Here’s one of the documents that would come with your brand new Sprite…
I got a great forward this week of a photo of the Bugeye press launch in Monte Carlo, which would have happened about 60 years ago this week. This photo displays the first crop of demonstrators made available for the press when the Frogeye was first launched in 1958 on May 20, two days after the Monaco Grand Prix. Thanks to Jim g for the forward!
We have a new T shirt available to commemorate this event, it’s a high grade V-neck 100% cotton top, to celebrate 60 wonderful years of Sprite. You can order yours by clicking here.
We also have a great commemorative 60th anniversary boot badge, which looks great on your car or on the wall. You can order one of those by clicking here.
Even if you have already seen it, it’s well worth watching the video below, another early promotional BMC piece. In this one, you’ll see PBL 75, widely acknowledged as the first press demonstrator, run at Silverstone sometime in early 1958. I believe this video was shot before the Monte Carlo launch mentioned above. This video showcases a few novel early features, such as the shift tower screwed over the top of the original rubber tunnel mat and you might also notice a different knob on the windshield washer button. BMC was notorious for using what they had available, and so who knows what was rushed onto PBL 75 to make the press launch.
If you’re interested in celebrating the anniversary with other Austin Healey enthusiasts and Austin Healeys alike, there are three events coming up this summer in the US. Check out the details and links below!
- The 43rd annual Healey Rendezvous takes place Sept. 16-21 in Madras, Oregon
- The Austin Healey Conclave celebrates their 42nd anniversary on July 15-20 in Indiana
- The Ariens Art On Wheels Weekend will be held Sept. 14-16 at the Road America Race Track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Happy Birthday Bugeyes!
We’ve had more than 250 Bugeyes pass through out shop and every one of them has twin windshield washer nozzles on the cowl. Windshield washers were actually optional, but I believe all of the US bound cars were fit with them. All dashboard backs I have seen are marked with crayon W/W (for windscreen washer) and I think it was presumed this was a desirable or required feature for all cars offered at US dealers. They never work terribly well, and who would need a squirter on such an open car anyway, but they were still fit by the factory.
The concours standards mention that very early cars had a single nozzle, but we have never seen this anywhere, and never found any photo reference either, until now. Even our very early concours gold car we prepared (AN5L 552) had dual squirters (if you are unfamiliar, production began with car 501, and not all of the early cars were in sequence). So this must be a rare feature indeed. In the photo above, you can see the two large holes that would normally house the wiper posts. The single hole shown is for a tonneau lift dot fitting on the dash. There are no rear view mirror holes on this cowl, those appear to have been filled at some point-you can still see their outline.
One of our projects for a customer includes cowl restoration on his car. We have had a parts car cowl in our inventory for years, and this was the place to use it. When I dug it out, much to my surprise, here was the single washer plain as day. Thus this old part must have come from a particularly early car. According to the concours standards, twin jet systems were offered “shortly after production began.” Too bad this small cowl panel is all that is left of that particular early car!
I thought others who love this sort of detail would like to see this, so I have posted a few photos here. I cannot confirm that this is factory accurate, but given that the usual twin squirter holes are missing, I have good reason to believe this is a genuine single nozzle set-up.
A lot of the cars we see are missing their washer nozzles, and while they often don’t work, it’s always nice to install them to fill the holes in the cowl. Every restoration looks better once errant holes are filled! We sell (twin-type) squirters (left) in our catalog, you can find them by clicking here. We also sell the often missing washer pump, which looks great when you fill that hole on your dashboard. You can buy that product by clicking here.
We have about 12 Bugeyes in our building at the moment and it’s fun to compare and contrast the various production changes anytime a large herd gathers. In the video below, you can see a few of the unique features on 1958 Bugeyes, particularly on “Luigi,” one of our Bugeyes currently for sale (for $23,995). While all roughly 49,500 Bugeyes built are fundamentally the same, some collectors love the subtle changes that were made through the production run, and it’s interesting to see what is unique about the very first Bugeyes made in 1958…
BTW, if you are into the production numbers, thin windshields ended at car #5476, rear wheel arch fat gussets were added at car #4333… Click here if you want to buy a great restorers guide that lists all the production changes and more…
This week, I saw the blue custom nose-equipped Bugeye for sale online (pictured at left). This one has the Bugeyes removed and the lights shining through plexiglass from behind. I wish people wouldn’t modify their noses, as the bugeye persona is often lost when the cutting begins. But some original Bugeye noses are too far gone-with rust and/or dents- so a new fiberglass alternative is a realistic option (these first two are steel, but most of the noses below are fiberglass).
This second green and yellow shaved nose (pictured to the left) is on a race car we made into a street car. In this case, we fit driving lights on the front to make it useable at night. This customer cut off the original lights for better aerodynamics on the track.
In this post, you can see some of the various Frogeye nose variants routinely seen. There are some obscure very limited production noses not featured here, but the most popular ones are shown below. Some of them are fit to later Spridgets, but they have all been seen on Bugeyes too. I am by no means an expert on this topic, but you can read more about Sebring and custom Sprites at this link, http://www.sebringsprite.com, where you can see Sprinzel Sprites and other variants, both original and re-creations. (The site is a great resource if you like this sort of thing.)
We also have a Bugeye in the shop now that’s fit with a Kellison nose, and it’s pretty slick! Check out the original advertisement-It was only $150 to purchase this sleek nose to make your Bugeye “fairly fly.” I’m not sure how much it actually improves the performance, but that was the claim, and it sure is lighter than a stock nose.
We have a Williams and Pritchard nose from the 60s in Healey blue that is allegedly from a Sebring Sprite raced by Sterling Moss.
Maybe one day we’ll build a car around it! But in the meantime, I am most sold on conventional Bugeye noses, as they hold the Bugeye DNA that I like best.
Here a look back at a car featured in the June, 1991 issue of Road & Track. We ended up acquiring this green car in 2015 from Steve in Costa Mesa, the fellow who provided the two cars for the R&T story. We named it “Angus” and later sold it to Scott in Utica, NY. It was our 160th Bugeye sold.
Here’s a scan of the original R&T cover and Bugeye story. I believe Steve still has the Blue car, now 25 years after this story was originally published. You can enlarge this original text so you can read the original article, still just as relevant today (although the prices continue to climb!)