Some Assembly Required: 1960 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite Project – SOLD!

Aug 2020 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Sports Car Saturday

August 28th Update – Well, that didn’t take long. Just one week after listing their Bugeye for sale, the private seller deleted their listing, so we’re calling this one “Sold!”

Let’s face it, the 2020 car show season has been nothing short of a bust.  With all but a few shows canceled, many enthusiasts are looking for something to fill their time a bit earlier than winter this year.  If you’re looking for a project to fill your garage before the leaves start to turn, we offer this 1960 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite listed on Craigslist in Stevensville, Maryland with an asking price of $9,500.   This a project car said to have been disassembled some 25 years ago, so it’s no surprise the private seller’s price falls $2,500 below the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool’s #4 “Fair (Daily Driver) estimate of $7,100. 

The Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the “frogeye” in the UK and the “bugeye” in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. The car’s designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; a similar arrangement was used many years later on the Porsche 928. However cost-cutting by BMC led to the flip-up mechanism being deleted, therefore the headlights were simply fixed in a permanently upright position, giving the car its most distinctive feature. This gave the car its appeal as a result of its much loved cute appearance. The body was styled by Gerry Coker, with subsequent alterations by Les Ireland following Coker’s emigration to the US in 1957. The car’s distinctive frontal styling bore a strong resemblance to the defunct American 1951 Crosley Super Sport.

The problem of providing a rigid structure to an open-topped sports car was resolved by Barry Bilbie, Healey’s chassis designer, who adapted the idea provided by the Jaguar D-type, with rear suspension forces routed through the bodyshell’s floor pan. The Sprite’s chassis design was the world’s first volume-production sports car to use unitary construction, where the sheet metal body panels (apart from the bonnet) take many of the structural stresses. The original metal gauge (thickness of steel) of the rear structure specified by Bilbie was reduced by the Austin Design Office during prototype build, however, during testing at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) distortion and deformation of the rear structure occurred and the original specification was reinstated. The two front chassis legs projecting forward from the passenger compartment mean the shell is not a full monocoque. The front sheet-metal assembly, including the bonnet (hood) and wings, was a one-piece unit, hinged from the back, that swung up to allow access to the engine compartment.

Here’s some vintage footage  of a Mk 1 on the track:

Based on the seller’s description, an enthusiast with mechanical aptitude and a full set of tools can start to work on this Bugeye once you have hauled back to your garage.  This also could be a great father-child project as you socially distance together.  Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“This is a 1960 Bugeye Sprite.
It’s all original and complete, right down to the original nuts and bolts. Some assembly required. Body is solid. A few tiny holes in floor board.
This car was disassembled 25 years ago and has been garaged since. Original engine spins freely by hand. It’s on its way to a decent rustoration.
Elliptical leaf springs were replaced as well as one spring box. Comes with new parts inc. Complete brake and clutch hydraulic system and brake shoes. Has new tires as well.
The hard work on this project is done. Just put it together and you’re cruising in your own classic roadster.
Clear title in hand.

Do you have a Bugeye story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!


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