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Affordable Brit: 1959 Austin-Healey “Bugeye” Sprite

There’s always something heartwrenching about seeing a classic car that has fallen upon hard times. That is the case with this 1959 Austin-Healey “Bugeye” Sprite. It looks like it has been sitting for years before falling victim to a garage fire. It survived the trial by fire but needs plenty of TLC. However, it remains an affordable classic that could be the ideal candidate for someone seeking a DIY project. The owner has listed it here on Facebook in Macomb, Michigan. It could be yours for a mere $3,500. I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Jim A for spotting this sweet little British classic for us.

There is something endearing about the appearance of the Bugeye Sprite. Viewed from the front, it has a happy little face that makes you feel good. This one fell victim to a garage fire, but someone saved it before the damage was too bad. It needs a total restoration, but the new owner can commence that process from a solid foundation. The seller indicates it is rust-free, meaning the buyer won’t face hours of cutting and welding in their build. They face the task of stripping the vehicle to bare metal, but its modest dimensions mean that it shouldn’t be difficult. A nut-and-bolt restoration would be the best approach, and this is where the Sprite shines as a project candidate. The company employed elegantly simple design and construction techniques, meaning an owner can virtually dismantle the entire vehicle with the tools found in an average toolbox. The photos indicate that most of the trim and glass have survived the inferno in a restorable state, although I can’t spot the rear bumper. The seller states they include many parts to assist in the restoration but don’t indicate what these are beyond a replacement dash. The rest of the interior requires a retrim, but with kits retailing for around $1,100, that aspect of the build won’t break the bank.

The seller provides no information on the Sprite’s mechanical originality or health, but I think it would be safe to assume that its engine doesn’t run. It rolled off the line with a 948cc A-Series four-cylinder engine that sent its 43hp to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. It tips the scales at a featherweight 1,433lbs, allowing it to cover the ¼ mile in 21.5 seconds. However, straight-line performance isn’t the Bugeye’s strong point. They come into their own when pointed at a twisting stretch of tarmac where the proximity of the occupants to the road makes these classics feel significantly faster than they are. Reviving it without spending a fortune may be possible if the engine turns freely. However, since the engine is a pretty basic pushrod design, a competent person could complete a rebuild in a home workshop without breaking the bank. If they approach this as a nut-and-bolt restoration, that may prove a wise strategy to ensure it is in sound mechanical health when it returns to active service.

If this 1959 “Bugey” Sprite were little more than a blackened shell, I would probably question its viability as a project candidate. However, the fire damage is essentially superficial, and provided someone tackles the restoration before the blackened steel develops severe corrosion, it could prove a reasonably straightforward restoration. Perfection could see it command a value well beyond $20,000, and considering how much of the work the new owner could complete themselves, that makes it financially viable. If you have been searching for a first project, this Sprite could be a “hot” candidate.


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Those two “bumperets” are the rear bumper on a Sprite. Agree with Adam… ugly now but good enough to make pretty at the asking price.

    Like 5
  2. Bruce Ironmonger

    What is the car next to it?

    Like 0
  3. junkman Member

    next to it is a series 5 sunbeam alpine

    Like 2
  4. john mccue

    Buyer beware of sheet metal warpage from the fire. Harder to repair than rust which is not any fun either.

    Like 0
  5. Glenn Reynolds Member

    I agree with John. Junk the hood and get a fiberglass replacement. Don’t know if they are still around, but you could get a “stock” looking piece, or various different looking styles.

    Like 0
  6. S Dortch

    WOW, just paid off my credit card. Lots of room for this project. Cosmic intervention…..! 🔧🔧🔧

    Like 0

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