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BF Classified: 30-Year-Stored Bugeye Sprite

Every once in a while, I get to write a post about a car that should sell to the first person that sees it with the available cash. This is one of those posts! This 1959 Austin-Healey Sprite has been listed here in our own Barn Finds Classifieds after recently been removed from 30 years of dry storage. The car is located in Omaha, Nebraska and the asking price is only $4,500!

After removing the car from storage, the seller took some detailed pictures and was able to get the car running! The detailed pictures show some serious underbody rust and holes that you can either leave, patch, or completely replace — but for $4,500, I’d be driving it during the meantime! The unibodies for these tiny cars are pretty simple, and while there is some concern around where the quarter-elliptic springs attach, if it were me I’d go for it. If you aren’t interested in complete originality, most of the repair panels can be fabricated by yourself from flat sheet metal.

Based on the description of the storage, I’m guessing this is the Sprite “as found.” It’s rare to see one of these cars with its original hubcaps still in place. I believe the trim rings are a later addition, though. If you haven’t driven one of these delightful little sports cars it’s difficult to explain the sheer joy from such a simple experience. A top and frame are included in the sale but would spend little time in place if the car were mine.

From the general appearance of the car, I suspect this is at least close to the original miles. But does it really matter after 61 years? Just fix the brakes, replace or repair the fuel tank and enjoy that minimalist driving experience! More power to you if you are in a place where the weather allows you to right now!

Since the engine isn’t that peculiar shade of green, it’s safe to assume someone has been into it — or even that it isn’t the original 948 cc unit.  Since the later 1098 cc and 1275 cc engines are essentially bolt-in swaps, there’s no telling which one this is (unless some Austin-Healey sage can tell from the pictures?).

As with many Sprites, the nose badge has gone missing. Thankfully, reproductions are available. Check out the rest of the seller’s listing here on our Classifieds site and consider listing your car with us if you have one for sale!


  1. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    Would need a shot of the left front of the cylinder head to confirm it’s the original 948. There is a significant notch there as compared to the 1275 which is squared off. The shape of the area behind the spark plugs tells me it’s a 948. We just got a 1275 engine with that blue paint on it. Don’t know where that comes from as they are usually painted that yucky military green. There is literally nothing that’s not available to repair the metal underneath the car including a complete one piece floor and the rear spring perch area. If I was in the market for a third car project I’d jump on this one.

    Like 4
  2. Avatar photo Moeregaard

    The 1275cc engine lacks the twin side plates that the 948 and 1098 lumps have. All three have the displacement cast into the block.

    Like 1
  3. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    May have found the blue paint source. Notice on the upper right of the block the aluminum ID tag isn’t there and no rivet holes can be seen. I’ve got a factory steering rack still in the wrapper that’s the same color. Could it be a replacement engine or the block was resurfaced and repainted and we can’t see the ground off rivets? Bunch of speculation going on here. By the way, you don’t want to drive this car too far until the rockers are replaced. The tunnel will only support the car so much for so long.

    Like 1
  4. Avatar photo Allen Member

    I agree with Bob Hess, but would put it a little stronger: it is entirely possible that this car is NOT SAFE TO DRIVE!! Don’t forget – with monocoque design, what you see is what supports the car. And it looks to me like a lot of rust “repairs” have been made with bondo. Make no mistake about it, I do think this car is worth saving, but looks can be very deceptive: this thing looks like a real rust-bucket. I would NOT drive it until stripping down the body and having a serious look-see. And if you’re going to weld in new panels where needed – why compromise on the panels? I don’t get that at all! Use Heritage panels (they fit – unless the car is crooked). The stampings on the floors make them a lot stronger. And you don’t want a rusty spring hanger to let loose on you at speed.

    If the engine is a 948, I wouldn’t mess with it anyway. Replace it with a 1275, 5-speed transmission, 3.9 rear end, and disc brakes in front. Then, with body work complete, you’re ready to have some serious fun!

    Like 1
  5. Avatar photo Charles Sawka

    The most fun you can have while still having your clothes on ! Regardless of what engine these little things are amazing. I have had 4 of em !

    Like 3
  6. Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    . I have owned Bugeyes since my first new one that I ordered in 1959 … and I have owned more than 2 dozen since., including two in the shop now

    This is a pig with lipstick… Very SERIOUS rust damage …. and for sure it extends much further than you can see, including , more than likely under that pretty red paint.. This is NOT a ” drive while you fix it ” and the metal work that @bobhess refers to is not a job for an amateur . When you see this much rusted out sheet metal, you should consider where the “good’ metal that you can actually weld TO, begins…

    Much prefer a solid car needing minor metal work, that will ultimately result in a NICE Sprite…than a rusted hulk that will never be ” like new ” …

    The advice to ” buy the best you can afford ” definitely applies here…, but surely, some dreamer will buy it.

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    Agree totally Dave. You don’t buy this car unless you know welding and bodywork or have a whole lot of cash to throw at a restoration shop. We built one of the best race cars we’ve ever had out of ’60 rust bucket. Two years, over 250 hours of welding and metal work, and a very understanding wife to finish it. Your last paragraph says it all.

    Like 0
  8. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    Dave… What would you guys charge to build this car up to match our rust bucket race car?

    Happy New Year everyone!

    Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorations Member

    Bob, I no longer do any outside work. I Just sold my Lotus 7 Series 1 race car, and now have to decide if I will do one of my two (solid) Bugeyes , or put one up here for sale. … Spending that many hours on a rusted Sprite, when a solid one can be bought for 5 or 6 Grand makes no sense to me.
    One of these days, I will post a bunch of underside modification pictures of one of my former race cars on the Bugeye Group… it had so few pinholes in the floor, that I left them when I added the stiffeners and reinforced spring boxes.

    Like 1
  10. Avatar photo Roger Garnett

    A lot more than *some* concern about where the leaf springs attach – this is the core of the chassis / suspension, and about the hardest sheet metal to replace. You need to tear it down to nothing, and build from scratch. There is just one contact point on each side to hold the rear end in place, and it looks gone on this car. Repairable, but it’s a big job.

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorations Member

    Here is a solid car, (or so he says)… which I would call and try to buy, if I did not have two good ones to do or sell, right now .


    Like 0

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