This is AN5L 552, built in early 1958, BEFORE AN5L 501 (which is otherwise considered to be the first Bugeye made). Unfortunately, there are not very good records for early production of most British cars. But a number of Sprite historians agree…AH did not produce the early cars in sequence and our car is not the 51st built, but is instead among the first four cars built, identified because the rear arch supports are bolted instead of welded in place, which is acknowledged as a feature found only on four other very early Bugeyes!
The rear wheel arches were a weak spot on the Sprites, and reinforcements were needed, so bolt on supports were added to the first few cars. Once production started with AN5L 501, these rear reinforcements were welded on in the assembly line, not bolted in place.
Perhaps the only other surviving Bugeye with bolted arch supports is AN5L 507, also known as PBL 75, the car Austin Healey used for most of the promotional literature and brochures. PBL 75 was built before our car, but many believe that 552 was built immediately after. That makes our car a vary special car indeed… maybe the second oldest Sprite in existence… about the fourth or so manufactured… and since PBL 75 and the other early cars stayed in England for promotional work, this car is quite possibly the first Bugeye ever imported to the United States.
We are honored to be invited to show 552 at the Lime Rock Historic Concours this August 31. But first we have a number of changes to make to bring the car back to it’s accurate original configuration. It’s a lot of fun for us to return original components to this car for accuracy, and you’ll see one of 50 or so “corrections” that we are making in the video below.
We are making a DVD all about how to make a concours Bugeye. In that video, we will describe each of the changes we have made to this car to remove an incorrect part and replace it with an original (or otherwise correct) part so that 552 ends up prepared exactly as she would have come from the factory.
We’ll have more information about the dvd and about this project in the days to come as we get ready for our first big concours. In the meantime, you can pre-order “How to build a concours Bugeye Sprite” by clicking the buy it now button below. On this two hour disk, we share all the details of what goes into accurately preparing your Bugeye to compete in concours events. Even if you don’t want to compete, this dvd is a detailed description of the correct features of the Bugeye Sprite, a must for every restorer! Click the “buy now” button below to buy the dvd (not the car) for $49.95 and we’ll send it to you as soon as it is available.
We’ll have more free information about this particularly rare Bugeye in the days to come!