One Owner Bugeye: 1960 Austin Healey Sprite

When does a car’s history trump its condition? This 1960 Austin Healey “Bugeye” Sprite has been with one family since new and retains its numbers-matching engine, but it will need extensive metal work to return to road-going use. The Bugeye is obviously a classic, and these cars are still being saved and restored. The question is, do you want to spend the untold thousands of dollars (or labor hours) necessary to replace the lower sills and what sounds like the entire floorplan to bring it back to life. The seller claims to have good metal available, so perhaps there’s a package deal involving the car and necessary restoration parts that can come together. Find the Austin-Healey here on eBay with one bid to $1,295 and no reserve.

The Sprite is fairly rough all the way around, with other body damage besides the rust to contend with. The rear driver’s side fender is bashed in, likely past the point of reasonable repair, and the edges of both front fenders show damage as well. The rear decklid looks fairly straight, but it’s clear no single panel has emerged from years of storage unscathed. The Sprite strikes me as the kind of project car that was rusty when it was parked but perhaps not heavily damaged, and then years of careless storage caused for the dents and dings to materialize as the car shifted lower and lower on the owner’s priority scale.

It is still largely complete, and that’s perhaps the best feature it has going for it. The glass and window frames are straight and seemingly rust-free, and the interior – while clearly tired – is all there. The original radio is still in the dash, and all gauges are present and accounted for. The door panels look savable, albeit with sagging map pockets. The steering wheel and gear shift knob are original as well, so the next owner will at least have good cores of interior components to work with should they decide to embark on a full restoration. Is that the end game with this Sprit, or is it too far gone to justify? The original title will accompany the sale, so perhaps an ambitious Sprite fan is willing to take this on due to the provenance being somewhat healthy.

As you can see, in addition to the massive dent, this panel is hiding all sorts of secrets. The Sprit was purchased and titled on March 14, 1961, and remained in the same family ownership ever since. The seller is located in Branford, Connecticut, so it seems likely this is a long-time New England car that was driven like any other daily driver and put away wet once the family was done with it. The original color is noted as being Leaf Green, which is a great look for one of these cars. What do you think: is this Bugeye worthy of being restored, or is it destined to be a parts car for the next owner?

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Comments

  1. sir_mike

    I think that is the worse one I have ever seen.How can a one owner car be in such bad shape???

    Like 15
    • Steveo

      Some people just don’t deserve to have nice things.

      Like 9
  2. Scott Marquis

    If this was my “One Owner” ride, I’d never admit it. No value-add here.

    Like 12
  3. Derek

    Rear spring mounts; quarter-elliptic, ahead of the axle…

    Like 4
    • Nick

      Rebuilding those boxes/mounts is a terrible job. Probably best done by disassembling the whole thing and creating a jig/rotisserie. This would have to be a labor of love or self-flagellation.

      Like 1
  4. jimbunte jimbunte Member

    This “one owner” should be full-on ashamed. This bugeye just breaks my heart.

    Like 9
  5. Rodney - GSM

    Missing a word in the “One Owner” description. That would be “Careless”.

    Like 9
  6. bobhess bobhess Member

    It would take another car to restore this one. Quarters are not available, no real parts available to fix the front end, parts are available to weld up your own chassis but without a decent body to put over it why bother. Cost up near the moon. Every single panel needed is going to have to be welded in. Mechanical parts are getting hard to find so I vote this car should be put into the parts supply line before everything falls apart.

    Like 10
  7. Cadmanls Member

    Wonder if there was some alcohol involved. Poor car has been so abused.

    Like 2
  8. Dan

    Lots more info and photos on bugeyeguy.com…this one is really beyond restoration…so much rust. But I suppose anything’s possible.

    Like 5
  9. Driveinstile Member

    Too Funny…..
    And sadly……..
    Too true

    Like 1
  10. Matt

    Don’t believe these ever came with a radio

    Like 1
    • David

      Optional extra!

  11. JACKinNWPA JACKinNWPA Member

    These cars have always had the happiest faces ever however to quote Harry Chapin “A smile seemed to come to her slowly
    It was a sad smile, just the same”.

    Like 3
  12. bobhess bobhess Member

    Matt… They never came with a radio but did have the cutout behind the vinyl dash covering. My ’62 Midget had the same dash and I never found a radio that fit the cutout. Looked at the original dash off the ’60 chassis we are making a race car out of and still can’t imagine what radio fits in the cutout.

    Like 5
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      I have a small AM radio out of a Fiat that fit the early flat dash I salvaged a few years back, Bob. Welcome to it! It’s a pushbutton model and take 8 ohm speaker. Probably 5 watts of awesome monophonic sound.

      Like 2
  13. Howard A Member

    Flintstones, meet the Flintstones,,,a snow tire on a Sprite? That’s right, proof positive these were driven through all kinds of weather. For someone, this was their “wheels”, not for it’s sportiness, it’s all they could afford. Some great parts here, but you’ll help put another level on Moss’ house trying to restore it.

    Like 4
  14. John Newell

    That car still has enough good sheet metal for my shop to be able to make new body parts. We make parts to restore AMCs in worse shape than that.

    Like 4
  15. Danny V. Johnson

    Short answer: That’s a part car and it’s still too much money.

    Like 2
  16. Swolf Member

    I’d love to meet the family that owns this. I hope they are embarrassed by the above comments but somehow I doubt that they are.

  17. Tim Bates

    The owner ought to pay someone to take it away and love it.

  18. John Newell

    Lots of snide remarks have been made about the family who saved this car without any idea of the circumstances that led to its current state.

    You are all making assumptions that most likely would not be made if the facts were known. I hope none of you are ever called for jury duty. You have a lynch mob mentality without even forming a mob. Pretty disgusting even if you are right.

    Like 7
  19. Allen Member

    Bugeye body panels – even complete body shells are available. This is not an endorsement as I know nothing of these folks, but at least they are there: http://www.sebringsprite.com/bodyshell.html. Their complete Bugeye body shell is priced at £7835. There are also less-complete versions available. British Motor Heritage also offer Bugeye panels.

    No fodder here for folks who want to restore for a profit, but for a diehard hobbyist like me, this thing is possible. I’m working on a ’65 MGB that was in no better condition when I started on it many years ago. Of course I got it for $400. Although $1295 these days is not a bad price for a $400 car…

    Like 2
  20. bobhess bobhess Member

    Agree Allen. We picked up a ’60 years ago that was close to as rusty as this one. Paid almost nothing for it but we needed a chassis for a race car so we started out on a 3 year build. Over 260 hours of welding which included the rocker panels, floors, rear spring mounts, etc. Bonnet in bad shape so we went fiberglass. Point… The new bodies are a big money hit by the time you get them here. Most of the inner chassis panels are British Motor Heritage pieces sold though Moss Motors. But how much work do you want to do and do you have time to finish it. The ’60 Porsche roadster race car we restored in the ’80s took four years. Beautiful when finished but a big chunk out of our lives. Agree with John N. Not enough information to comment on the sellers. Too much of that these days.

    Like 2
  21. Dave at OldSchool Restorations Dave at OldSchool Restorations North Alabama Member

    … This is not even a good “Parts Car”… ….

    Panels are available, but there isn’t much good metal to weld to… once you blast it to bare metal.

    Like 2
  22. Beignet atthe Beach

    Our High School orchestra/music instructor drove his Bug Eye to work every day,…with no top, spring/summer/fall/winter. We were in Rockland County NY, not known for MILD winter. Seeing his powder blue Sprite zip into the school parking lot back in the 70s, EVEN IN THE rain!..was always a smile sender. His was “rough” but not this ROUGH…He had an excuse for the trashing his bug got with only a toneau cover in the frigid/rain weather..he was restoring a Jag, and my memory can’t recall if it was a xk140 or 150… But his little beat up Sprite , allowed me to get over my adolescent fear of British Autos… I hope this little car survives..even as a “runner”

    Like 5
    • NICK OWEN

      sir, color name wuz, iris blue…bought new, 61, stage 5…eng # 9cuh40178..h=hi comp, dual abarth exhaust…drove home, 90 mi, had no oil in it…rest is very, very sad story…later, 58 100/6, green/cream, hardtop, overdrive..be blessed, grateful, prepared…62 alpine, 62 lotus super 7, formula vee

  23. t-bone BOB

    Located in:
    Branford, Connecticut

    • bone

      That explains a lot , New England is a major source for tin worm infestation

  24. Capt RD

    The seller is a well recognized authority on Bugeyes — read the site!!

    http://www.bugeyeguy.com

    Like 1
  25. bobhess bobhess Member

    Right you are Capt RD. Nice looking operation with nice looking cars. Surprised they didn’t just pull the parts and put them on the shelves.

    Like 1
  26. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Someone put the rear bumper from a later Spridget on this car and of course it looks totally out of place. The bugeyeguy site is bookmarked for me, as I go through sorting my third MG Midget driver project. They are very honest in their description and the price is fair. For a one owner car, the value for me would be seeing the original title signed over to me and maybe a album full of photos when the car was in it’s prime. Right now, I just see years of neglect and corners that were cut to keep the thing on the road.

    Like 2
  27. Gary

    Like a lot of cars, sheet metal is available for these cars. A complete shell is over 8k. That’s just the start. Motor, trans and diff overhaul, wiring harness, interior kit, top, every body panel available to repair this tub or buy a new tub for 8k. You will have 40k in a 20k car when you are done. I always laugh, not being mean but from wonder when I see “50k invested, will take 15k or best offer” Back in 1998, just after my wife passed, I almost bought the most gorgeous 64 Plymouth Fury altered wheelbase Pro Street car, round tube Pro Stock chassis, 500″ Keith Black aluminum dual plug Hemi on alcohol, 14-71 blower, Lenco trans, the works. The gentleman told me he had put approx 200 miles on it and it scared him to death. Whether or not that was the reason for the sale I don’t remember but I do remember he said he had $150,000.00 into the build and wanted $45,000.00 for it. I didn’t buy it as my Dad brought me back to reality and said you won’t get to the corner and back without filling it up. I always thought what a waste of his money that was. My late wife said it best, ” Honey, you can’t save them all”

    Like 3
    • John Newell

      The fun of putting a car like that together is worth the price of admission. It’s a lot better than TV.

      If you had to pay for that kind of entertainment you’d pay the same.

      Like 3
      • Allen Member

        Yes, yes, yes, John Newell. If you don’t love learning and doing the work, don’t mess with something like thiis – because that’s pretty much the whole reward. I helps if you’re just learning and have to work slowly. Example: back in 1995 I laid out USD$1600 in body panels (at today’s prices, more like $6500) for my badly-rusted ’65 MGB. It took me five years to get ‘em all welded on the car. So, that’s $320 per year – $26 per month – less than a dollar a day. Had I been professional-grade, I would have completed the same work in a week or two and I’d have an expensive hobby. But at my level, it’s a cheap hobby.

        But ya gotta love the process – at least as much as the product! In a way, I don’t understand guys who hire somebody to restore their cars for them. At once, they have hundreds of dollars per hour going up in smoke; they get none of the pleasures, and if the car turns out well – none of the bragging rights. So what’s the fun in that?

        When I’m done with a car, I do have something of tangible value – although not comparable with the high costs. But furthermore, I have something of INtangible value – it has to do with a wonderful and joyous life experience; something passive entertainment like TV doesn’t even try to offer.

        When I’m done with one, of course I have to start on another. I’ll learn more, and I’ll set higher standards for myself. And then there’s that experience at the car show; somebody comes up, full of admiration: “You do this yourself?” they ask.

        “Yup!”

        Like 2
  28. bobhess bobhess Member

    Thanks Little_Cars for the radio offer. Don’t really need it in a race car. We use the stock dashboard as a form to make fiberglass dashboards. The last one we built we formed the right hand side to match the Healey 100 only narrower so we could get to the electronics under the dash area. Appreciate the gesture.

    Like 1
  29. Randy

    To get to be in that condition I’ll bet that each generation of the family used it for a driver training vehicle.

    I imagine a lot of driver education lessons were learned by the looks of the car now — but maybe the family ‘tree’ has ended and is no longer needed for this purpose.

    Randy

    Like 1
  30. matt

    Yeah Gary,
    My Dad said that to me as well.
    It is hard to shake the thought of bringing a car back from so much need…

  31. david silberkleit

    At Bugeyeguy, our job since we opened our doors in 2007, (and now 328 rescued and improved Bugeyes later), has been to keep these cars alive. This one would have been sent to scrap 10 years ago, (maybe even five years ago). But now, she represents a mostly complete car that can come back to life when placed with the right new owner.

    Rather than judge the prior owner for their lack of care of this car, perhaps you might invest that energy to help us find a tech school that would learn the craft on a project such as this. Help us find a father and daughter looking for a great learning experience. Help us find a mentor with the skills (which are plentiful and evident in this audience) who would be willing to teach neighborhood kids something other than how to get to the next round of Fortnight.

    If our hobby is to survive, we need more educational efforts, and where better to start than on a car like this one? Remember your first car, when you bought something that looked kinda like this and made it work? You’re here because you started back then with one of these.

    Maybe we’ll have a stronger community, with better parts availability, and in general better resources if we all try to remember that we are all responsible for preservation of the hobby we all love. Attacking this car serves no one.

    If you want to see what we did with a Bugeye in far worse shape than this one, check out the link below:

    https://www.bugeyeguy.com/2020/04/bugeye-sprite-evangelist/

    This car is now entombed in the lobby of a new condo building in Harrison, New Jersey, where countless Millennials (the target consumer for this rental property) will be introduced to these wonderful cars. That project car will never drive again, but since it literally has a high-rise built around it and is therefore parked for the long haul, it will forever help create new fans, new users, future owners, and if nothing else, more instagram posts to help keep our passion alive.

    Had that car (which we dragged out of the woods in Boston) been scrapped, that particular evangelist would never have come to life. That car too was a massive project. And it will pay dividends to our hobby for generations to come.

    Buy this green car and make it a sign post for your building or make it a sculpture, or make it run and drive and put it on the road. But to dismiss it is missing the point. All we did here was present another Bugeye possibility. Given that this car already has four bids on EBAY, I am confident this one will do it’s job in one way or another. And we all benefit as a result.

    Like 5
    • CVPanther Member

      Brilliant insight, David, thanks for that.
      if only everyone had your attitude.

      Like 1
  32. bobhess bobhess Member

    Go David!

    Like 1
  33. t-bone BOB

    Ended: Oct 14, 2021 , 9:00PM
    Winning bid:US $1,445.00
    [ 6 bids ]

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