NEW! VIDEO tour and drive! See the gas fired heater in action! And this week, we added new Green door liners… we hated to remove the original ones but they were so far gone, that we made some new reproductions and they look great!!!
Check out the video below:
Seabiscuit (AN5L 18863) is one of my favorite Bugeyes in recent memory because it is completely unique. It’s a superb example of a survivor, a preservation-class Bugeye that has a remarkable number of original features still in place. Of course, the original rubber mats are wonderful to see, but each time I look at this car I find something else that I haven’t seen on other Sprites… for example, it’s exciting to me to the original screws that hold the trunk boards in place (I am easily excited).
Many of the components mentioned in the guidelines of the concours standards are visible in real time on this car, and that’s what makes Seabiscuit so much fun. When we built 501, we had to make sure that we recreated a number of original features that were not present in 501 after its initial restoration. On this car, however you can see the original features still unmolested and in place as the factory intended.
A great example of an original feature not often found on restored Bugeyes is the seam sealer along the firewall. Every restored car that we see has been either media blasted or otherwise stripped of its original finish, so these stains and materials are all removed in the name of a sanitary restoration; but in the case of a survivor like this, it’s actually quite beautiful to see the original decayed material still intact. So if you like this sort of automotive time capsule, this is a great car to consider and something that cannot be replaced in this condition.
Of course, one of the most dramatic and unique period pieces on this car is the 1959 “Southwind” gas-powered heater. We’ve never seen a Bugeye would this feature, and we were really excited to have a chance to learn about it and restore it. It now works as designed.
We have every reason to believe this heater was fit on the car when it was brand new, because this is an early version of this particular gas heater, available in early 1959. (This car was built in June of 1959, per the heritage caertificate.) In mid-1959, Stewart-Warner introduced a few upgrades on their Southwind heater which are not present on this unit, so it is conceivable that the dealer that sold this car when new fit the heater for the first owner of the vehicle. Of course, we will never be able to verify that because there are no records regarding it, but the origin date of both products seem to overlap perfectly.
According to the Heritage certificate which is shown below, this car was shipped from the factory with a heater, but that would’ve been the stock hot water heater that came on most Bugeyes. As with most North American-sold automobiles in the late 1950s, heaters were optional equipment (these could be left off of cars bound for California or Hawaii, for example) but it seems that all US bound Sprites were shipped with heaters. Anyway, we believe the original dealer removed that water-powered heater and fit this particular car with this gas-powered alternative. Perhaps the car was sold in a cold climate, as its Minnesota license plates would tend to suggest.
Above you can see the original writing on the back of the dashboard which specified some of these car’s features. On the right you can see the beginning four numbers (1886) of the VIN, and on the left you see H (heater), R/C (rev counter), W/W (windscreen washers), MPH (USA specs). All of these bits are listed below on the heritage certificate for this car! This writing is the most visible that we’ve seen on the back of a dashboard and furthermore helps to tell the incredible story of this amazing survivor!
Also note the original lower water hose that does not contain the standpipe for the original heater, shown below with the menagerie of original parts that we removed from this car for reliability and safety purposes. We removed that hose (and every other coolant hose, all of which appeared to be original) because it’s old and risky to use given its age, but it’s the hose this car would’ve been fitted with when the heater was removed, in this case, in favor of the gas powered alternative. This particular model of gas heater was used in early Chevrolet Corvairs, and I suspect that was the bulk of Southwind’s business in that era, although Volkswagens and other air-cooled vehicles (like airplanes and military equipment) also used gas-powered heaters back in the day.
It was a lot of fun to fit a custom dual exhaust pipe to exhaust the emissions from the heater, which had previously been exiting under the passenger seat; I’m not sure if that was done to delete your passenger or simply because of the lack of time in engineering, but we fit a little bit more proper exhaust pipe that exits on the side. Hopefully the side pipe adds to the fun of having a one-of-a-kind Bugeye with a Southwind heater, which should be even more impressive at car shows than a Judson supercharger!
The period-type Rupert Parachute Company seatbelts are also a really cool artifact, and that’s another layer of what makes this car so special. Seabiscuit is a rare car, because Bugeyes are only original once. This one been incredibly well-preserved over the years, and it’s such an honor to be able to offer such a survivor to you!
Seabiscuit was re-painted once some time ago, it still looks good enough I wouldn’t change a thing. We’ve just spent 50 hours upgrading all the perishable parts to make it into a reliable driver; we put new brake hydraulics, clutch hydraulics, and fuel lines in, to name a few things; we tuned the carburetors and we fit brand new whitewall tires to match the heritage certificate. It came with whitewalls then and it comes with whitewalls now!
Check out the awesome video above for a tour of Seabiscuit! If you want a show-stopping survivor Bugeye this is the car for you!