This is a Bugeye we call “Otto” (AN5L 9824). We were excited to re-purchase this attractive automobile after a four-year stay out in Washington State. Otto is a unique car in Bugeye circles, for one big reason: it has an “Ottomatic” transmission. If you are a purist, this car is probably not for you. But if you love Bugeyes and need or want an automatic transmission (for whatever reason), this car is the greatest thing going, and it could be the ticket to a Bugeye in your life if a manual transmission is not workable for you!
This car is very well-restored, and is uniquely fitted with with a GM three-speed automatic transmission with an electric 4th gear overdrive system, all coupled behind a 1.4 liter Isuzu G140 engine found in Pontiac T1000s and Chevy Chevettes. The engine has about 52 horsepower, perhaps a bit more since a nice header is installed. Compared to a 43 HP stock 948 Bugeye, the power plant feels more than adequate–not quite as quick as a 1275 Bugeye but quicker than a 948 car. It also got an estimated FORTY Highway MPGs when new, courtesy of the overdrive!
Over the years, we have met quite a few people who could not operate a manual transmission for a host of reasons, ranging from physical challenges to pure preference. This car helps to bridge that gap. This one is extremely well done, as you can see below in our video, taken in 2017, during Otto’s last stay at Bugeyeguys. I’m not sure when and if we will ever have another automatic!
Otto was built about 20 years ago in Texas. We got the car in 2017, went through it, and sold it to a customer in Washington. The odometer currently shows about 17,500 miles, and it looks to me that this is the mileage that has been put on the car since the restoration. About 4,000 of those miles were put on by the most recent owner. As with most British cars of this vintage, actual mileage is unknown.
The finish is excellent and the red paint shines nicely. The builder removed the beading strips on the top of the nose and fenders for a more “streamlined” look. This, too, was very well executed, as was a very interesting and unique and concealed bonnet lock mechanism in the footwells to lock down the flip forward nose. They work great.
The fabricator who built Otto did an admirable job fitting the driveline and trimming the cabin. It’s all very clean and well-customized. The GM transmission is, of course, wider than the standard Sprite gearbox, but by removing the battery and heater shelf, everything fits just fine. The transmission tunnel in the cockpit is also slightly wider, and very well executed. The large radiator is well-suited to keeping everything cool, with two substantial electric fans, each independently operated by switches mounted under the dash, fitted to help on warmer days or in warmer climates. The car drives very nicely! Front disk brakes are also fitted, and the stopping power is quite good. The roll bar is a nice touch and is well-fit, as are the fender mirrors.
Otto’s footwell floor panels were replaced during the restoration, thus ensuring a solid underside. An impressive cross brace was also welded under the car, to keep everything strong. You can also see the transmission cooler underneath the car, tucked up neatly under the front of the car, out of harm’s way.
Otto is well-sorted and ready to go. Too often, this sort of custom project is a bit half-baked. Luckily, this car was engineered by a great builder, who made a very well-modified, user-friendly Sprite that anybody can drive! Otto has stood-up to the test of over 17,500 trouble-free miles, and is ready for a whole lot more!
Give us a call if you’re interested in making Otto your next British classic!