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Just got my Sprite back [in pieces] after 42 years...need advice


Jedi Trainee
Here's the story...

I bought a '65 Sprite from the original owner (still a friend) in 1972, then sold it to my brother in about 1975. He's had it ever since, though it has been in pieces for at least 10 years. A couple of months ago he gave it back to me...in boxes (gearbox in one box, block in another, carbs, etc in another, etc.). I even got some new/reconditioned parts (new clutch, rebuilt distributor by Advanced, recored radiator, etc). The body and interior is in great shape, but the engine and suspension not so much.

Engine: I hauled the engine (original 1098) down to the machine shop (Star Machine in Emeryville CA) for evaluation and they just called me. The conversation started with "Hi Dave, I hate to make these calls, but that motor is toast". It's not completely broken, but the pistons are galled, the combustion chambers are ovalized and galled, bearings are thrashed, timing chain loose as a goose, backplate cracked, etc. .

Suspension: When I got it the massive aftermarket sway bar (3/4" I think) had a snapped bracket. The bushings appear to have never been changed. The shocks are pretty bouncy. There appears to be some play in the left kingpin. I haven't even looked at the rear, though I assume the bushings/shocks are pretty wiped out.

Steering: Some binding in the rack.

Gearbox: Who knows, though it never had a known issue.

My main goal here is to get back on the road with a fairly reliable, good handling car with some pep for not too many thousands of dollars. I'm not looking for a barn burner but a little improved performance wouldn't be too bad. For the first step, I'm wondering what direction to go with the engine. Should I work with what I've got, which will mean a lot of new parts and machine work, or does it make more sense to look for an already rebuilt 1275 (or perhaps a rebuildable 1275)? Based on recent experience with an MGB I know that an engine rebuild done properly can nickel and dime you to death.

What about optional extras such as Gerard's crankshaft seal?...or for way more money a 5-speed? Any thoughts on the suspension and steering? Rubber bushings? Neoprene bushings? Shock options? There are a lot of different directions and options here so I'd appreciate some opinions on prioritization. One thing I don't want is to have this project drag out for years. I would like to have a working car in the not too distant future.

Opinions for the wise men of the forum would be greatly appreciated.


Country flag
Talk w Mickey Pleasant in San Diego. I bought a .040 over rebuilt 1275 from him that’s about to go into my BE. He’s built 2 engine a year for past 25 plus years so he knows how to put them back together right. He’s got 948, 1098, and 1,275. I will be adding a Gerard’s rear seal kit before it gets mated to my 5 speed. Mickey has an add on John Felt’s site, bugeyeparts.com. Last I looked price for a 1098 was pretty good.


Country flag
If you can find a good used 1275, you could either use as is for a little boost over the 1098, or shavethe head a little and do cam and maybe a header for a sizeable bump, and still quite a bit cheaper than a rebuild on a 1098 that is "toast". I had a 67 with front and rear sway bar and it handled as if on the proverbial. "rails". Have shocks rebuilt by World Wide Imports in Wisconsin. https://www.nosimport.com/Lever-shocks-remanufactured/sprite-lever-shocks


Jedi Warrior
Country flag
good handling car with some pep for not too many thousands of dollars.

I don’t think the 5 speed will fit your plan. A new rebuilt motor will go over the 2K mark. In my opinion if you have a solid body, you should be looking for a running 1275 spridget to use to swap parts. Depending on how far you are going with the rebuild I would get it on the road as cheap as possible and then evaluate the suspension. A shock replacement can run $350-500 alone. Restoring cars is not for the faint of heart. I have a couple of cars and it seems like the ones with the least effort and money involved are the most fun. That applies even to my shop truck.


Jedi Trainee
Ok guys, thanks a lot...talked to Mickey. There's about a 95% chance that I'm going to buy an engine from him. I also found out that I have a set of Worldwide Import rebuilt shocks with the car. I'm well on the way to getting this back together.


Country flag
I also found out that I have a set of Worldwide Import rebuilt shocks with the car. I'm well on the way to getting this back together.

Excellent (wanted too insert a Wayne's World "excellent" gif, but it is either beyond my, or the site's, capabilities)


Darth Vader
Country flag
+1 with going with the 1275. If you're trying to stay within a reasonable budget, keep the ribcase. The 4 speed really isn't that bad. Yes, it is noisy at highway speeds, but if you were looking for a car that cruised quietly, you probably wouldn't be looking at a Spridget.


Jedi Trainee
Any progress?
Not yet. I've been negotiating with my daughter to get her to drive down to San Diego to pick up one of Mickey's engines. Will probably happen in January.
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