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Bugeye Bargain: 1959 Austin-Healey Sprite Project

1959 Austin Healey Sprite

The Bugeye is an elusive creature… At least to me it is. See, I’ve been hunting for an early Sprite for a while now and have come across a few seemingly affordable projects, but every one of them has been plagued with problems. So, I continue my search, optimistic that I will one day find a solid Sprite at an affordable price. This one tempted me, but I’m not sure if it’s the one for me so I want to present it for your guy’s evaluation. It’s located in Clovis, California and is listed here in eBay for $3,500 or best offer.

Racked Winsheild

In an attempt to mimic the look of Big Healey’s tilting windscreen, someone has angled the glass back with some new mounts. I actually like the look so that would probably stay as long as it doesn’t interfere with forward vision.

Solid Floors

There is a little rust in the rear quarters, but the floors appear to be solid. Everything has been stripped out of the inside, but there wasn’t much to these to begin with. These were meant to be cheap little sports cars so they were pretty basic.

Seats and trim

The sale includes some of the trim, a bumper, a pair of aftermarket seats, and even a roll bar! I want to get one of these little guys to enter in local autocross and hill climb events and it looks like this one was well on its way.


Not that I’d be winning any races. With only 948 cubic centimeters of displacement in that tiny four-cylinder, this isn’t exactly a race car. It is small and light though so it can still be a ton of fun to drive through the twisties. Besides, I’ve claimed to be a race car driver – I just want to have some fun!

Car Number

This one even has the number plate that always seems to go missing! Some guys try to title these with the number in the door jam, but that’s a good sign of a shady past. You can track down the vin from British Heritage, but it’s a pain, so the clear title and present vin make this project more desirable.

No trunk

Hmm. It’s a good thing this one isn’t closer because I’d be tempted to make an offer tonight. The added cost of shipping it over here doesn’t make sense though because there are still a lot of little bits missing. The search continues, but I’m sure this little Bugeye will make someone very happy!


  1. Dave Wright

    These were race cars……..they dominated H production for ever. I think that has added value to them. Great little cars really fun to drive at speed with racing tires. Tons of racing mods available too.

    Like 1
  2. Yellowjax Member

    Any bugeye is worth saving. Well almost any. Drove one for a week along time ago…..no trunk…..no first gear syncro ( may have miss spelled that). But very fun none the less.

    Like 0
  3. Wayne

    Minor rust only? Mmm. Rose coloured glasses?

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    • Dave Wright

      Again…… simple cars that everything is available for. Easy fix.

      Like 0
  4. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    Jesse, I can’t keep you and Josh straight in my mind. Where are you located ???


    Like 0
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      We were in Wyoming, but have been in Boise, Idaho for a while now.

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      • Dave Wright

        You are only a day’s drive from Clovis…….not a big problem either.

        Like 0
      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        It’s not just the distance Dave. This one is priced at the top of what it’s worth so after transporting it, I’d be in further than I’d want to be for what’s here.

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      • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

        who is in North Carolina ???

        Anyway, I bought my first bugeye new in 1959, added a Judson a bit later. pics are on the BE Forum
        I have a bugeye race car in the shop..all stripped to bare metal,

        Last raced by Karl Flessa . Disc brakes in front. We added stiffeners and jack points like I had on my ’59. SCCA logbook, and Karl’s notes as to the engine, etc. We replaced a dented rocker with a new panel, and welded in metal in the typical rear fender spot. NO bondo, just clean bare metal.

        Vintage style SCCA rollbar,

        I’ll get some pictures together and send them for an exclusive………. I still have too many cars, and will sell it if the price is fair

        Like 0
      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        You’re probably thinking of Jamie. That one sounds like something I’d be interested in. Excited to see it. I’ll check out the photos of your first bugeye. Thanks Dave!

        Like 0
      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Dave, that’s me in North Carolina 🙂

        Like 0
  5. Don E

    Cheaper to buy it done. I’m looking for one also.

    Like 0
  6. Blueprint

    Jesse, I bet you’d like this one:


    2500$ so far, and a bigger engine under the bonnet…and a spare one!

    Like 0
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I do like that one, but I doubt it will sell for a reasonable price.

      Like 0
      • Blueprint

        Not moving much so far, and it’s “no reserve” – keep an eye on it!

        Like 0
      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        @Blueprint – I watched that Sprite on BaT just to see what it would go for. Well, $6,300 plus a 5% buyers premium seems steep to me considering that it has rust, the engine needs rebuilt, and it’s yellow!

        Like 0
  7. Amicus

    Major checkpoint is where 1/4 eliptics meet tub as that holds whole back end mechanicals. Go for the yellow with the 1275 and ribbed gearcase ’til gets silly as likely will do as lots of time left. Old racecars usually have so much stripped out only use is as racecars unless you have really really deep pockets and want a showcar.

    Like 0
  8. Dolphin Member

    I like these—-my first sportscar, about $1,850 brand new. But this one needs more than everything if you want to bring it back to stock and looking good. They are selling at auction at a median price of $20K, and for less elsewhere. So unless you have a stash of original parts already I think you would be under water even if you don’t charge yourself for the labor. And if the rear quarter elliptic spring mounts are bad it will be worse, unfortunately.

    Like 0
  9. Bob Hess

    Looks a lot better than the tub we made one of our race cars out of. Not sure how we got in the hill climb mode….

    Like 0
  10. roundhouse

    I sold a completed project Bugeye a couple of years ago for $8000. New paint, engine rebuilt, fresh interior, new top and side curtains. Asking price and selling price vary widely on these.

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  11. Ric Parrish

    My buddy had a bug eye and I had a TR-3 on Guam in 1968. We overhauled and painted them in the Navy hobby shop on the Naval Station. We were Army guys in a sea of white hats. After putting the best enamel job of my painting career on the TR-3, it was immediately stolen and stashed in the jungle. That’s the short version of the story.

    Like 0
  12. Brian

    My first car bought one before passing my driving test, after many years longing for another one I bought another last year. Modified slightly with 1098cc engine and front disc brakes, such a great little car to drive, makes me feel young again very time I get behind the wheel.

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  13. Chris A.

    A close family friend, all 6’4″ and 240 lbs, was moving from NJ to Rochester, NY in February 1969. He loaded his Bugeye with part of his clock collection and drove to Rochester rather than putting it on the moving van. Ski face mask, scarf and down filled ski jacket as he didn’t have a top. He looked like a polar bear driving a kiddie wagon. Made it with no problems and with a life time supply of stories from the trip. As for Bugeyes, I’ve always thought the Speedwell front end conversion made them a good looking car.

    Like 0
  14. Terry

    I visited Phoenix in the mid 80s. Found a bugeye for sale. Ex H production car returned to the street. Car drove like a roller skate. Asking was $1200. Alas, the drive back to Wisconsin would have been very long in that car. Bought a Volvo 444 and drove it home instead. It was still a very long drive.

    Like 0
  15. Goran Lundberg

    How time flies! When I was living i London, England in the seventies I bought a -61 Frogeye (nickname used in Europe) for less than 200 dollars. Fully functional, probably matching numbers. I kept it for some time, but sold it to avoid tax and customs fees, which I then obviously found too discouraging with a loss (there’s car price development for you) before returning to my native Sweden. And may I point out: in those days people were racing Frogeyes and other small British sports cars in parking lots on weekends, completly ruining any mechanical property they ever had and then just scraping them. What can I say? Those were the worst of times…

    Like 0

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