The Frogeye Car Company and Healey
I mentioned in an earlier Warwick Healey Archive Bulletin that I was looking forward to bringing to your attention the Frogeye Car Company files, that are held in the WHMCo archive.
Well, this is the Bulletin in which I do just that. I have always had a great affection for the Mk. I Sprite ever since I saw one in an Austin dealer’s showroom (Premier Motors, Aston Road North, Aston, Birmingham, U.K.) from the top deck of a public service bus travelling into the City centre. I can still see it in my minds eye after all those years. That positive impression was reinforced when I used to see Tom Kileen’s car parked in the driveway of Jensen Motor’s Carters Green factory when I worked there in 1959-61 as a junior draughtsman. Tom was a car designer in his own right, one of the first to introduce monocoque construction to racing cars post WWII. Whether he had any involvement in any aspect of Jensen car design is unknown, based upon the facts that I have I would say that it is unlikely. His whole presence at Jensen was something of a mystery, he was Service Manager at some stage in the early 1960s but I think that he was probably at Jensen because he was a friend of the Jensen brothers.
What I particularly remember about his (Red) Sprite was the mechanically operated ‘pop-up’ headlight conversion that he had designed and had made by the Jensen development workshop craftsmen. Nothing came of it, the very idea of having to pull a leaver when you wanted to activate the headlamps seems to be counter intuitive to me. However, the aesthetics were sound and aped Gerry Coker’s original design for the Sprite.
Back to the Frogeye Car Company story – I consider the Healey Frogeye ‘Super Sprite’, with its fibreglass body bolted to a steel tube chassis, BL ‘K Series’ engine, modified rear suspension and four wheel disc brakes, the ultimate version of the Mk I Sprite: The car that it might have evolved into had the original Sprite remained in production and been subject to the process of ‘continuous improvement’.
The company was established in 1985 by Keith and Louise Brading in Ryde, Isle of Wight, an island situated just off the Hampshire coast. Keith was able to persuade Geoff Healey to get involved with the design of the car and sanctioning the use of the Healey name. In reading the documents in the WHMCo archive I get the impression that Keith was pushing at an open door as far as GCH and DMH were concerned. But it wasn’t all plain sailing, you will have to read the documents themselves to see exactly how things progressed and what barriers had to be overcome. The final curtain fell prematurely, on this exciting venture, when a group of Japanese investors became involved. A great deal of interest in the car had been shown by actual and potential Japanese customers and an attempt was made to exploit that demand. Sadly, for no reason of the U.K. side of the business, the project failed and took this delightful little sports car with it.
The first Healey Frogeyes were sold as “Restoration assemblies” and required the front cross-member of the donor Sprite or Midget, together with engine/gearbox etc., to be supplied by the customer. These were then incorporated into the final assembly. Later, the Frogeye Car Company produced only complete, Type Approved, cars mainly for the Japanese market as referred to above.
|Here are some samples of Frogeye Car Company related material from the WHMCo Archive held at the Warwickshire County Record Office –
Sales Brochures etc. (**Ref. Nos. CR4804/1/41 and /3/109 & 110)
Technical Review (** Ref. No. CR4804/1/41)
Press Cuttings (** Ref. Nos. CR4804/3/109 and 110)
Production Photos (** Ref. Nos. CR4804/2/202 and 203)
Photo of Paul Hodkinson’s ‘Super Sprite taken at the Archive ‘Open Day’ held at the Record Office on 04/09/2016
The items (marked thus**) are credited on the website as ‘Part of the Warwick Healey Motor Company Archive held at Warwickshire County Record Office.’
For guidance on ordering copies visit – http://heritage.warwickshire.gov.uk/warwickshire-county-record-office/county-record-office-services/county-record-office-copying-services/
Did you know ?
That Mattel’s Barbie doll’s first car was an Austin Healey 3000 Mk.II in 1962?
I didn’t until I saw it referred to on a poster in the Malta Classic Car Museum
‘Roo’ in Warwick
We received an email from Alwyn Keepence regarding this photo –
“Good day Nick,Thanks for the interesting bulletin about the Frogeye Car Co.You may be interested to know that the picture of the fellow holding the wallaby was not taken in Warwick but in Ipswich, probably during the 2011 flood. The southern Darling Downs town of Warwick (Queensland) is about 80km from there.When the Austin-Healey Owners’ Club of Qld hosted the 2002 National Austin-Healey Rally we chose Warwick as the location. It was our turn to host the event and we were were able to ‘return’ to Warwick for the 50th Anniversary of the Austin-Healey marque.Cheers,Alwyn Keepence”