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Bargain-Priced Bugeye: $500 1959 Sprite


Obviously either an ex-racing car (or at least a poseur!), this 1959 Austin-Healey Bugeye (Frogeye to our UK readers) Sprite is missing a lot of rather important components, like an engine and transmission. There’s also some metal that has turned to iron oxide and disappeared. However, I’ve seen far worse restored and think this one may have some life in it yet. The vacant-eyed car is located in Weyers Cave, Virginia and is up for sale here on craigslist for only $500.


Yes, that rear fender is largely constructed from filler, or at least the outer surface is! And that roll bar needs back braces to be effective rather than just a head-bashing device. But it’s a Bugeye!


Unfortunately, “Bugeye” and “rust” usually appear in the same sentence entirely too often. This car is no exception, and it looks like there’s some poor pop riveted patches to boot. Bear in mind, the right part of this picture is where the quarter (not semi) elliptic springs and radius arms are mounted, so that area needs to be extremely strong.


picture courtesy

Here you can see how the strength of the body tub at that point is critical; apart from the lever shock absorber link and the drive shaft, the leaf spring and the radius arm are the only places the rear axle is located. Note that this car has a racing spring with far fewer leaves than the original one.


While some of these gauges and switches are aftermarket, it is nice to see an original steering wheel in place. Obviously, besides the rust, the elephant in the room is the lack of a drive train. The great news there is that any 1098 or 1275 MG Midget or later Sprite drive train will fit. There are plenty of inexpensive rusty parts cars that fit that bill around; for example, here is one for $700 that ran less than a year ago. Many folks fit the 1275 engine and later “rib cage” transmission anyway, as they are stronger. So suppose you’ve always wanted a Bugeye, but your budget is low. Here’s a way to start–of course it would be less effort to start with a better car, but how many projects can you remember that you can begin for under $1,000?


  1. jim s

    this should be sold already. the hood alone is worth asking price. comes with title, side curtain frames, and hardtop! great find.

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  2. John K

    Yeah it’s a bit of a mess, but for $500 it’s one heck of a deal.

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  3. Blueprint

    Snow tires?

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  4. Abarthbill

    Roll bar looks late 50’s early 60’s if raced SCCA, before bracing was required. Look for inspection hole in roll bar and stamped #. If none, prior to early 70’s.

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  5. Carl W French

    I’d be on it for $500. You have Nothing to lose. As said, reasonably straight front and rear sheet metal are hard to find in Bugeyes. There may be 5 gallons of filler in there but still, for $500, I’d roll the dice.

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  6. Cleric

    If I were near enough I’d do this. Since no running gear’s I wouldn’t feel bad about putting something more modern in it…maybe a Mk1 Miata setup?

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