Love At First Sight
The Austin Healey Sprite, Bugeye or Frogeye, depending on your side of the
pond, was first introduced in 1958. Having spent most of my time between
1958 and 1964 out of the country, I did not see my first Bugeye until 1964,
after moving from Kodiak Alaska to Portsmouth Virginia. I was tooling down
the highway along auto row in my 1958 Impala two door hardtop and as I'm
prone to do when passing car lots, was scanning the various cars on the
lots when I saw this smiling little face looking back at me. Not knowing
what it was but being intrigued by the smiling grill and "Bug" eye
headlights protruding from the hood (at that time I thought a bonnet was
something a baby wore), I made a fast U-turn, pulled into the lot, and it
was love at first sight. I traded the Impala on the spot without even
driving the sprite.
Sandi, whom I'd met while in Kodiak, was now living in New York City, so the
Bugeye became a frequent sight on the highways between Virginia and New
York. Sandi, while a better than average driver, had never driven a "stick"
shift. She learned in the Bugeye on the New York City freeways, it was a
thrill to say the least. She wanted to look at the gear shift when she
shifted, and with the Sprites very quick steering, tended to require
anywhere from two to three lanes for each shift.
My Navy buddy at the time, Tim, lived in South Carolina so the Bugeye also
made many trips between Virginia and South Carolina. Sandi and I were
married about this time and since Tim didn't have a car and the Bugeye was
our only car, it often made the trip to South Carolina hauling the three of
We drove the Bugeye for about 6 months and then traded it for a Supercharged
Covair Monza. From the moment we drove away from the Chevy dealer I knew
that I was really gonna miss the little guy. Shortly after this we moved to
New Jersey, while there, we traded the Covair for our first "Brand New" car,
a 1966 GTO. After New Jersey we moved to Honolulu Hawaii and if ever there
was a place in the world where you didn't need a GTO, it was Oahu in 1966.
The maximum speed limit on the island was around 35 MPH at that time. We
traded the GTO for another "Bug" but this time it was a VW "Bug". About this
time we started thinking about another Bugeye, it did not take long to find
one. We bought it and apparently we learned our lesson because we still have
This car is very much a world traveler, we shipped it from Hawaii to New
Jersey, drove it back to California, and then shipped it to Guam and back.
It's been to England, Hawaii, Guam, and both coasts of the U.S. along with
many of the states in between. Many cars, British, Japanese, German, and
American, have graced our driveway over the last 30 or so years and the
little Bugeye has patiently watched them come and go.
In the mid 70's the car was converted to disc brakes, wire wheels, and a
1275cc engine. For many years it was driven almost daily. One day on the way
home from work, I swerved to miss a stray dog, lost control, ran it off an
embankment, and tore it up pretty good. It took me years to get it back to
where it was drivable and by that time I had become more interested in
Porsche's than Sprites. The Bugeye had an overheating problem that I could
never make the time to fix, so it ended up sitting in the garage and was
slowly covered by all of the junk that accumulates in a garage over the
years. In 1996 we decided to build another garage, a place where the Bugeye
could reside and be assessable and maybe could be made road worthy again.
The brakes and the fuel system were a mess and had to be completely rebuilt.
As these things go, one thing led to another and I ended up doing a complete
rebuild of the original 948cc engine and replacing the 1275. I am currently
in the process of installing a Datsun 5-Speed transmission and maybe by the
time you read this the car will be on the road again. The Bugeye I might
add, is fiercely resisting the Datsun transplant.
Larry Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
59 Bugeye (Under Construction)
60 Bugeye (Undergoing 5-Speed Transplant)
78 911 SC (Faster than a Bugeye but not as much fun)