This is one of our favorite Bugeyes (and it doesn’t even have eyes)! Our mission was to take this old race car and bring it back as a fun driver. Our goal was to make sure it was easy to drive without being too high-strung. Here’s a picture of the car in it’s former glory, in blue with a different roll bar and wire wheels, circa 1969. Click to enlarge it, it’s a great photo! Headlights were shaved for a more aggressive look, and for better aerodynamics. Of course the original Bugeye design featured hideaway headlights, so this racer evokes the style of the Bugeye prototype, which proved too expensive for Austin Healey to manufacture (there was also reportedly a problem with the headlights popping out at speed on the prototype, a problem they didn’t have the budget to resolve).
This was Gene Rullo’s race car in the 60s and 70s. That’s Gene in the blue car. When he passed away, he left the car to his son Gino, who wanted to bring the car back to life in his dad’s honor. Gino shipped us the car about six months ago. It hadn’t driven in a long time… and the last incarnation was as a race car in the current green and yellow paint scheme, with an open exhaust, no lights, a worn interior and no frills.
We went over everything and set out to make the car user-friendly while preserving the heritage of the car. In fact, we call this project a “preservation,” not a restoration.
First we had to handle the body, which was beat up with racing scars. It had a great patina, but the nose was dented and rusty. Gino suggested we use a different correct Bugeye nose, but we encouraged him to preserve his dad’s vision for unique front of his race car, so we set out to weld-up and fill the existing nose to bring it back to life.
Then we had to deal with the hinges, as the racing nose was removable-not very practical for street use-it’s heavy! So we fabricated flip forward hinges to utilize Gene’s former locking pins.
Then we went through all the systems-new inner fenders were needed, so Bob fabricated those, and air filters, exhaust with sport muffler, shocks, instruments, lights, horn, etc, all so Gino could legally use the car on the road. We painted the roll bar, the door insides, the cockpit and finally the nose. We set up everything for street use, leveraging all our experience from the 114 Bugeyes we’ve had in our shop before this one so we could build a reliable driver. And the result is exceptional.
Even in the 25 degree weather we had today, I tested the car and ran some errands. The brooklands screen does a fine job of keeping the wind off one’s head. The car has tons of power, and a bit of a lumpy idle because of the race cam, but it is easy to drive and great fun!
It was very satisfying to improve the cosmetics without going too far. The car retains so much of the original race character, it makes the experience of driving the car that much more exiting. I am really glad we didn’t repaint the whole car and make it too nice, too restored and too intimidating to throw into the turns. We had talked about putting in carpet but that would have been a mistake. Thus the car still has painted (uncarpeted) floors just like it did when Gino last ran it at Lime Rock.
We recovered the seats but left the period wood grain contact paper and dyno labels for fuel pump and ignition. We did hide a horn button under the dash, and added a hidden battery cut off with a removable key. Notice there is still no ignition key, as you would expect in a race car.
Congratulations Gino! Thank you bringing this car back to life! Look for the car at car shows on Long Island (NY) this summer!
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