Feeling Spritely? Austin-Healey Sprites

Austin Healey Sprites

It’s safe to say that the 1958-61 Austin-Healey Sprite Mark I “Bugeye” (or “Frogeye” for our British readers) is one of the most beloved of all British sports cars. With its “cheeky grin” and great mix of simplicity and performance, Mark I Sprites have been winning friends and competitive events for over 50 years.  But what about the Mark II? Despite having an opening trunk, an easier-to-access hood and more power through improved breathing, the boxier Mark II has never had the following of the Mark I, and prices have stayed accordingly lower. This 1960 Mark I just aroused from slumber is located in Branford, Connecticut and is available here on eBay, as I write this at just under $5,000 with reserve not met.  The more sorted 1964 Mark II is located in Hermosa Beach, California and is listed here on eBay currently at $3,000, also with reserve not met.

1960 Austin Healey Sprite

Early Sprites were generally thrashed quite a bit and often show up highly modified. Surprisingly this one has been kept completely stock apart from the roll bar and an aftermarket shift knob. Offered by a reputable Bugeye specialist, the car has a California history from new and is in a rare beige color that looks white in pictures, but matches the car’s Heritage Certificate. There is no body filler evident, and while a full repaint would be necessary to restore the car, preservation work and keeping the original paint would appeal to some. Videos are available on the vendor’s site that showcase the car’s originality. Some rust repair is required on the driver’s side floorpan, but that’s the only necessary structural repair.

1964 Austin Healey Sprite

I’m a fan of the later Sprites, as my first car was a 1969 model my father and I started to restore when I was 12 years old. This one has shiny paint and a cool blue stripe, but there are a few waves on the lower body panels that have me wondering about the metal underneath. It’s probably worth questioning the seller about previous body work or arranging to check the car out in person. I can attest to how easy these are to work on, though, and parts are readily available through marque specialists. While the side curtains of the Mark I & II may not appeal to some, the extra-clean look with the top down is nice. Mark III and subsequent Spridgets (The MG Midget was a Sprite with a different grille and badging) added roll down and vent windows and a more substantial top.

1960 Austin Healey Sprite Interior1964 Austin Healey Sprite Interior

Interiors are representative of the cars’ overall condition. The Mark I is terrifically original but will need everything replaced if you choose to restore it, while the Mark II is much nicer, although the aftermarket radio clashes with the rest of the car to me. It comes down to your taste in Sprites and originality—do you have a preference?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. jim s

    i think both are going to need to be rebuilt. the 64 has nice paint and interior but what i see in the under the hood photo is a lot of work not done. and the work should have been done before it was painted. that makes me wonder what else was not done. the bugeye seller works on these judging by the back ground of the photos and other item for sale. so why are they selling it instead of restoring it? of the 2 i would pick the 64 just because it is what i had but in a midget.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      RE: the ’64 car… Yes indeed this shouts the same things that the Datsun did a week or two ago. Slather on the Bondo, give it a paint, and SELL!

      Well the concept is the same, I think, anyway. This car is much further along, and the interior looks nice in the photo. And the bodywork and paint are far superior to what was seen on the Datsun, but it is also far from perfect.

  2. Fred

    I’ve had both of these cars, both are fun, but I’d go with the later model, just to get the trunk and save a few bucks.

  3. Dolphin Member

    Mk1:
    Hmmm….lots of hard sell in this Ebay listing. Yes it’s a blue plate California car and it’s mostly unrusty, but you’re not going to detail the car back to useable condition. It might be ‘original’, but nobody would want to put their butt on all that filthy originality so it will need to be stripped bare and completely redone. The Bugeyeguys might have sold 146 bugeyes, but they are also looking like flippers here, which some people don’t take kindly to. Well, I guess the market will decide whether bidding for this car meets the reserve just like it always does.

    MkII:
    I’d rather have this one, maybe because I’ve already had a ’58 Sprite, so a Mk II might have a few more of the things that we expect in cars that the early Mk 1s don’t have. This is also a California car, and I’m guessing that I’d be driving way sooner with this one than with the Bugeye. If I could, I’d put a 3.5 Rover V8 in it like the one I saw at an autocross once….probably the most impressive Sprite I’ve ever seen.

  4. David Silberkleit

    If you want a non- Bugeye Sprite or Midget, there are tons of great choices, and square Sprites are a great deal, whether you go for the one posted here or one that is fully restored. Roll up windows on the last cars are a great enhancement, for example, but Bugeyes are worth quite a bit more, and one that has the correct numbers in beige with zero perforations on the rockers and fender bottoms is really rare. What irks me is that many listings claim rarity (like one I saw to today, “rare iris blue” while we have had 50 in Iris blue, not one in beige).

    Bugeyes are in a different league than Square Sprites, given the cult following and more vintage styling. They are significantly more collectible. If you are on a budget, a square Sprite is always going to be a better choice.

    @Jim s, Bugeyeguy is moving to a larger facility this spring and while we can certainly restore this car, I would prefer to have one less dismantled Bugeye to move, so we hope to sell this car complete.

    And @ dolphin, we run a business and sell cars to help us afford to keep a well-stocked Bugeye factory and pay a great staff of like-minded passionate car people. “Flipper” seems such a derogatory term. We’ve put several hundred videos on you tube for free that explain how to restore a bugeye, which have been watched by more than 1.2 million people. We work hard to filter the misrepresented cars out there and represent the cars we sell accurately. I wish this was more common in the classic car universe!

    • Dolphin Member

      David,
      I guess my comment came out like criticism instead of what I meant, which was that all kinds of people put cars out there for sale to make a few bucks and support their car habit, but mainly the pros—-like Beverly Hills C.C. and that other guy in Queens, NY whose name a dare not even mention on here—get the hard criticism. Yet we see all kinds of non-pro sellers putting rusted junk on Ebay and wanting a small ransom for it, yet those folks often get a pass or at least avoid the harsher end of the commentary. So if it’s organized, Bad, but if just a regular guy, mostly OK even if he’s dreaming about price.

      I admit I don’t get that difference. If someone wants to get more than they paid for a car, that’s the way it works. All you need to do is look at the history of collector cars over the past few decades, or even the past year in many cases. We have all sold cars in the past that would sell for way more than we got if we were selling them today. Live and let live.

      And my first sportscar was a ’58 Sprite, you know, the one with the patented Brit snaps along the top of the windshield that let the drips through. But I like originality I can use, and my only real quibble with your Mk 1 is that it has the kind of original interior that I just can’t use.

      Cheers.
      D

  5. david silberkleit

    No problem and thanks for your reply!

    I agree, we all see these cars going up in value, and each of us have tasted seller’s remorse. For us, we are forever at work to have a great business, and to produce that best parts (after swearing at many lousy reproductions). My wish (or fantasy) is that people would actually champion our sales given that while we have to profit to survive, we also do everything we can to help other owners and to keep these cars alive!

    BTW, these interiors are actually not very difficult to redo, we’ve done many of them, and like the rest of the car, they are pretty simple. I could imagine a new owner for this bugeye putting in new seats, panels and carpet, and driving the car as it looks today but with a new interior. I never like that concept when there are big holes in the rockers, but it would work on this car. Always hard to know where to stop, and that’s another reason why we left this car as is, so that the new owner could decide.

    Good to meet you!

  6. Adam

    That ’64 has been on and off ebay and craigslist since last August! It may be @ $3100, but notice that the reserve has not been met! Here is it on craig’s for $7500, lowered from a crazy $10k a while ago!
    http://losangeles.craigslist.org/wst/cto/4880339560.html

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