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Another exceptional Bugeye Sprite leaves the nest

It was extremely satisfying to send this amazing Bugeye to Ron in Rhode Island this week. We all fell in love with this car, mainly because it was just right. This was a stripped-down Bugeye, with the stock engine, brakes and transmission. The exhaust was modified, the car was lowered, an anti-roll as well as a single roll bar was added, as well as slightly wider tires. That was about it, and thus we recreated a Bugeye that feels like something people anyone might have modified in their driveway in the 60s.

Simple.

Of course, we unleashed some cosmetic indulgences, like the the metallic (modern) stripes, flip-up fuel cap, (not so modern) Brooklands screens and a handsome custom short tonneau with contrasting gold stitching. And custom headrest in the roll bar. The yellow driving lights and billet grill are also cool. But overall, this is just an elemental Bugeye, with a few select upgrades (and some showing-off by us). And thus it feels very much connected to its roots, despite the non-stock paint scheme!

Interestingly, this is the third Bugeye Ron has purchased from us,(an honor)! He has owned Roz, a supercharged white wall clad leaf green Bugeye, Rose, the primrose stock Bugeye you can see in our current inventory, and now this car, Goldie. Ron is doing an impressive job sampling the many moods one can build into a Bugeye Sprite.

We look forward to building one for you!

Don’t do this to your Bugeye Sprite

Here’s one we had not seen before, but it is worth highlighting so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Look closely at the brake adjuster at the bottom of the picture above (if you are unfamiliar, it’s the slotted screw in the u shaped bracket sitting on top of the wheel cylinder). This adjuster is meant to sit in a groove on the bottom of the brake shoe. Instead, this one was assembled with the flat side of the shoe on the adjuster, which allowed the adjuster to squirt outward into the drum. As a result, the adjuster happily cut a major groove in the drum as shown below. Not a nice soundtrack. New drum needed.

Don’t do this to your Bugeye Sprite.

Rear brakes on Sprites are super-simple, but they are almost never working properly. Yup, almost never. From experience with 200 plus Bugeyes, a shocking percentage has arrived in our building with wet or otherwise non- functioning rear brakes. That’s what gives drum brakes a bad name. People assume drums are the problem. But non-working drums is the real problem. Pull the handbrake on your Sprite while you are rolling to a stop (in a safe place, please). if not much happens, your rear shoes are not doing their job.

Rear axle seals leak and soil shoes (the dark patches are gear oil on the shoes shown at left, on the other side of the same car, new seal and shoes needed here). Axle flanges leak and soil shoes too. Wheel cylinders leak and soil shoes three. Modern shoes don’t start out life perfectly mated to your drums, and so the new shoes start-out with small contact patches until you them wear in. It takes a while for the shoes to properly mate to the shape of the drum. So all this elevates the possibly that rear drum brakes in particular will be less than effective. They have to be well maintained, properly adjusted and properly set-up. (And then they work quite well!)

You can buy our rear drum brake rehab kit by clicking here.

If you really want to fix the problem once and for all, you can buy our rear disk brake kit. This is an elegant solution and the direction I went with my Bugeye Gumby, so I would never have to deal with these maintenance issues again.
Here’s a photo of the rear disk kit installed on my personal car. You can see the components below. If you want to give your car a great gift, you can purchase a rear disk kit by clicking here.
But no matter what you do, make sure your rear brakes are working!

Our 217th Bugeye Sprite departs for a new home

This is our 1960 Bugeye called “Susan” departing. She is the 217th Bugeye we have sold.

We owned this car about five years ago and sold it to a wonderful woman in New Brunswick, Canada (named Susan). Sadly, she passed away recently, and we bought the car and then sold it to Ralph in California, who had us customize the car to his specifications before we sent it on its way. Here’s a video about the modifications we did to this car.

The story of this shipment is the culmination of extensive Bugeye sorting and improving. We took a great Bugeye and made it even greater, and we’re proud of the fact that this car is now simply a delight to drive and enjoy. I continue to be amazed that we have sold now 218 Bugeyes, more than any single workshop has ever touched and handled (either when they were new or any time since).

I am even more amazed how much we have learned along the way. The cars just keep getting better. The improvements we make are at times subtle, and sometimes dramatic. But when I drove this car onto the trailer for it’s cross country trip, I was fist-pumping and smiling because the car is completely dialed-in. When everything comes together, these short and at times twitchy little cars become sublime. I am forever excited that we know how to make that happen. A Bugeye is a very simple car, and very forgiving in many ways. But to drive one that is really set-up right is nothing like one that is just “OK.” We spend our days in that zone, the space of constantly improving an old car to make it the best it can be, and this turns us on, particularly when it all comes together and becomes a great product such as the car you see here.

There were a bunch of noteworthy improvements on this one. (the referenced products are all “hot” and linked to our parts catalog, if you would like these same products for your car). First, this car showcases our hard tonneau without stripes, and I fell in love with the monochromatic vibe. While I am not usually in passionate about red cars, the addition of the big red panel in the cockpit made the car into something I have not seen before, and I was surprised that this one became one of my new favorites. The new splash of color on top made this Bugeye seemed to supercharge its appearance.

By the way, I notice writing this post how easily I still get excited about each of these cars. Perhaps it says something about me, but I believe what’s much more relevant and interesting is how many people, like me, also have Bugeye imprinted on their DNA. The manifestation of this phenomenon is the multiple Bugeye owner… there are many out there who have had and who still have multiple Bugeyes in their garage (or in the yard, in their barn, on their trailer, in the weeds behind their house, etc) The cars are infectious, and I am proud to report I am still very much infected.

To that end, this car also has contrasting red fat thread stitching on the tonneau, another new innovation that allows us to amp-up small details to personalize and upgrade these simple cars. The “mini” tonneau is itself a cool innovation, that is very helpful if a hard tonneau car is left out in the rain, and we have upgraded that product with contrasting stitching. We can offer the same on any conventional tonneau we build for you through our catalog, you can find the link here. We work hard to make upgrades like these that quietly add elegance to these cars.

Too often, upgrades on old cars can be overdone. We strive to make accessories that look like they belong. It’s subjective, but the fat thread on the tonneaus is meant to evoke the feel of an old football you’d see on “The Little Rascals,” and thus we feel we have license to try to make anything that looks like it could have existed in 1960 when we make add-ons for these cars. Plastic for example, is used only when absolutely necessary. For example, the center console and arm rest is a great product we offer in our catalog, because there is no glove box to hold your change and fuses. So the center console is a wonderful product for functionality. Unfortunately at present, it is only available with an ABS plastic base.

There have been numerous mechanical upgrades and improvements too on this car, which came together in harmony. Any five-speed transmission in a Bugeye is a dream-come-true. We sell the Ford five-speed conversion kit, which rarely rattles in the shifter, but Datsuns often clatter when not properly set-up. We made bushings for this shift lever assembly to stop it from rattling, which also tightened up the linkage, to make one more delightful tight interface between man and machine, something I appreciate with every shift. The engine ran well when we got the car, but it ran a lot better through the entire rev range once we fit the HS2 carbs with #3 needles, which seem to have the right profile for ethanol based modern fuel. K and N lifetime air filters also help this car to breathe freely.

The car had a recent SU fuel pump installed when we got it. This is a very nostalgic pump, and makes the right clicks as it pressurizes the system. Remember, all Bugeyes came with a mechanical pump, so no electric pump is original to the car. The mechanical pump is a bad idea, for it risks flooding the crankcase with fuel, or flooding the ground and hot down pipe with fuel, and is slow to prime, so we are huge electric upgrade advocates. This pump looked fine on our preliminary inspection, but the power lead vibrated off on one of my test drives, which stranded me on the side of the road util I figured it out. So with reliability in mind, we removed said SU vintage British pump and replaced it with a new solid state cube pump. Most people would not have done this. But we are proud of the fact that we did. While it cost the customer a few bucks, I will sleep better knowing that we put in the most reliable pump we have, given great field experience that verifies they do not fail. The points don’t get dirty (there are none), the leads don’t fall off (they are hard wired) the banjo fittings don’t leak (there are none), the diaphragm doesn’t leak (it’s sealed). So while Ralph didn’t “need” a new electric pump, he got a better pump with fewer vulnerabilities, and the peace of mind that comes with it.

Stock bulbs left, LEDS on two cars to right.

The LED lights we added are another modern-world necessity, to help other drivers wake-up. The three-point retractible seat belts are essential in my mind, mainly because it helps me to feel I am wearing the car. I like “being one” with these machines. The aluminum radiator we fit is essential for the Southern california heat that this car will now face. And there were more improvements, but you get the idea.

Every one of the cars we ship will receive 25-100 hours of our time as we attempt to move them closer to that blissful fist-pumping state. Sure, we all hope we find used classic cars from sellers who naturally do all this stuff for us, but the reality is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and if you haven’t driven more than 200 of the car you are selling, perhaps you are less familiar with what it means to build something that is fully sorted. We are not perfect. We can’t always fix everything. And we don’t (usually) take apart things we didn’t build that are working well when we review them. But what we do offer, and what we are proud to offer, is the experience to know what works and what doesn’t… and what is likely to keep working in the field and what won’t. And we know what accessories can help you personalize and improve your ultimate sports car.

I didn’t yet mention that Ralph, the new owner of this shiny red Bugeye, traded his project Bugeye and cash for this improved version. I love these stories, because it means a Bugeye that could never quite get finished gets transformed overnight into a glorious specimen, as if by aliens. I imagine that Ralph’s neighbors will smile as he drives by, and wonder how they can get the new vitamins he must be taking, because how else could he have gotten so much done on his little car, in so little time.

When I got into Ralph’s old car (shown here) to drive it off the trailer when it arrived from California, it came to life quickly… albeit on two cylinders.

And so the next renovation begins.

If you are building your own blissful Bugeye, here are a few more links to products we built into this car, all detailed in our catalog:

Bugeye Sprite Cockpit Trim Restoration and re-coating

Front Flip nose hold downs (pair)

Windshield Post Raydyot Racing Mirror

The best Spridget rearview mirror-20% bonus

Bugeye Sprite Alternator conversion kit, with pulley installed

Dual Master Cylinder

Instantly reduce body roll with our sway bar kit!

New! Performance rear lever shocks for all Spridgets!

Ride quality is crucial for maximum Midget (and Sprite) fun. Good shocks are essential to attain the best ride quality.

Our new silver “LeMans” shocks have become our favorite… I can tell after driving hundreds of Bugeyes over the same streets that these shocks are plush enough to provide a nice level of comfort, and stiff enough for great performance. And they look cool too! We launched the front silver shocks a few weeks ago, and now we have the rears to follow. (you can order the fronts by clicking here)

Many people tend to discount the importance of rear shocks in a Sprite. After all, the back ends are so light, why would it matter? Well, when you hit the bump in front of our shop with bad rear shocks, the entire boot operates as a sub-woofer and lets out a KA-Bong! So rear shocks indeed matter a whole lot. Make sure yours are good!

If your shocks are leaking, you’re done. Lots of people like to refill them, but they will simply leak out again. We replace all leakers. You should too.

And if yours are not leaking, you may not be able to tell if they are shot just by pressing down on the rear fender. Better to disconnect the arms and see if they move smoothly through their entire range without any loose or dead spots. Any loose undamped arm motion translates to inferior ride and performance! Click here to order a pair of these performance rear shocks!

Spridget LeMans front shocks, upgraded and extra cool!

We are huge fans of lever shocks. They provide the best ride quality and performance for Bugeyes (and all Spridgets). All the tube shocks we have tested are too harsh and thus make the cars less sure-footed. So we use lever shocks exclusively on all the cars that pass through our building.

Still, we’ve always wanted something a little stiffer, and we’re excited to introduce a new product that delivers. Our new LeMans shocks is about 20% stiffer than stock, so you’ll enjoy handling benefits without sacrificing the ride quality so vital to a great Sprite outing. And they look super-cool too, finished in silver with a red racing stripe! Click here to try-out these new shocks-you’ll find them (and lots of other great innovations) in our catalog!

The joyous resurgence of a Bugeye Sprite called Gumby

“Gumby” is coming together nicely. We are pushing to have the car ready to debut at the British by the Sea car show this coming June 4, in Waterford, Connecticut. At left, you can see the car secured to the dyno, as we finalize the tuning of the custom multi-port fuel injection system.

Performance wasn’t the only goal though, and with the resurrection of the Bugeye I purchased in high school, we set out to push the envelope and create the ultimate interior while echoing the original flavor and design. Our goal was to pay sufficient tribute to the heritage of the car, while adding elegance and style. We chose to add custom stitching throughout the interior, to upgrade the entire interior without going too far afield.

<It all started with a single cowhide, custom dyed in a dusty light green called “aloe thorn,” and embossed for additional texture. This is the custom color we chose to coordinate with the Aston Martin green and Mercedes silver paint that adorns the sheet metal on the car.

Here, Kenny maps out the components of the interior on the uncut leather, careful to ensure maximum yield.

Next Ken diagrammed the diamond designs we created, careful to ensure the the pattern was symmetrical and balanced. Here, you can see his design for the custom door pockets, which use the original components but accentuate the factory recesses with diamond stitching.

In this image, Kenny sews the contrasting stitching on the seat base to add detail. We were tempted to keep the original ribs normally seen on stock Bugeye seats. We considered adding diamond stitching to just a few of the ribs so that we retained more of the original look. But in the end, we chose to make the entire usually-ribbed center section into a diamond design. (Note, this is the same leather, only the lighting is different, so the color appears darker)

Ken made certain the diamond patterns would align once the seat bases and seat backs were united in their frames. Here, he carefully checks the patterns before he starts sewing. Next, you can see the seat backs completed, and laid out with the leather for the seat bases. Next, Ken made custom silver metallic piping, to match the stripes down the center of the car. Then he stretched the leather over new foam pieces, and with some additional tailoring, the covers and seats were complete and ready for installation.

The door pockets went in next, and then Kenny created custom green check straps to match the leather in the car, stitched with the same contrasting thread detail you would find on stock check straps. He then sewed a high grade German wool heel pad into the rubberized floor covering in the driver side footwell. He next affixed matching green panels onto the vertical surfaces of the car.

Below, the interior is nearly complete, after a good 50 hours of custom work above and beyond the normal time it takes to build an interior. The outstanding result is fitting for the car that inspired the creation of bugeyeguy.com, and a beautiful acknowledgement of the now 204 Bugeyes that we would not have sold were it not for the inspiration Gumby gave us.

In 1979, I purchased this car for $1,100. It was dented and dinged, finished in primer gray. There were no floor coverings and the seats were covered in glossy metallic teal vinyl. The car was wired with lamp cord and the dashboard was perforated with multiple additional holes. Now, after ten years sitting un-restored in the Bugeyeguy warehouse, Gumby is back, with one of the nicest interiors in the Bugeye world. And this custom interior is merely the starting point for future custom interiors we build into “Super Sprites” in the years to come.

Many thanks to Ken Bugden for patiently executing this vision, and for bringing this sculptural interior to life.