This is our 1960 Bugeye called “Susan” departing. She is the 217th Bugeye we have sold.
We owned this car about five years ago and sold it to a wonderful woman in New Brunswick, Canada (named Susan). Sadly, she passed away recently, and we bought the car and then sold it to Ralph in California, who had us customize the car to his specifications before we sent it on its way. Here’s a video about the modifications we did to this car.
The story of this shipment is the culmination of extensive Bugeye sorting and improving. We took a great Bugeye and made it even greater, and we’re proud of the fact that this car is now simply a delight to drive and enjoy. I continue to be amazed that we have sold now 218 Bugeyes, more than any single workshop has ever touched and handled (either when they were new or any time since).
I am even more amazed how much we have learned along the way. The cars just keep getting better. The improvements we make are at times subtle, and sometimes dramatic. But when I drove this car onto the trailer for it’s cross country trip, I was fist-pumping and smiling because the car is completely dialed-in. When everything comes together, these short and at times twitchy little cars become sublime. I am forever excited that we know how to make that happen. A Bugeye is a very simple car, and very forgiving in many ways. But to drive one that is really set-up right is nothing like one that is just “OK.” We spend our days in that zone, the space of constantly improving an old car to make it the best it can be, and this turns us on, particularly when it all comes together and becomes a great product such as the car you see here.
There were a bunch of noteworthy improvements on this one. (the referenced products are all “hot” and linked to our parts catalog, if you would like these same products for your car). First, this car showcases our hard tonneau without stripes, and I fell in love with the monochromatic vibe. While I am not usually in passionate about red cars, the addition of the big red panel in the cockpit made the car into something I have not seen before, and I was surprised that this one became one of my new favorites. The new splash of color on top made this Bugeye seemed to supercharge its appearance.
By the way, I notice writing this post how easily I still get excited about each of these cars. Perhaps it says something about me, but I believe what’s much more relevant and interesting is how many people, like me, also have Bugeye imprinted on their DNA. The manifestation of this phenomenon is the multiple Bugeye owner… there are many out there who have had and who still have multiple Bugeyes in their garage (or in the yard, in their barn, on their trailer, in the weeds behind their house, etc) The cars are infectious, and I am proud to report I am still very much infected.
To that end, this car also has contrasting red fat thread stitching on the tonneau, another new innovation that allows us to amp-up small details to personalize and upgrade these simple cars. The “mini” tonneau is itself a cool innovation, that is very helpful if a hard tonneau car is left out in the rain, and we have upgraded that product with contrasting stitching. We can offer the same on any conventional tonneau we build for you through our catalog, you can find the link here. We work hard to make upgrades like these that quietly add elegance to these cars.
Too often, upgrades on old cars can be overdone. We strive to make accessories that look like they belong. It’s subjective, but the fat thread on the tonneaus is meant to evoke the feel of an old football you’d see on “The Little Rascals,” and thus we feel we have license to try to make anything that looks like it could have existed in 1960 when we make add-ons for these cars. Plastic for example, is used only when absolutely necessary. For example, the center console and arm rest is a great product we offer in our catalog, because there is no glove box to hold your change and fuses. So the center console is a wonderful product for functionality. Unfortunately at present, it is only available with an ABS plastic base.
There have been numerous mechanical upgrades and improvements too on this car, which came together in harmony. Any five-speed transmission in a Bugeye is a dream-come-true. We sell the Ford five-speed conversion kit, which rarely rattles in the shifter, but Datsuns often clatter when not properly set-up. We made bushings for this shift lever assembly to stop it from rattling, which also tightened up the linkage, to make one more delightful tight interface between man and machine, something I appreciate with every shift. The engine ran well when we got the car, but it ran a lot better through the entire rev range once we fit the HS2 carbs with #3 needles, which seem to have the right profile for ethanol based modern fuel. K and N lifetime air filters also help this car to breathe freely.
The car had a recent SU fuel pump installed when we got it. This is a very nostalgic pump, and makes the right clicks as it pressurizes the system. Remember, all Bugeyes came with a mechanical pump, so no electric pump is original to the car. The mechanical pump is a bad idea, for it risks flooding the crankcase with fuel, or flooding the ground and hot down pipe with fuel, and is slow to prime, so we are huge electric upgrade advocates. This pump looked fine on our preliminary inspection, but the power lead vibrated off on one of my test drives, which stranded me on the side of the road util I figured it out. So with reliability in mind, we removed said SU vintage British pump and replaced it with a new solid state cube pump. Most people would not have done this. But we are proud of the fact that we did. While it cost the customer a few bucks, I will sleep better knowing that we put in the most reliable pump we have, given great field experience that verifies they do not fail. The points don’t get dirty (there are none), the leads don’t fall off (they are hard wired) the banjo fittings don’t leak (there are none), the diaphragm doesn’t leak (it’s sealed). So while Ralph didn’t “need” a new electric pump, he got a better pump with fewer vulnerabilities, and the peace of mind that comes with it.
The LED lights we added are another modern-world necessity, to help other drivers wake-up. The three-point retractible seat belts are essential in my mind, mainly because it helps me to feel I am wearing the car. I like “being one” with these machines. The aluminum radiator we fit is essential for the Southern california heat that this car will now face. And there were more improvements, but you get the idea.
Every one of the cars we ship will receive 25-100 hours of our time as we attempt to move them closer to that blissful fist-pumping state. Sure, we all hope we find used classic cars from sellers who naturally do all this stuff for us, but the reality is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and if you haven’t driven more than 200 of the car you are selling, perhaps you are less familiar with what it means to build something that is fully sorted. We are not perfect. We can’t always fix everything. And we don’t (usually) take apart things we didn’t build that are working well when we review them. But what we do offer, and what we are proud to offer, is the experience to know what works and what doesn’t… and what is likely to keep working in the field and what won’t. And we know what accessories can help you personalize and improve your ultimate sports car.
I didn’t yet mention that Ralph, the new owner of this shiny red Bugeye, traded his project Bugeye and cash for this improved version. I love these stories, because it means a Bugeye that could never quite get finished gets transformed overnight into a glorious specimen, as if by aliens. I imagine that Ralph’s neighbors will smile as he drives by, and wonder how they can get the new vitamins he must be taking, because how else could he have gotten so much done on his little car, in so little time.
When I got into Ralph’s old car (shown here) to drive it off the trailer when it arrived from California, it came to life quickly… albeit on two cylinders.
And so the next renovation begins.
If you are building your own blissful Bugeye, here are a few more links to products we built into this car, all detailed in our catalog: