In Need of Healeying: 1958 Austin Healey Sprite

Andrew TannerBy Andrew Tanner

There are certain cars that draw a crowd no matter where you are, and the Austin Healey “bugeye” Sprite is one of them. Cars like these get smiles and waves on a daily basis, even from “non-car” people. This 1958 Sprite is featured in an eye-catching yellow that is sure to attract affectionate attention. This particular Sprite is fairly rough, but we have seen worse! This is an excellent starting point for a restoration, but for $3,200 it might be a tough sell. Find it here on Craigslist in North Carolina. 

The interior looks to be there, but like the rest of the car it is in rough shape. If all of the parts are installed, this could still be an easy restoration. Victoria British, a division of LMC Truck, has a catalog for these Sprites and many if not all of the parts can be had through them. Because of the popularity of Sprites, part sourcing has become relatively easy and will not be the most challenging aspect of this restoration. Nonetheless, the more parts that come with the car the better!

Since sourcing parts for this car won’t be an issue, something has to be. Rust repair will be the most time-consuming part of restoring this car, and if the exterior has rust as shown in this photo then the underside is likely just as bad. Small British cars are not known for their resilience against rust. To quote the seller, “Does have rust but nothing that can’t be repaired.” While that is probably true, it doesn’t exactly tell us anything about the extent of the rust.

From the ad, “Motor and transmission are still in the car,” and with a $3,200 price tag I would certainly hope so. This Sprite does not run, drive, or stop, however it does roll easily. Nonetheless, this Sprite looks to be mostly complete and if it could be had for the right price someone could make a really nice car out of this! The other issue with the car is that it does not have a title, only a bill of sale. North Carolina, where the car is located, requires titles for all vehicles however the seller states that this Sprite came from Georgia. The state of Georgia does not issue titles for antique vehicles of a certain age, so this is a reasonable explanation. The process to obtain a title varies from state to state, and depending where the car finds a new home the lack of a title could be a problem. Would you take this project on? Or hold out to spend a little more money on something nicer?

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Comments

  1. 86 Vette Convertible

    College friend had a bug eyed Sprite. Never drove it but rode in it a few times, when it was running it was fun. Then again it had a fair amount of down time.

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  2. Ben Kline

    I have it’s MG Midget twin and can say they are easy to work on and get parts. The price seems a bit steep for it’s condition and non-running state.

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    • Howard A Member

      Hi Ben, Midgets were fun little cars too, but to be clear, MG, to my knowledge, never made a “Bugeye” Midget. They came out in ’61 and the Sprite changed the front end, like the Midget, and were the same car, (except grill), hence the name “Sprigets”.

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  3. Bob

    I think this is a little pricey, considering its condition, but I do like those little toys.
    I had a 61 Sprite, and it was truly a fun car. I put the Healey headers on it, lightened the flywheel, and installed a high performance camshaft and it was the terror of all the TRs and MGs.
    The problem was, that the cars were made out of low grade material, and I broke a crankshaft and a rear axle, but it was easy to repair and parts were inexpensive.
    It was worth it.

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  4. Al

    The headlines are beginning to be PUNishing. Good Got.

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    • Andrew Tanner Andrew Tanner Staff

      Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself!

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  5. Howard A Member

    Interest for these is waning, as well. These cars were made for a time, when you meandered down some country 2 lane, enjoying nature, as opposed to today, barreling down the 6 six lane, all pissed off and late. Today, with fewer and fewer country 2 lanes ( don’t get me wrong, I’m all for divided highways) cars like this are a downright danger on the highway. I see it all the time on my motorcycle, but nice thing is, my motorcycle is right at home with the SUV’s, and I can leave them in the dust, if I want to. They were fun cars, for their time, but they need constant attention, something I just don’t think people are willing to do today for a toy that doesn’t cruise at 80 mph.

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    • Thomas

      My 948 cc Sprite could get up to 80 (slowly) and did fine on Los Angeles freeways.

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      • Brian M

        The fastest I was ever able to go on Los Angeles freeway was around 40mph immediately after the accident scene and before the next one. My experience may be limited but mostly what I found were four to eight lane parking lots. Getting used to the traffic lights on the entry ramps was a tad challenging since I’m accustomed to getting up to travel speed before merging, not sitting stopped awaiting a good Samaritan who’s not in a hurry to let me in. Currently building a MK II Sprite for my 40 y/o son. Trading the 1098 for a 1275 out of a 74 Midget. Should go pretty well. Had to replace both floor pans and both rocker panels as they were badly rusted and, of course, structural since this is a unitbody vehicle. Of course it won’t be able to keep up with the TR3 but he wouldn’t want to race the old man anyway.

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  6. charlie

    Friend had one, college days, 60’s, supercharged. That made it go. Three of us fit, somehow, but no seat belt for the 3rd. Young and foolish, but we all survived.

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  7. Stu

    I was 13-years-old in 1969, when my father gave me permission to buy my first car, a rust-free, low-mileage 1962 Austin Healy Sprite MkII in baby blue with the 948cc engine for a whopping $150. The sale included 2 spare engine blocks and many miscellaneous parts that had to be put back on the car. With my father’s help, the car was made road worthy with fresh yellow paint, interior, top and mechanical work. The car took corners like it was on rails, but had a VERY difficult time on hills. On a hot day, the engine would start to overheat if you stood too long waiting for the light to change. The only photo I have was taken right after my high school graduation. I wish that I had a place to store it all these years. When I was 19, I sold the car for $600 to a professor at Wells College in NY. He said that he was going to race it (I assume at Watkins Glenn). I wish I could track the car and/or buyer to know it’s history.

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