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Everyday winter driving in a 1959 Bugeye Sprite

This is Gumby, the Bugeye I have owned since 1979. I found Gumby through the New York Times Sunday classifieds and first met Gumby parallel parked on the street in New Haven, CT with no top or tonneau covering his teal seats, and lots of dents in his gray-primered exterior. Since then we have covered a lot of miles together and swapped engines a few times. In the 80s we painted Gumby Jaguar British Racing Green, which is now ready to be redone.


Before you come to the conclusion that the car would run me over for taking him out in this weather, I would have to say we have both been having a grand time sliding our way to the shop on our commute each day, in spite of what seems to be the worst February on record in terms of snow fall and road salt application. The wife has the Volvo wagon and Gumby just happens to be in the ideal state of mid restoration such that he’s the perfect winter fun car. We cut out the rust last summer and welded in new patches and sprayed them with self etching primer. So what’s a little road salt over primer anyway?


Snow plow drivers find our ride particularly amusing, and several have passed me with huge grins and enthusiastic waves as they rush to rescue homeowners with SUVs that require freshly plowed driveways. There is something remarkably refreshing about driving a rear wheel drive car that just plain stinks in the snow. I can get away with it because I travel just five back-road miles to the shop. It wouldn’t work if I had interstate or traffic to contend with. But modern snow removal technology is so sophisticated, the roads have mostly just been wet anyway.


I remember my first car, a 1966 MGB, which I once tried to drive to High School in a snow storm. I made it to the end of my street before the car bottomed out in the snow and the already rusted away rocker cavities filled up with snow too. That was when we did dumb things like this, and became sports car lovers, and had our DNA imprinted with the need to play with such toys, and break them, and fix them again.

With my heater “on full” and dog on my lap, this February has been just a little bit warmer. Bodhi is not sure this is such a good idea, but he’s still young and foolish, and always happy to go for a ride…


The ultimate 1960 Bugeye Sprite Barn Find

IMG_3549This car is a California time capsule dream-come-true! If you like unrestored barn-finds, check this one out!

AN5L 31457 is an amazingly solid car with the original engine and rare color combination, all verified by a heritage certificate. She was dispatched on January 25 of 1960 and has been stored in a dry climate since 1988– last on the road in 1979. The envelope that must have carried the current 1979 registration sticker was still in the door pocket… postmarked 1/13/78 (see photo). That the envelope lasted so well preserved just sitting in the door pocket for 37 years is an amazing testimonial for California weather!

There is no rust at all on any of the body panels, which we’ve never seen before on an unrestored car. There is no rust in the rockers or fender bottoms or in any of the usual rust spots on these cars. We’re used to seeing these unrestored cars with rust holes all over the lower sides… not so here!

I purchased the car from the second owner, who purchased it in 1988 from the original owner and never drove it. That owner had put about 96845 miles on the car, still showing on the odometer. The second owner intended to get this one back on the road, but never got to it and sold me the car this year. Since 1988 the car has been in dry storage. The original engine still turns over.

The underside is excellent, with just one issue in the drivers floor pan, apparently some water sat in the footwell while the car was sitting all these years, so the car will need a new footwell welded in place on the driver side. This is a roughly two foot square flat panel (which we have in stock) and a very easy fix. That’s the only body restoration this car will need! Check out the underside tour below!

Even the original thin rubber floor mat is still in place on the driver’s side, another exciting rarity. So is the door weather strip and all the other items on the car. I’ve photographed the back of the dashboard too, where you can see the radio knock-out is still intact from the factory, as well as the original dashboard covering. So many of these cars have had AM radios installed and then later removed, leaving a lack of support for the dashboard covering. Not so here!

The original red door liners are in the doors, their glue let go long ago, but they have fallen into the doors and can be reattached. Also of note is the yellow crayon markings you can see in the photographs behind the dashboard and on the back ledge behind the passenger seat. These are factory markings which are often removed or painted over. The back of dash codes indicate the way each car is to be equipped as it was assembled and it’s always excting to see these factory markings still in place. In this case, the wooden grab handle support behind the dash obscures the writing, but underneath you would find the codes for the various (limited) options that went into this car.

We’ve now sold 144 Bugeyes, and not one has been in Nevada Beige, which is the rare original color of this car per the heritage certificate. It’s exciting to imagine this car resprayed in that rare color, which happens to look fantastic with the original burgundy red interior.

It’s complete, and ready for a new home! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own an unmolested Bugeye barn find! Never repainted, never restored, never molested, never modified… this is a very unique car.

We have the car listed at $9,995. You can find Bugeye projects out there for $1500-$5000. This one commands a premium because of its amazing rockers and fender bottoms, zero rust nose, no body damage, heritage certificate verified original engine, unique original beige color and unmolested condition. This is the sort of Bugeye you don’t find often, and after all that we have sold, we’ve never seen one quite like this… and we may never find another in this condition!

“Boyd,” a fantastic restored 1959 Bugeyed Sprite for sale


“Boyd” (AN5L 13275) is a striking 1959 Bugeye Sprite we now have ready for sale. He’s been fully restored about ten years ago and is rust free, and we’ve just completed a comprehensive check-up and replaced the radius arm bushings, slave cylinder, steering column bushings, rear hub seals and anything else the car needed, and he’s now ready for his new home. He’s got a solid 948 engine with upgraded front disk brakes, electric fuel pump and rib case transmission. The car is very well restored and in excellent shape. The paint shines beautifully and the interior is excellent too. Odometer shows 68,090 miles.

It’s hard not to like Boyd, everything still looks brand new. He has very few flaws and you have to look very carefully to find them… there’s a three-inch crack in the paint on the back deck. It’s stable, and will probably last our lifetimes, but someone must have pushed the car from here, and cracked the paint when the deck flexed. Super small, but I want you to know about this and all imperfections! There’s a tiny star crack in the paint by one of the headlight buckets. It’s very hard to see! And there’s a crack in a former repair in the left front wheel arch. All these flaws are pictured so you know exactly what you would be getting if you adopt Boyd. This is a stunning car! The imperfections are very minor.

This car is rust free- check out the underside pictures- this is a very solid set of floor pans in excellent shape. The trunk is still painted in the factory primer-colored paint, with no evidence of dents or abuse. Excellent top and side curtains. Tonneau is useable in a pinch-it was once fit to a car with a roll bar, and thus modified. New tonneaus are available.

Engine bay is clean. The nose fits beautifully with excellent gaps. Door panels are excellent. He drives beautifully. He comes with his heritage certificate (see photo) which is housed in a handsome British Heritage Trust portfolio. He also comes with a vintage original Bugeye driver manual, printed in 1959! Take Boyd home! Call for pricing!

2014 Porsche Cayman S $84,030. 1960 Austin Healey Sprite $1,795

IMG_3224This little Barn find Bugeye arrived at our shop this week in an enclosed trailer from California, riding with a 2014 Porsche Cayman S, as pictured (the Bugeye is now ours, the Cayman is not).

I love the Cayman, I find it to be the nicest looking of the new breed of Porsches. I couldn’t help but notice the window sticker price of $84,030. Above sat the little 1960 Sprite, retail price when new of $1,795. This truck carried the evolution of sports cars, a full 54-year span of automotive fun traveling in one truck.

See how we have changed.

Nine second Bugeye Sprite Engine removal and other impressive feats

We have been practicing and are getting pretty good at removing and installing engines. Our morning warmup is usually to put in an MGB engine with overdrive… something big that puts up a bit of a fight. For a lunchtime “quicky,”, we’ll yank out a Bugeye engine. It’s all in a days’s work as we strive to be the best.

Kidding aside… here is a 67 MGB we have getting a new overdrive transmission, and our silver Bugeye “Dustin” getting a new transmission in preparation for the new owner’s forthcoming 1000 mile drive home!


What lives in the garage with your Bugeye Sprite?

IMG_2975Here’s one of the two red Bugeyes we recently renovated, this one for a customer in Maryland, back home in the garage, with awesome stable mates (see “128 improvements later,” posted below). Behind the cars you’ll also see a great collection of vintage motorcycles.

I am always impressed to see the diverse range of companions living with the garaged Bugeyes out there… it seems pretty common to find a 911 in attendance, or some other great collectible car. Sprites beautifully transcend categories and description. They are like denim, they go with everything.

What lives with your Bugeye? Send pictures to, and I will post them here.

Best Bugeye Photo we have seen this year

marvin hopson bugeye yard sale

While this looks a bit like a yard sale, it’s actually Marvin celebrating the pieces of his Bugeye project which he is determined to assemble this year.

Go Marvin! You can do it! Keep us posted!

Best British car video I have seen this year


Here’s my nomination for grand prize British car video of the year!

You might remember seeing this 1962 MG Midget for sale on our site about a year ago. This awesome video was made by the car’s new owner, who had us ship the car to Savannah, Georgia, which is the beautiful backdrop you see in the video.

I love this film because it perfectly captures the fun and the lifestyle of ownership of any car full of personality. Whether Bugeye, Midget or any other quirky little car, Jon has captured the unadulterated bliss that comes with ownership of one of these cars. These folks are clearly having a lot of fun with this car.

He’s raised the bar for 0ur Bugeyeguy videos… if only I had the ten hours he says it took to edit his clips into the result you see here!

Enjoy the ride!

Most worn camshaft ever

We have a 67 MGB in the shop that was making a bigger than normal valve clatter, so we removed the camshaft to investigate and found seriously worn lobes and lifters. Once the tappets get pitted, it’s all over, as they will steadily grind away the lobes of the cam and rob performance and ultimately start to make a lot of noise. In the video below, you can see the extent of the wear. While this video features MGB engine parts, all classic British cars are vulnerable to this problem.

Modern oil no longer has ZDDP added, apparently since late model roller bearings don’t need it and because catalytic converters are damaged by it (thanks Bob for the heads up) and so all classic cars are out of luck. Apparently the zinc makes a protective coating that will reduce wear to the valve train. We are offering zinc additive in a four ounce bottle you should add after every oil change. It’s cheap insurance, and after seeing this camshaft, we are now believers! You can click the “add to cart” button below to order some zinc for your engine, or check out “for sale/accessories,” where you can order zinc and other good stuff. And some racing oils also have zinc added, check the label!


” No hill for a climbing man…” Bugeye Sprite completes 1350 mile winter drive


Our man Cody arrived in Navarre Beach Florida last night, after departing Connecticut this past Sunday. He spent about two full days with his 6’4″ frame packed in his Bugeye, and drove straight through Monday night. Congratulations Cody for your great adventure! And congratulations to our team of Sprite experts who helped build this car!

Mechanical issues were minor, and we are delighted, because we spent about a month getting the car ready for its new home so we had high expectations. His wipers stopped when his wiper motor overheated, but his glass was already well coated with RainX since the one speed wipers didn’t work that well even when new.

I got a phone call on Monday night at about 10pm from the shoulder on the Interstate with Cody saying that “the headlights had quit,” which I think caused me more stress then it did him. But I told him to cycle his high beam dip switch, and in two minutes he was back on his way again. Those dip switches are poorly made reproductions and we hope our suppliers can improve the quality, because this is obviously a safety issue. His last issue was a sticking clutch piston in the master cylinder, which should be easy to fix now that he is home. All in all, this was an impressive feat for a 55 year old tiny 45 hp car, and an even more impressive feat for the driver!

Who’s next?