A recent thread gave me the urge to post a detailed item re differences between the "early sprint" and the last ones produced. The recent thread gained a lot of interest and it's a subject that comes up a couple of times a year so I figure something "informative" might be useful. I had considered pening this as an article for the magazine (may still do) but decided to write a thread. I'm going to start at the beggining.
The coming of the Sprint was first announced to dealerships on the 10th May 1973 via the letter below -
The official release was to be the 19th June 1973 and it was quite a groundbreaker at the time having its 16 valve cylinder head and alloy wheels as Standard.
The car appeared on the 19th June 1973 together with the announcement below. As per the announcement the first 2000 sprints were produced in "Mimosa Yellow". Price including purchase tax was £1,739.84; there were only two options which were Sundym glass at £19.67 & Overdrive at £71.50. Automatic transmission would be £113.21 but would not be available until the end of October 1973.
With the release date being 19/06/1973 and the new registration letter "M" about to be issued from the 8th August you wouldn't think that many buyers would buy a car in June & July with an "L" plate, however many did.
If you go to view an "L" registered sprint with the intention of buying a genuine early car the car should be "Mimosa Yellow". If it's any other colour it may not be a bad car but it's either "resprayed" which can be rectified or "re shelled" which means it probably isn't what your looking for.
Amazingly I figure that there could still be as many as 50+ early sprints out there on an L plate!
So what are the differences between an early car & a late car? I'm going to use my own early mimosa car to illustrate.
The chassis number of the first official Sprint was VA 1 DL (now in the Coventry museum of transport). There were 10,745 cars in the first model series the first 2000 of which were mimosa yellow. My car above is VA969DL so the 969th; in total 5446 sprints were produced up to the end of 1973 & a further 5299 until the end of the first series in May 1975. Both VA969DL & VA1DL are non overdrive cars, if they had overdrive the letter O would be added to the end of the chassis number i.e. "DLO".
Overdrive was an expensive option probably the reason why, in my experiance the majority of these early cars did not have overdrive.
Obvious Features Relative to the first series of 10,745 cars
The vinyl roof has two stitched seams longways -
There are no lower rubber buffer trims on the doors & front wing but a stainless trim is fitted along the top of the sill line -
The front bumper arrangement is very different to later cars. The overriders have "long rubbers" borrowed from the early 1850 -
In addition the overrider bolts directly to the bumper iron by an arangement of brackets -
And is supported at the bottom by a bar which passes through a hole in the front panel and bolts to the inner lamp panel -
All features borrowed from the 1850 and 1500FWD. Unlike the front bumper on later cars which has holes in the lower edge onto which bolt the overriders the early front bumper has no holes in the lower edge at all.
Despite the great publicity re the alloy wheels on Sprints being made by GKN the wheels on all of the very early cars were manufactured by a company called "Stirling". In fact Stirling manufactured wheels pop up on cars as late as 1978. Many of us know that Sprint alloys are marked with the year of manufacture.
The wheel studs & nuts on the first series cars were 3/8" studs as per the 1850, 1500FWD and the Spitfire a less beefy fixing than the 7/16" studs & nuts fitted to later cars -
Lighting differences start at the rear bumper, early cars are fitted with the "long" number plate light taken from the early 1850 & 1500FWD -
The fitment of this light in turn makes the rear bumber "centre" different to the later one. It has two extra small holes to attach the long light and in turn the two larger holes lack the notches for fitment of the two small later lights.
Cars upto Chassis number VA10745 were fitted with a "rear light dimming circuit". A yellow relay is fitted behind the nearside boot hinge here -
At the back of each back light is a resistor circuit that is wired in line in the "brake light circuit" -
The purpose of this is to "dim" the brake lights & indicators at night time when the main lights are turned on. To be honest it was a bit of a pain often resulting in dim lights during the day; however the idea was ahead of it's time and a few modern cars now use the same principle.
The inner beams on early cars were "Lucas 75" 75 watt inner beam units, these were replaced fairly early on. The 75 watt lamps placed quite a lot of strain on the main beam switch which often burned out.
Finally lighting wise the front indicator parking units were those used on the early 1850 & 1500FWD, cast alluminium frame & seperate lense with a substantial rubber boot to the rear. Much better quality than the later items -
We are probably all familiar with the earlier badges although early cars carried some extra badges, firstly the "Triumph" badge on the top nearside of the front panel -
& the "British Leyland" badges at the bottom rear of each wing -
The other standard badges fitted to early cars were also far more reflective of the cars "sports saloon" status than those fitted to later cars -
A final external difference regards the rear trim; unlike those on later cars which had black plastic inserts the rear trim on early cars had "stainless ends" that were soldered into the trim -
Chrome trim was also added to the rear window seal on the first series a difference which set the new car apart from the 1850 which has no chrome trim -
The most noticable factor is the lack of headrests, they were not fitted to the first series -
A less noticible "seat factor" is that the rear seat back had "black suade" stitched into each end where later cars just had the seat cloth continued onto the ends -
The carpets in all early cars had a thick reverse layer of "hardura" and were of a wool polyester mix -
In the interior/ roof grab handles are leather straps with a "button" coat hook on each side above the back door -
And the sunvisors are white on both sides -
I've heard it said that the actual headlining fabric is different between early & late cars but having compared both I believe that the actual material remained the same throughout production.
Seat Belts, the seat belt strap in early cars has a "woven" effect as per the early 1850 & 1500FWD -
The central binacle is a "one piece block" again as per the early 1850, 1500FWD and the early stag, no seatbelt light fitted to early cars -
Handbrake grip is thin and round again as per 1850 & 1500FWD -
On the dash we have the central toggle switch for the hazard warning lights but no other switch gear -
Timepiece is by "Keinzle" rather than the later Quartz clock -
The trip meter re set is not a button in the centre of the speedo face, it's a "twist re set" located under and behind the dash and can be seen here. The heated rear widow switch which illuminates red is also beneath the dash within the parcel shelf -
And there is no tray around the gear lever this didn't appear until May 1975 -
Under The Front Wings
Mud shields were never fitted beneath the front wings of the first series to chassis number 10,745; neither at the back of the headlamp -
Or over the inner wing reinforcer -
Rear mudguards were fitted to the first series. However, they differed to those on the later cars in that they were made from steel rather than plastic -
Another identifying mark beneath the front wing is the lack of the bracing bracket which on later cars attaches the front of the upper wishbone bolt to the subframe here -
This was not fitted to the first series of cars -
Under the Car
At the backend the very early cars had a much thicker Anti roll bar, this can be seen in this picture of early & late side by side -
& of the Anti Roll Bar fitted
This anti roll bar didn't continue for the entirity of the first series. For whatever reason it was changed, replaced with the thinner one at an early stage. This is also true of the other difference at the backend, the propshaft. Very early propshafts had a "Constant Velocity Joint" rather than a "Universal Joint" at the axle end as shown here -
There is a minor difference with the tunnel (other than it lacking the brackets for a tidy tray). Those familiar with the sprint will know that there is an heat shield on the front left hand bottom between the floor and the exhaust down pipe. On later cars the shield is "pop riveted" directly to the tunnel. On the very early cars brackets are spot welded to the tunnel with captive thread plates -
And the heat shield is screwed to the tunnel -
This is another feature that changed somewhere during the first series but again, no idea when.
Under The Bonnet
All of the first series of 10,745 cars left the factory with "single line brakes" -
I have seen one, Mart's PUS887M which had "Dual Circuit" brakes but they were almost certainly retro fitted at some point. Another oddity, the studs on the servo on the first series cars are UNF while all later cars are M10.
All of the first series cars had a "flat ended air box". This actually extended into the second series but at some point during the second series the airbox gained an "angled front end" which I think was a parts standardisation with the TR7 -
All first series cars had a "brass" expansion tank. Looking behind this picture of the tank the "kerb weight" on the chassis plate was also in lb's while the following series of cars had the kerb weight in kgs -
First series cars had a red plastic clutch hose that you should be able to see hiding on this photograph. Another oddity with threads, the bellhousing bolts on first series cars were UNF while those on all following cars are Metric -
First Series cars were fitted with a screen washer pump that looks like this -
The pump design however was not very successful and even early on it became almost routine at service to replace them with one of these -
Final obvious features relative to the "First Series" are all on the inlet manifold; the thermostat houseing with long expansion feed & brass filler nut -
The circulation connection on the heater hoses beneath the manifold is a simple inline H piece shown here on the carburettors from DUJ612L -
The fuel rail design is also different to later cars & connects to the throttle linkage by simple clip -
& on the carburettors themselves
- Non waxstat jets
-Three throttle springs on the top plate; on later models the throttle springs are on the throttle shafts with one spring on the top plate
- Overflow tube on the front float chamber
-The choke actuation levers on first series cars are a flat metal strip rather than the thick wire of the later carburettors. Finally the rocker cover breather tube on First series cars simply bends over in a curve, on later cars a sharp elbow turns towards the front of the engine
There are physical differences with both the cylinder block & cylinder head, for example First Series engines have a cross drilled crankshaft. The cylinder head casting was also eventually revised, later heads are marked with a two.
With the exception of changes to the rear anti roll bar, prop shaft & removal of Lucas 75 beams the only other major changes during the initial run of 10,745 cars came in Autumn 1973 when the laminated windscreen & automatic transmission were introduced as optional extras.
VA10745DL was the final car of the first (what I call early) series in May 1975, at this point the Sprint gets a minor facelift & the following are introduced as Standard; Second Series first chassis number is VA15001DL
Rubber Side Body Mouldings at lower Waistline (although at this point the stainless steel trim on the sill is retained).
Plastic Tray Around Gear Lever
Drivers Door Mirror
Headrests are introduced as an "optional exta".
The later style of dash is also introduced now but with a smaller heated rear window switch & the warning light is in the switch, not yet in the warning light cluster. Woven seatbelts are also replaced with smooth straps with "stalks" in the centre. The car now has a seatbelt warning light. We also see the introduction of the later front indicator parking lights.
The light dimming relay is no longer fitted.
The early rear number plate light is retained but the later front bumper is now introduced with the overriders bolting directly to the bumper. Lower overrider support bar is discontinued as is the accompanying holes in the lower front panel.
Black on one side "Sunvisors" are introduced but at this point the leather roof straps are retained.
The plastic mudshields are fitted behind the rear lamp panel & over the inner wing reinforcer but the steel splashguards at the rear of the front arches are retained.
Long thread & I hope it was of some interest.