Recipe for a Sandblasted Sprite

Updated: Jan 6

by Michael Meindorfer

From the Austin-Healey Magazine, January 1987


  • 1 Sprite

  • 2000 lbs Sandblasting grade sand

  • 1 acre land you will never use again.

  • 1 Compressor with sandblasting pot

  • 1 day, preferably one which starts out good

When I obtained my Sprite it was about as dismantled as you could possibly get, and the logical conclusion was to do a "ground-up!" Stupidity runs high among AH fanatics.

Well, I proceeded to remove the last dozen or so nuts and bolts, and for reasons that I don't want to go into here, decided on sandblasting vs., chemically stripping the body. In preparation for sandblasting I first went over the entire chassis and removed every bit of grease, tar and glue, both inside and out, that I could find. Don't leave it up to the sandblasting to take these deposits off. It won't! The sand tends to bounce off these less-than-hard surfaces and you'll find yourself out of sand long before you've reached the paint underneath. I'd recommend steam cleaning the chassis beforehand to save hand scraping time later.

Next, find yourself a place to do the work itself. If you can find an enclosed area, that's ideal. But if you do it outside, keep in mind that the sand will drift everywhere. Try explaining to your neighbor just what that ton of sand is doing covering up his fresh sod. A vacant lot or an orchard works very well.

In purchasing the sand, any good rockery will carry it. Just make sure you explain it is for sand-blasting. Cost will be about $45 to $55 for 2000 lbs, never use beach sand as it contains rocks. Next you have to obtain the compressor with a sand pot from a rental outfit. Costs will vary widely but expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $200 for 24 hours rental. Also, sometimes the rental outfit will supply the sand as well, but they usually charge quite a bit more for it, so cost wise it is better to obtain the sand elsewhere. [Note: prices listed are from the original article and are not likely to be accurate today.]

Now you're ready for the worst part: the sandblasting itself. You'll find it's easier with two people as one can fill the sand pot while the second person can do the actual sandblasting. The whole job will take you about 7 to 8 hours with one person, a bit less with two. Where you start and where you end is of little importance, just make sure you finish one area before proceeding on to the next as it's easy to miss spots. Also, I found that with care I could sandblast all exterior panels without any problems of warpage, though I did try to stay away from flat areas like the center of the bonnet and the center of the doors. All other panels have some curve to them and are semi-rigid as a result. Long sleeves, pants and gloves are a must to wear by the way.

So now that you have a nude Sprite, what do you do? Primer it, of course, and as quickly as possible I might add. I used Ditzler PDAO which is a zinc-chromate epoxy primer which is highly recommended for sandblasted surfaces. It has the added benefit that if painted over within a week, it need not be sanded. Beyond that the surface becomes too hard, and sanding is required.

So there. That was easy, wasn't it? Of course you could have the body professionally sandblasted for about $250 to $300, but that would take all the fun out of it!


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