1959 Bugeye Sprite: Was It A Racer?


Thanks go to Barn Finds reader VaTex for this great find! While I realize that not every car with numbers on the sides is a race car, this one certainly looks the part! I love the hardtop (I think it’s a rare factory one) and the very unusual wheels. They really caught my eye; it turns out they are rare DEMAR wheels only produced from 1962 to 1965 before they stopped making wheels and started importing Minilites (you can read the whole story in this record of the resulting lawsuit). The Sprite is located in Quakertown, Pennsylvania and is for sale here on craigslist for $4,800. Yes, there are some dents, and some rust, and some hydraulic issues, but it runs and moves! The seller goes into pretty good detail as to the issues, including a noisy input bearing in the transmission. Maybe the price is a little high, maybe not–what do you think?


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  1. Olaf E

    Here’s the link to craiglist


    It’s racehistory could be tracked I think. Nice car to restore, even better when history can be found and proved.

    • Dave at OldSchool

      What History ???????????? ……..more like ” his story” ………………………….Nothing in the pictures shows ANY evidence of racing application modifications, ( and it was a road car in the 80’s ) …….but it is a decent price for the car as otherwise described…………………and I have had several Bugeyes, both street and race, since my first new one , ordered in 1959…here with Mom and my kid brother in Aug 1959

      • Olaf E

        Relax, I was only referring to Jamie’s words not saying it is/was a racecar.

  2. sir mike

    found the ad but don’t know how to post it…nice car for the money.

  3. blindmarc

    My fathers friend had the exact bigeye in the early 70’s with a small block ford & trans. It was his everyday driver.

  4. Mark E

    Word is that these are technologically dead simple so it would make a good first restoration project for a beginner perhaps? Of course since it’s interesting it demonstrates Mark E’s corollary of Murphy’s Law; ie, it’s over 1,000 miles away!

    Oh and love the wheels!

  5. Randy Forbes

    After reading that entire transcrip, I was hoping to find a little more info concerning the DE MAR wheels. Oh well, at least I can say that I’ve seen a set; a friend bought a 3000 2-seater some years ago, and it had a set of them fitted to it.

  6. Randy Forbes

    Proof positive!

  7. Dolphin Member

    This Sprite looks pretty good, with minimal rust and what reads like a very fair description.

    The transmission input bearing should not be much of a problem to replace—if that’s all it is. From what I remember from my father and I (mostly him) replacing the layshaft in the transmission from my ’58 Sprite in our basement, they are pretty basic gearboxes.

    I still have the old layshaft, with a chewed-up first gear, made into a desk lamp for me by my woodworker brother. It’s about 5 feet from me right now as I type this. That was my first foreign car, and unfortunately the layshaft is all I have left of it.

    Sounds like this Sprite might just need a driver’s side rocker, some interior work, a repaint, and tires. If you don’t go overboard on the paint job you shouldn’t be underwater even at the $4800 price, which looks fair. I don’t think any racing history this car might have would make any difference. Buy it for what it is, and then enjoy it.

  8. wagon master Member

    Absolutely love those Killer wheels! Beats the pants of tired looking wires.

  9. jim s

    if the car racied on the DEMAR wheels it did so before fall of 1965 based on information in the lawsuit. if it had a racing history the seller needs to prove it, anyone can stick numbers on a car. interesting find

    • Dave at OldSchool

      ” if it was raced ” ….. .raced with which organization ??? ..LOL ………………………………… I don’t see where an acceptable roll bar was previously attached, nor any other race mods.

  10. Jason

    This posting has been deleted by its author.

  11. RoughDiamond

    Seems like it would have made more sense for the seller to simply state that he has no idea if the car was ever legally raced, but anyone interested in knowing can certainly do their own research. They should buy it though as if it wasn’t.

  12. john S

    Those wheels! If they are the real deal they will weigh about two pounds each, (guessing), magnesium alloy weighs almost nothing. Check for cracks though as they are not, as far as I could find out, repairable.

    • Randy Forbes

      Repairable; maybe?

      Depends on the damage, as I’ve repaired a few curbed lips (Ferrari) and chipped spokes (BMW/BBS basketweave wheels).

      Magnesium rod is pretty expensive though, and despite all the wive’s tales, it’s actually pretty hard to ignite (not “dust” but any substantially sized pieces of swarf).

      The BBS wheel was real easy to weld, as the magnesium casting was relatively clean. The Ferrari one was hard to get a clean interface between the new and old material, as all the contaminates would rise to the surface as the substrate was melted.

      The hardest magnesium wheels though, and I’ve done a bunch of restoring on them, are the vintage McCulloch go kart wheels; they’re really a low grade magnesium, contamination-wise. Typically, a few inches of the lip is broken off from hitting a curb (as seen in the picture).

      Incidentally, a TIG process was used with AZ61A filler rod.

      • john S

        Thanks for that detail on wheel repair. I had a set of Ferraris given to me with a 144 Volvo, I was told they were off a Bolwell Nagari Mk VIII, as per the green Bolwell in the link below. There were multiple circular cracking issues. I asked several people, I guess all the wrong ones, and couldn’t get a repair so sold the wheels with the car for added curiosity value.
        John S

      • Randy Forbes

        John S:
        And I thought I knew about every car ever manufactured; I sure missed that one!

        I think that some cosmetic repairs are acceptable, but your statement that “There were multiple circular cracking issues.” The people you talked to may have been being honest with you.

        In the case of the McCulloch wheels__I’ve probably “saved” a dozen of them__come with the moniker that they’re for static display only(!). Truth be told, I’ve put a few of the repaired go kart wheels to a functional test (those old karts with the hard skinny tires were made for sliding). ;)

  13. Tirefriar

    A set of period correct mag wheels will easily fetch over $1k. Based on the selling price and the condition of the car in the one picture (the ad is deleted) I’d say that its racing history is irrelevant… It would be nice to know its true story but at under $5k of for a running Mk 1 who really cares?

  14. Bryan Cohn

    If it was only raced in period for a short time its possible that it never had a roll bar. We’ve all seen photos of various Sprites. MG’s, etc racing at Sebring, Daytona, etc with hard tops and no roll bar. I had a 59 Bugeye in my shop about 15 years ago (should have bought it) that had Sebring history in 1959 and 1960 and it didn’t have a roll bar till 1961 when it started running HP with SCCA.

    Just my two cents from a life of racing

    • Dave at OldSchool

      ANYTHING is possible ……. but having been racing and restoring race cars for over 50 years, and having owned several Bugeyes ( including currently the ex-Carl Flessa #47 ), I hear this story all the time by sellers of cars that have NO evidence of ANY racing in period , This car has nothing that would indicate it was raced in 59 or 60. The wheels , paint, and meatball are all post-61, and there was never a rollbar mounted in this tub, which would have by then been required. ……….

      • Mark W

        So Dave….do you think it was raced?

  15. Rich

    I’m not convinced those are the same wheels – check out the vent holes, the ones on the car are rectangular, the ones off the car have more rounded holes. My first thought was Empi-Lemertz “Sprint Stars” which are similar:

  16. Richard

    The way I read it the wheels pictured are from a big Healey with wire wheel mounts. The Bugeye pictured are disc wheel bolt on. If the wheels are worth a grand, the hardtop is worth at least that much. That leaves the rest of the car worth about $2,800. Sounds like a good price to me. The number circle means nothing, and it should be worth nothing unless there is a documented history to go with the car.

  17. John D

    Those are not the same wheels. Those look more like 914 wheels. Not the optional 2 liter wheels you see everywhere, but the optional Mahle or Pedrini wheels. http://www.pelicanparts.com/techarticles/914_wheel_types/914_wheel_types.htm

  18. Stacy

    Would like to ask. Can give me market value of these wheels. Was only able to upload one photo.

    Like 1
    • Ed C

      Stacy, Do you still have the set of Demar Wheels? If so, I’m interested in the wheels. Please contact me at capitaldriving AT Yahoo DOT Com and let me know the condition and the price you are asking. Thanks.

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