5 Years In The Barn: 1960 Austin Healey Sprite

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This cute little Bugeye (or Frogeye for our British readers) Sprite was parked five years ago in a barn after the owner discovered a rod knocking. Now they are selling it due to health reasons here on eBay, with a 99 cent opening bid (mine) and no reserve. Don’t worry, I won’t be raising my bid, so you can handily outbid me! The Sprite is a Colorado car and is still there in Calhan, Colorado.

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I think a Bugeye is either a car you get completely or don’t want any part of. An exercise in minimalism, there really isn’t anything on this first generation of Sprite that doesn’t have to be there. The characteristic headlamps were due to cost cutting; pop-ups were deemed too expensive. So was a trunk lid and full-width rear bumpers, as you can see here.

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Protection from the elements consists of a pair of side curtains, the simplest top frame I’ve ever come across and a top that, well, kind of kept the rain off. Sometimes. When it only sprinkled. A little.

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On the inside (which you accessed by pulling on a cord inside the door–who needs exterior door handles?–there wasn’t anything that didn’t need to be there, either. Oh, wait–someone installed an aftermarket AM radio in this one! But the sparse interior is part of the charm, and the light weight construction enabled the Sprite to perform far better than one would expect. On the right twisty road, it can still be a challenge to keep up with a well-driven Sprite.

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This one has the right kind of wear from an older refurbishment; I’m pretty sure this car has been gone through at least once if not more. However, with only one small rust hole in the floor (and as I’ve noted previously, floor holes are the best because the carpet covers up my unskilled solid but ugly welding), this would be a great car to have as a driver. To be honest, if I had it I don’t even think I’d touch the side curtains and top, because I’d never plan on using them. To quote my mother (yes, true story), “the air deflects the rain over the car if you go fast enough!”

I’m guessing this has the original 948cc engine, and they aren’t hard to rebuild, but since it’s a driver anyway, I’d have a hard time not putting a later 1275 in, and if a pair of larger SU’s or a side draft Weber and a cam found their way in there at the same time, I wouldn’t complain. Let me ask you–do you “get” a Bugeye? Or do you need more car for your fun? I look forward to reading your comments!

 

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Comments

  1. Dolphin Member

    A ’58 Sprite was my first sports car, right after selling my first car, a ’57 Desoto convertible. The Sprite seemed about 1/3 the length of the Desoto, but it was probably more like half the length. The Sprite got great gas mileage, so that even if you drove it mostly between 4-6 thousand RPMs you still got decent mileage from the 6 (approx.) gallon tank.

    I had a lot of run with it, and it was quite the chick magnet because they thought it was ‘cute’ and all wanted a ride. I didn’t mind that they thought it was cute because then I could ask for their phone number after the ride.

    But I would not own another for lots of reasons, one of which is the far greater choice in interesting, affordable vintage cars now compared to back in 1960.

    Another is the modest performace….of both the engine and the brakes, which were 10 inch drums all around, IIRC. With a 1275 BMC A engine with big carbs in this little Sprite it will be important to include a brake conversion, with disks up front.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Dolphin, definitely agreed on the brakes. Thankfully there are lots of Spridget parts around!

  2. Leo

    Such easy cars to upgrade if so desired. With a 1275, datsun 5 speed trans, larger disc brakes, they will leave many larger engined cars in their dust. I have owned probably 15-20 of them over the years but my favorite one was my first one. 23 years searching NOS parts from all over the world led to one stunning car
    https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/speichinger/7679251766/
    It now resides in a private collection in England and a 1966 Austin Healey BJ8 occupies its former slot. Night and day difference

    And yes, thats actually a baby seat that was an option sold by the factory for bugeyes 😊

  3. erikj

    I like that a lot. and the larger motor ,for sure-just no room in the paddock.

  4. brakeservo

    Leo – today that “baby seat” would constitute child abuse! As a kid, I would have loved it!!

    • Leo

      Very much so lol

  5. ccrvtt

    A guy in my high school became a legend for allegedly doing it with his girlfriend in a bugeye. Under the tonneau cover. In her parents’ driveway. In broad daylight.

    I can’t look at one of these without thinking about that. Now you can’t either…

    • Dolphin Member

      I’m a legend in my own mind because I….we….were in a 3-liter Healey. But it had the 2 kids seats in the back, so I guess you might consider it to be pretty spacious in comparison to a Sprite. But it didn’t seem spacious at the time.

  6. Don E

    Those two must have been petite to fit UNDER the attached cover.

  7. billy de hulst

    Please allow me to lower the tone of this august body even further than the under tonneau cover bit above.
    My date’s parents never twigged to the reason my new Morris Minor 1000 had the back of the rear seat missing. If they had looked into the boot they would have found a hinged piece of 1/2 inch plywood about 2 feet wide. Unfolded it was about 6 feet long and fit through the hole between the boot and the back seat. With the front passenger seat folded, the plywood was supported at the front and was quite level.

    My cover was that I kept it so that I could sleep in the car. I don’t recall being very tired when I was stretched out on it. There was always something to do

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