Saturday, March 31, 2012

Austin-Healey Sprite

I took this photo of an Austin-Healey Sprite Mark II, III or IV--the three models' exteriors are, to me, visually indistinguishable-- in August of 2008, in the Glen Park section of San Francisco. A 1961 Mark II Sprite was my first car. It served me from my sophomore year of high school (I got a Florida driver's license at 16) into my first year of university. I loved it, but traded it for a somewhat larger Sunbeam Alpine because, after an accident caused by someone turning left out of the right-hand lane in front of me, my mother was convinced that the Sprite's smallness made it invisible to other drivers.

The iconic (I once swore off that over-used word, but it is appropriate here) Sprite was the Mark I (so designated only after the Mark II hit the market), sometimes called the "bugeye" or "frogeye":

The first Sprite I saw was on Virginia's Skyline Drive, as my parents and I were returning to Florida after a visit to my mother's relatives in Pennsylvania. We were traveling the constantly curving highway behind a bugeye Sprite with British right hand drive piloted by a man in a tweed Sherlock Holmes hat. The Drive has many parking spaces, or "scenic overlooks", where one may stop and look at vistas of the Shenandoah Valley and mountains beyond. The Sprite driver disdained these, but eventually pulled over to the shoulder of the road and got out, camera in hand. My mother asked why he hadn't stopped at one of the overlooks, and my father answered, "He couldn't waste his time on that, because it had already been seen."