The Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite is a small sized sports car first developed in the late 1950's. Originally marketed as a low cost sports car, it now has a small but cult following.
Manufactured by the British Motor Corporation, the Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite was manufactured at the MG sports car factory in Abingdon, Berkshire. The car was originally designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, who profited by the form of a royalty payment. The Bugeye Sprite first went on sale at a price of £669, which featured a slightly altered and tuned-up Austin A-Series engine and a number of components from other cars with the goal of keeping manufacturing costs as low as possible.
The Sprite quickly was given a nickname, the Bugeye (as known in the US) and the Frogeye (as named in the UK), due to it's headlights which were mounted on the top of the bonnet. Originally, the design dictated that the headlights be retractable, with the lenses facing upward when not in use. However, the British Motor Corporation took this out of the design to save costs. This turned out to be a good move, as it gave the car it's most memorable feature which would be popular for many years to come.
The Bugeye Sprite became a popular racing car, due to it's affordability, and easy customization. In 1958 John Sprinzel and Willy Cave won their class in the Alpine Rally.
Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite Design
The Bugeye Sprites Chassis design was the world's first sports car built in mass production that used integrated construction, where it was designed so that the metal body panels (excluding the Bonnet) would take most of the structural stresses. Some say this design was influenced by the Jaguar D-Type.
Interestingly, the design of the door features no outer handles. The Driver & Passenger have to reach inside to open the door. A boot lid is also missing - to get at the spare wheel and luggage compartment one had to tilt the seats forward and reach under the rear deck.
Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite Engine
The Austin Healy Bugeye Sprite had a small but fairly gutsy engine - a 43 bhp, 948 cc engine derived from the Austin A35 & Morris Minor 1000 - which was upgraded with twin 1 1/8" inch SU Carburettors. The Morris Minor also lent it's rack & pinion steering design to the Bugeye Sprite.
British magazine The Motor road tested the car in 1958. The specifications were : a maximum speed of 82.9 mph (133.4 km/h), acceleration from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 20.5 seconds. Fuel consumption weighed in at 43 miles per imperial gallon (6.6 L/100 km; 36 mpg US).
The Bugeye Sprite Today
Today, the Austin Healy Bugeye Sprite is a sought after car, and has a cult following with many enthusiasts seeking out original, unaltered models. Many owners use their Austin Healey Sprites in racing style competition today, fifty years after its introduction. There are quite a few enthusiast websites available online, which are a incredible resource and contain a great deal of information.
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