Home » Poorly Photographed Projects – 1965 Austin-Healey Sprite vs 1963 Hillman Husky

Poorly Photographed Projects – 1965 Austin-Healey Sprite vs 1963 Hillman Husky

Sbsd 9 5 2023
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Good morning! I hope you all had a good long weekend. Today we’re back, and kicking off a whole week of British cars as we count down to one of my favorite automotive events of the year. But I’ll get to that in a minute; first let’s see which of Friday’s beater trucks you picked:

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Interesting. I’m a little surprised, actually; somehow I expected the Ford to win. Not sure why. I guess I underestimated the appeal of a nicely-seasoned squarebody. I agree; I’m just surprised.

Now then: Every year, on the weekend after Labor Day (it used to be Labor Day weekend, but don’t get us started), British car fanatics from across the Pacific Northwest descend upon Portland International Raceway for the All-British Field Meet, or as some jokesters like to call it, the “Annual Oiling Of The Grass.” Several hundred British cars and motorcycles attend, ranging from 1920s Bentleys all the way up to brand-new Land Rovers. I’ve gone every year since I got my MGB GT, except 2020 when the event was canceled due to, well, you know.

If you’re anywhere nearby this coming Saturday, September 9th, and you want to see some cool old cars, consider this your invitation. It’s $15 to get in, but that gives you the run of the place for the entire day. There are vintage races (and not just British cars – the big-block Corvettes have to be heard to be believed), Land Rover drivers waiting to take you off-roading, slot-car races, and rows and rows of amazing old cars. Don’t want to spend fifteen bucks? Well, there is another way – the Portland Highland Games have partnered with the ABFM this year, and they’re giving free admission to anyone wearing a kilt. I won’t be in a kilt, but I’ll wear my Autopian T-shirt so you can find me.

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You know the old fable about the blind men all touching different parts of an elephant, and none of them really getting an idea of the whole? Well, our first pair of British cars this week is a little like that. Both are partially-disassembled projects with running engines, and both have been photographed in a way that shows a lot of details, but make it hard to get a sense of the whole. Let’s see if we can piece them together enough to make a judgment.

1965 Austin-Healey Sprite – $4,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 1098 cc overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Whittier, CA

Odometer reading: 99,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Engine runs, not drivable

First, let’s just clarify what we’re deaing with here: This is a Mark III Sprite, not a bugeye. The Mark I was the bugeye Sprite, and it ended production in 1961. But the front ends are interchangeable, and grafting a bugeye front onto a later Sprite (or MG Midget) isn’t that uncommon. Most of these cars are bits and pieces of several cars these days anyway.

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“Bits and pieces” is about all this car is, really. The front end is off, and most of the interior is disassembled. The seller says the engine, which I’m assuming is a stock-size 1098 based on the 1965 year given, starts easily and runs well. It has a ton of new parts; they just aren’t all installed yet. Or maybe some are. The seat upholstery is shown sitting on the ground in one photo, but the interior shot shows it installed. The red and white color scheme is a bold choice. Hopefully a potential buyer likes it.

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The inside of the tub has been repainted, it looks like. Fresh paint makes it hard to spot rust problems, of course, but what we can see is encouraging. The bugeye nose has had some work done, and needs some more work before paint, unless you want to embrace the rat-rod look. The included aftermarket hard top is a nice touch, as is the roll bar hiding under it.

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Four grand may sound like a lot for a pile of parts in someone’s driveway, but if you total up all the new stuff, it seems like a better deal. And it’s all things you would have to buy anyway for another car. This is a good start to a hobby that will keep you occupied for at least a winter or two. But that first drive once you get it all put together would be so sweet.

1963 Hillman Husky – $3,200

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Engine/drivetrain: 1390 cc overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

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Location: Palmdale, CA

Odometer reading: 45,000 miles

Runs/drives? Engine runs, not drivable

[Editor’s Note: Wow, a Husky! – JT]

I can practically hear Jason saying “Wow, a Husky!’ when he sees this, and nearly everyone else saying “A what now?”. The Hillman Husky was the estate (that’s a station wagon to us Yanks) version of Hillman’s Minx saloon. But what’s Hillman? It’s part of the Rootes Group, along with Humber, Sunbeam, Talbot, and others. Many years after this car was built, the Rootes Group was taken over by Chrysler Corporation – but that’s a story for another day.

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So what we have here is a rare US export model of a very, very British small estate car. It has a pushrod four cylinder driving a solid rear axle through a four-speed manual, just like almost everything else built in Britain at the time. This car’s engine, like the Sprite’s, does run, but the rest of the car around it needs some help. It’s complete, it looks like, but disassembled. I think the seller started to take it apart to fix the rust (which there isn’t much of, actually) but only got this far.

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But I get the feeling that you could put it back together as-is and enjoy it. It’s such a rare car that you don’t need to restore it, as long as it’s presentable. Any missing or damaged trim on a car this uncommon just adds to the character. Mechanical parts might be an issue; Rootes cars don’t have the following that BMC/British Leyland cars do, so nobody is reproducing parts for them.

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It’ll never be a sporty drive, but if you want to start a conversation wherever car folks gather, this is your ride. You’ll have to learn the history of the Hillman marque, and the Rootes Group, so you can answer all their questions, and you’re likely to end up scouring eBay for parts and forgotten corners of the internet for advice on how to install them. A car like this is a hobby unto itself, damn near a lifestyle choice, but it could be a fascinating project for the right person.

Yes, I know – disassembled in a garage is the normal state of far too many old British cars. But when they’re so close to being on the road, like these two, I would hope that they find sympathetic and spirited new owners to finish the job. And what about you, dear reader? Which one would you reassemble?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Jb996
Jb996
8 months ago

Would pick the Husky.
But given the parts difficulty, etc, I would be looking to engine/suspension swap.
I appreciate the calls for an LS or HEMI, but what about just a modern, small car, reliable power train? What 4cyl currently has the most aftermarket support? What can I easily pull from a junkyard with low miles? Miata? Something from a Toyota?

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
8 months ago
Reply to  Jb996

Ford Zetec? I know they use them in sprint cars so I imagine decent support. Or as a “british” alternative, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the aftermarket available for my r53 mini.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago

Man you can buy decent running sprites for 4k why buy a pile of shitake mushrooms? The Hillman cute and rare but the europens 2 seaters prices are back to normal where I live. Which is US steel area so yeah low demand.

JDE
JDE
8 months ago

I really feel like the prices are pretty high for these piles, but if I were in Cali and had access to a decent EV conversion grant form the state or something, I would go Hillman, I believe the motor could be sold off and the wagon is just about perfect for a 100 or so HP set up like the VW conversion kits.

Ricki
Ricki
8 months ago

I think I’d take the Husky on account of being a goon who likes cargo space. Never know when you might have to haul something of medium size.

Myk El
Myk El
8 months ago

My dog is a Siberian husky. I’d get the Hillman so I could have a husky in my husky.

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