Engine Upgrade: 1958 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite

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This Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite is an early production example that looks like it has led a hard life. It could be a great project car, and the fresh motor that rests under the hood means that it should offer respectable performance once it hits the road once again. Included in the sale is a collection of parts that should help the buyer get this project rolling. Located in McKinney, Texas, you will find the Sprite listed for sale here on eBay. The BIN has been set at $4,900.

The Sprite is a pretty sorry sight in its current state. The green paint that it wears isn’t original. I can see a few spots that indicate that it rolled off the line finished in Speedwell Blue. This is an attractive shade and was only offered during the 1958 model year. Iris Blue replaced it in January of 1959. The body sports plenty of dings and dents, the worst of which can be seen in the right rear corner. This damage could be repaired, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the buyer chooses to replace this section entirely. There are also dents in the hood and the door on the passenger side, and while the hood could be repaired, I believe that a new door will be on the shopping list. There is also rust to be attended to in the floors, but the car does appear to be structurally sound.

Included in the sale is this collection of parts. There are replacement sections for the rusty floors, along with a spare windshield and side curtains. I’ve also spotted a few trim pieces, although new bumpers and badges will be required if the car is to be returned to its original appearance. The grille is present, but it is showing some rust. It would be worth investigating whether this could be restored because replacements sell for around $500. It looks like the frame for the convertible top is present, but it will need to be refurbished and a new top installed.

The engine bay of the Sprite would originally have housed a 948cc 4-cylinder engine, producing 48hp. This power would have found its way to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. The original engine has gone by the wayside, and in its place is an engine that the owner believes is a 1,275cc unit. This was rebuilt and bench-run before being slotted into the engine bay. It isn’t clear how long it has been since this work was completed, so we can hope that getting it firing won’t be a big job. It also isn’t clear what this engine’s heritage is, so we can only guess what sort of power increase it would provide. If its history can be traced to a later Sprite, then 65hp or more is a possibility. That means that it should also be able to eclipse the original 21.5-second ¼ mile ET.

The restoration work won’t end when the buyer shifts their focus to the interior because a full retrim will be on the cards. The upholstery would originally have been Blue, as this was the only combination offered with Speedwell Blue paint. Unfortunately, the dash has been cut, but if the next owner isn’t that worried about originality, maybe the hole could be filled with a CD player. A trim kit would be the obvious answer to returning this car to its best, and complete kits are available for approximately $1,100. This includes all of the clips and screws required, and once installed, would make the interior appear factory fresh.

When viewed from the front without a bumper, the Bugeye Sprite appears to have a face that cruel people would say that only a mother could love. The reality is that there is a growing band of enthusiasts who seek these little classics, not because they are rockets in a straight line, but because they are engaging to drive. They are also firm favorites amongst those people who fancy a spot of DIY. They are a simple car to work on, and parts are readily available and affordable. Fifty-six people are watching this listing, and you have to wonder whether one of them is preparing to hit the BIN button and score themselves an early Christmas present. That is unless you beat them to the punch.

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    The engine might be the best part of the car as the amount of body rust and damage puts this car in the “pay to haul it off” category. All that rocker rust pretty much says the rear spring perches aren’t any good either. Not a good one at all to put more than $500 into, unknown “new” engine and all. Bet the rust hole in the right side of the firewall was a thrill to the passenger in the rain.

    Like 4
  2. angryjonny

    $4800 is way too high, plenty of less rusty fish in the sea.

    Like 5
  3. wizzy

    I paid $3300 for mine at an estate sale two years ago, with a hardtop, and it was a running / driving car in much, much better condition, though needing a restoration. $4900.00 is WAY too high for this as is. Maybe $2000., maybe less, is closer to the truth. Some of those parts on the ground don’t belong to a Sprite.
    Parts are very cheap and there is a huge community of Mk 1 Sprite owners that have loads of used parts as well, including me, and a very supportive club or two, or three, all over the world.

    Like 3
  4. Little_Cars

    A couple things to note 1) a new front bumper isn’t a dealbreaker if the car didn’t come with one originally. Many owners would remove them later in life also 2) the roughly hacked out rectangle in an otherwise unmolested dash was stupid for some previous owner to do. Requires carefully welding and grinding a new square of metal then crinkle finish added. Nobody can hear the radio in these cars anyway.

    Like 3
  5. chrlsful

    2 Healey’s – where’s the Nash-Healey?
    I all ways toss back’n forth “Early or later grill?”, never can answ


    When drivin/tinkerin w/these (teens/20s) I told my friends “Lill car lill problems, big car big problems.” Still believe it.

    Like 0
    • Little_Cars

      @chrlsful that comment made me laugh. Note my screen name. Working on Little Cars over the past decade plus has been bittersweet. As my projects become dimensionally smaller, and most completed repairs done with chump change compared to the big ‘Murican cars I used to own, the quantity of problems has increased exponentially. I attribute that to the age of the cars. Something a lot of people don’t think about when they’re not working on old cars 100% of the time. Everything ages not just moving parts. LOL

      Like 1
  6. dogwater

    Hey step on that bug……

    Like 0

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