Pick of the Day: 1959 Austin Healey ‘Bugeye’ Sprite

The very basic 1959 Austin Healey ‘Bugeye’ Sprite always puts on a happy face
The very basic 1959 Austin Healey ‘Bugeye’ Sprite always puts on a happy face

During most of the 1950s, there were not any inexpensive sports cars. If you wanted a cheap sports car, you had to buy one used, and typically a car that was far from perfect. But in the late 1950’s, Donald Healey had the idea to create a sports car for the people, which would be affordable, something that was fun to drive, easy to service and distinctive looking. The car he gave us was the Austin Healey Sprite, known as the “Bugeye” in the US or “Frogeye” in the UK.

The Sprite is a fun car to own and possibly the most basic sports car of all time. The tiny roadster has nothing extra, no roll up windows and a very basic top; it doesn’t even have outside door handles. It is the idea of a sports car reduced to its most elemental parts.

The Sprite looks to be in good condition and ready to drive
The Sprite looks to be in good condition and ready to drive

Although stripped down, the Sprite had one important quality that set it apart: it was incredibly fun to drive. As a result, they sold like hotcakes at a church breakfast.

The Pick of the Day is this 1959 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite located in Lawndale, California. According to the seller’s ClassicCars.com listing, the Bugeye is a well-sorted example and in its original color combination of Old English White with a factory-original red interior.

The seller also states that this example has had a desirable disk-brake conversion. Something we like is that the seller discloses up front that the floors of the car are original and have some thinner areas.

This Bugeye looks to be a nice and honest example and a good deal at the asking price of  $12,750.

While not a perfect car, we think it is a usable Bugeye. All we would do is repair the floors with good replacement panels from Moss Motors or another reliable source, get behind the wheel and drive and enjoy this car as it was intended.

There are few better first-time classic sports cars than the Bugeye Sprite due to inexpensive replacement parts, the ease of working on them and how much fun they are to drive.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

4 thoughts on “Pick of the Day: 1959 Austin Healey ‘Bugeye’ Sprite”

  1. I put together one that looked just like this one in Sunnyvale, California in 1965 while attending grad school at Stanford. It was a ’59, white with red interior. It was put together by combining the engine and running gear and that big bugeye hood/fenders front end that a friend in Marysville gave me [ in exchange for helping him rebuild another bugeye Sprite from another wreck] and a unibody in excellent condition that i bought from a local junkyard for $140.00.

    After hauling that big front end sheet metal, the engine/transmission and running gear and some other miscellaneous parts from Marysville back to 630 San Luisito Way in Sunnyvale [I can’t remember how I did it with just the 1963 Pontiac Le Mans we owned at the time], my friend Jim Loomis and I assembled it in the carport with the junkyard unibody. When we tried to start it up, it was obvious that we had a serious engine problem. The engine had a belt driven Judson supercharger and some of the vanes in the supercharger had disintegrated and debris got sucked into the engine.So Jim and I pulled the engine and transmission out by hand [easy enough to do when it only weighed about 200 pounds soaking wet as I recall]. We took off the head to clean out the debris and realized it needed a valve job. While the head was in the machine shop for the valve job, we took the engine and transmission apart on the patio for some further overhaul work. I rebuilt the transmissionon on the kitchen counter, replacing bearings, seals, gaskets, and some of the gears. Try getting the lady of the house to agree to that kind of operation today! I don’t remember the name or author of the excellent little repair and rebuild manual that I used back then [I want to say Floyd Clymer’s, but I’m not sure], but it was outstanding help in all this work. I did the engine work on the patio, pulling the oil pan and replacing rod and main bearings,seals and gaskets. The pistons, rings, and cylinders looked O.K. so we didn’t mess with them. I had two more things to rebuild, the Judson supercharger where all the sliding vanes had to be replaced and the complete brake system to satisfy the California requirement for a safety inspection for vehicles rebuilt from wrecks. And a lot of rewiring to be done, but you could buy a pretty complete, inexpensive wiring harness for it which made that job relatively easy, especially considering the simple firewall/dashboard/ instrument panel layout of that car. That car was made to be repaired or rebuilt easily, a true delight to work on. I might add that the Judson supercharger worked fine after rebuilding although I suspect it made more noise than horsepower. And the twin SU carburetors were a challenge to adjust properly.

    After putting everything back together and putting on a set of 4 new tires that I bought for $48.00 total plus tax that car ran like a champ with one of my first trips being back up to Marysville to help my friend Ed Powell put together his Sprite and to have Ed paint my Sprite [Ed was a professional painter]. I also got some parts help and advice when I needed it from one of my Stanford classmates, Miles Winbigler who was not only into working on Sprites, but also into racing them at Laguna Seca.
    Miles, are you still there in California and are you still running Sprites?

    The sad end to this tale is that:
    After all that work and at minimal cost [probably less than $300.00 total, we sold that bugeye Sprite in Monterey in December 1965 before heading back to the East Coast because we did not want to be driving two cars with two small children cross country in winter weather.

  2. Brings back good memories. I also, rebuilt a 59 bugeye. Repainted it Baja yellow. Cool car. Wish I still had it now.

  3. Sell? Fix, drive and enjoy? I have a 1959 Bugeye. The fellow that we bought it from has had it out for drives. The vehicle is in my “barn”. We thought it would be a great parade car and that it would be a great deal of fun. However, my husband has had some health issues and I am thinking we should sell. What is the best way to evaluate our bugeye?

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