Solid Project: 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite

When viewed from the front, an Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite looks like a little car with a grin on its face. Slipping behind the wheel of one of these can also have the same effect on the driver because they are just such an engaging little car. If you would like to experience that sensation then you will find this 1960 Sprite located in Northford, Connecticut, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has now reached $3,050, and the reserve has been met.

The Sprite wears Old English White paint that is looking a bit rough and ready, but the car itself appears to be relatively solid. The owner supplies a couple of photos of the vehicle’s underside, and while there is a coating of surface corrosion present, the floors appear to be free of rot. The body wears a few minor dings, but once again, the only rust of note is a small amount in the bottoms of the quarter panels, and the rear edges of the rockers. The grille has copped some damage, and will probably require replacement. However, it didn’t take much searching to find a brand new one, and the cost was only around $400. Overall, the body of the car looks like it would be a fairly straightforward restoration project.

The interior of a Sprite is pretty “bare-bones,” and this car is no exception. The dash is complete, but it has been fitted with an aftermarket radio, Replacement dash panels are readily available if the next owner wants to restore it to original. Speaking of such things, the Sprite is right-hand drive, and this might not appeal to some people. It is not a big job to convert a Sprite to left-hand drive, and this might be something that the next owner could consider during the restoration process. With a fair amount of interior restoration work required and the possibility of a dash replacement being on the cards, this would be the time to do it.

A Bugeye Sprite is not renowned for pumping out high horsepower numbers, with the 948cc A-Series engine producing 43hp. This is sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. This is another area where there are a few options open to the next owner. The owner provides no information on the health of the engine, but the fact that it looks like the plugs were pulled a fair while ago is a bit of a worry. Rebuilding one of these engines is a cheap and easy proposition, provided you can live with that horsepower figure. It is possible to update to a later engine and transmission to extract more performance from the car. What I have seen, and this is an idea for those who wish to preserve a level of originality with the car, is for the engine to be rebuilt with a balanced bottom end, a bit of polishing of the ports, and a slightly more aggressive cam grind. You still aren’t going to have huge power on tap, but it is worth noting that it doesn’t take much of a horsepower increase to make a noticeable difference. After all, an extra 4hp is a 10% increase, which is going to be able to be felt.

I look at cars like this 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite, and I see a car that would be a perfect candidate for restoration in a home workshop. One of the great attractions of these cars is their incredible simplicity. Most people would hesitate if confronted with the concept of a complete “nut and bolt” project, but the Sprite would have to be one of the most straightforward candidates for such a restoration. Depending on where the bidding goes on this car, it could be well worth the effort. Good examples generally sell for around the $12,000 mark, while a really good one can get closer to $20,000. If the next owner can undertake a reasonable amount of the work themselves, then a restoration could come in well under that sort of mark. It makes it well worth considering.

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Comments

  1. Brakeservo

    I wrecked two of them up on Mulholland when I was a kid. When I see one today I tell her the owner he can thank me his car is more valuable because of me – I helped make them a little more rare!

  2. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Yesterday afternoon, I was swing on a tree that fell in our front yard. I was taking a break and heard a really sporty sound coming up the street – it was one of these, same color. Must of been an owner getting one of the last rides of the season in – it’s getting brisk around here.

    Like 1
  3. Mike

    That head on picture looks like an emoji.

    Like 2
  4. Del

    Nothing makes my Glaucoma get worse than a rusty Bug Eye Sprite.

    After buying and paying 20 grand to restore, you still have car that will only do 55 mph.

    I cannot go 55

    Like 2
    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

      @Del
      . 55 ???………… were did you get that information…….
      .
      I ordered a new one in 1959… even with the little 948 and stock, they run over 80……….and out corner anything except a Mini Cooper

      Like 3
  5. Gerard Frederick

    Don´t let the low power output deter you! A buddy of mine (great bass player) at Fort Sheridan illinois in 1960 had one. It was A GAS to drive, pedal to the metal all the way. The engine was easily accessable because ENTIRE front of the body could be lifted up exposing engine, carburation (2 great SU side-daft carbs) including front suspension details — all ready for tinkering. Driving this little gem topless all out was unforgettable. You did 70 and swore you were doing 170. No kidding —- heady days of youth!

  6. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    The rust in front of the left rear wheel is NOT a good sign.
    .
    These cars have quarter eliptic springs ( half a spring) and the mount is right behind this area, making rust there a serious structural repair. The entire corner load is carried in that spot, and the repair is not for amateurs.

    Like 2
  7. Coventrycat

    With that Dead sticker on the front, it’s no wonder the car has a permanent grin.

    Like 2
  8. Oilyhands

    With the Dead Head sticker on the front all I can think of is Don Henley, Boys of Summer….. “I saw a Deadhead sticker on a frog eye sprite” just doesn’t have the same ring as a Cadillac reference….or does it?

    Like 3
  9. bobhess bobhess Member

    The lack of power is easily rectified with a slightly modified 1275 engine. It’s a bolt in and 100 hp is easy to get to. Dave’s point on the spring mounts is good but the pieces to replace any rusted ones is available. Requires a good welder and a little patience. Weakest area on these cars is the rear axles and bearing hubs. The entire lateral load of cornering is put on the axle flange, not the bearing. Dual bearing hubs and late model 806 axles are what’s needed.These axles were hardened where the early ones were not.

  10. Kelly Breen

    The Sprite / Midget family has a lot of reproduction support right from the original factory. That Austin engine can be boosted to 115 horsepower. A factory reconditioned engine with this power output is available and frankly the asking price is quite reasonable – I think about $8K. 115 HP is a lot of puff for a car that weighs less than 1600 pounds. Given how low you are to the ground you feel like you are going much faster in one of these cars than you really are. They are a blast to drive. I have the Midget 1500 and the early frog eyes are apparently even more of a hoot because of the lower suspension and lighter weight.

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