V6 Powered! 1958 Austin Healey Sprite

Be it a “Frogeye” Sprite or a “Bugeye” Sprite, it’s still an Austin Healey Sprite and it is one of the immediately more recognizable sports cars to emanate from Great Britain in the post-war years. This particular example, however, is sporting some unexpected mechanicals so let’s check it out. It is located in Chula Vista, California and is available here on Facebook Marketplace for $5,000.

Introduced in 1958, there were about 49K  Bugeye Sprites produced through 1961. These were small cars, eleven and a half feet in length while riding on a diminutive 80″ wheelbase. Originally powered by a 43 HP, 943 CC inline, four-cylinder engine, the Sprite didn’t sound, at least on paper, like much of a runner. Of course, weighing in at only 1,300 lbs., these two-seaters weren’t quite as hobbled as may have initially seemed.

Our subject car, however, has upped the game in the power department as under its bonnet, it is harboring a V6 engine of unknown provenance. And that’s an issue, if it’s such a selling point you’d think there would be some description as to what it is – but that’s the way so many automotive listings go on Facebook Marketplace. I’d put my money on it being a Buick 3.8 but who knows – what’s your guess? There’s no word regarding the transmission but there is a “shortened” rear end under its backside which I think would translate into a “narrowed” rear end. The seller adds, “New alternator, battery and needed parts to get her running!” so no, this Sprite is a non-runner.

The body is fair at best but the listing is vague enough that it’s not revealing – sounds like the seller has the grille, passenger side mirror, and hood scoop. There is no mention of the turn signals, header badge, fuel filler, things like that. Rust? maybe, no word. There is so obvious sign of crash damage, just scratches and contusions which dot the ’60s vintage blue metallic finish. New tires and wheels are included in the sale.

The interior is a mess, it’s so disorganized that it’s tough to tell what’s what. The seats are trashed, the instrument panel is missing gauges, and there is what looks like an automatic transmission gear selector lever perched upon the transmission hump. Eyes immediately go to the floors looking for solidity but it’s tough to tell with any certainty. The seller does mention that he has the convertible top and it’s in great condition.

The seller proclaims, “*Price will go up during build” so I guess that means he’s working on pulling it all together. My thought would be, OK, finish it out, describe it better and we’ll see what you really have. The $5,000 price, at this stage, seems pretty rich wouldn’t you agree?

WANT ADS

WANTED 1969 Chevrolet Camaro pace car Looking for a 1969 camaro pace car project . She’ll, basket case etc. Contact

WANTED 1945-50’s Ford Pickups Has engine and transmission Contact

WANTED 1979 Subaru DL Looking for a 1979 Subaru 4 door DL, blue with blue interior, automatic. Good/excellent condition. Contact

WANTED 1960 to 2005 Honda any Looking to buy low mileage original Japanese vehicles for my collection Duncanimports.com. gary dunc Contact

WANTED 67-69 Chevrolet Camaro Looking for an affordable Camaro in need of resto. Something with a solid frame and cowl. Thanks. Contact

Submit Your Want Ad

Comments

  1. 8banger 8banger Member

    Not sure, but it just might be a little Buick odd-fire stuck in there.

    Like 1
    • Terrry

      Looks like the 231 Buick V-6 to me, not a bad choice! I saw a MG Midget once with the same motor shoe-horned in.

      Like 1
    • ACZ

      It’s a Buick V6 but no way to be able to tell the displacement or the year from the poor photography.

  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Too bad they didn’t use one of the 4 or 5 speed manual gearboxes available so as not have to build the huge box to take the automatic. We’ve got a Ford T4 gearbox in one of our Sprite race cars that didn’t require any cutting but just a repositioning of the stock shift lever box to the rear about 2 inches. This car is going to be difficult to sit in for folks with both legs. The Ford T4 is sitting in the car shown that we’re building and with a different bell housing would easily take one of V6s. Picture was taken before we started fitting the plumbing etc. for the transmission. Overall I don’t see a whole lot of quality work going on with this one.

    Like 9
  3. gaspumpchas

    yep Bobhess you would want to check the workmanship. That v6 could be just sitting in there, rear looks funky and it needs a hood scoop. Look it over good. I am not a fan of v-6’s and this one could be sick. I’n sure this thing would handle like a bucket of rocks on a rope. Good luck and stay safe.
    Cheers
    GPC

    Like 11
    • Mark C

      I had to hit “like” for “bucket of rocks on a rope.” I need to remember that line.

      Like 8
  4. Bultaco

    Unless you want a cobbled together, V6-powered Sprite with and automatic, you’re basically buying the tub and front suspension and steering. The tub might be worthwhile if it’s rust-free, but not for $5k, IMO.

    Like 2
  5. Don

    So he took a potentially nice car and turned it into a pile of crap. $5000.00?????? I might offer $250.00 if he takes the engine, trans & “shortened” rear axle out & delivers the rest to my driveway.

    Like 5
  6. bobhess bobhess Member

    Don… You are still going to need another body as the parts of the firewall and transmission tunnel are not available aftermarket. This car’s a real mess….

    Like 4
  7. Howard A Member

    Good thing they took the grill out, instead of smiling, it’s gasping in horror. IDK, Another for the “nice try” dept. but, looks like it never got off the ground. Shame they wasted a very rare car.

    Like 6
  8. Frank B.

    Looks like quite a project! If that is an odd fire buick, there’s not much in the way of speed parts and he only doubled the original horsepower (about 80). The engine would also rattle your brains out lol.
    dosen’t look like very good work

  9. Bob

    Wow!! Quite a modification of the drivetrain! Suspension is of paramount concern. I know the aluminum Buick V-6 weighs more than the Sprite’s original 4 banger. With a narrowed rear end and all that torque, hard acceleration sharp turns could turn this Sprite into a pretzel.

    Like 1
    • ACZ

      This is NOT an aluminum V6. This baby is solid cast iron.

      Like 2
  10. Chris

    Had a friend back in high school days who was quite a mechanic. He shoehorned a 327 Chevy, 4 speed into a sprite. It went liked a raped ape!

    Like 1
  11. MILES G CHAPPELL

    I had a beautiful all stock 1960 with the 948Later I put in a 1275. Traded that for a Honda S600. Bought another Bugeye that had a Datsun SSS motor in it. I even had a Devin Sprite once, somebody bird caged a ’61 Sprite chassis.

    I’m sad to see a Bugeye butchered like this, any car for that matter. Maybe they can put dualies in the rear to fill the gap.

    Like 4
  12. bobhess bobhess Member

    Miles… Took a closer look at the location of the rear wheel and to get it that far in with the narrowed rear axle housing you’d have to “tub” the inner fender area which done wrong takes all the strength out of the rear of the unibody construction. This greatly adds to Bob’s comment about turning it into a pretzel.

  13. Big D

    Wow. That thing is a hot mess! Is the $5K what he intends to pay for someone to come haul it off?

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.