(if a car is not pictured here, it has been sold)

Better than Netflix-25 Sprites battle for National SCCA title

In the video below, you will see the 1980 SCCA H Production runoffs, with about 25 Sprites battling for the national title. You’ll also see interviews with the lead drivers at the end of the footage, in decidedly 80s costume.

I love the video below because it takes me back to a time when I didn’t have 30,000 emails to process, instagram photos to post, and a smart phone to charge. I love and rely on technology and have used it to build our business. I also love the pure sportscar simplicity (and Sprite popularity) evidenced in this video. And David Hobbs as commentator is a nice bonus.

Feel free to skip around in the video (the race starts three minutes in) and enjoy!

Super video drive in a Super Sprite

This car looks and feels and drives the way it does only because of the experience we have gained from the more than 250 Sprites that have come before it. Every modification, every choice, every detail is the result of what we have learned from the cars that have passed through our doors.

Come with me on a drive in the video below and see if you can tell what makes this particular car so special (hint, it’s upgraded just the right amount to enhance but not lose sight of its DNA).

Want to see more? Click here for more information and to see the photo album.

Bugeye race car prep in pictures and video

There is something for everyone in our shop this week. We have a 1275 engine upgrade project (yellow car), an electric conversion (at right), and this blue car above, a race car needing a new engine installed.

The car came to us from California in pieces, which arrived in a cockpit jumble.

The 1275 race engine was rebuilt in Florida, and arrived on a skid. We assembled it, added a baffled large capacity oil pan, and installed it in the racer.

The lightened flywheel is a work of art and super light.

The Tilton clutch is even more impressive… compact, light weight and ceramic.

Many race Sprites, like this one, have the exhaust fed through the tunnel, so the the car can sit as low as possible to the track. You’ll notice that this car really looks like a bug, with short legs.

This car also has very trick suspension components. The right silver and gold set up is the adjustable rear sway bar. The left link is a rigid joint to replace the rubber mounted shock “dog bone.” You can also see the solid and adjustable radius arm in the background on the left. These hard joints make for a very hard ride and are for track use only. Notice also the rear axle check strap, which in this case is chain.

Every seven years you need a new fuel cell bladder and this one was overdue. We dropped the red fuel cell through the boot floor …

… and removed the pick up assembly.

Next, the new bladder (below) goes into the box, followed by 115 octane race fuel. This engine has a 14:1 compression ratio and requires race fuel.

Note that the fuel cell is more of a (yellow) foam matrix than a bladder.

Once installed, the cell is now marked for another seven years. Fill access is through the hatch above the tank. Vent line at left goes overboard.

Here’s the nearly completed car ready for testing. The electric street Bugeye is parked in the background.

And come for a short video drive below… here, we are still breaking-in the engine, and making sure we can shift into all the gears. The engine sounds wonderful! She’s quite quick and very addictive!

Here, the happy owner and race driver arrives. You might recognize Jeff, who also owns a supercharged blue street Bugeye, that he has also taken to track days. Look for this car, his vintage racer, at Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, VIR and more this fall!

Congratulations Jeff!

Come for a nose-off video drive in our second FrogE electric Sprite

Our second electric is ready for range and systems testing!

The nose is now on, and notice the lexan grill cover, meant to improve the aerodynamic drag of that usually open big mouth. Better aero=better range! Cooling air is no longer needed.

Come for a drive in the video below!

Below you can see the finished car, which was truly rescued by this electric conversion. This car sat for ages and was slowly returning to the earth, until our customer asked if we could revive the vehicle with electricity, and now he has taken a dormant asset in his garage and turned it into a delightfully smooth machine.

We’ve dressed up the car with new wheels and tires as well as a new interior and tonneau. It’s nicer than ever, but not so nice that you can’t drive and enjoy it. We’ll soon send her back home to Maryland, where the car will share the garage with a Tesla.

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…

How we prepare Bugeye Sprites for delivery

I love my job! Even in January, it’s fun to field-test Bugeyes before they ship to new homes.

We were particularly busy this week preparing the four Bugeyes we recently sold (Booker, Marco, Mitchell and Becky). We spent the week combing through the cars to eliminate any kinks before departure. You can see these cars out on the road in the video below, as I conduct final tests.

All of our cars go through a roughly five-hour pre-departure inspection on the lift and then a lot of miles on the road. We complete an exhaustive checklist to make sure that either everything works, or that the customer knows what doesn’t work and has the option of having us fix it. Our partnership with the client starts when the car is sold, and we work together to make sure the product that leaves our building matches expectations. This has been the cornerstone of our business, and we have applied this formula now to more than 200 Bugeye Sprites that we have shipped to new homes.

Booker and Mitchell await road tests in our new addition! Note the new spray foam insulation! It’s warmer now!

People sometimes ask if we have a slow season, but we are busy all year long, and so even in January, I am out road testing the cars to make sure I am comfortable signing off on their departure. I sometimes have to wait for rain to wash off any salt on the roads, but one big benefit of living on the Connecticut shoreline is that are winters are relatively mild and year-round driving is quite doable. We leave the tops off since it makes service much easier, but with good gloves and a hat, convertible winter driving for short trips is not a problem.

Almost every one of our cars is customized after sale to meet the particular needs of the new owner. Thus the green Bugeye “Marco” is being set up for a lot of highway use with a lower rear end ratio and five-speed transmission because the customer has asked for these modifications to suit his lifestyle. Not all of our customers need this level of customization. In fact, the silver car “Booker” needed only new shocks, headlight dipswitch and carburetor gaskets before departure. The black car “Becky” is being set-up with a five-speed too, but this is more for ease of use on short trips given the fully synchronized first gear.

Becky is also getting a rear main seal upgrade while the engine is out-that customer liked the idea of investing in a well-sealed engine while it was out of the car for the five-speed conversion, so here you can see a photo of the back of the engine after this upgrade. We have found that many of the cars leak at the oil pump “dog dish” cover on the back plate. If you look closely, you can see that we have removed, cleaned and re-soldered that metal cover to ensure that it won’t leak. You can clearly see the rear main seal upgrade in place, which adds the large red lip seal around the back of the crankshaft to help keep oil from leaking out the back of the engine. This is a chronic problem on all classic British cars, but especially common on 948 Bugeyes, which used a scroll to sling oil back into the engine, and it never worked terribly well. These two upgrades shown should make this particular engine much more leak-free. If you ever take out your engine, make sure the culprit for oil leaks is not the oil pump cover, because the rear seal is only part of what needs to be right. You can also see a picture here of Russ preparing the front of the engine for a re-seal as well.

Becky’s new short tonneau is now complete, in off-white for the heat it will face when the car arrives in Phoenix. You can see how Ken beautifully fit the tonneau around the roll bar, first with a template, and then with velcro to keep the cockpit weather-tite.

All the cars moved forward this week, ever closer to departure, just waiting for one more test drive before our network of enclosed shippers loads and delivers these babies to their new homes!

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