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Sprites from Across the Pond

PDLJMPR Web Magazine, September 1, 1996
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Josh Brownlie's MKIIIA Sprite
Serious Stuff from Down-under!


Editors Note: I spent a week in Australia several years ago, and one thing became very apparent to me during my visit - Australians love their cars and take motorsports very seriously! I am very happy to present the first of what I hope will be many articles on Sprites /activities in Australia. - ed.

The sky is clear and sun shining early on a still Winter's morning. Your feet are toasty from the warm flow of the heater and rugged up in a jacket and leather gloves, the crisp morning air is swirling around your ears. The roads are deserted but the silence of the country air is cruely shattered by the throaty growl of an A series on steriods being punted through the twisty mountain pass near the sea.

Sitting snugly in the driver's seat, gripping the chunky three-spoke leather steering wheel which has kart-like directness, your left hand stirs the gears with rifle bolt precision through the stubby alloy-topped lever, just a hand-span away. Your feet dance on the closely grouped pedals and the bark from the engine can be clearly heard from over your left shoulder.

Rounding the crest of a blind corner you carefully balance the car on the throttle, indicating 4000rpm in third, then as you sight the downhill straight you punch the pedal and the engine races to 6000rpm before quickly snatching top gear. Hurtling toward the tight uphill right hander at the end of the short straight, you stand on the already well warmed brakes and blip the throttle as you grab third, then second. Throwing the nose at the apex and applying full throttle again, the rear end scrabbles for traction mid-corner as you pass over a damp patch left by the shadow of a large tree. Adrenalin pumping and using every inch of the road, the car sits very flat as it urges you to indulge in the aural rush to redline before grabbing again for third and breathing deeply as the next series of sweeping turns quickly approaches.

With ready access to some of Australia's most satisfying drivers roads, many of which are utilised in Targa Tasmania, this is something Sprite owner Josh Brownlie can indulge in regularly.

"This car was built to be used, hence it's not concours by anyone's stretch of the imagination, but I like to think it looks fairly neat. Nor is it totally original but there has been nothing done which really compromises the ability to return it to orginal easily. "I'm running a modified 1275cc but I have the original 1098cc engine at home, and I just don't like the original pale sky blue as a colour. The stereo has been installed in a special box I designed to blend in with the dash for the factory look, but it is only held in with four screws. I'd love to be pedantic about presentation and originality, and I admire those who are, but I'd be scared to drive it and that'd be stupid."

This MK3A Sprite was bought in March 1994. Sprite's are starting to run in the family. In the mid '70's Josh's Godfather actually owned this car for about two years and his older brother James has had a red MK3 since about 1990.

The last owners had had it for about 16 years. In the last 5 it hadn't been driven because the brakes were dead. So with a brake overhaul, new Michelins, a new exhaust and the replacement of the front left suspension arms, Josh was on his way.

Later that year when replacing a burnt valve, it was discovered that a gudgeon pin had let go and scored a cylinder bore very deeply. A desperate search was made in vain for another block and many options considered, including boring it to 1220cc and using Hillman Imp pistons. That was until a complete engine and 'box with Weber and Oil Cooler were found at what seemed a reasonable price. After several horror stories and four months the engine was finally powering Josh's Sprite.

The engine now is a 1275 Morris 1100S block, with a Bob Rowntree designed rear main bearing cap conversion, bored out 40 thou and using the longer stroke 1098cc (83.72mm v. 81.28mm) crank, giving a beefy capacity of 1349cc. The rotating parts have been balanced and induction comes from the mandatory 45mm Weber on a Warnerford manifold. The exhaust consits of long centre branch extractors, flowing into a 1 3/4 inch stainless steel pipe to a stainless Genie Turbo Muffler.

The heart of this motor though is the cam, a Camtech 619. "I originally got the engine with a race cam in it, so before we put it in the car we switched it to a Waggot 238 which is supposed to be the biggest street cam, but I found that it was hopeless. It was like a slug to 4000rpm then it was like flicking a switch, all the power came at once. A totally useless combination for regular driving, so a call was made to Camtech who told me that they had the 619, which wouldn't lose much on the 238 up top but would gain heaps down low. They were right, this thing has grunt from about 2500 - 3000rpm right through. It's a very torquey motor, I love it..."

"Then in the July 1995 I'd just been watching a friend in an Elfin Clubman at Symmons Plains and I was on the way home when third gear exploded. It provided the opportunity to strip the car to bare metal and have it resprayed in Porsche Hellblau, which is almost identical to Healey Blue, used on Big Austin Healeys and in particular the 3000 which won at Sebring in 1965, the year the car was built.

While studying at Uni, and having a part-time job, Josh managed to strip and rebuild the Sprite, mostly in his flat's gravel carport in just 3 months. "In that time I organised everything to be done and got it back on the road. Then after exams and before I drove it to Sydney for Summer I spent a few long days in the shed reinstalling the interior and a few other things. I was refitting the bumpers and polishing it 1 1/2 hours before I was due 100km away to board the Spirit of Tasmania. I didn't even fit the new hood until I got to Melbourne!"

Pertinent Data on Josh's '65 Austin Healey Sprite MK3A

Engine: A series bored and stroked to 1349cc
Induction: Single 45mm Weber on Warnerford manifold
Crank: 83.72mm from 1098cc, balanced.
Rods: Standard
Ignition: Mechanical advance
Exhaust: Long centre branch to 1 3/4 in. stainless and Genie turbo muffler.
Gearbox: '72 model Midget, 22G1100 cluster
Diff: 3.9:1 or 4.22:1
Brakes: Standard except for braided flexible hoses and upgraded pads.
Wheels and Tyres: Standard 60 spoke Wires, 13x4 Michelin MXT 165/70 13

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