55 Years in Storage: 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite

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Okay, so let’s run down the list: barn? Check. Find? Most definitely check. Take a look at this dusty but beautiful 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite! Located in Frankenmuth, Michigan, it’s listed here on Facebook Marketplace for $5,000, or best offer.

Looking at the picture of this little gem sitting in the back of the barn, you can just imagine the moment the tarp was pulled back to reveal the car underneath. And what a car! While it could never rival the performance of the Big Healeys, the Sprite also never rivaled their price tag: this was a sports car for the common man. In keeping with the themes of sport and budget, the car was missing some equipment that future drivers would consider essential. Windows? None. Top? Of limited functionality. Door handles? Best we can do is a pull cord, but since there’s no real top or windows, you didn’t really need the handles on the outside, right? Even the iconic headlights were a result of frugality. Originally intended to retract into the body, the expense of such a system caused BMC executives to nix the whole idea, instead requiring them to be permanently fixed in the up position.

 

For the engine, BMC adopted a variant of the A-Series plant that first appeared in the Austin A30. With a displacement of only 948 cc, the inline four made a mighty 43 hp, thanks, in part, to its twin SU carburetors. This gave the Sprite a top speed of just over 80 mph and a zero-to-sixty time of 20.5 seconds. Stopping is handled by drum brakes all around; upgrading to front disks from a Mark II or MG Midget is a popular modification. Yet with a curb weight of under 1500 lbs., the car was extremely nimble. With a long string of racing victories, including a win at Sebring in 1959, the Bugeye Sprite was a serious contender.

As the ad states, this one looks rough, but these cars are both incredibly simple and very well supported with a strong following. Though we don’t have a picture of the engine, the interior looks amazing for having been laid up for over half a century. If the rust hasn’t gotten to it from below, there’s no reason to think that this one can’t be put on the road again. Once back together, there’s little doubt that the car will provide the driver with a grin to match its grille.

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Again, not sure why people don’t present cars for sale at least clean so buyers can get some sort of idea what offered. If this car is solid it’s probably a good candidate for total street level restoration. As Andy says, a number of these cars were converted early to race cars but what he didn’t say was that the numbers are pretty staggering. Our first Bugeye race car was a ’59 built by Joe Hufaker Sr. in San Francisco in 1966. It’s still out there to this day. We’ve owned four, two built by race shops and two built by us from street cars in pretty bad condition. The Vintage races around the the world today are filled with them. They are fun in any form.

    Like 6
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      BTW… no pull cord on this one. Got to reach inside and push down the handle toward the top rear of the door. Not a big problem until an ice storm freezes the sliding windows shut like happened on our ’62 MG Midget. Note: installed a Triumph outside door handle on the left side 5 days after that event.

      Like 5
  2. Anthony M.

    I would return that tarp as defective. It clearly didn’t do its job!

    Like 8
  3. FrankDMember

    People think that if they sprinkle the dust from their wife’s or mother’s vacuum cleaner on the car they will get a couple of more grand for it. A car with doors, hood and trunk open are a must with pics of all the panels.

    Like 2
  4. Rick

    The license plate is definitely a 1966 Michigan.

    I live about 30 miles south of this find, but I’ve got plenty of irons currently in the fire and no $$$ for fixing up cars.

    Like 2
  5. Ken

    I’ve always had the idea that if I owned a bug eye, I would convert it to retracting headlights, just to see what it would look like. Has anyone ever done this. I believe they were supposed to retract like Porsche 928 headlights.

    Like 0
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      Tough to do Ken. Manufacturer didn’t make the lights rotate to reduce building costs. The inner fenders and supports that tie into the radiator supports makes the task pretty difficult to install the lights and their associated mechanisms.

      Like 4
    • Chris

      This is what Photoshop is for!

      Like 1
  6. Martin Horrocks

    For a true barnfind, a professional set of “as found” pictures adds value these days, for less physical effort.

    But to get a great price, Facebook Marketplace would not be my media of choice

    Like 2
  7. Dave at OldSchool Restorations Dave at OldSchool RestorationsMember

    I’ve had a couple dozen since my first new one in 1959
    .
    This one has PLENTY of rust damage in all the worst places… and probably not much metal that you can actually weld new panels to. It is Michigan, after all.

    Lots of better ( more SOLID ) Bugeyes still available in this price range.

    Like 3
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      Dave’s picture shows that this car once raced in SCCA’s H Production class with the number 4 which I referenced as being pretty common in the day.

      Like 1
  8. Slomoogee

    This bug eye I believe, is not a bad deal. Looks like it’s been sitting on concrete, so probably not terrible underneath, the rest of the car appears salvageable but a in person inspection is always a good idea if possible. Spares and parts are easily found and not crazy expensive. I’d make this a driver quality car and not worry about driving it on secondary route’s while channeling my inner English hooligan.

    Like 2

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