How to build a gold level concours Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite

We are proud to announce that we attained a gold award in the concours class at the Austin Healey Enclave in Gettysburg, PA this week! Our 1958 Sprite AN5L 552 scored 965.5 points. Gold is awarded for 950-1000 points. This was a huge achievement for us!

Each car starts with 1000 points. Then four judges pour over every nut and bolt on the car for two full hours, deducting points for any imperfection. Owners get to watch and learn, while hoping that the points don’t come off too quickly!

This is the first of a series of posts I’ll share about the event. It took us a year rebuild this car. It was a wonderful restoration, but we had to undo a lot that was done on this car and redo it with concours standards in mind. That meant taking off a lot of accessories that help drivability, but which were not factory correct. It was an arduous process, and we now have a lot to celebrate. This car is now the oldest Gold level concours Sprite in the world. (make sure to click “read more” below the photo to see a short judging video)


Of the 156 Bugeyes we have prepared, this one was the most difficult, because everything has to be perfect. Deductions are given for originality and correctness, but they are also given for condition. So it’s not enough to just find the rare original bits that aren’t readily available… they also have to be cosmetically perfect, or points are still deducted even if you have the right unobtainium parts!

Add to that human interpretation of the judging standards, and the fact that judges aren’t perfect, so you can even loose points for items you know are actually factory correct.

Not all concours are equal… this car has been to several high level events this year but the competition has been against rare million dollar cars that deserve awards far more than a little Bugeye. Plus, most concours judging is somewhat arbitrary. But the Austin Healey club uses a far more objective system, with much greater scrutiny, making this award quite an honor. They publish guidelines defining a perfect Sprite. Our job was to build a car to match the guidelines. The judges check to see how accurately the builder recreated a factory accurate car. The score is tallied and Bronze is awarded for 850-900 points, silver for 900-950, and gold for 950-1000.

Below you can see some of the judging in process. This is just a two minute clip of engine bay judging. You’ll see the judges examine the rare early two bladed red engine fan (which doesn’t cool very well and was thus later upgraded at the factory) and also the fan belt, which must look original even if it is a new replacement. The head judge George is checking to make sure that no modern logo adorns the fan belt. Fortunately, we had removed the NAPA logo with lacquer thinner before the event or points would have come off.

There are multiple types of heater valves out there, and you can also see George trying to remember which is correct. Ours is the proper early type, with a round knob that’s lightly knurled. Later valves were easier to grip with bigger depressions. Knowing this kind of minutiae is what makes a gold level restoration. The project was very rewarding for us because it helps us build better cars and make more accurate parts, even if they never see a single concours event.

These judges spent what seemed like an eternity reviewing originality and condition of every inch of this car. We are ecstatic that gold was the result! More pix tomorrow!

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