Road or Track: 1960 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite

The next owner of this 1960 Bugeye Sprite has a few options open to them. They can use the little Austin-Healey for competition in VSCDA events, which the car has been modified to compete in, or they could make the changes required to return the cool little classic to life on the open road. Barn Finder Ikey H referred this great little British classic to us, so thank you so much for that Ikey. The Sprite is located in Evanston, Illinois, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. If you fancy the idea of taking up historic racing, then all you need to do is hand the owner $10,100, and the Sprite will be all yours.

What a great looking little car. The body looks really clean, and the lack of bumpers doesn’t look out of place on this type of car. The Minilite wheels give the car a great period look, while there isn’t a sign of rust anywhere. The paint looks good, while the panels appear to be arrow straight. As a track car, there isn’t a lot with which to find fault. However, if the next owner is considering returning the car to the road, bumpers and a windshield will definitely be required as a starting point. However, it does appear that the owner will be including many of these parts with the car.

The interior of the Sprite is definitely a “bare-bones” racing environment. You get the required gauges to monitor the health of things under the hood, a rudimentary Kirkey race seat, a race harness, and a chunky wheel. That’s about it. Returning the interior to a fit state for road use would not be a mammoth undertaking, because not only is the original interior relatively basic, but all of the parts required are readily available, and relatively inexpensive. Even if I were to leave this in its current form, I would probably be inclined to give the floors a fresh coat of paint. It might be a track car, but spotless vehicle presentation is always viewed favorably by scrutineers and officials.

It’s when you tilt the hood forward that you can get some idea of what I mean by the term “spotless presentation.” Officials and scrutineers tend to like things to be as clean as possible, and that’s what you get under the hood of the Sprite. Powering the little Brit is a 948cc 4-cylinder engine. The owner has performed some useful upgrades to extract additional performance, while still ensuring that the car remains eligible for racing. A Scatter camshaft, custom headers, a ported head, and a Weber carburetor should help the engine to produce significantly more than its original 43hp. The power is then sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed “Ribcase” transmission. These transmissions are actually relatively robust with the sort of power that they are asked to handle in a car like this and should last for many years in a road car. Provided they aren’t subject to major abuse, they should still be fine for track work as well. The owner states that the engine in the Sprite is freshly rebuilt, and the only work that it has done is to be driven up and down the alley that you see in the supplied photos. He says that the engine feels strong, doesn’t blow smoke, and it doesn’t burn oil. If this engine isn’t to your taste, then there is the option to purchase a 1,275cc engine that the owner also owns.

Provided it is driven within its mechanical limits, this 1960 Bugeye Sprite should be a fun and reliable race car to drive, and a relatively inexpensive one to maintain. Returning it to road use wouldn’t take a massive amount of work, and with the engine upgrades, it has the potential to be a great little road car. Personally, I’d probably skip the option of the larger engine, and enjoy this great little British classic exactly how it is.


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Nice car. You are absolutely right on having a clean car for the Tech folks to look at. The Tech folks might not like the plastic fuel filter sitting over the exhaust system but the rest looks good. I’d jump on this one if we didn’t have our own Vintage Bugeye just about built. Proper price for a nice car.

  2. Capt. Doug

    Certainly well done mechanically right now — with a few additions it could be a great street legal car in most states.
    Plenty of parts available. Anyone with a Bugeye interest should have these guys on speed dial — helpful and informed.

    Like 1
  3. Bill

    I wonder if this is the same car that was on American Pickers a couple weeks ago?

  4. Del

    It always makes me laugh to see these “race equipped ”

    And the roll bar is silly.

    What was top speed 55 Mph 😁😂🤣

  5. the one

    Roll bars are not silly, you can flip a car going 35mph I have witnessed that very thing no roll bar, the driver flipped, hit his head, didn’t survive,
    Looks like it came out of a very clean barn!!!

    Like 3
  6. Edward Skakie

    Well, Dell, I think it’s pretty obvious that you haven’t had a ride in one of these, on a twisty track with multiple elevation changes; it was the 1961 version of a well-powered gokart, and had the power to dampen your shorts on a challenging course. If you get the chance to have a track ride in a similar car, accept, and bring a change of underwear.

    Like 2
  7. Del

    Yup. Thanks guys. I have a new bucket list :

    1 get a roll bar
    2 get some Depends
    3 get a Bug Eye

    Like 3
  8. Doug

    If it were mine, I’d opt to paint the floor ( and maybe the inner panels ) with Lizardskin or a similar heat and noise barrier before either painting or carpeting – it would make the car quieter and cooler – a plus both on the street and on track.
    As far as bumpers go, a nice set of nerf bars would look good, leaving only the windshield as an issue – for track use, a “Brooklands” style single windscreen would work nicely for dual duty – a second one could be mounted for a passenger, if one were so inclined. For road use, there is a way to adapt the Datsun B-210 5 speed to these cars, which would allow cruising at highway speeds at a reasonable rpm.
    Could be a sweet ride, but too many projects to get on the road now, and fortunately it is too far away for me to go drool over……

  9. Bryan W Cohn

    Those are not Minilite wheels but copies made by either Panasport or I think it was a company called Western? Minilites have different spoke shape, more curved is the best way to describe it.

    Nothing wrong with the copies as Minilites are long out of production and the design is a good looking, period correct wheel for vintage racing cars.

    All in all this is a nice piece of kit for some fun vintage racing. Oh, you’ll want the 1275 as few in vintage racing use the 948. Its just how racing has progressed.

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      They look like the wheels that came on my ’08 Mini Cooper.

  10. Del

    You know its a fast one when the battery has more cubes than the engine.

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