Last December, I announced at our company holiday party that I had purchased the first production Bugeye Sprite. Never did I imagine that we wouldn’t be opening the box with this car in it until mid-July 2022, but here we are! Seven-plus months after its journey began, AN5L/501 has arrived, and this special Sprite does not disappoint.
501 is a car that has been restored to Concours condition while also being made into a driver at the same time. This is perhaps one of the best interiors we’ve seen in a Frogeye, one that is both accurate and usable. The builder of the tunnel mat included the ribs that would’ve come on the original rubber mat on the tunnel into a hardura piece and did so with great skill and artistry. Many other small details involving the interior were done with the utmost precision, as well.
We are now diving into what will be one of our most difficult projects to date, which is to take a superbly significant car and make it exactly match its build quality and condition from the very day it was built back in February and March of 1958. It will mean undoing a few of the things that have been done to the car that look stunning, but are unfortunately not concours correct, like the wire wheels, wood steering wheel, and HS2 carburetors.
I will be forever indebted to the Bennetto family. Tony Bennetto was the Australian who purchased this car in California in 2012, brought it to Australia and painstakingly restored it. Unfortunately, he passed away during the restoration; it was finished without his oversight but was done beautifully.
Perhaps the most daunting task that lie ahead is the hardware used to assemble the car. There must be at least 50 modern grade 5 bolts built into the car that will all need to be removed and replaced with the correct original-style fastener as shown above. If we left them all in place, each one would cost us two points, with no deduction limit, and would all but ensure that we would not make the gold Concours grade; the hardware challenge alone will keep us quite busy for these two short months that we have before the Austin-Healey Enclave Poconos Concours judging coming this September.
So I’ve gotta go! We’ve got our hands full with this one. We will keep you posted as we work to re-restore 501 and take it to the next level of National Austin Healey Club Concours accuracy, which is a perfect match for an automobile of such significance. In the meantime, check out the video above I made of 501 upon its arrival yesterday. When we are finished, the car will look exactly as it was on the day it left the factory floor!
If you’d like to follow along with us and see what it takes to make a Bugeye Concours-correct, or wish to show your support for this project, check out these items below!