Barn Bugeye: 1960 Austin Healey Sprite

I can’t tell you the last time I saw an Austin Healey “Bugeye” sprite. If I dig back many years in my everything automotive memory, I have scant recollection and I’m sure at that it was probably somewhere in the late ‘70s. There were about 49,000 produced between 1958 and 1961 with about half that number exported to the U.S. so they’re not exactly rare. Well here at Barn Finds, you can be certain that you’ll find a little bit of everything, and then some; so here it is, a 1960 Austin Healey “Bugeye” Sprite, located in New Berlin, Wisconsin, and available here on eBay for a current bid of $2,020.

So yeah, these are facetiously known as a “Bugeye” Sprite though I always thought “Frogeye” (which is how they are known in the U.K.) was a more telling description. Beyond that, the outward appearance is typical for a late ’50s/early ‘60s British sports car. I wouldn’t consider it bugley but it is unique in a very recognizable way.

For power, this Sprite utilizes a 0.9 liter CC inline four-cylinder engine good for 43 HP. It sounds like this one hasn’t run in years according to the seller. He adds, that it will need “a complete mechanical refreshment as the state of the operating systems were unknown.” Translation: No telling what’s up. It does come with extra assorted engine parts. No reference is made regarding gears but it’s obviously a manual transmission, so I’d wager a four-speed.

The interior looks like the inside of my recycling bin so I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about it. The only statement made is that the floor pans will need to be replaced so we’re not exactly off to a good start but then that’s expected with a 59-year-old British sports car that’s been sitting for years. As a side-bar, I don’t know why sellers don’t clear their stuff out of the inside of their sale items so they can be fully shown and help with the sale process. I’m forced to believe it is an attempt to hide something that is less than ideal. It does at least have a steering wheel and a driver’s seat.

If the floors are bad, I have to imagine there are other integrity problems too and the seller as much as says that, he claims it will need, “rocker panels and other unknown body prep.” I’ll accept that as the “caveat emptor” disclaimer for this car.

I find this listing to be a bit peculiar – this car has a lot of issues and the “put-it-together-without-an instruction-sheet” vibe is not exactly encouraging. The seller seems to know that but he’s just not very enthusiastic about the positive qualities of his car. I would try to take over for him but I’m not too enthusiastic about it either. Lot’s of unknowns, lots of engine and metal work, lots of unidentified parts and what do you have when you’re finished? A 43 HP, teeny, tiny sports car with a blasted Lucas electrical system. I can see interest in this Austin Healey if you are a British sports car fan (and one of my very best friends is) so I mean no disrespect but I’m not sure I’d want to take this one on, how about you?


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  1. Redwagon

    Saw my first one sometime last fall driving in St Paul, MN. Incredibly small. Much smaller than I ever would have expected. 46 hp seems about right. Your comment that the seats look like your recycle box made me think that the car and my box are about the same size!

    One thing I note is that the panel joints on this one have very.little if any rust in the pictures. Much less than others I’ve seen for sale.

    Like 3
  2. RayT Member

    This will need a LOT of work. Not just the general refurbishment needed (there will be rust, even if we can’t see it), but also sorting out which parts are original and which were added from a later Sprite/Midget (dashboard/instruments, wheels, etc.) and deciding which to use.

    Unless someone poached from some other car, the 948cc engine has a four-speed manual transmission bolted to it. If the engine came from the later car, it could be a 1098cc or even 1275cc.

    My own Frogeye (dead stock, with steel wheels and a 948) was thrashed by its previous owner, but once I connected the coil wires properly, it started, ran, and never gave me a lick of trouble. On these cars, Lucas electrics are hardly more complex than an extension cord, and don’t deserve the bad reputation they’ve gotten. Ditto for the other three Lucas-equipped cars I had later on.

    If I had a garage, I’d definitely take this on. You don’t know how much fun you can have with 43 horsepower (hint: lots) ’til you drive one.

    Like 20
  3. Wayne

    Needing rockers and floor, means no thanks for me.
    And the question is not whether it is a 4 speed or not. It is whether it has the original smooth case ( non-synchro, meaning first gear) gear box or the later “waffle case” full synchro gear box (most desirable). With this little amount of horse power/torque a full synchro box is most desirable if you are not adept at double clutching/matching engine speeds. ( if not equipped, this is a talent you will soon conquer if you don’t have spare gear boxes laying around.)

    Like 3
  4. Little_Cars

    I don’t think any of the Sprite/Midget transmissions were fully synchronized until the Spitfire motor went in, along with the Triumph motor, for the 1975 model year. Waffle case or rib case, there is a 99% certainty this is a 4 speed car. Many bolt on the Datsun 210 gearbox for more road ability. Odd that someone went to the trouble of adding a later “pillow dashboard” to a Bugeye. Most people dislike them and retro fit the early metal dashboards to their pillow dash cars (1968-onward in the US). Lots of fans out here that would tackle the rockers and floors. It’s almost a rite of passage for us Spridget owners to get an education welding and patching our little cars. As someone has already commented more smiles per mile in a Sprite or Midget than just about any other inexpensive sports car.

    Like 8
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      RE: the “pillow dashboard”, Little_Cars: my fond recollection of my ‘61 Midget was that it had the same “pillow” on the dash-before my friend took a roll of wood grain look contact paper to it to give it the “hand crafted wood” look..
      Yessir, you’re absolutely right about these being a lesson in shop mechanics when you own one, and a real hoot to drive!

      Like 3
      • Little_Cars

        Your 61 Midget would have had a very thin “crash pad” on the lip above the metal dashboard from the factory. Virtually useless as a safety device in anything other than a little bump pulling out of a parking spot. Actually, this padded reveal is no longer available and owners have gone to more creative materials to make the early metal dash cars a skoonch more safe. Maybe that’s what happened here with this Bug Eye…a later dash added for safety.

  5. Thomas

    Sorry to correct:
    The gearbox is at least original BMC. I can tell this from the picture. Neither the „plain top“ nor the „ribbed top“ gearboxes are full syncrospector. the first gear is always non syncro. The engine is a later 1275cc unit. U can see the blanked emission control injection ports on the cylinder head. The dashboard is from a later car, so it is safe to assume that the car received a engine / gearbox swap from a much later car.

    Like 2
    • Mark

      Or somebody could have used a MG Midget or Austin-Healey Sprite as a donor car and put on frogeye panels

  6. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    What is shown looks pretty good… but MUST HAVE pictures of the rockers, inside sills, and floors. to determine the value of this car, let alone if it is practical to restore. Having bought a new one in 1959, and restored several over the years, including the one I have now that is getting a Lampredi Twin Cam and 5 speed.

    The rockers( ad says they need replacement) and sills are structural to these cars, and they and the mounts for the 1/4 eliptic rear springs are no task for a novice .

    Solid Southern and Western cars come available in the under 3000 price range. Wisconsin/ Michigan cars have some of the worst rust damage of the Lower 48

    Like 3
  7. Roger Hackney

    I acquired a 59 Sprite when I was
    11 years old and thought frog every
    time I looked at it.

    Like 1
  8. bobhess bobhess Member

    Hope that oil pan isn’t off that engine. That’s a 1275 timing chain cover but pictures aren’t good enough to identify the cylinder head. Picture will tell you how bad it can get.

    Like 2
  9. Mark

    That dashboard is not from an original frogeye. It is from a 1968 and newer MG Midget.

    Like 1
  10. Steve P

    Had a friend in high school that squeezed a Chevy 283 into his bugeye

    Like 1
  11. Mark

    That dashboard is not from an original frogeye. It is from a 1968 and newer spridget. That dashboard would be very difficult to put in an older vehicle I’m thinking it might be a newer vehicle with the frogeye body panels attached.

    Like 2
  12. charlie Member

    College roommate’s friend had one with add on supercharger. IT would GO.

    Like 2
  13. Brian M Member

    Currently rebuilding a MK II Sprite and had to replace floor on both sides, both rocker panels and one spring mount. Not a lot of fun but my welding skills improved significantly over the last couple of years. Both quarter elliptic springs (hateful things) were snapped so new ones were ordered from Moss along with the left spring pocket. Would you believe that the spring would not fit in the pocket? From the same source? Some “hot wrenching” got it to fit. Have transplanted a 1275 cc engine but have not started it yet. Will do that before final assembly and paint in case the rebuild did not go correctly, as the drive train is sooooo much easier to remove with the front of the car off. Gotta get this one done so that I can move on to the Herald 1200 Sport, Morris Minor Traveller or Jamaican (sequence yet to be determined, but at 75, I probably should get a move on).

    Like 4
  14. Ed Reiss

    Definitely a 1275CC engine. Also, later model spridget master cylinders refitted in place of the bugeye combo master. At $2100 and change definitely a good buy. I’ve seen much worse examples go for twice that.

    Like 2
  15. Del

    Great starter car for a young person.

    As long as you are away from the snow zone

  16. Kelly Breen

    You can buy brand new sills (rockers) quite inexpensively. The floor pans are also still in production from a shop in Canada as well as England. The company in Canada offers the complete floor for $250.00 and can be found on KIJIJI. BMH offers entire shells (not cheap). This particular car looks pretty intact. You ought to expect sill work but the tunnel is the backbone of the car and it usually holds up well. These cars are well supported part wise. If I did not already have a Midget and the car was on the north side of the border I’d consider it. There are much rattier cars here in Canada going for much higher prices.

    Like 1
  17. Mark

    But who would want a Frankenstein car such as this?

  18. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Sold for $4,000.

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