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October 16, 2019

It Followed Me Home

One of my favorite British sports cars is the Austin Healey “Bugeye” Sprite. (If you look at the photo you can quickly see why it’s called a Bugeye or, in England, a Frogeye.) They’re very small but also very cute, an easy car to work on, and fun to drive. The famed Carroll Shelby School of Performance Driving used Bugeyes to train potential race car drivers.

The path that led me to this new treasure is a long one. It started with me commenting to a board member that I needed brake parts for my MGC project. He offered to give me a 1975 MGB parts car for some of the components that I needed. However, being a car guy, once I got this “parts car”, I started wondering if I could restore it. I ended up purchasing three more parts cars, eventually semi-restoring two of the four cars.

I sold one of the restored “parts cars” for $3,000 (it still needed paint) which paid for all the other parts cars and related restoration parts. This left me basically where I started, with a free car. However, the free car was now partially restored. It basically had a new interior, OK paint, and ran, drove and stopped fairly well. It just needed some tweaking to be completed and potentially sold.

I decided at that point to put this project on hold. I had been working on this free car almost non-stop nights and weekends for a year and was ready to get back to working on my “keeper cars.” The keeper cars are restoration projects that I plan to keep in my collection, including a 1969 E-Type, a 1969 MGC, a 1973 240Z and a 1968 TR250. I’m trying to build a small collection of rare or iconic sports cars (and a few trucks).

I have a bad habit of checking craigslist and noticed that a guy had a Bugeye listed for a reasonable price. I had seen the ad on craigslist before, so I was familiar with the car. However, this time he noted that he was willing to trade for another sports car. I called the guy and we spoke shop for about half an hour and, after swapping a few photos, we cut a deal to trade cars, plus some cash on my end.

I was ecstatic because I love Bugeyes and was sick of the MGB project. Plus it was an awesome deal, especially because he said the car wasn’t running correctly and he was similarly tired of working on this unhealthy little Frogeye. So my very tolerant and supportive wife and I trailered the MGB to his house and we made the swap. We had to push the Bugeye on my trailer because it wouldn’t start, but I didn’t care—I was thrilled.

When I returned to my shop, I pulled the spark plugs from the engine and noted that the front plugs were heavily soiled but the two rear plugs looked new. I pulled out one of my manuals and discovered that the rear plug lines were reversed. I switched the wires, hit the key and the little Bugeye (that my wife nicknamed Happy) fired to life.