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Black-Plate Bugeye: 1959 Austin-Healey Sprite


Californians love to find cars with black license plates. The rest of us should too because that black plate means that the car has been in the car-friendly climate of California since at least 1969. This particular 1959 AH Sprite is the perfect example of why everyone wants vehicles from the Golden State. It is claimed to be all original except for the tires and battery, but boy, does it look nice in the photos! Supposedly it has even been cared for by the same mechanic for the past 15 years. It is being offered by the original owner here on craigslist in Alameda, California for $6,500. Thanks for the tip Gil P!


Even though my tall frame wouldn’t fit inside, I was still sorely tempted to scoop this one up for myself! The price is right and if all the claims are true, this is one heck of a find. Sprites were budget sports cars and were used accordingly, so it can be hard to find one so well preserved today. There weren’t many affordable options for the sports car enthusiast when Austin-Healey released the Sprite. They weren’t as fast as their expensive brethren, but with their stiff and lightweight chassis, they could handle with the best of them!


The paint looks so good that we couldn’t help but wonder if this one has been restored at some point. The interior does show a nice patina though that could only be recreated after many years of use. A quick inspection should be all it would take to determine if the car really is all original though. Just check the edges of the paint and underneath for evidence of a respray. We would be sure to go to the trouble of checking it out in person or getting someone else to do it though because every seller seems to have their own definition of “all original”. This Sprite does look like a great deal wither way and we are already envious of the next owner!


  1. Doyler

    Alameda is temptingly close…

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  2. Dan Farrell

    I have driven sprites many moons ago and being almost 6’4″ at the time I don’t remember it being leg room challenged; but there are a lot of things I don’t remember from the 60’s so don’t take my word for it.

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Well, if no one here wants it I may just have to stick some speedster replica seats in there and give it a whirl! I have seen Elan seats fitted in them too. Does anyone know if they make a difference?

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  3. sunbeamdon

    Dan, I’m just over 5’9′ and I do remember the limited room in my ’58 Sprite, particularly after coming out of a 1949 Monarch (CDN).

    In 1961 I completed a full Sebring Stage 5 upgrade to the motor and finished with rebuilding the tranny to a Mark II closed ratio gearbox (first in Vancouver) at 4:00pm on Friday; test drove it 90 miles and parked it at the reception hall for leaving on our honeymoon the next night.

    You may remember one on the idiosyncrasies of the soft-top – at speeds over 75 mph, as often as not the top would come out of the windshield clip. With an early October honeymoon rain the the Pacific Northwest was inevitable – my wife hated that car with a passion! Additionally, we had to traverse eight inch river of rain with the generator wired back onto the block about 30 mi east of Crescent City! The last day (eighth) the sun came out just north of Seattle, the top got stowed, my wife forgave me (barely – pun intended!)

    Life and marriage has been good to me – although she wont ride in my 427 Kirkham Cobra!

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  4. Bill K

    Brings back wonderful memories. Within our nieghborhood in early 60’s were an identical Sprite, Austin American, Karmen Gia, a MGTD, and not to be forgotten a Ferrari Superfast and ocassionally the guy’s Indy Roadster, the Bell Lines Special.
    Those were some times.

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  5. jim s

    i am surprised this is not sold already! yes it sure looks good but need more photos, motor and underside of car. then if still interested, you are right a very good PI would need to be done. this one might make a daily drive but if you hit something or get hit that would be very bad. fun and good on gas. i like the mkII and newer sprites/all midgets better. the hood doesn’t open far enought and doing any work in the trunk area on a bugeye is a pain. do not know about 75MPH as my mkI midget with a 1098 could not do that speed, i stayed in the 55 to 65MPH range. the pull starter and the toggle switch for the turn singles bring back very good memories.

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  6. Robert Park

    Not sold yet? For that price? Somethings fishy.

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  7. jim s

    there are all kind of parts and upgrades for these. i would go with disc brakes and a dual master cyl. to start. extra wheels with sticky tires for autocrossing. maybe a 1275 with a little work done to it. as for room i think i had to push the clutch pedal in to get my foot to the switch for high/low beam, but i also know i used midgets/sprites for dating when i was a young man!

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  8. paul

    Yes ditto Robert Park, makes me think it needs a trip in person before I’d buy it. I had one of these in white I bought it for $25’s It didn’t run & never did get around to getting it done since that time period I have tried very hard to stick with one project to finish.

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  9. Leo

    You guys are funny I can introduce you to a wide cariant of people who fit in a Bugeye with stock seats. All the way from slender build 6’4 to short 5’6 350 lb driver so ill plCe money the complainers are only complaining about the entry and egress. Thats just a learned skill aquired from owning a sprite. Had them fior 30+ years so am somewhat used to them.

    Im soreley tempted myself. Doubt the car is ” original” as claimed ( carpeting was never offered ), but it may well be as i woupd need more photos to judge that without a ppi

    Friggin phone … Sorry about typos


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  10. Dolphin Member

    You might not feel at ease in such a small car, but if you are 6 ft or a bit more there will be no problem fitting in a series 1 Sprite. I am over 6 ft and I fit fine in a Sprite, which was my first car. That’s because the seat cushions sit very low and are not very thick. You sit with your legs more or less straight out in front of you.

    This car looks really good, especially for the $6,500 ask, when a good driver would be around $12-18K. And it still has its bumpers, hubcaps, and what looks like the original, altho tired, interior. But there’s not too much to that interior, so redoing it shouldn’t be much trouble or expense.

    If the miles are really 55K, and if the long-time mechanic the seller mentions can supply some useful information, this should be gone pretty quick.

    One upside with a Sprite was that lots of young ladies wanted rides in that ‘cute car’. The downsides were the size (for people who wanted more room), the stark interior, and a very stiff ride, especially at the rear with those quarter eliptic leaf springs.

    This car is listed as a ’59 but is described as having a “button windshield”, which I take to mean the setup on the first-year cars (1958) that had a string of snap fasteners along the top front of the windshield that the top snapped onto to hold it in place. Trouble was, at anything much over 50 mph rain would be forced between the fasteners and would drip onto your legs. That was fixed in 1959 by doing away with all of the snaps except one at each end and having a long curved clip at the front of the top that grabbed the top of the windshield.

    Like a lot of the commenters on here who owned one, I loved my Sprite—-until I drove an MGA, which had more performance, a wonderful look, and an interior that was far nicer than the Sprite. But this one looks like it could put somebody into an original vintage Brit sportscar for not much money.

    I hope whoever buys it keeps it original, except for maybe freshening the interior. If I had the time and a pickup to tow my trailer down to the Bay area I would buy it myself.

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  11. Chris A.

    What a wonderful first sports car. It was just what it appeard to be, a basic,simple small sports car that hooked kids like me on sports cars. A family friend, 6′ 2″ and probably 225+ lbs, had to drive his from NJ to Rochester NY in late November. He didn’t get in the car, he put it on. I didn’t care for the bugeye headlights, I lusted over the Sebring Speedwell version. Wonder if it still exists.

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  12. jim s

    still not sold and it was listed 6 days ago.

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Makes me wonder if the seller entered his email wrong or if he just forgot to take the ad down when it sold. I just emailed him to see if there is any response.

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      • jim s

        yes, very good idea. that car needs to be sold, it is a great find and way to interesting. i still plan on a 1990 miata but.

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  13. Alan

    Looks very nice for the $$$
    At 6′ I fit fine, and the driving position is okay. But ingress/egress is a problem for me in my late ’50s.
    Appears that the rear deck may have been opened up, to allow a little grocery/kid space. I don’t recall seeing that tonneau arrangement (i’m no authority) on a Sprite, very similar to a 100/6 2+2

    If so, that might hurt the value on such an original appearing car. I would just appreciate it as a period modification.

    Cheers, Alan

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  14. hhaleblian

    Emailed the seller a couple days ago, no response.

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  15. jim s

    just checked and listing is gone!

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