|Classic Corner - May 28, 2012|
|Written by Tom Berg|
A Tale of Two Bugeyes. I recently had the pleasure of meeting 2 car guys who both owned Austin Healy Sprites, commonly known as bugeyes in the U.S. and frogeyes in England where they were made. Their headlights stick out of the hood much like the bulging eyes of a bug or frog, thus the nickname. They are a very low, lightweight, underpowered (40some horsepower) sports car from the late 50s and early 60s and a lot of fun to drive on nice days. They have convertible soft tops and side curtains instead of windows (like the first Corvettes). I sat in one and it was quite roomy but certainly difficult to get in and out of since you are practically sitting on the ground.
My friend (and client) Dave has had his bugeye for at least 25 years. It was built in early 1958 and thus one of the first of this model. He has totally re-built the entire car to original condition. He even custom built a rotisserie for the car to make it easier to work on during the renovation. For those of you who are asking “what’s a car rotisserie?” it’s a device that works just like your barbeque rotisserie but holds the car so you can just spin it around to work on whatever area you want — sure beats crawling under the car but normally only the biggest shops would have one. Dave is one of those guys who could do anything and has a couple of other cool classic cars that prove it. Dave re-built essentially everything in this car over a period of many years and it’s never been driven in the rain. With a heavy heart, he has finally decided to sell his little Bugeye.
One of my dedicated readers referred me to another bugeye owner, Bill, who just happens to have lived just down the street from me for the last 25 years. We had never met but a common interest brought us together. He owns a 1960 Bugeye Sprite that he first saw in 1967! His friend’s dad owned it and he and his son had planned for decades to rebuild the car together but never quite got around to it. Bill had made it known over the years that he would like to buy the car but the owner couldn’t quite let it go. When the owner passed away, the son remembered Dave and offered to sell it to him. That was a year and a half ago and happened to be the same time that Bill retired, so he finally got the car of his dreams and had the time to totally dismantle the car and rebuild it to better than new. Bill made a few minor changes from original such as upgraded wheels which would have been available in the 60s and took 6 months to get. He also upgraded to a 5 speed transmission to make it a better car for today’s highways. In England in the 60s there were very few opportunities to go fast. The detail work that Bill put into this car is amazing. He even powder coated the hose clamps. The changes Bill made to this car would not even be noticeable to the average car nut, and of course he kept all the original parts in case someone wanted to change it back to the original specifications. I met Bill recently just after he finished this car and it sounds like he’s ready to do it again! I even gave him Dave’s number because he expressed an interest in buying his Bugeye..
This week marks for me the beginning of the car show season.
I’ll be out at the Big Rock Car Show on Saturday the 2nd with my 38 Ford pickup and, sun permitting, my 48 Studebaker convertible. Please stop by and say Hi.