What A Smile! 1961 Austin Healey Sprite

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If there’s ever been a car that smiles at you, it’s the cheerful Austin Healey Bugeye (Frogeye to you Brits) Sprite. This one is even painted a happy yellow color while it’s looking for someone to rescue it from this garage it’s stored in. The seller says they need more room, so it has to go! It’s located in Armstrong, British Columbia, Canada, and is up for sale here on eBay. Those of us in the US benefit from the current exchange rate, as while the starting bid (without a reserve) is $3,500 CDN, that equates to only $2,608.44 US!

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How’s that for a grin? The seller tells us that the 1098 cc A-Series engine (not original, as it would be 948 cc) had been previously rebuilt, but was never reinstalled in the car. Also, there’s a new steel floor that has been installed on the driver’s side, although a previous fiberglass repair to the passenger side was left. Perhaps that’s the real definition of a “driver’s car”–who cares about the passenger, right? I think my wife would require me to fix the passenger side with metal as well!

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I believe that’s a factory hardtop on the Sprite, which aren’t that common. The car doesn’t come with a soft top, or frame, so if you want more weather protection you’ll have to purchase these items. The top is readily available from a number of suppliers, and I found a top frame here.

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I’m guessing this is a picture of the seller doing some previous work on the Sprite, perhaps shortly after acquiring it. You can tell how simple this car actually is from this picture; with the one piece bonnet, easily removable windshield and welded tub structure, there really isn’t a lot going on. As a matter of fact, Bugeyes don’t even have an opening trunk lid! With the minimal rust, inexpensive price and hopefully rebuilt engine, this could really be a bargain for those of us in the US.

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    This brings back memories of my Frogeye, purchased in 1970 for a whopping $75!. It didn’t run either, but after we towed it away from the seller’s house (behind my father’s ’66 IH Scout), all that was needed was a quick swapping of the wires to the ignition coil — seller’s boyfriend had just installed a new coil (incorrectly) — and presto! it was good to go!

    Conventional wisdom says Sprites were no good for big people, but my 6’2″, 180-pound self fit just fine. And I had exactly zero mechanical/electrical issues with it from the day I got it home.

    One of the dumbest things I ever did was sell it (for $500). What a delightful little car! If only B.C. wasn’t so far away from Massachusetts….

    • Jeff Surratt

      Ray, I am 60 now and when I was 18 (1974) living in South Gate, California I traded a 62 Chevy Impala SS / 409, that I had paid $150 for a 1951 Jowett Jupiter, LH Drive. I sold the Jupiter for $1,200 in 1977. The Jupiter was in Bakersfield and I was in the USAF in Hampton, VA. I used the $1,200 for a down payment and bought a brand new 77 MGB. I wish I had all three car today, but for sure the Jupiter. The last time I checked the Jupiter was worth over $70,000. I need a crying towel.
      https://goo.gl/images/NJNTB1

  2. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    RayT….your Bugeye didn’t happen to have a hole cut in the hood for a scoop, did it … ( had a Judson on it for quite a while. )

    I bought a new one in ’59….and sold it about ’68 or so …in Webster Mass

    • RayT Member

      No, Dave…no hole, no provision for a Judson. I lived in CA back then.

      What I did have was a 1275 MG Midget, donated by a friend who had wrecked it, to provide a (slightly) more powerful engine, front disc brakes and wire wheels for the Frogeye. I thought that would be as close as I’d ever get to a Sebring Sprite!

      I’ve always wondered if the guy I sold them to made the swap!

  3. Howard A Member

    I know I should have been issued a “Bugeye” at birth. All pessimists should have. I mean, look at it. How can you be a pessimist with a face like that as your car? Smiley face aside, there has always been something about the Bugeye that I liked. Not too practical for any kind of long trips, although, I’m sure many did, which is why I went with the MGB. Not sure you can fit these with O/D, but I don’t think I’d want to go 70 in this. A hiccup at 70 in this, and you’d be in the next lane. For a Bugeye, can’t go wrong here.

    • RayT Member

      Mine had no problem keeping up with L.A. freeway traffic, Howard, which could at times exceed 70. Granted, having the reflexes — and, I suppose, nerve and “invincibility” — of a 20 year-old driver made it easier!

      I tried to use my father’s 3-Liter Healey for longer runs, of course. Or my ’53 Kaiser, which was a very comfortable cruiser.

      I’d be more than happy to have those three cars in my driveway today!

  4. Howard A Member

    Hi Ray, I went to visit my kids in L.A. couple years back ( major culture shock for a dirt eatin’ farmboy from Wisconsin) and if memory serves, in L.A. freeway traffic, you’d be lucky to get out anything of 2nd gear. Just kidding, traffic was pretty nuts, though. I had a friend with a newer Midget, not a heck of a lot different than this, and we blasted all over with that car. Long (cold) rides at night coming up north, with the motor hollerin’ @ 4,000+ rpms,( 75mph?) for hours, and never skipped a beat, but it was tiresome.

  5. Dolphin Member

    These will usually get to 85 MPH, and that was the rated top speed that BMC gave when these were new. With a good running 1098 engine this car should easily do more.

    The seams and paint look pretty good for a 55 year old car, but you’d want to know what the floors look like, since they have been worked on. Also the rear quarter elliptic spring mounts. If the floors needed work, be sure of those spring mounts. Too bad we don’t get to see those areas, especially since you would want to at least see pics of them before trekking up into the wilds of British Columbia, even if there is a big discount for US cash.

  6. Dave

    A friend had one in 1966.We rebuilt the engine in H.S. auto shop and he had it painted this exact color.Fun car but buzzy on the freeway.

  7. Mike MacLean

    No Bugeyes were built in 1961. More than likely this car was built in 1960 (the last year of production) and first sold in 1961. Back in the day the Department of Motor Vehicles would just make it a 1961 because that was the first year it was sold. I am on my 7th and last Bugeye. I have owned them since my first one in 1970. I can not imagine life without one. The kids think you are driving Stuart Little’s car and the grown ups just can’t keep from smiling. Besides it’s the most fun I have ever had driving a car. This is my latest and last Bugeye.

  8. Michael Johnston

    My first car was a 4 year old 1960 Sprite and I have regretted selling it since. When I found this one and got it home I had dreams of rebuilding it but at 69 I have discouvered that time is very valuable and I seem to spend any free time away from work tearing up the back roads in my Merlin Roadster and it is obvious to me that I should sell the Frogeye to some one who has the time to do it right
    Michael

    • Michael

      You are right and that is why the little yellow car is up for sale and if things work out I will look for a good running MGBGT for winter driving
      Michael

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

        Michael, is the Sprite yours? If so, please chime in, and thanks for commenting!

  9. Mike MacLean

    Michael,
    The restoration of my 60 Bugeye took 7 years and over $23K to bring it close to concours quality. Naturally you don’t have to go that nuts and can restore it t a nice runner for much less if originality is not your goal. The thing is, do you have the time to invest? At 69, I am guessing you are not quite as limber as days past and a car restoration(I am 65 and in the middle of a BN2 restoration) is a daunting adventure. Maybe enjoying your Merlin is you time best spent, because you won’t have much time for it if you start the Bugeye restoration.

    • Michael

      Yes thats mine ,I did not know about this site but a friend spotted my car and shared the site with me on FB

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