Instant Recognition: 1958 Austin-Healey “Bugeye” Sprite

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The “Bugeye” Sprite was introduced to the motoring world in 1958 and remained in production in this form until the Series II Sprite was launched in 1961. With the release of the Series II, that distinctive look disappeared, and a certain amount of character was lost with it. This particular Series I Sprite is an early production car from 1958, and while it appears to be complete, it is a restoration project that stalled many years ago. It is located in Coupeville, Washington, and is now listed for sale here on Craigslist. I have to thank Barn Finder Wyatt M-K for referring this little gem to us.

These are a cool little car, and thanks to that distinctive front, they are also one of the most instantly recognizable British sports cars of all time. The car was disassembled by a previous owner back in 1969, and how you see the car today is how it has been since then. Apart from the paint looking tired and what looks like a small spot of rust just in front of the door on the passenger side, the body looks to be quite solid. The owner doesn’t mention the state of the floors or frame, but the general condition of the body itself gives some cause for optimism. It is worth remembering that the Sprite represented the first mass-produced open sports car to be of unitary construction, so the condition of the floor is vitally important. There are few items such as light lenses that are missing, but like so many of these old British classics, either reproduction or NOS parts are relatively easy to locate. The car does come with a soft-top, and while it looks a little bit saggy in the photo, I think that it will be fine once it has been properly stretched over the frame. However, to do this properly the aftermarket rollbar that has been fitted to the car would need to be removed.

The interior is a bit of an unknown, as this is the only photo that we get. The seats look quite good, with only a bit of wear on the piping to look at. The steering wheel certainly isn’t standard, and there is no indication what other components or trim may, or may not, be present. The owner does say that a load of extra parts comes with the car, so hopefully, these will include the interior trim.

Powering the Sprite is the 948cc Austin A-Series engine, which is backed by a 4-speed manual transmission. The engine and transmission were removed from the car back in 1969, and their condition is completely unknown. The owner does suggest that it would probably be a good idea to assume that both will require a rebuild. With only 49hp at your disposal, there was little chance that you were going to threaten the land speed record in a Sprite, but they could still achieve a top speed of 83mph. The reality with a car like this little Sprite is that they were really made for cruising up and down narrow country lanes, and this is when a Sprite can be experienced at its best.

The owner of this Sprite is quite adamant about the fact that his asking price of $3,800 is firm, and that he will not ship the car to Abu Dhabi. While it is possible to find a reasonable “Bugeye” for around $13,000, it is not unusual to see really good ones selling for $30,000 or more. The attraction of these little cars is the fact that they really represent automotive engineering at its most basic. This makes the majority of maintenance and restoration tasks relatively straightforward and means that restoring a solid example can be a fairly cheap exercise. That potentially makes this car an attractive proposition at the asking price.

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Comments

  1. Show73 Show73Member

    Ad has been pulled.

    Like 1
  2. bobhess bobhessMember

    No frames on these cars. Full unit construction. Chassis strength comes from the enclosed left and right rockers, the tunnel, and the V shaped box that houses the rear suspension mounting behind the seats. We own two and they really are a designers success.

    Like 5
  3. bobhess bobhessMember

    Foot wells provide support for the spring perches and the engine mounting sub frame. One of the tightest open car chassis we’ve ever seen outside the Porsche 914.

    Like 2
  4. Sunbeamdon

    Gone! OH Heck! This one was in my back-yard – I could have rebuilt our honeymoon car.

    Like 2
  5. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Now that brings back memories. One of the guys I went to vo-tech with after HS had one: silver with a black interior. It was a fun car to wheel around town in.

    Like 1
  6. madbrit

    In the UK they were known as the “Frog Eyed Sprite”. People did manage to shoe horn other motors into them. Way back when, I heard of one that had a Chevy small block V8 installed, though I don’t recall every seeing it.

    Like 0
    • Joe P.

      A friend of our families growing up has had a white Bugeye Sprint with a strip going down the middle. I know for sure that car still has a 1970 LT1 Vette motor in it today, and has been sitting in storage for more than 40 years. I’m getting ready to turn 55 years old. And it just keeps sitting.

      Like 1
      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse MortensenStaff

        Tell them to send it in to Barn Finds!

        Like 2
  7. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    @bobhess

    Looks like your car is coming along nicely……..do you have a race engine yet ?

    Dave

    Like 0
  8. JAMES WHITAKER

    I WORKED ON ONE FOR A COUPLE YEARS BACK MID 70’s FOR N. YONNALLY RACING EMPORIA, KS.. RAN IT AROUND HALLETT R/C IN OKLA WHERE I MET P. L. NEWMAN.. NEWMAN WOULD GO RACE CARS TO UNWIND FROM HOLLYWOOD. WENT TO LAKE AFTON WICHITA, KS RACING WITH “DUCK” WADDELL…. FEW OTHER MEMORABLE PLACES AND PEOPLE.. PUT ENGINE TOGETHER IN LIVING ROOM ON A BOX IT WAS SO LIGHT, BUT RAN GOOD ! ! BALANCED/COUNTER BALANCED… THOSE WERE THE REAL DAYS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Like 0
  9. Capt RD

    A great resource for these!

    https://www.bugeyeguy.com/

    Like 1
  10. Winterhawk

    I saw this as soon as it was on CL. In my town and I was going to jump on it, but sanity set in after a couple beers. I’ve owned one before and knew what it was going to take to bring it back, and I also knew other needs would take a back seat, like finding a usable vintage tractor.

    Like 0
  11. angryjonny

    That rollbar makes me wonder if it was a Baja Racer at some point.

    Like 0
  12. TortMember

    Gone and with the asking price is understandable. Knew of one that I guy had back in early 60’s and have always wanted one since but some reason I can’t think of it never happened.

    Like 0
  13. Hcallaway

    At the end of a 3 year restoration. This is one of the few cars where complete correct restorations don’t affect the value. Disc Brakes and 1275 motors are almost expected.

    Like 0
  14. Hcallaway

    http://www.britishcarforum.com/bcf/showthread.php?104067-Richmond-VA-1960-Bugeye-Bringing-Miss-Eva-back-to-life

    This was a great car to start with and a great buy at that price if the tub and bonnet were as solid as they appeared.

    Like 0

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