- Chassis # AN5-L/30747
- Engine # 9C-U-H/30320
- Highly Original, Matching Numbers, Time Capsule Example
- Successfully Raced In-Period
- Equipped with Stage 5 Special Tuning by Donald Healey From The Factory
- Finished In Factory Leaf Green Over Green Interior
- One Of The Most Historically Significant Sprites in Existence
- Known History From New Including Period Racing Photos
This car is currently located in: Philadelphia, PA
The Austin-Healey Sprite, known affectionately as either the “frogeye” in the UK or the “bugeye” in the US thanks to its headlights, is a small open sports car produced from 1958 until 1971. It was created as a replacement for the immensely popular pre-war Austin Seven as a low-cost sporting model. It was the world’s first volume-produced sports car to use unitary construction, a technique where the sheet metal body panels take many of the structural stresses. The Sprite used the 948 cc (0.9 L) A-Series I4 from the Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000 upgraded with twin 11⁄8 inch SU carburetors. The result was 43 hp put through a four-speed manual transmission. The car had no exterior door handles and no trunk for maximum structural integrity.
The Sprite saw much race use, at first by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) Competitions Department, where it won its class on the 1958 Alpine Rally and the 12-hour race at Sebring, Florida in 1959. Private competitors also modified and raced Sprites with much success, a practice that continues to this day. Hagerty sales graphs show that first generation Sprites sell in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $30,000, making them a relatively affordable British sports car with unique looks that set it apart from the others.
This particular example, Chassis # AN5-L/30747, is a 1960 left-hand-drive Sprite finished in Leaf Green with matching green trim and a white hardtop. It is fitted with Engine # 9C-U-H/30320 which matches the Heritage Certificate. Unlike regular Sprites, this one was hopped up from the factory with Stage 5 tuning, which included a special exhaust manifold, twin tailpipes, ported and polished head, hot cam, different distributor, 9.3:1 flat top pistons, different valve springs, high-duty crankshaft, competition clutch, and a close ratio gearbox.
According to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Certificate, this car was delivered to the US on March 23, 1960, possibly via Donald Healey Motor Company Limited in Warwick. Additional equipment other than the tune includes a heater, “rev counter”, windscreen washer, front bumper, laminated windscreen, tonneau cover, and whitewall tires.
The car sat unsold in the showroom of the Walther Motor Company in Wilmette, IL for a year until Jim Bishop came along and became its first owner. Mr. Bishop set up the car for racing with a roll bar and a small windscreen, painted its telltale “bishops” on the doors, and regularly exercised it at local tracks. Mr. Bishop was also one of the founding members of the Midwest Region Austin Healey Club of America and a regular of SCCA races.
Mr. Bishop listed the Bugeye for sale in the January 1962 issue of the club’s “CHATTER” magazine. It was bought by a Theodore C. Meyers, who was then in his last year of high school and was a frequent attendee of local road races, with approximately 6,000 miles on the odometer. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Meyers was deployed to Germany and the car remained in the care of his mother, who frequently drove it around for her son before eventually listing it for sale in 1986.
It was sold to a Rick Page, of Libertyville, IL, who was informed of the car by William Thompson, then the National Club Historian of the Midwest Region Austin Healey Club of America. Mr. Page went on to own the car until 1991 when he and his wife had to sell it as they were expecting a third child. Mr. Thompson bought it from him and discovered that the engine had a stuck piston, given that it had not run since 1966. Upon further research, he called Mr. Meyers’s mother, who informed him that her son was still deployed in Germany and provided him with a P.O. Box address so that he may contact him.
Mr. Thompson wrote a letter to Mr. Meyers to learn more about the Bugeye’s history before eventually tracking down Mr. Bishop, the original owner, and reuniting him with his car at a monthly club meeting in 1992. Mr. Thompson told this story in the July 1992 issue of the club’s CHATTER magazine.
The service records currently on file start in April of 2011 when the Bugeye received new wheel cylinders, front drum brakes, and a few hoses from World Wide Auto Parts in Madison, WI. We also have some scans of photos from around this time showing what looks like an engine dismantling and rebuilding. In July 2011, it received a new green door seal, new ignition wires and fuel tank sending unit in March 2012, and a jet bearing assembly in April 2012. Later that same year, the carburetors were re-shafted and new brass jets and gaskets were installed.
When we received the car in late 2023, we entrusted Leading Edge Autosport in West Chester, PA to get it back on the road again. They flushed the fuel, changed the oil and filter, replaced the spark plugs, wires, cap, rotors, and points, changed the fan belt, adjusted the front wheel bearings, rebuilt the carburetors, installed new wiper blades and battery, and gave it four new Kinergy ST tires for a service total of almost $4,500.
As it sits, this Bugeye Sprite is a machine with a pedigree that bears the original patina of time spent on the track. It is overall in highly original condition with much of the original paint and interior still intact. The body still proudly wears its namesake “Bishops” painted on both doors along with racing number 13 decals on the hood and fenders. With just over 6,500 miles on the odometer and enough stories to fill a book, automobiles like this one are a sight to behold and a head-turner at any car show they attend. Out of the thousands of Bugeye Sprites produced, this is likely one of the most significant and interesting cars that left the factory. If there was ever a Bugeye Sprite to have in a significant collection of British cars, this would be the one to own.
Upon purchase, the new owner will receive the highly desirable factory hardtop, numerous photos of the car including period racing photos and those showing Jim Bishop being reunited with this car, the original driver’s handbook and special tuning handbook, the car’s Heritage Certificate, the service records on file, the CHATTER article detailing its history, and a traffic ticket dated December 11, 1966.
body and paint
The body of this Bugeye Sprite is in excellent condition considering it is a 63 year old race car. It is extremely straight down the sides with excellent shut gaps, save for the bonnet, which fits a little awkwardly down at the bottom. There are various blemishes here and there commensurate with a car that has been raced, though nothing that you would want to amend as it all gels with the aura of originality and welcomed patina. There are factory spot welds present on the rear wheel arches, bonnet arches, as well as the quarter panel seams on the interior of the car and the door jams.
The factory leaf green paint appears to be all original besides the bonnet. The bonnet is slightly darker than the rest of the car. The rest of the car is very consistent with a dull shine as original paint would have, and reads no higher than 2.9 mils on the paint meter which indicates original paint. The door jams also show original paint and still have all of their factory spot welds intact, as well as body tags in both sides of the door jams.
The chrome throughout the car is original with slight patina and pitting, though nothing you would change, as it goes with the theme of originality.
Overall, the paint and body of this special Leaf Green race car is in excellent original condition with minor, bumps and blemishes that one would expect from a race car. However, nothing should be touched as it presents as it should: as an untouched original Sprite.
glass and trim
The windshield is original with the factory triplex insignia in the glass as well as factory safety stickers and a Libertyville vehicle tax sticker dated 1966! The original glass is in excellent shape with only minor streaks. The hard top glass is also in excellent shape with only minor scuffing though nothing you would replace. The rubber trim around the windshield is surprisingly in good shape with minimal aging, as is the black trim around the Hardtop rear window. The rubber door seals and fabric welting are in excellent shape for being original, and are still remarkably supple. The Hardtop rubber seal and fabric trim is also in excellent shape and original. The original rubber trim around the tail, lights and rear turn signals is dry. The original windows are also in good original shape.
All four wheels appear to be original, but we believe they have been repainted at some point. The chrome center caps are in excellent condition and show only minor blemishes with virtually no pitting.
Besides the minor touchups and blemishes here, and there that are present throughout the car, there is an area by the passenger turn signal on the front of the bonnet that was dented then hammered out and painted. There is also a 3 inch area of rub through on the passenger side under the tail light that has been rubbed through to the original red oxide primer. The Hardtop has a series of scratches, clustered in the center of it that are fairly unsightly and some paint checking. The windshield shows some light streaking, though nothing warranting replacement as this is the original windshield.
seats and surfaces
We believe the interior is largely original, including the dash pad, gauges, door panel rubber and vinyl, as well as the interior, rubber, trim, and vinyl coverings. We cannot tell if the seats are 100% original but they do have a patina that would lead us to believe that there is a chance they are original! Everything has a light consistent patina, and we wouldn’t change anything besides maybe getting a rubber pedal for the throttle which is missing.
functionality and accessories
All of the exterior lights work, including headlights, tail lights, turn, signals, and high beams. All of the gauges light up at night and all of the gauges appear to be working properly. The choke and windshield wipers function properly as well. The emergency brake handle is a bit flimsy and loose feeling.
engine bay and trunk
The engine day presents very much like the rest of the car; highly original with excellent patina. High hallmarks of originality can be found throughout, including original stickers on the air cleaners. Original tags can be found on the airbox valve cover. The original fabric wire coverings can be found in most places. Original clamps can be found and the original engine tag is still intact as is the chassis tag. Overall, though dirty and original, the engine day is pretty remarkable a patina’ed, and could be brought to an even higher level with some careful detailing. The carburetors, spark plugs and wires were all serviced so those look very fresh. The underside of the bonnet is all original, and has road grime present towards the front of it where the tires come close to the front of the bonnet. There’s also some sort of original inspection sticker on the underside of the hood. Very neat!
The trunk area is hard to access. It is all original and somewhat dirty. No recommendations to be made in the trunk.
The underside presents exactly as you would expect from the condition of the rest of the car: very genuine and original. While some road grime is accumulated from normal use, factory finishes, and original indicators are still present in areas. The floors look very solid, with factory spot, welds present throughout. There is some very minor surface corrosion on bare metal surfaces and areas where painted components have flaked away, but everything appears to be very solid still. The wheel wells are solid, original and have factory spot welds.
The special tuned engine fires to life upon coldstart, fairly quickly for an old English car. It is very cold, blooded and likes to be warm in order to stop sputtering and as typical with 948 engines with a cam, it likes to be in the higher rpm range, the engine sounds healthy and revs freely with no issues to note besides the slight stumbling when cold
The car shifts smoothly and clutch operates properly with no issues. The transmission feels smooth and strong with direct gear changes, and the clutch feels responsive with proper takeup and engagement.
brakes and suspension
The brakes feel responsive and tight, bringing the car to a smooth and controlled stop with no binding or issues to speak of. The suspension feels a little bouncy but nothing out of the norm for an old race car that will need further minor sorting to be track-ready.
The Hankook tires are new with 2023 date codes
As one would expect from an old British car, there are some slight leaks present that leave small droplets of oil on the ground after sitting for a few weeks
This Bugeye Sprite with stage 5 special tuning is a real treat to drive. Because of the special additions, like twin tail pipe exhaust, ported in polished head and hot cam, it sounds more aggressive and higher pitched than a Bugeye normally would. It is also noticeably faster than a normal Bugeye albeit not a massive difference. This car loves to be in the higher rpm range and really sings moving down the road as you rode through all of the gears as you rev, match downshift going into a corner the car does feel controlled and nimble with a few minor, tweaks and service this car would be ready to either vintage race or simply tour with other British Car enthusiasts. Nothing puts a smile on your face, quite like the high-pitched rev of a hopped up Bugeye Sprite! Going fast in a slow car is very much at play here and you love the car for it!
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