After quite a rough life that included a wreck, a nasty encounter with a rogue firework, and decades in storage, Mark Hayes’ trusty Sprite has been revived. He has truly breathed new life into what’s now an eco-friendly and literally green electric commuter car.
Nicknamed the Little Go Green, this 1962 Austin-Healey Sprite MkII—don’t let the Bugeye nose throw you off—came into Mark’s possession as a heap of parts. Mark’s friend had purchased the car after someone had wrecked it. The friend intended to rebuild the Sprite into a racer.
He disassembled all of the parts except the body and suspension, and placed everything in a storage shed in his backyard. Unfortunately a stray firework hit the shed, which caught on fire. Everything inside was destroyed. Mark took what was left and put it all into proper storage to “someday” restore the car.
As a teenager during the gas crisis of the late-’70s, Mark first read about electric cars in Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines. That idea would simmer as the Sprite was allowed to sit. As is sometimes the case with grand projects like a full car restoration, the Sprite project was continually on hold as other priorities (the usual family, work, home, etc.) were more important.
In the mid-’90s, Mark had the great idea to restore the Sprite as an electric car, but it wasn’t until 2007 that life gave him the break necessary for this minor engineering feat. By this time, the parts had been in storage for nearly 30 years.
First, the necessary EV components were purchased from a conversion company in California. Mark decided on lead acid batteries (of which nine are required) primarily for cost and availability, although they are recyclable which was a plus for this green project.
As Mark explains, he then “had to figure out how to build a finished car out of a pile of rusty parts.” The Moss Motors catalog was a big help, he explains, and Mark says he bought just about every part available. Besides all the engineering for the EV conversion, Mark also increased the car’s safety, adding a roll bar with an integrated third brake light, modern LED taillights and turn lights, high-power halogen headlights, updated disc brakes, three-point retractable seat belts, and a collapsible steering column. The suspension was modified with heavier-duty front and rear springs to tackle the added weight of the batteries.
What was once a dream is now a reality. Mark reports that his charging time is 2 to 8 hours depending on how much he has discharged the batteries. He can plug into any standard 120VAC 15 amp outlet, and his range is about 50 miles, including the steep hill encountered on the way home. To extend his daily cruising range, he can plug in the car while at the office.
The cost per mile is about 5 to 7 cents which includes 2 cents per mile for electricity and the rest being the amortized cost of the batteries. His top speed is 70 mph.
Not only is another classic back on the road and saved from the crusher, but this one can boast modern technology and environmental sensitivity! Mark’s wife was so impressed with the results that she requested an electric commuter car for herself. Her only requests were that the car had to be small, cute, and have enough cargo space for her gym bag and groceries. Introducing Mark’s next project: an electric 1967 Austin Mini Countryman.