Live Auctions

Pure Joy: 1960 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that life is short and you should do the things that make us happy. So, when Jesse recently tracked down a Bugeye Sprite, we decided we had better go take a look at it. We try not to be tire-kickers, but when a fun specialty car pops up, it’s hard not to be tempted to go have a look. When we arrived to check it out, we were surprised to find a well-sorted driver that just needed some minor work to be a nice car. The seller’s asking price was reasonable and they had a trailer’s worth of spare parts, so we decided to pull the trigger. That’s when Jesse made a huge mistake, he let me drive it back to Barn Finds HQ!

After driving the car just a few blocks, I couldn’t believe just how much fun this Primerose Sprite was to drive! Jesse had taken it out on the test drive prior to purchasing it, so I didn’t know what to expect when I climbed in. This Bugeye has already received all the popular upgrades, including the 1275 A-Series engine, so it’s got plenty of power to be spritely. The rib-case 4-speed shifts nicely, as long as you don’t try to downshift into the non-synchro first gear. And the handling is as responsive and fun as you would expect from a tiny British sports car. The only problem was that Jesse found and bought the car, so I had to come up with a good reason for him to let me buy it from him. The entire drive to the shop, I kept rehearsing my speech about how he’s simply too tall to fit comfortably in a Bugeye. He’s quite a bit taller than me, something he’s teased me about since childhood, so I figured it was time to finally play that guilt card.

Unfortunately, when we got to the shop, all I could talk about was how fun it was to drive and all the things we should do with it. After the drive home in my incredibly boring and worn-out Mercedes ML320 that I paid $350 for, I kicked myself for not presenting my well-rehearsed guilt trip. In hindsight, I’m actually glad that I didn’t, as things worked out better than I could have foreseen. I won’t ruin the surprise, as that’s a story that’s currently in the works, but Jesse caught wind of a particular model of British car that he’s been trying to find a nice example of for the past few years that very day. Since there wouldn’t be room in the shop for both, I seized the opportunity to make my case for selling me the Bugeye. It would free up resources and space, plus keep this fun little car around for us both to enjoy! He took the bait, making me the very happy owner of a very happy-looking Sprite.

I probably shouldn’t have bought the car, just a couple of days after making the deal, my wife gave birth to our third son. Obviously, I’m extremely happy with the newest addition to the family, but having kids isn’t cheap and let’s be honest, I won’t be hauling any kids around in this tiny convertible. Thankfully, I still had the money from my Fiat 124 Spider, which I sold to a BF Reader and Jesse helped me sell my VW Golf GTI 16v project, so I had the money for it. And my wonderful wife reminded me that I also have the ML320 if I need to haul the boys around. Plus, the first time I drove it home, it made my older two sons light up with joy. They absolutely love this thing, they’ve named it Bumblebee after the yellow Transformer. I’ve tried to explain to them that it’s the wrong kind of car, but they don’t care, it’s yellow and cool looking. I took some time off from work to help my wife with the new baby and each day I had to take the older two out to “drive” Bumblebee. Honestly, if I sold the car tomorrow at a loss, it would be worth it just for these incredible memories with my sons. Then again, they would hate me if I ever sold it and I’m sure they wouldn’t ever let me forget.

It’s been a little over a month since buying the car, sorry it’s taken me this long to feature it but I’m still trying to get caught back up from taking time off. While a few of my morning commutes have been kind of chilly, I’ve loved every mile that I’ve put on Bumblebee. I’ve got a decent list of things that need to be worked on, mostly just cosmetic issues and service, but it starts right up, runs great, and is a blast to drive as is. Someone installed tube shocks in the rear, which are now worn out. I’m going to switch those back to Armstrong shocks since I don’t need the aggressive dampening and rough ride on the street. It also could use a new wiring harness, as someone has spliced the original harness just a few too many times for comfort. Parts are actually quite easy to come by and are fairly affordable, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to make this an exceptional driver. Of course, I don’t want to make it so nice that I’m scared to drive it!

I’m going to try and do my best to document all the work I do to it here on the site. Hopefully, it will be fun to follow along with, but most importantly I hope it can motivate others to enjoy their classics. Whether that means wrenching on it, admiring it out in the garage, taking it to car shows, or taking it for as many drives as possible. If you don’t have a classic car or can’t afford one, get in contact with your local car clubs. I’m sure there are more than a few fellow gearheads there that would love to show you their classic and might even be willing to take you for a drive! I’ve come to realize with my other classics, I was too worried about how they looked or what others thought of them when really I should have been asking myself if I was enjoying them. This one isn’t the most powerful, the fastest, or the most expensive car out there, but this affordable little Sprite just makes me happy. And as long as I’m enjoying it, I’m going to keep driving it as much as I can! So stay tuned for more updates on project Bumblebee.

Comments

  1. Bruce Ironmonger

    Such fun cars to own and drive.

    Like 10
  2. George Duran

    Great story, thanks. I thought having fun with cars was all over with. How nice it is to be wrong.

    Like 11
  3. angliagt angliagt Member

    Looks like a cool car,but I’d ditch those
    ugly headlights.

    Like 3
    • Steve

      The original idea for this car was retractable headlamps, but the selling price could not justify the extra expense. I bought a one piece tilt hood for mine referred to as a “Sebring” hood. The lamps were on the outside.

    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      You can’t ditch the headlights as they are original and is why it is nick-named a “bug eye” Sprite, but if it were my car the first thing to go, considering that it isn’t going to be raced, is the ugly roll bar.

      Like 2
      • Joshua Mortensen Staff

        Yeah, the roll bar is going to go. I don’t care for how it looks either, plus I would rather not smash my head on it if I were ever in an accident.

  4. DavidH

    Such a happy little car. The color makes me think happy face😀.

    Like 8
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    Moss Motors is going to love this guy. But then again, he’s going to love Moss. I don’t race these cars to conquer the racing world, they are just fun to drive.

    Like 5
  6. Jay E. Member

    Really fun car in the days of 55mph speed limit, don’t know about today.

    • Edd Hamilton

      I took mine on a 500 mile road trip, on freeways, 65mph, no problem.

  7. Frank M Gallo

    Great story and bring your boys in to help tinker around the car. Passing you tools cleaners etc.It will be life long of lasting memories that they and you will cherish in the latter years.👍🏻🙏🏻

    Like 4
    • Joshua Mortensen Staff

      The older two already love coming to the shop to see the cars and to sit on our old go-kart. They are both still too young to help me work on stuff, but once they are a bit older, I plan on having them help me restore a go-kart and then work our way up to bigger projects.

      Like 2
  8. Thomas Stricker

    Accurate appraisal of the Bug-Eye. As an 1960 was my first car I totally agree!!

    Like 3
  9. trdave

    Mo$$ 3.55 rear gears make it road car at minimal co$t. Love the colour. Mine is 1995 VW Beetle yellow — much brighter

    Like 1
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      The late model Midgets have 3.9 and 3.7 rear ratios that also do wonders for touring Bugeyes. Two of our Bugeye race cars have been the brighter VW yellow and the car we’re building now will be the same.

    • bobhess bobhess Member

      Bugeyes should be in bright colors.

      Like 1
    • Joshua Mortensen Staff

      The color has really grown on me. I’m not usually a fan of yellow, but it works on such a happy car. As for the rear gearing, I drive on surface streets for my daily commute and never go over 45 mph, so it hasn’t been an issue. If that changes, I may decide to swap the rear gear or do a 5-speed swap. We’ve actually got a Datsun 5-speed sitting in our garage right now, but getting the kit to install it appears to have become a challenge in recent years. For now, I’m just focusing on getting it up to date on its maintenance and fixing the cosmetic issues.

  10. Margaret A. Soucie

    My Dad ran a garage in Brighton, Massachusetts. He also did AAA/ALA road service. One AAA call, he towed in a non-Bugeye for two brothers, who owned a restaurant in Boston. Nice little car. Poor Baby needed some work and they asked for an estimate, were fine with the estimate and gave the go ahead to do the work. One signed the estimate. Then they went on a trip. Car was done, a month later one comes to get the Sprite. He was not happy with the bill, which was within $50.00 of the estimate, which the brothers approved. Both refused to pay the bill, so Dad would not release the car. They ended up in court. A place called Foreign Motors, a big European car dealer in Brighton, stored cars in the large backroom of our garage. Customer goes away for the winter, car gets stored. Dad asked for an estimate on the repairs for the Sprite. Damm, the brothers were getting a gift from Dad ! The judge looked at the estimates, the one the brothers signed and asked if they were nuts ! Pay this man what you owe him. If this bill is not paid in one year, the car belongs to him ! The brothers refused to pay, one year later I spent half a day at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, applying for a Title for the Sprite. Several years later, my brother in law let it be known he really liked that car. Dad gave it to him. Sam kept the Sprite about ten years and enjoyed it, eventually selling it. Moving on to other toys. The restaurant is still there, I don’t know if the brothers still own it. But if you have gone to a Boston seafood restaurant with Legal in the name …

    Like 4
    • Neal in Boston

      Well hello from Boston, and specifically BRIGHTON!.
      I’m not sure when your story took place, but I have seen a cute little maroon sports car around one of the local garages down near the Pike. I wonder if that could be the car you are referring to?

  11. RichardinMaine

    SO, when do we get to see Jesse’s E-Type?

    • Joshua Mortensen Staff

      He found something rarer than an E-Type, but not nearly as pricey. We will try to do an article on it next week, so stay tuned Richard!

      Like 1
      • RichardinMaine

        Only thing I can think of is a Daimler SP250

        Like 1
  12. Kelly Breen

    The Mark II and later cars are better in so many ways, but the Mark I is just so desirable. I have a green 1500 and love it.
    I will admit I am envious of your Mark 1.
    You are going to love it.

  13. Tom Wasney

    Had a 69 sprite, spridget, same color… I’m 6′ 2″ and was always cursing the car getting in and out of it… Drove it like it was a vette and blew the clutch. Sold it and got a 71 pinto brand new with a stick shift… Sold that to my sister-in-law a few months later and got a 70 mgb roadster… Was much more substantial than the AH… Love hate relationship for the next five years…

    Like 1
  14. John

    I have had a good many cars. There are two that I let go of and missed immediately. One was a 1987 Honda CRX Si. The other was a 1960 Sprite. I used to think I’d buy another for my old age years. But alas, it is not to be. Have you seen the prices these little guys command? Still, if I had it to spend, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. Marvelous little toys (a tip o’ the hat to PP&M).

    Like 1
  15. RexFox Member

    Nice write-up and a very sweet little car. Thank you

    Like 2
  16. Denny N. Member

    That Pale Primrose color is my favorite, too. Same or similar color was used on my ’69 MGB and some years by Jaguar.

  17. Capt RD

    Sweet car for true !!
    people who eat sleep and breathe Bugeye — Call them !!!

    https://www.bugeyeguy.com/

  18. Heck Dodson Member

    I helped a guy piece his 60 Bugeye back together after he had spent a fortune to another shop who had rebuilt the drivetrain and painted it but returned the rest back to him in boxes, after going out of business. Me and a buddy put her all back together including a new wiring harness and at least the guy was able to drive and enjoy.. Not my cup of tea,, so to speak but was a very learning experience

  19. Keith A Anderson

    I’ve never ever seen a luggage rack on a Bugeye, but this one seems to fit quite well. Happy motoring.

  20. Dick Haight

    I had a 60 bug eye drove across pa to tx to nv back to pa loved it
    sold it to buy TR 3 B hoping this one was for sale. My bride would kill me
    if I bought another car I have had 208 to date

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