|Xenopus: a 1959 Austin Healey Frog Eye Sprite. Handsome devil ain't he?|
My mistake was made when I started scanning the fine print ads in the classified section of the Washington Post looking to see if there were any "wanted ads" looking for a sprite gearbox or engine, etc. Instead, what I found was a sprite for sale which was the exact opposite of the one I'd just bought: a beautiful, rust-free body that had been taken apart as a father and son project, which unsurprisingly, like most F & S projects, had stalled. The sirens were singing sweetly. Diarist-woman should have chained me to the mast because being me, I just had to look.
The F & S duo had taken a fairly clean sprite COMPLETELY (and I do mean completely) apart to the last nut and bolt. They next took the body tub and bonnet to a metal laundry and had the two main pieces dipped and stripped. A cheap Macco paint job (refrigerator white, of course) was woofed on, any questionable metal work was cut out and redone with new metal and then reassembly commenced. They had gotten to the point where the sprite's suspension and steering gear were back in place so that the car was a push-mobile. That was the point where the father realized that he was doing all the wrench twirling and the son was off with his buddies cruising around in a Camaro convertible. Meanwhile the wife/mother of this clan was questioning loudly why her Toyota Camry was parked in a snow drift while this space gobbler was hogging her side of the garage. They had boxes and boxes of parts they'd scavenged from junk yard spridgets (spridget is a commonly used contraction between Austin Healey SPRITE and the similar "badge engineered" MG MIDGET within the LBC fraternity). However, they still didn't have all the required parts. Missing was an uncracked windscreen, for example. They wanted $4000. This was over twenty-five years ago when you could buy a running sprite for that kind of money. I offered them a grand figuring they release the hounds on me. To my surprise, after a brief family huddle-up they countered with $1200 for the sprite plus all the boxes of stuff. After renting another tow dolly I found myself the owner of two sprites, neither of which ran. That and a pick-up truck load of semi-valuable sprite junque.
|Xenopus and your diarist the day we departed the shop under our own power.|
Fortunately for me, prior to the service, I'd worked at a shop which catered to whatever drove in, including LBCs. We worked on literally everything from farm tractors to the occasional Rolls Royce. This shop was a few miles away from our farm in southeasten Pennsylvania. Vic and his son Tim took me and my collection of Sprites under their wing and allowed Xenopus a small place in the back of the shop. Slowly reassembly took place as time and money permitted. Kids and a mortgage got in the way. Xenopus's rebirth took 23 years! But finally the day came when man and sprite departed--no doubt to the relief of my former employer! Since then I've been enjoying my frog eye on fine summer days. He truly is a cheeky devil and I always have a smile on my face during a drive. The day I visited Grant and Amelia to look at their Ventnor Moth was a pleasant sunny day with temps in the upper 70s and just enough breeze to cool the fevered brow, so I drove the Sprite. After leaving them I decided to stop briefly at the World War II Memorial which is just opposite from Annapolis, across the Severn River.
|This small park is shady, green and cool. It offers a great overlook back at Annapolis.|