Rod Buller purchased his Bugeye Sprite from bugeyeguy.com no differently than any of our other customers. He went to our our website, fell in love with a 1960 Iris Blue Bugeye named Howard, and then called to make his purchase. The big difference, however, is that Rod is 86 years old. The 111 Bugeyes we have sent to new homes have primarily gone to people in their Forties, fifties, sixties, and occasionally seventies. Not one of our cars has been delivered to an owner over 80, let alone someone 86 (he’ll be 87 in March).
When Rod first called, I was moved by the mere fact that he had shown up for a conversation normally reserved for those most nimble. Most of his contemporaries would be more interested in a Lexus or Crown Victoria than in our pocket-sized sports cars, but he had already taken his 5’10” inch frame to the home of another Florida Bugeye owner to check his ability to enter and exit, and called me ready to go. Rod was happy to report he could get in and out of a Bugeye with ease.
From the start I felt that this was a story of a elderly man who was purposely demonstrating what is possible in one’s later years. But after getting to know Rod a little better, I could see this was my story, not his… Rod is simply being Rod, living his life fully, just as he did at any other point in his life, with nothing to prove. He is simply living in the moment, as any of us strive to do, and a Bugeye is his chosen toy. He just happens to be 86.
Sports cars have been a part of Rod’s life for a long time. He got his first British car in 1957. While driving his four door Studebaker Commander from Southern Mexico (where he was working as an agronomist) home to Allentown, PA, he stopped at a sports car dealership in Atlanta and traded the Commander for a new 1957 Austin Healey 100/6. He drove the Healey home to PA (in the winter!) and then 2700 miles back to Cuernavaca, Mexico.
I imagine a long and dusty Mexican road in 1957 with bandits behind every mesa, and a less than reliable British car (even when new) coughing through the dust. But Rod had no issues other than a wire that came disconnected from his wiper motor, and made it home with no trouble. He eventually sold that car to a friend, but when the new 3000 came out in 1959, Rod had to have another big Healey, and paid the dealer in Mexico City for his next British car which he picked it up in London (where he was headed on a business trip). After driving that car in England and shipping it back to Mexico, Rod enjoyed that Healey until 1961, when he was invited to lead the Peace Corps in Venezuela, and so he piled into the 3000 and drove it to Washington DC, where he went to work selecting volunteers for assignment with him in Venezuela. He sold the Healey in Washington in 1962, in anticipation of his move to South America.
Fast forward to 1978, when Rod’s father died, and Rod inherited dad’s 1967 Porsche 911 Soft Window Targa. Now back in America, Rod showed and drove this fine car, and in 2008 had the car completely restored, so he could return the car to the show circuit with a pristine car. When he sold the 911 last year, Rod started looking for an inexpensive sports car with which he could tinker, and thus his search led him to our website where he made his purchase.
And so Rod is just like any other “car guy” who has chosen to travel through life in interesting cars. It’s not Rod’s decision to buy a Bugeye that keeps him youthful. But his Bugeye is simply the next car to share an adventurous life that has included some great classic cars, each one of which have kept him young.
He and his wife Marie will celebrate their 49th anniversary in 2014, with their renamed Bugeye “Bluebird.” Look for them at car shows in and around Jupiter, Florida.