Story and Photography by Bill Holland

Editor's Note: this article originally ran back in 2018. Some information and prices may be different today.

Without a doubt one of the most popular powerplants in the history of sports car racing is the venerable A-series engine. Throughout its nearly 50-year lifespan it appeared in such vintage racing icons as the Austin-Healey Sprite, Mini Cooper and MG Midget–plus limited-production cars like the Turner 950 Sports.

Despite those racing chops, the A-series has more humble origins. It made its debut in 1952-’56 Austin A30 and Morris Minor sedans, basic workhorses designed to transport postwar British families. The engine’s 803cc displacement churned out 30 horsepower.

The A-series soon got sportier, though, as the factory upped displacement to 948cc when placing it in the 1958 Austin-Healey Sprite. Mini and high-performance Mini Cooper variants soon joined the A-series ranks, and displacement eventually maxed out with the 1275cc version found in the 1966-’71 Austin-Healey Sprite, 1966-’74 MG Midget and 1969-’80 Mini. A revised engine, known as the A-Plus, would remain in production through 2000.

Various racing associations have allowed earlier Sprites and Midgets to run the 1275cc engine, making them a ubiquitous combination–except, of course, in more stringent programs and classes that require the original-sized engines.

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