The Austin Healey “Bugeye” Sprite looks like the happiest thing on earth, a tiny piece of contentment in a troubled world. With its pertly smiling grille, standup headlights and cheeky fenders, the Bugeye (known in its British home country as the Frogeye) makes its fun-times intent obvious to everyone who sees or drives it.
The roadster is minuscule by American standards, with an 80-inch wheelbase, 130-inch length and 1,580-pound curb weight. The Sprite is also as basic as it comes, an inexpensive sports car designed for pleasant drives on country roads, and placing its occupants as near to nature as possible.
“Try to wipe the smile off your face when driving! You can’t!” the dealer says in the ad.
The Sprite was created by the Donald Healey Motor Company to supplement the famed “Big Healey,” and priced to compete with the small, cheap sports cars that were swarming all over England and Europe.
As the story goes, the Sprite was originally meant to have headlights that swiveled into the body, giving it a starkly aerodynamic look. But the automaker did the math and decided to produce the car with its headlights in the fixed upright position to keep costs down. And thusly, an icon was born.
“It was intended to be a low-cost model that ‘a chap could keep in his bike shed,’ yet be the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven,” the seller notes.
The Bugeye was one of the first mass-produced cars with a semi-monocoque design, its abbreviated framework lying under stressed body panels. There is no external access to the small trunk, and the entire front bodywork tips forward clamshell-style to get under the bonnet, as the British favor calling the hood (which is what the British call the convertible top).
The Sprite was designed to use the myriad of mechanical parts available in the British Motor Company parts bin, such as the sturdy 948 cc Austin A-series 4-cylinder engine that musters 43 horsepower linked with a crisp-shifting 4-speed gearbox.
“Our very cute Nevada Beige Austin Healy has a ‘purrs like a kitten’ newly rebuilt 4-cylinder engine,” the dealer says. “Plus, shifting a car has never been more entertaining than running through the gears in the newly rebuilt transmission.”
The Sprite looks to be in very presentable condition, although oddly, the gas filler cap appears to be missing. That’s kind of a weird oversight.
The Bugeye Sprite looks like (less-than) a ton of fun for the asking price of $19,500.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.