Vintage V8 Drag Car! 1960 Austin Healey Sprite

Austin Healey MK1 Sprites, affectionately known as “frogeye” or “bugeye” are very popular among collectors. Introduced for the 1959 model year, according to, there were about 50,000 sold “…Bugeyes are the most collectible by a considerable margin.” Although there were 50,000 sold, I’m sure that not too many of them were turned into drag racers! This 1960 can be found for sale┬áhere on Craigslist with an asking price of $3,500. It was a former drag racer on the west coast and is ready for a new owner to bring it back to its former glory! Currently located in McMinnville, Oregon it is set up for a V8 and would probably be a blast to drive. Let’s check out more of this ride and thanks to Ikey H. for the tip on this cool old racer!

In drag racing, the power-to-weight ratio is the key and as long as you can get your tires to hook up, you generally want the most horsepower in the lightest package. Well, cars don’t get much lighter than a Sprite, so that’s a good start. Unfortunately, the 1960 Sprite would have come from the factory with a 948cc A-series overhead-valve engine mated to a manual transmission, which doesn’t make for a good drag racing setup. How about a big American V8? The engine compartment is set up for a small-block Chevy! You can see the bell housing is still in the car and the seller says it is from a mid-50s Chevrolet so that’s probably the vintage of the engine it used to have. Unfortunately, the engine is gone, but that gives the new owner a blank slate. It is currently set up for a SBC, so that would probably be the way to go.

If you were asked to imagine the stripped interior of a vintage drag racer, you’d probably see the image above. Looking closely you can see the modified driveshaft tunnel, remnants of a racing harness, and classic undersized three-spoke steering wheel. The battery cable likely means the battery was relocated to the trunk for weight distribution and/or to make room under the hood.

These can actually make really cool looking drag cars. Check out this one named “FRRITE” found on-line. I can’t imagine what this car feels like punching the accelerator with five or six hundred horsepower on tap, a handful for sure! What about you?

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  2. Shawn Fox Firth

    Cobalt SS drive train swap .. .

  3. Don H

    Small block v8 our strong v6­čĆÄ

  4. Husky

    .318 Poly Head!!!

  5. Charlie
  6. Brent

    500 hp v8 under the hood and 500 lbs of emergence medical supplies in the trunk for ballast. Or be safe and do like a 8-10 hp briggs.

    • jerry

      we had a guy turn up at cruise nights with a bug eye sprite , it had a 394 olds with 2 4 barrel carbs on it and the olds hydromatic behind it he narrowed up a olds rear end in the rear to say thing was fast was a under statement, his other car was a lada that had a 340 dodge 4 speed in it looked bone stock, pea green with the stock interior! he told me he used to eat mustangs etc with it!

  7. chillywind

    cool little ride! Don’t think that electric fan will do much to cool down the rad!
    and do you think that roll bar will work being bolted to the sheet metal floor?

    Looks like a VERY easy project. find a donor car with a 283 and a 3 speed make a drive shaft and get tire burning!

  8. Scuderia

    “brakes are stock”
    had a ’58 that I swapped in a 1275 and was too much for the stock brakes.

  9. waynard

    $750-1000 in this condition, and that’s being gracious. Can’t trust the “wiring”; has to be replaced. Too many pieces missing, even if you went back to having it be a drag car. Not a candidate for restoration to original or to a good drag car in my opinion. And the bonnet did not open forward as the listing indicates as OEM. Pass: Too many better unrestored examples out there that haven’t been cut so badly.

  10. AMCFAN

    If you really want to racing use a wrecked Honda S2000 swap. The K series is by no means a shabby engine in stock form. With a little work can make a ton of HP. A local guy has one built does his own dyno work makes 1100 at the wheel. It’s real.

    Another choice is a stock Mitsubishi 4G63 and a 16G EVO turbo and injectors will put you at an easy 400. You can rob the mounts from a Mitsu or D50 truck and set it long ways. This engine will also make crazy power numbers. DSM tuners is the go to or Check Road Race Engineering.

    Ahhh but guys here don’t want to hear this……..gotta be ‘Merican moter! Dont sound good is a V8 haha!

  11. healeydays

    I remember going to the International Austin Healey convention at Lake Tahoe in 2002 and there was a guy who built a 478ci Hemi powered Bugeye Sprite. Impressive piece of engineering.

  12. Comet

    Hayabusa transplant candidate.

  13. R1198

    Agree fully with Waynard. Bug Eyes are true, old school, old British sports cars built for quick driving and responsiveness. not the quarter mile of playing street outlaw. They are lovable ugly ducklings and fun to drive. Last I looked we are still a free country so if you want to build a Dragster…build it from something with a frame designed for torque and stopping g-forces — don’t piss-away money and your life. Waynard got it right, this is an over-priced mess of parts.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      True, but if the damage has already been done, why not go with it?

      • waynard

        Primarily because so much remedial work has to be done to correct damage and deterioration, to upgrade what may be out of date and to make it acceptable for current regs for racing. It’s a hot mess as is and the money will be going into a large hole in the ground never to be seen again.

    • Steve R

      This will never be raced again. The person that buys it will likely use vintage speed equipment and take it to car shows and nostalgia races. At most, it will make a few part throttle exhibition runs. Living that life, it will draw crowds since not many early race cars have survived in any condition.

      Steve R

  14. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Photos of this car in its heyday would be nice. Love the squirrel cage hood scoop. Wonder how this thing didn’t get completely crumpled with any V8 of the period under the hood. No “frame” to speak of, and I see no additional reinforcements from the limited pictures. Rear end must be from something else…using 5 lug rear axle.

  15. chrlsful

    yes, as a drag car the power (500-700HP) is easy. With these sorts of cars its all abt the chassy set up. Alot happening when the tree lights up, U want it to go straight, not break up as attention is elsewhere

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