not too long ago a crusty barn find that wore an inch of dust, dirt, and animal feces. A young enthusiast picked it up, a bit unsure what to do with it but not apt to to turn down the opportunity. In general, a Mk. II Sprite is a fairly run-of-the-mill car, albeit in this case one that was worth bringing home and tucking away. When a friend was prepping a different project for a hill climb event, it suddenly came into focus for the owner that the humble Healey would be the perfect foundation to build something wild.
“Aggressive” would be a mild way to describe both the stance and powertrain. The owner, who doesn’t clearly identify himself in the video, says he lowered the car so much that the exhaust poking through the hood became a necessity rather than a choice. The floor on these Sprites is just inches higher than the lowest point of the rocker panels, and even at factory ride height the exhaust is very low. My Healey drags going in and out of my driveway, which has just a small speed bump at the entrance. This kook’s straight-piped, free-flowing exhaust is more fitting because under the hood is a 1340cc four-cylinder that is prepped like a race machine. It sounds wicked and the Sprite seems to go pretty darn well too.
The mismatched wheels are … oddly charming? They sit with an aggressive three degrees of camber, necessary to clear the new rims, making the car look broken in my eyes. Of course, it’s all relative, and in certain corners of the car communities this level of slamming would be conservative. Stock hubcaps and paint-matched rear wheels heighten the discrepancy the between front and rear corners, and that goes the same for the removed bumpers. (Stock rear wheels were likely a good choice considering the owner elected to weld the differential in the hopes of using the car for drifting.)
The interior is pretty ratty but, again, it all works here. Overall it looks like a super fun machine to drive, though it’s clearly targeting a very specific type of dedicated driver. Still, the owner says he has been careful not hack the car to the point that it would be unsalvageable for a future restoration. In fact, he set the stock hood off to the side because cutting a hole for the exhaust was too much for him to stomach. Respect.