1960 Austin-Healey Sprite ‘Bug Eye’
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale a 1960 Austin-Healey ‘Bugeye’ Sprite Mk1.
The Heritage Certificate on file confirms this car left the factory in the UK in CKD form on the 1st of June 1960. That makes this particular example one of the 1,305 factory right hand drive CKD cars ever produced. The Heritage Certificate confirms the destination country as Australia and the car was fitted with the following factory options: toughened glass windscreen, rev counter, windscreen washer, locking petrol cap and no heater. Whilst there is no definitive date on the certificate stating when the car was delivered to the first owner in Australia, it does state that the completion of the build of the car would have occurred between June 1960 and the 30th of November 1960. The car was sold new through Larke Hoskins Motors in Sydney who were the NSW distributor for Austin-Healey.
The car still retains its original The Austin Motor Company (Australia) Pty Ltd ID plate and its original Larke Hoskins ID plate in the engine bay.
The early history of this ‘Bugeye’ is not definitively known. The car has a thick history file, which picks up the story in the late 1970’s. At that time a Sydney businessman by the name of Peter Meyer was looking for a classic car to restore. He wanted a car that he could restore to standard, original and perfect condition. A friend of his knew about an Austin-Healey Sprite Mk1 in Muswellbrook in the upper Hunter region in NSW. It was a car that hadn’t been used much by its previous owners, understood to be three, with only 14,000 miles on the odometer. Meyer drove to Muswellbrook, liked the car and bought it on the spot. The car was transported back to Sydney and Meyer started the work on the car. Since the car hadn’t been used much in recent times, he decided to rebuild the engine and gearbox. The body work and interior were still in good condition and were left as is. Meyer used and enjoyed the car and clocked up a few thousand miles until in 1981 the thrust bearing in the clutch failed. Meyer then decided to execute his master plan and fully restore the car.
He was friends with George Goodare, the owner of prestige restoration shop Classic Autocraft. Goodare was renowned for working on some of Australia’s most significant cars, including Ian Cummings Jaguar D-Type, but Meyer managed to convince him to restore the body work on his Sprite. The car was stripped to bare metal, any damaged panels were hand beaten back into shape and lead wiped. The car was then painted using Acran paint, a high quality two-pack acrylic enamel paint. The body work took around 12 months to complete and it was finished in December 1982 at a total cost of $ 7,500.
The intention was to have the car finished for the 1983 Sydney Motor Show. Meyer didn’t quite achieve that goal, though the car was still able to be displayed all be it not running at the time. The car was finished in time for the 1983 Sprite Club Concours where it was the star of the show, winning ‘Best Mk1’ and ‘Best Car of the Show’. It scored an impressive 949½ points out of 1,000.
The car was featured in the April – June 1984 issue of Australian Sports Car World magazine. For many years and as photographed for that article, the car was registered in NSW as KTT 157.
In 1998 the car was purchased by a classic car enthusiast well known to Oldtimer Australia from a small car yard near Mascot Airport in Sydney. He had seen it advertised in the paper and recognised the car from the Sports Car World article. The car had some minor rust in the bonnet seams, so, in August 1999 he decided to repaint the car in two pack Wattyl Spartan and bring it back to near concours condition.
The car subsequently passed through a few owners, each of whom must have cherished this fabulous little car given its current condition. The car has been used sparingly over the years and there is documented mileage on file as 19,971 miles as at October 1993 and 21,628 miles as at October 1999. The car was acquired by the previous to current owner from the Classic Throttle Shop in Sydney in September 2013 and at that time the odometer read 34,425 miles. The current owner acquired the car through The Healey Factory in Melbourne in February 2022 and at that time the odometer read 40,777 miles.
Today the odometer reads 42,000 miles and there is enough documentation on file to support the fact that this is most likely genuine.
When you look at the car today it is hard to believe it was restored 40 years ago. The overall presentation is still very good. The paint work on the car is still in very good condition, particularly considering its age. It still retains a high gloss finish with a strong depth of colour. When you look closely there are a few stone chips and minor blemishes on the car, most noticeably on the door edges and on the body around the door shut lines. The panel gaps are all very good and the car retains it original steel front clip. The external trim is similarly well presented.
The car comes with all the wet weather gear, including a tonneau cover, side curtains and a soft top. Both the soft top and the side curtains are stored in custom bags. The soft top is still in near new condition. We did notice that the metal strip which holds the bottom rear of the soft top to the body is missing. The side curtains are in good condition, although the bottom rubber strip on the driver’s side curtain needs to be replaced. The tonneau cover is in good condition.
The car is fitted with original steel wheels which are shod with nearly new Dunlop SP Sport LM 705 175/70/R13 tyres which are date stamped 2721 (week27, 2021). There is also a spare wheel with the car.
Inside, the interior is basic but functional. The seats are in excellent condition and provide ample support. The door cards and the carpets are in good condition, whilst not new they are certainly still presentable. The instruments are all in excellent condition and appear to be in good working order.
Whilst the appearance of the car is important, it is how the car drives that is really important. The short answer to that question is that this car is just sensational to drive!
The car starts easily, even from cold. It does require you to use the choke when the engine is cold, but only to start the car. You can turn the choke off shortly after that. First impressions are good, really good! This ‘Bugeye’ has a raspy exhaust note that sounds like it means business. The engine also sounds great, it idles smoothly and it gives you the impression it just wants to go. Out on the road this impression is confirmed. All the controls are light and sensitive and communicate through the senses instantly. The engine pulls strongly and revs willingly. There is enough power on tap to make the drive genuinely exciting, which is magnified by the fact the car only weighs in at around 650kg! The gear changes are with a short shift, smooth and easy. The documentation with the car states that when the gearbox was rebuilt new internals of the later ribbed case gearbox model were used which has better synchros. The steering on the car is incredibly direct and responsive which just makes the car an absolute delight to drive.
When you drive this little ‘Bugeye’ you can’t help but smile. It is just such a fun car to drive!! And . . . you will not be the only one smiling. On our test drive and during our photoshoot we got plenty of positive feedback, and not just from ‘car guys’. Everyone seems to love this little car.
The Austin-Healey Sprite is one of those quintessential British sports cars that is all about having fun and importantly affordable.
Due to a change in the current owner’s circumstances this fabulous little car is now available for its next owner to use and enjoy.
- One of the 1,305 factory right hand drive CKD cars.
- Assembled in Australia.
- Restored back 1982, but still presents and drives fabulously.
- Full wet weather gear.
- Great example of a quintessential British sports car.
Donald Healey is an icon of the British motor industry. He was born in Perranporth, Cornwall, in the south west of England on the 3rd July 1898. He studied engineering and had a passion for all things mechanical, including aeroplanes and motor vehicles. In 1945 he founded the Donald Healey Motor Company and its mission was to build excellent quality performance cars. In 1946 the company introduced the Healey Westland Roadster and the Healey Elliott Saloon, both built through until 1950. Other subsequent models included the Healey Sportsmobile (1948-1950), Healey Silverstone (1949-1950), Healey Tickford Saloon (1950-1954), Healey Abbott Drophead Coupe (1950-1954) and Healey G-Type Roadster (1951-1953). The most successful car built in this era was the Nash Healey of which just over 500 examples were built from 1950 – 1954. Healey’s cars were good and they enjoyed much success in competition, including class wins in the 1947 and 1948 Alpine rallies as well as the 1949 Mille Miglia. They were also expensive and business was tough going.
The Donald Healey Motor Company struggled and Healey decided that he needed to build a cheaper sports car in far greater numbers to be successful. In 1952 Austin-Healey was formed through a joint venture between the Austin division of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and the Donald Healey Motor Company (Healey). As they say ‘the rest is history’ and Austin-Healey went on to become one of the world’s most successful sports car manufacturers.
The first Austin-Healey was the Austin-Healey 100 introduced in 1953. These were true sports cars in every sense of the word, an open two seater with minimal weather protection. They were powered by a 2,660cc 4 cylinder engine generating around 90 bhp, enough to propel the car to a top speed of 100 mph, hence, the designation Austin Healey ‘100’. The first series cars were designated BN1 and in 1955 the second series or BN2 was introduced.
In 1955 Austin-Healey introduced the 100S, which was built for the race track. Only 50 cars were ever built and they are today amongst the world’s most desirable and collectable cars. Hot on the heels of the 100S, Austin-Healey introduced the 100M, a high-performance road going model with engine modifications that increased power from 90 bhp (for a standard car) to 110 bhp. In total 640 Austin-Healey 100Ms were built in 1955/56.
The Austin-Healey 100 was a great success but it was also relatively expensive and BMC management asked Donald Healey’s team to develop a smaller budget priced sports car. To save cost, they were asked to use as many parts as possible from existing Austin and Morris models. On the 20th May 1958, two days after the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, BMC announced the Austin-Healey Sprite to the press in Monte Carlo. The Sprite used the 948cc A series engine from the Austin A35, a BMC 4 speed gearbox and the excellent rack and pinion steering from the Morris Minor 1000. The Sprite was also the first unibody car for Austin-Healey. With its 948cc engine the performance was not earth shattering, however, with its low seating position and diminutive proportions the Sprite felt fast and sounded fast, making it rather a lot of fun to drive.
Soon people started creating performance parts for the Sprite and BMC were quick to promote the car for motorsport. They entered the car in the 1959 Alpine Rally and achieved a class win. Cars were also entered into the 1959 Sebring 12 hour race resulting in a trifecta class win.
In 1961 the Mk1 was superseded by the Mk2 which was also sold as an MG Midget. The Mk2 remained in production until 1964 when it was superseded by the Mk3 and then in 1966 by the Mk4. Production of the Sprite ended in 1971.
In total 49,987 Austin Healey Sprite Mk1’s were produced. 12,687 of those were factory right hand drive and of those only 1,305 were CKD cars.
The Austin-Healey Sprite was often unofficially referred to as a ‘Bugeye’ or ‘Frog Eye’ Sprite. The popular nickname makes reference to the unconventional upright headlights mounted on the car’s front bonnet.
- Austin-Healey Sprite
- 42,216 miles