HomePick of the DayCalifornia ‘special’ 1958 Austin Healey Sprite uniquely modified

California ‘special’ 1958 Austin Healey Sprite uniquely modified

The Pick of the Day was built in the 1960s by a San Francisco ‘gentleman racer’


Modified sports/racing cars are often referred to as “specials,” although some are more special than others.  Definitely on the more-special end of the scale is the Pick of the Day, a 1958 Austin Healey Sprite built for racing with a custom body and Italian drivetrain.

The Sprite also has an intriguing back story, according to the Monterey, California, dealer advertising the roadster on ClassicCars.com.


Referred to as the Canlas Special, the Sprite was owned by a “a gentleman racer from San Francisco” named Ambrosio Canlas who built the car in the 1960s for competition at such historic tracks as Sears Point and Cotati Raceway, the seller says. 

The car was raced for a number of years until its last recorded race in 1968, after which it disappeared.  The abandoned race car was rediscovered parked in a trailer in Redwood City, California, by the current owner who had it restored starting in 2014.

The Sprite is all-steel, including the streamlined tilt-up front end that replaces the original “bugeye” design, which tilted forward.


“Ambrosio Canlas was the original builder of the car and affectionately put the ‘CANLAS’ badges on the sides of the hood,” the seller notes.

Under that hood, there’s another unique feature lurking.  Instead of the small British engine that normally would be there, this Sprite is “equipped with a gorgeous early iron-block 2-liter motor from a 1959 Alfa Romeo 2000 Touring Spider, which produces 115 horsepower with dual Weber 40DCOE Carburetors,” the seller says. 

“Also fitted with an Alfa Romeo 2000 driveline, this car really pushes out some power while staying nimble on the turns and straightaways,” the seller adds. “The original builder also installed a modified MGA rear end to compensate (for) the added power, and (the car) is completely converted to 12-volt system.”


The restoration was completed by two California shops, one that specializes in British cars for the body and chassis and the other an Italian performance expert who attended to the mechanical parts, electrical system and final assembly, the seller says.

The little red sports car looks special indeed with its attractive front end, cut-down racing windshield and roll bar.  Really, a very sharp-looking roadster. The photos with the ad show it has a no-nonsense but livable interior with some modifications made to accommodate the physically larger driveline.

The Sprite has been rebuilt to be roadworthy rather than raced, the seller notes, and comes with a clean California title and registration and a “CA black plate fixed to the rear.”

sprite, California ‘special’ 1958 Austin Healey Sprite uniquely modified, ClassicCars.com Journal

“This car is really a neat piece of California history for someone interested in vintage period-built sports racing “Specials” of the ‘50s/’60s,” the seller says.

The asking price is $39,500.

 To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. A truly great job of utilizing the old headlight locations to make fresh air intakes !
    It looks like he incorporated a portion of the MGB wing/headlight up front for a great look and location for “new” headlights.
    The mechanicals under the hood and MGA rear end sounds like it will absolutely be a fun car to drive !!
    The bumperette placement and egg crate grille up front, rounds out a very tasteful modification. This car represents what I want to find under my Christmas tree this year !!

    • Oh, this lil guy just rocks. History, custom build, racing- and if you look, he has both the original “bugeye” smile as well as a modern emoji smirk. And you can’t unsee this once you do.
      Bwahahaha! Bet he sounds rippin’ cool, too.

    • Appreciate the comment Brad. We people are car people from all over the spectrum. I’m sure you subscribed originally when we wrote about something you did like. Drop us a line and let us know what you would like to see. If it has wheels and an engine, we always like to look…


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