Driver Desired: 1960 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite – SOLD!

by | Apr 2021 | Classifinds, Sports Car Saturday

June 12, 2021 Update – we confirmed the seller of this Bugeye Sprite “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call Rudy directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

We love featuring 1958-1961 vintage MK1 Austin-Healey “bugeye” Sprites every chance we get. The latest example is this 1960 blue over black Bugeye originally listed in April 2021 on Craigslist in Canfield, Ohio (Cleveland) with an asking price of $13,500.   The private seller could not be any fairer with their pricing as that ask matches the #3 “Good” estimate for both the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool and the Collector Car Market Review.

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.

We found this vintage Sprite commercial on the Unique Cars and Parts YouTube Channel where they pitch the Sprite as a great second car:

Reported to feature an older restoration of a numbers-matching car, the original SU carburetor has been swapped out with what we believe to be a Weber-style unit.  While we love the current exterior blue, the overspray in the engine bay hint this Sprite may have originally been a red car.  Otherwise, the current caretaker believes all this unmolested Bugeye desires is someone who can drive it more often.

Here’s the seller’s description:

“1960 Bug Eye Sprite. The car was restored a number of years ago. I believe it’s # matching. Has top and side curtains. Runs good but been sitting and needs to be driven.

Cash in person only, no trades.

Clean title.

Show or go: what would you do with this Bugeye?  Comment below and let us know!

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