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Frown Upside Down: 1961 Austin-Healy Sprite


Say what you will about it, this car still wears its factory-installed smile which age, green paint or even fire damage has not diminished. It’s located in St. Louis, Missouri, and appears here on craigslist. The asking price is $1,500, and here at Barn Finds we’re awaiting your opinions to file with this car here in our “What’s It Worth?” department.


This one’s a little different from the normal burnt offerings from your typical garage or barn fire; this one is burned down low, which suggests to me that it was possibly sitting outside and got caught in a brush fire, or maybe just gasoline spilled on the floor. Either way, it left a mark.


It looks like it maybe hasn’t been in running condition in quite some time, but that could just be the fire damage talking.


The interior isn’t putting me in much of a happy place either, but at least it looks like it didn’t burn. The seller reminds us there are several places online from which parts may be procured, but it’s possible this car would be a better location to take parts from rather than add them to. Would it cost more to restore than it’s worth? Probably. But I guess the final determination would be made by a true assessment of the structural rust found within, and underneath.


This shot of the underside of the hood is probably intended to help us make that decision.


Have you seen the television commercial for US Bank which features a man who is apparently dreaming of owning a sexy silver sports car? It’s a Bugeye Sprite just like this one….well, maybe not just like this one…

But you get the idea. Do you think this frown can be turned upside down, or is that where you’d be if you attempted such an ambitious restoration project? US Bank is one of many possible establishments you might do business with if you intended to make this car look like that one. Is this a good parts car?  Or should they have just let it finish burning? Now it’s time to tell us what you think.


  1. Alan (Michigan)


    Hard to think of this car in any terms other than a complete tear-down and redo.
    No way I’d consider making it run and driving it looking like this.

    Vandals have had at the glass. So disheartening, and I have never understood the “if it shatters, break it” attitude.

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  2. Dave Wright

    H production

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    • jim s


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    • George

      looks like a vintage racer in the rough. 948 cc and all the metal is there. Probably put it on hte track cheaper than a total restore.

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  3. Patrick McC.

    I believe it will (should) be restored. I am fond of bug eyes but it is disappointing how more expensive they are compared to mark II sprites and midgets because of a simple body style change. A part of me wishes that equal amounts of bug eyes and later model sprites/midgets were made so that people who currently wish to buy a bug eye don’t feel like they’re settling for a later bodied car because of the price. What “bugs” me is when people put the bug eye font end on a midget…

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  4. Zaphod

    Tough call. Metal could have lost its temper, then you’ll never stop the bending and rust. I’d say parts.

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  5. Charles

    It looks like it died happy.

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  6. Joe Nose

    Fold along the scorched line and discard in an appropriate container.

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  7. Rspcharger Rspcharger

    Based on the dollars really nice ones have been going for (>$20 K), I’d have to agree with those who are Calling Dr. Death.

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  8. jim s

    listing is now down.

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  9. Mark P

    This car reminds me of a video seen recently online. It was a malnourished dog left dying in the street. So bad that it looked as flat as a pancake lying on the street, yet when the people taking the video approached it, it still tried to wag its tail. This car’s been abused and burned and is still smiling. The dog was rescued and in the last bit of the video was shown fairly healthy and running around.

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  10. kelley

    There’s something about burnt body panels, they don’t respond to prep and/or finish very well……….

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  11. bcavileer

    Lots of bits there, brit bits probably worth sorting out. Worth a nickle (500 bucks) but nothing more.
    Would be a labor of love, not of economics.

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  12. rangeroger

    Save it, Save it, Save it.
    It surprises me how intact it really is, considering the fire. These are relatively easy to work on and parts are readily available. Strip everything off, soft media blast the body, and have at it.
    If the engine is totally gone, drop in a 1275 with ribcase tranny, and off into the sunrise. Also, if you go H Prod, you can still use the 1275. Just have to 50lbs weight.

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  13. david

    Agree with rangeroger above. Not a great deal different than my BE. Do the work yourself and be $$ ahead.

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  14. Terry

    I restored a Bugeye that was about as rough at this one. There’s nothing more fun to drive! Later Sprites and Midgets are nearly the same driving experience; they just don’t get as much attention.

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  15. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    Looks like someone might have wrenched that windshield right off the car, judging by the pry mark on the cowl. I’d be concerned about hidden rust from how the flames were extinguished. Not a $1500 car.

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