We didn’t win an official trophy at the Lime Rock Concours this past Labor Day. Our class included some classic super cars, and our adorable little duckling didn’t stand a chance against these marvelous swans. Our trophy was this photo, because the beautiful model pictured didn’t stop to pose with the class winners. She came back to the Bugeye twice. That says a lot about the Bugeye’s timeless appeal.
We had a blast, and here are some photos of my favorite sights from a wonderful day!
This was our first concours and while we have had plenty of cars in the past that would qualify, this particular yellow car 552 was made before car 501 (the first production Sprite) and is a the oldest Bugeye in America, so it’s a natural for the concours circuit. We are determined to get every minor detail just right and exact, and maybe next year we’ll take this car to the annual national Healey conclave to meet the most meticulous of judges.
We’ve been hard at work on this car to correct the accuracy of every minor detail. For example, we put in a reproduction tar-top battery (with modern guts hidden inside) with a big Lucas logo on the side, as well the correct helmet type battery terminals, which don’t work nearly as well as the modern clamp type, but these are the correct original type. We put in the proper fabric rear axle check straps… these often break so rubber ones are the new defacto standard–but rubber is a deduction in the concours game because it’s not correct, so we replaced them. This is a particularly interesting process for us because we have to remove items that we know work (after seeing now 136 Bugeyes through our shop!) in favor of items that often don’t work as well but are correct. Of course a lot of the original stuff is far superior, but I can’t tell you how many broken fabric check straps we have removed over the years (and no broken rubber ones), as well as loose helmet battery terminals that are just waiting to leave a customer stranded.
Another big project has been to remove the cad-plated modern bolts used to restore this car and to replace them with the proper original type. They’re easy to spot with their golden/yellowish plated color, and we must have replaced 100 so far. One of the luxuries of focusing on these cars is that our spare bolt bin is full of used original Bugeye bolts. And these simple cars use a surprisingly small range of sizes and threads. Sometimes it seems as though the entire Bugeye is built from 1/4×28 by 1.25″ bolts.
We spent a lot of time detailing the boot too. We made sure to use the correct original type of spare tire hold down straps and we confirmed that the earliest cars did not have the fiberboard rear wing inner partitions that are fit to the later cars. It seems from a number of pictures people have sent me that the spare tire tray as shown in the factory Bugeye brochure did exist for the first 4800 or so cars, so we made one from the pictures we have. I’ve never seen one before, but now we have one that looks quite like the photos! We also put in the proper felt blocks under the spare tire.
We made lots of small color changes too. For example, rear shocks are supposed to be silver with black arms. This car had all- black ones, which are common. The engine valve cover cap was painted green like the engine. It’s supposed to be silver. So we changed that too.
In all we made about 100 sometimes tiny changes to 552 with the mind to make it accurate in every way. And then on the morning of the show I departed at sunrise for the roughly two-hour drive to Lime Rock in a car that was perhaps too clean and detailed to be driven.
The drive was uneventful, pleasant in fact, and I was delighted that the required original mechanical fuel pump and ignition points did their job. We have gotten very used to upgraded electronic fuel pumps and electronic ignition systems because they are simply more reliable.
It’s fun to line up on the side of the straightaway for this show, as though preparing for a massive Lemans style start. We were sandwiched between a Stunning 19OSL and a really nice MGA. Wayne Carini of “Chasing Classic Cars” and two other judges came down the line and spent about 5 minutes with each car. This was more of a casual judged event than a comprehensive evaluation of each nut and bolt. But I suspect no amount of correct Bugeye componentry could match the competition of the cars in our group. The class winner was a fantastic Arnolt Bristol. Second went to a magnificent AC Ace. Third to a seemingly perfect XK 150 roadster. If I were a judge, I would have chosen these cars too. Even the car next to ours was perhaps a $200,000 new restoration of a 190SL. He deserved a prize too. In fact every car I saw at this event was a winner in my eye. Judging can’t be easy.
I spent a lot of time wandering through the amazing cars on display. I have photos of my favorites below. I also shook hands with Sir Stirling Moss, who is pictured signing the dashboard of my friend Bill Prout’s racing Sprite.
Back on the road home in my spotless, correct and accurate 1958 concours Bugeye I periodically stopped to check the weather radar on my 2014 BugIphone and I thought I had the large yellow and red cells beat. But in Beacon Falls I had to duck under an awning at an abandoned restaurant and wait out the (first) storm. There should be an iPhone App for British cars and motorcycles that tells you were you can find bank drive- throughs, self service car washes and underground parking garages, or barns with open doors so you can drive your roadster in and keep it dry as the weather moves on.
The sun reappeared and dried the road a bit and so I left my nest and headed south, but then the sky started to blacken while I drove through a wooded area with no temporary garages. And then the sky opened-up and the rain fell so heavily that while I could barely see, I dared not stop for fear that someone behind would plow into me. I drove through some giant puddles that shorted my original ignition wires, but there was enough engine heat and momentum to press on, even though temporarily on two cylinders. I finally reached the Chase bank in Amity and took over one lane. I wonder if bank employees ever review security camera footage. If you see a “please don’t park your British car here” sign at your bank, you’ll know I messed it up for all of us.
I had enough time waiting for the sun to show up to make a long list of the virtues of an enclosed trailer when campaigning a concours car.
Another really nice benefit of Bugeye ownership is that these small cars are easy to dry-out. So our concours Bugeye is now ready again for the next event. And we have a few months to find the next 100 things to correct.
We have immensely enjoyed the meticulous process of setting everything right. With all that we know about preparation of a Bugeye for life in the modern world, there is an equally fascinating and comprehensive concours world to play in, and as we develop expertise in this new arena, the quality of our overall product and offerings continues to improve.