Bug-Eye Project: 1961 Austin-Healey Sprite Mk I

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The Austin-Healy Sprite was a British-built sports car produced from 1958 to 1971. The Mk I edition, assembled for the first three years, was known as the “frog-eye” in Europe due to its unusual headlights (in the U.S., they were called the “bug-eye” Sprites by many). This 1961 version is a project that will need work after sitting for many years. We assume it does not run and may need bodywork as these English sports cars often do. Thanks to “Ted” for the tip!

When the car was first conceived, the idea was to sell a low-cost sports car that would be easy to work on. British Motor Corp. was the manufacturer and it wasthe successor to the Austin Seven. Donald Healey Co. designed the little car, while MG (BMC) took care of production. Under the hood was a 948-cc inline-4 that produced 43 horsepower with dual carburetors. These cars would become popular in autocross racing and nearly 49,000 of them were built before the arrival of the Mk II later in 1961.

Originally, the funky-looking headlights were supposed to be able to “pop up” but became fixed to save cost. Given the amount of fuel automobiles typically consumed in those days, the Sprite was economical at 36 mpg average. We’re told very little about this 1961 Sprite. It supposedly has covered just 22,000 miles and has been stored for a long time. It’s calling Clay City, Indiana home and is available here on Facebook Marketplace for $5,000. Would you like to be the one to breathe life back into this little bug?

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  1. Slomoogee

    The Sprite will be gone soon I predict. For that short money you’ve got a nice project that won’t cost much to start having fun. Great father son bonding potential here.

    Like 8
  2. ccrvtt

    Clay City is located roughly equidistant from Terre Haute (the armpit of Indiana and the home of Indiana State University where Larry Bird matriculated instead of Indiana University because Bobby Knight forgot who he was) and Crane (Home of Naval Support Activity Crane whose closest body of water is Boggs Creek, about a thousand miles from any U S Navy ship of any kind – but that’s our military judgement for you. Still, the US is the greatest Naval Power ever and it’s absurd that anyone else would want to mess with us. That’s how we can get away with this. But I digress.)

    Having just spent the afternoon cruising the rural byways of the Hoosier state and mere miles from Clay City I find it remarkable that such an iconic and desirable car as this Sprite can be found in such an isolated location. $5K is a steal for this gem. The only thing keeping me from getting a loan from Lightstream tomorrow morning is my overweening desire to remain married.

    This Sprite is a honey and the only mystery is how it got to where it is.

    Like 11
  3. Fox owner

    In the days of my youth. I met a girl in California who drove one of these. I had experience driving a stick in my 1964 Grand Prix, so I drove hers one time. She started yelling at me for trying to speed shift the car like what I was used to. Had no idea these things were so delicate.

    Like 6
    • Kelly Breen

      I have the 1500 and although I could come up with some adjectives for it “delicate” does not come to mind.
      I only use the clutch for first and reverse. All the other gears are power shifted up and down.
      It has not given a hint of protest.

      Like 3
  4. Dave at OldSchool Restorations DaveMember


    Like 4
  5. Thomas L. Kaufman

    I’d love to own it, but at 76 yrs old, I don’t feel like exerting the effort to restore it or even make it a daily driver. I used to live in Brazil, In, which is about 20 miles north of Clay City on SR 59.

    Like 5
  6. Joe Parsons

    I bought a 1959 bugeye in 1966, while I was in college. I paid $150 for a car that barely ran.

    Three months later, it was an H-Production racer and autocross weapon.

    Man, I still wish I still had it!

    Like 8
  7. Wes Holliday

    You learn to do a real slick,and fast double-clutch, I had two of these in my younger days, really nice $300 cars. Thanks for the memories!

    Like 7

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