Vintage Racer: 1957 Austin-Healey Sprite

Raced from the 1960s into the 1980s, this Austin-Healey Sprite has spent the last 15 years dormant until recently. The seller has partially revived this Sprite by getting the engine running once again. Although the outer body appears rather solid, there are some rust concerns on this small British classic. With the clock ticking down, this Sprite has been bid up to $1,625. Check it out here on eBay out of Rosyln, New York.

After sitting dormant for 15 years, the owner was able to revive the little A series engine via its electric fuel pump, and fresh fuel. The engine appears relatively stock, and there are no clues given on the engine’s displacement. Although a runner, I am sure this engine still needs some tlc and general tuning to be prepared for regular driving. There is a generous amount of surface rust in the engine compartment, and the battery tray in particular looks a bit crusty, but there does not appear to be any holes or obvious rot.

There are a few interesting things going on with this Sprite, someone took it upon themselves to convert this car to right hand drive, and it would appear that the last race may have been piloted by Fred Flintstone himself. The floors are very rough, but remarkably, the outer rockers look great on this car. I am guessing this car sat on the ground for many years with flat tires. Depending on your preference, this car could likely be converted back to left hand drive. Either way you cut it, the “roll bar” would need to be updated for continued racing. There is an SCCA tech sticker on the roll bar, but the seller makes no mention of a SCCA logbook with the car.

The exterior of this Austin-Healey is quite solid with only minor rust to be found, and one “rub” from racing on the driver rear fender. Chipping in a few areas, the paint is mostly there and offers a neat vintage race appearance. New tires have been installed, and it is easy to see that one of the wheels was submerged in dirt. The bonnet is in fair shape other than the hood pins, and the exterior overall seems reasonable. Bugeye Sprites are well loved British classics, so getting sheet metal isn’t out of the question. Would you make this Sprite a road goer, or a road racer once again?

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Comments

  1. bobhess Member

    It was common to change over to right hand drive as most of the SCCA road racing tracks were run clockwise. Moving the driver to the right side helped balance out the car on the right hand turns. This is what they looked like “in the day”, quite different from our present day version ’60 SCCA H Production car. Click on the picture to see the car at it’s first race in 1974.

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    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      These were great racers in their day! Bob’s photo shows the oversized tires and aero kit that were the expected mods needed to be even remotely close to a top finish, kicking the tar out of Corvettes and Porsches on tight tracks..
      My brothers “stock” Fiesta S was the closest to them on an autocross course if the Bugeye didn’t have any big mods-“there was a good time had by all”..unless you had huge horsepower and nowhere to turn it loose on the track!

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    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

      @bobhess… yes, it was common to get a Minor steering rack and change over to right hand drive, like I did with my Bugeye that I bought new in 1959…
      But, sorry, you are wrong about how they looked ….”in the day” , that being 1959, 1960, 61 when the Bugeyes dominated H Production, they looked like the #72 car for sale, and even by the mid 60’s, they still had a similar appearance, except for added Goodyear Bluestreak tires…

      The #13 car you picture is POST-Vintage, there were no front air dams in the Vintage Periods, or cages in either the Vintage or Historic Periods pre-72.

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  2. Brakeservo

    Very easy to convert to RHD as a LHD Morris Minor steering rack is the same part as a RHD Sprite rack. All the holes are present to simply move the pedals & master cylinders to the other side simply by unbolting from one side and installing on the other. BUT – 1958 NOT 1957 was the first year for these.

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  3. waynard

    Wonder how he ran that car without its radiator?

  4. Bryan W Cohn

    This is an early, very original Bugeye race car. Updating it much would be a damn shame.

    It has the original 1 1/8 Inch SU Carbs from the look of it and of course the Bugeye had a 948cc engine. This might even have the original smooth case transmission!

    I’d restore it to original and race it with VSCCA whee it’d be gladly accepted in its original spec as seen in the photos above. I’d get an open face helmet, a bandana to tie over my mouth and nose, wear my newish Sparco suit made to look like Dunlop Blues and live the 60’s sports car racing dream!

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  5. stillrunners

    cool…..always did like them Bugeye’s…….

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  6. bobhess Member

    Dave… the primary picture is the car we presently run in SCCA events. That picture is a year and a half old. Click on the picture and you will see the car in 1974 when it first hit the track. The only original pieces left on the present day car is a numbered block,head, rear end housing, and the basics of the unibody chassis. The whole car is 4 wheel disc brakes, coil over suspension, Ford t-4 racing transmission, 100 hp, 9,500rpm engine, etc. and as much fiberglass as we can get on a small car. Again, click on the picture and tell me the car sitting on the grid at Road Atlanta doesn’t resemble the car for sale.

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    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      As we say in The Gambling State “ it’s a dead ringer!”
      I’ve heard they say that elsewhere too…
      Could it be one and the same, Bob?
      I see this first photo was H Production; I know our ‘79 Fiesta S ran Showroom Stock but I don’t recall now what class it was..
      Again cool photos Bob!

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      • JohnSSC

        The base model Fiesta (I had a ’79) ran in Showroom Stock C. The S and Ghia models ran in Showroom Stock B. That was when the car had to be stock – totally. As usual, the SCCA bogered-up the rules so that you could change things legally like exhaust, tire size etc. I raced on a set of 155-SR 12’s…
        Nowadays you can build and race a tube framed Mini or any other car in the “Production” classes and to be competitive you basically have to. Cars like this are what racing was actually about – at least in my old-school little world, anyway!!

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    • Little_Cars Little_Cars

      And what looks like the common Vega wheel swap back in 74. One of the most inexpensive upgrades… to this day…run ’em without any hubcaps and chrome acorn nuts and most folks would think you’d spent a fortune on offset racing rims.

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    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

      @bobhess.. that’s much better … you should have posted just that older picture ..

      1959 is the “as raced ” cutoff for prepping a Vintage racecar, and 1972 is the “as raced” cutoff for prepping a Historic race car .. I had no interest in looking at a car prepped for 1974, which is why I didn’t bother to click on the picture. Guess I should have been more curious.

  7. Rube Goldberg

    When racing a car was as simple as this,,,,in Wisconsin, it was Lynndale Farms just outside of Milwaukee or the local gymkanas at closed shopping centers on Sundays.

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  8. Little_Cars Little_Cars

    As others have stated 1957 was not a Bugeye production year. Also, who says this isn’t a home market righthand drive car. Does the ad say it was converted to RHD? Finally, with that much floor rust, the INNER rockers will need to be checked thoroughly for tin worm. And the early Sprites had additional fore-aft channels under the seats that I don’t see inspiring confident here, at least not under the driver. Nasty little bump on the lefthand rear fender looks to be from an errant wheel and tire.

  9. bobhess Member

    Nevadahalftrack…. The SCCA racing Fiestas initially ran in the ITC touring class but have also been run in H Production along with the Spridgets etc. The Sprites were in HP from the very beginning. Those fore/aft channels on the floors are part of the support of the 1/4 eliptic spring perch initially and left in place when they went to the 1/2 eliptic in ’64. Without rust the chassis is extremely strong.

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    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Thanks, Bob! My memory synapses don’t fire as well or often as they did back then and the trophies went with the ex…

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      • Little_Cars Little_Cars

        Why did you let the trophies go away with the ex…they only have meaning to you….unless they raced alongside you, fella.

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      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        i didn’t know her when my brother and I raced. It was Absolute spite on her part, but I realized that it was a small price to pay under the circumstances..

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    • Little_Cars Little_Cars

      The front to rear channels went away with the introduction of roll up windows and exterior door handles in late 64. There were 2 1/2 years of square body Spridgets with the channels in place because they were still quarter-eliptic in the back. My production year 1964 Midget, titled 65, does not have the fore-aft channels. Just the channels that correspond with the jack holes in the rockers. That’s some head-knocker you got there, Bob Hess. No windshield?

  10. bobhess Member

    Little-cars…. Look closely and you will see the right side of the wind screen is painted black and the left side clear…. you can see the bottom of my helmet through it. Doesn’t do much for bugs but it’s legal.

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