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Gas-powered 1275 VS electric Bugeye Sprite

Our electric Bugeye is now ready for its new interior, and we are very excited. The car is sorted and exceeds our expectations mechanically, and now we can make it look stunning. Stay tuned!

If you have been following this project, you know I am in love with it, mainly because it is smooth and consistent. I get the feeling that it will be just as smooth and consistent in 100,000 miles. This is a big service interval in the British classic car world, where the life span of a newly rebuilt 948 engine may only be about 50,000 miles.

This week, I wanted to share two videos… the first is of a gas powered Bugeye with a newly rebuilt 1275 engine and five speed Ford transmission. We installed this upgraded powertrain for Len from New Jersey, and finished it with the same anthracite wheels and new tires you see on the electric Bugeye. Len’s car now tracks like an arrow and cruises beautifully at 70 mph, @ about 3300 RPMs in fifth gear.

The sound is just about perfect, courtesy of our custom twin-tipped muffler. Zero-60 time is 15.27 seconds (stock 948 was reported to be 20.5 in 1958). By the way, I backed off a bit because of the truck bearing down on me, so this time is a bit slower than what is possible…

Next is “Sparky,”our electric prototype, with a 4:22 rear end. Zero to 60 time is 10.2 seconds, a full five seconds faster. It also gets to 60 in about half the distance, 530 feet vs 898 ft. The sound you might love in the prior video is completely missing. But I have come to love the electric motor sound too. It’s not a replacement for a sweet exhaust note, it’s just a different cool sound. In fact it makes me think back to black and white Flash Gordon television I used to watch as a kid. Whenever Flash jumped into Dr Zarkov’s rocket to go anywhere, the spaceship made an electric buzzing noise, and I think of Flash each time I take off…

The electric turns 4800 rpms at 75 mph. You might notice the that electric motor really comes on as the RPMs climb. We will next switch to a 4:55 rear end for even more off the line performance. This will raise the RPMs on the highway, but this electric motor doesn’t care the way our gas engines do. Load matters more than RPMs. Range is about 100 miles per full charge. This car is fit with a fast charger so it works at highway charging stations.

We look forward to the next electric conversion… if you have a Bugeye sitting on your property with a worn 948 engine and transmission, our electric direct drive conversion is an attractive option! Or, if you would prefer a rebuilt 1275 with a five speed, we have that kit in stock too! Call or email to get your car on our winter schedule! We can pick up your car anywhere in the country, even if it doesn’t run.

The next chilling chapter of the electric Bugeye Sprite

This was a busy week, with a full house of Bugeyes needing various repairs and restoration work. Our electric project is still a priority, and we made time to add a new radiator to our prototype electric car. This one is tiny, all it has to do is cool the controller, the brain that manages the batteries and motor.

Juice comes in, juice goes out! The AC Bugeye Electric motor controller, roughed-in place, with more wiring to still complete.


I know that the Bugeye Sprite is all about simplicity, and an electronic brain is exactly the antithesis of what the Bugeye is all about. But until further notice, I am hooked on the smooth and maintenance free/turn-key operation of an electric Bugeye. In addition, of the 19 Bugeyes in our building at the moment, the electric is by far the fastest of the bunch. So if we need to add a little cooling to keep the brains of the operation happy, I am more than willing to comply.

I thought you might find this story interesting, as it represents one more way in which we had to engineer a solution to a British car challenge. It turns out that the controller is smart enough to de-rate the power it will transmit to the motor if it gets too hot. You can still limp home, but you don’t get the full power that makes this vehicle so addictive. We set out to fix the problem once and for all so we added a liquid cooled chill plate under the controller.

The silver plate you see in the photo above sandwiches underneath the controller box. You can see the recesses that will carry the antifreeze under the aluminum case that houses the controller. The square O ring around the perimeter keeps the antifreeze in place. Two half inch hoses and a small pump allow the antifreeze to circulate to a small heat exchanger we fit alongside the batteries.

Now, the controller will stay much cooler, which will allow us to send more power to the rear wheels. And thus our car is almost ready for range testing. If the weather improves, we will be out driving the car throughout the balance of the month.

Hybrid Bugeye 0-60 run… Midget meets Bugeye!

This is a really cool car I wanted to share before we send it back to its owners in Durham, NC. They sent us the car for a five speed upgrade, which is now complete.

What’s unique about this car is that it is a late 70s Midget with an awesome Bugeye body conversion. The car has all the Midget running gear, including half elliptical leaf springs which definately give a better ride than the stubby Bugeye springs. 14 inch wheels are fit, as is the later braking system. And the interior has been customized. Other than that, the car looks and feels like a Bugeye.

The car has a 1500 cc engine which was found in all the 75-80 midgets (and Spitfires). Twin carbs were fit, as is a great exhaust system and our sport muffler.
If you are wondering if it’s quick, a good 1275 engine feels about the same. Both the 1500 and 1275 were apparently rated at 65 HP, although the 1500 is rumored to have more torque. This one reached 60 in 16.29 seconds. I am sure I can do better with a good take off, this one was not my best start.

Our new electronic GPS speedos give us a way more effectively compare power output of different Bugeye configurations. Here, I am testing the car prior to loading it into a trailer for the trip home.

For those of you interested in our electric car, this week, we changed the rear end from 3.9 to 4:22 and shaved 1.75 seconds off the 0-60 time. Now the battery powered car will run to 60 in 10.98 seconds. Next week, we will see if we can shave a bit more off that with another rear end gear change. We can easily sacrifice highway speed for better acceleration, and we hope the electric Bugeye will be the fastest we have tested! More later!

0-60 time for an Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite

How fast is your Bugeye?

I spent some time this week in a very technologically advanced Bugeye. In fact, next to our FrogE electric (coming soon!), this may be the most modern Bugeye on the road today. Why? Because of our new GPS powered speedometer, a tiny instrument that comes loaded with a slew of modern electronic and digital features.

Why would anyone need this in a car that is all about elemental simplicity? This is a car that doesn’t even have external door handles, let alone door locks.

Because it’s fun.

One of our more intrepid customers “Farid” routinely uses this red Bugeye for trips from NYC to Milford, CT. His speedo was working erratically, and he wanted it repaired. We diagnosed a loose drive gear in the transmission, a chronic Sprite problem that requires a complete transmission disassembly to fix. An easier repair was to install our new GPS powered electric speedo. One of my favorite features available after this fix is the 0-60 timer, which helps us to answer the perennial question, how much faster is a 1275 Bugeye than a stock 948? Watch below:

The video shows my first run, not too aggressive with a bit of an uphill, at 17.50. My fastest time to 60 was 15.84 seconds. While this sounds very slow compared to modern cars, it’s plenty fast to merge with highway traffic on Interstate 95. And if you want to go faster, this instrument gives you a novel gadget for evaluating tuning improvements. In 1958, Road and Track reported the stock Bugeye 0-60 time as 20.8 seconds. Now, everyone compete for the best time!

I have to confess I was mesmerized by the rock solid analog speed indicator. It never wavered. All my life, speedos and tach have floated through a range of values, as mechanical cables told the gauges what to say. Now, the electronic age is available in your Bugeye cockpit. And I confess I found it quite entertaining.

Other functions you get with the GPS speedo: compass heading, altimeter (86FT), an accurate digital trip odometer (that actually works), time of day, maximum peak speed (which also moves the analog needle to simultaneously display the value and quarter mile time. Check these out in our catalog by clicking here!

You can see pictures of the other screens in the album below. You scroll through the functions with the rubber button on the gauge face. Shown here in the album are compass heading, time, trip odometer and altitude. For 0-60 runs, you hold the button down when in this function to zero the digits. Once you begin moving, the timer begins. When you hit 60 MPH, the times freezes, and only resets when you hit the button again or turn off power. Distance traveled to 60 is also displayed…

Bugeye Sprites with Stripes

Stripes are tricky. Get ’em right and enhance the look of your car. There is no end to the possibilities. But do it wrong, and you can really kill a great restoration.

Here’s a car we are painting this week for a client from Alabama. It is being finished in Olde English White, with a base/clearcoat modern urethane paint. You can see the glossy clear applied in the picture above, and no clear coat yet in the pictures below.

This customer wanted blue stripes for his car, which we felt might not coordinate well with his deep red interior so we settled on blue stripes with red borders, and here are the first pictures as the car was painted just this week.

One key decision to make is whether you want to stripe under the grill. Our painter says it looks like a Bugeye with a goatee, but I think it is is essential to complete the look. Hence you can see the stripes under the grill in the photo below (and without above).

Which do you prefer?

We’ve done quite a few Bugeyes with stripes, the cars support them well, especially if your car has performance modifications, like a roll bar or custom wheels. I have shown a photo gallery below, so you can see the spacing we prefer. You’ll notice all our jobs are centered between the headlights and usually carried almost right to the headlight buckets. Some people like to use offset stripes, but they are even more risky, so we play it safe with center stripes. We have also experimented with as many as four fine stripes between the larger stripes, as you can see in the photo gallery below which includes a few cars we painted and a bunch that came to us with their stripes in place. There’s no right answer, it’s all moving art…

Two stunning Austin Healey Bugeye Sprites with choice modifications

Here’s our #226th and #227th cars sold, as we make final preparations for their departure to new homes. These are both very high level cars, with 948 engines and four speed transmissions. They left together in an enclosed two-car trailer, one for New Jersey, the other for New York. You can see their delivery packaging below-they kept each other company.

Both Sprites are mostly stock, yet each car is quite different. That’s part of the fun for us… after now 228 Bugeyes prepared and sold, no two have been the same. Each one is a quest for the ultimate combination of old and new accessories. Each one is also a unique build to suit the needs of the new owner. And each one teaches us just a little bit more. We are proud to have built so many, and quite grateful to the great customers who have given us the chance to celebrate these great cars and make them better than ever.

“Crane,” (the olde English white car shown at left) was fit with LED lights all around, tri bar pl 700 headlights, a front anti-roll bar, trickle charger, solid state regulator (for greater charging system reliabilty) and topped off with a reproduction of the original owners manual loaded into the door pocket.

Primrose “Rose” was fit with an aluminum accelerator pedal, center console, preferred car cover, new side curtains and original style choke knob and cable. We have clients who prefer stock cars and clients who prefer modified cars and everything in between. This is one of the luxuries of specializing in the Frogeye… modifications abound and it’s always interesting to prepare a car once a buyer steps forward.

These were cheap sports cars and owners have traditionally felt at ease modifying them to taste. “Matching numbers” matters big time if you are into 356 Porsches, but with Bugeyes (most of the time) anything goes. 948 engines were routinely upgraded to 1098 and 1275 units. And even if your car had the original engine (like these two examples shown) the numbers don’t match anyway-BMC used an engine with a number “in range” but not matching the chassis number. So all Bugeye owners have permission to “have it their way” (within reason). We work hard to make our modifications look like they belong. Our catalog continues to grow with offerings that will help any Sprite owner personalize and better enjoy their car.

Below, you can see a short video about the modifications shown. There you can also find links to our parts catalog for the accessories showcased in this post, should you want to (further) upgrade your own Sprite.

Click the links below to learn more about the products mentioned in this post:

Accelerator pedal modification
Larger dashboard rear view mirror
Accurate Mark 1 choke knob and cable
Our preferred car cover
Center console
LED park and turn signal light kit with electronic flasher
LED Brake and park light kit
Front sway bar to reduce body roll
Original owners handbook
tri bar headlights
solid state regulator
trickle charger

Contact us at David@bugeyeguy.com or call (203)-208-0980 during business hours