DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/2/21 2:47 p.m.

Summary: My dad bought a very unique Bugeye Sprite in 1967, sold it against his better judgement, and has regretted doing so ever since.  We've always wondered what became of it and I'm posting here to try to track it down - not necessarily to purchase, but at least to see what became of it.

This was his first car. He had it for a few months before taking a job that required a lot of travelling. His parents insisted he sell it and get something more practical, like a nice little Volkswagen. He very reluctantly did so and still has not forgiven them. And still hates Beetles.

Details: It's a Bugeye, but it isn't. He bought from a body man who expertly smoothed the bonnet and sunk a pair of small headlights into the wings. Other custom touches included a Delco AM radio (note the antenna on the cowl), inside heater controls, and - sadly, no photos of this - an all-steel hardtop that started life as the top of an old Plymouth, if memory can be trusted.

Dad grew up in northwestern Oregon and he bought and sold the Sprite there.  I haven't been part of the LBC community for decades and no longer have any contacts there, so I am throwing a flare up here just in case it spurs anyone's memory.  And if not, I hope you enjoy the only two pictures we have.  I found them while rifling through a photo album last night and snapped some shots. Forgive me for taking photographs of photographs. It was late and I didn't want to wake the kid running a scanner.

 

karplus2
karplus2 Reader
9/2/21 2:56 p.m.

Good luck finding it!

My Grandpa had a Bugeye that he talked about ALL the time. It was the family car. My Mom rode on the driveshaft hump as a baby. He found it 40 years later for sale in someones front yard in Indiana. He knew it was his based on some of the interior modifications he had made. He didn't buy it back at that time but always kicked himself for selling it and for not buying it back when he had the chance. He did take me for a test drive in it. I think the main reason he didn't buy it was because he couldn't get in/out of it anymore. I had to help him out when we were done with the test drive.

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/2/21 3:00 p.m.

Good luck with your search. Also I have to say that is flat out the best looking buggy I have seen with the light pods removed. Also better than things like the Speedwell Spridget Sebring  fronts. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
9/2/21 3:06 p.m.

That front is almost Italian. I like it.

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/2/21 3:36 p.m.

Thanks, guys. The first post has been edited to reflect that the car had an all-steel hardtop.  As is my custom, I blame the phone.

Apis Mellifera
Apis Mellifera Dork
9/2/21 4:05 p.m.

I believe that is an Alexander bonnet made by Alexander Engineering Company Ltd. in the late 50s or a copy.  Speedwell Engineering makes a modern fiberglass copy called the Walker and Peter May Engineering also makes similar ones.

 

EDIT:

Here's a link to Speedwell:

https://www.speedwellengineering.com/fiberglass/

If you Google "Alexander Sprite", you'll get some more info.

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/2/21 4:32 p.m.
Apis Mellifera said:

I believe that is an Alexander bonnet made by Alexander Engineering Company Ltd. in the late 50s or a copy.  Speedwell Engineering makes a modern fiberglass copy called the Walker and Peter May Engineering also makes similar ones.

 

EDIT:

Here's a link to Speedwell:

https://www.speedwellengineering.com/fiberglass/

If you Google "Alexander Sprite", you'll get some more info.

Remarkably similar in appearance to the Alexander Sprite, but dad remembers that the custom bodywork was all done by the local previous owner, and all in steel.  

Apis Mellifera
Apis Mellifera Dork
9/2/21 5:04 p.m.

Like I said, it could be an Alexander or a copy.  The Alexander was steel, as was the top.  As far as I know, they made the only "mass produced" steel top.

I've seen a lot of LBCs with old school mods.  Many don't look that good.  It's entirely plausible that someone saw the Alexander Sprite on the cover of AutoSport magazine and made one.  I think that's nearly the best looking front for a MKI Sprite.  Only the factory front beats it and that's due to the "so ridiculously ugly that it's cool" factor.  The good news is that Speedwell still makes them so you could make a recreation.

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/2/21 11:30 p.m.

Thanks for all the interest and input so far.  I pulled the album down and scanned the photos a few minutes ago.  These are probably bigger than they need to be, given the quality of the original images, but let's give it a try.

 

 

I emailed my dad a link to the thread and he was...well, he can tell you.

 

"Wow! I had no idea those pics still existed, al I knew was I had not seen them in many years. Very long shot indeed, but you never know when lightning will strike. I believe you meant all-steel hardtop.... :=)

Good memories for sure, thanks!   In case I am at all interested, he says... " 

"Just read the new comments in that thread. The bodyman I bought the car from was named Ron (I've long since forgotten his last name). He worked at the Chevrolet dealership in McMinnville. I should remember the name of the dealership, but no....  He absolutely did the work himself, no kit involved, though of course a kit may have provided inspiration. I remember he said that building the top proved to be much more difficult than he had anticipated, and he would never do another one at any price. Ron was an interesting guy. Head as bald as a billiard ball and a full black beard. And he stuttered. Married with one or two young kids. He bought a sailboat and quit his job to spend a year sailing with his family. I don't recall if he had a destination in mind, or if he ever came back to work in Mac."

"On further reflection, I believe that Ron did go back to work at the Chevy dealership after his year at sea. And I seem to recall (very fuzzy memory here) he spent that year sailing around the South Pacific."

 

I also asked him whether he remembered anything at all about who bought the car from him.  His response:

"As I recall, my parents sold it while I was working in the Yakima Valley, and I never met the buyer, who was not local (to Willamina) and was not known to us.

I do remember paying $850 when I bought it. Armed with the knowledge (!) that everything goes down in value, it was sold for $800.

In case you had not heard about this, a brief story. The car either had (or developed) some kind of a noise or something in reverse. Fuzzy memory again. Getting it repaired would have been prohibitively expensive and I sourced a junkyard transmission. This was when I was still in high school. Took it to a friend's place a few miles out of town -- the guy owned a newer Midget and had an A-frame to pull the engine & trans. With his help, I swapped in the donor trans, which unfortunately was a bit notchy in third gear. So I pulled it back out, laid the two transmissions beside each other, and went through them inspecting & comparing every part. I then reassembled it using the best looking parts from each. Stuffed it back in and surprise, I had a good transmission!"

 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
9/3/21 6:18 a.m.

You might want to try The Bugeye Guy who, I think, is in Essex Connecticut. 

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
9/3/21 6:31 a.m.

Nothing to add except I hope you find it. That is a great looking car. 

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/3/21 9:45 a.m.

Original post has been edited slightly to clarify that we're not necessarily looking to buy the car.  Mostly just hoping to track it down, if it still exists, and see where it went, what became of it, and who has it now.

I think we may have identified the builder!  More on that as things solidify.

 

Woody (Forum Supportum) said:

You might want to try The Bugeye Guy who, I think, is in Essex Connecticut. 

Good idea, thanks.  That's a long way from here, but worth a try.

 

dean1484 said:

Nothing to add except I hope you find it. That is a great looking car. 

Thanks, Dean!  We always thought so, too. 

Trent
Trent PowerDork
9/3/21 10:21 a.m.

Now that I think about it, I remember seeing a sprite with a similar front end treatment in a buddies shop here in Eugene. This was over a decade ago.  It was flat black with a 302 under the bonnet. It stood out because the shop was a "tuner" shop filled with Honda and DSM stuff. 

I will actually see him today. I will show him the photo and see if he remembers what I am talking about

Opti
Opti Dork
9/3/21 10:33 a.m.

I tracked down my old camaro a couple years ago. I did a bunch of internet sleuthing, to finally break down and pay a PI 50 dollars and a couple hours later I had the last registered owner. Found him on facebook and he told me he had just sold it and gave me the new owners contact info.

Now when we need to find an old car I just give a PI whatever info I have, vin is easy, plate may be harder.

racerdave600
racerdave600 UltraDork
9/3/21 12:40 p.m.

I hope you find it, that is a great looking Sprite!  I always had a soft spot for those and that may be the best looking I've seen.

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/3/21 2:23 p.m.
Trent said:

Now that I think about it, I remember seeing a sprite with a similar front end treatment in a buddies shop here in Eugene. This was over a decade ago.  It was flat black with a 302 under the bonnet. It stood out because the shop was a "tuner" shop filled with Honda and DSM stuff. 

I will actually see him today. I will show him the photo and see if he remembers what I am talking about

Well, Trent, thank you for that. I sure appreciate it.  It would be a hell of a coincidence if the thing turned up just a few miles away. 

Trent
Trent PowerDork
9/4/21 12:37 p.m.

Well unfortunately my friend has no recollection of this car. It might have been a cage project for one of his other fabricators. 

All I remember is that it seemed pretty rough, I was told it had a 302 in it and it had a distinctive front end for a Mk1 sprite.

 

 

ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter)
ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/4/21 10:49 p.m.

My family moved to Oregon a couple decades after your dad's ownership, and I checked with my dad who had Lotuses, Hillmans, friends with Minis, and therefore some connections to the LBC community, mostly focused in the mid-valley Corvallis/Albany/Lebanon area from the late 80's to the mid-2000's. Sadly the car doesn't ring any bells with him.

FWIW, we would attend track days and vintage races at PIR, and sometimes the All British Field meet as well. He wasn't really involved with the club/show/meet n' greet side of the community....more focused on trackday driving and a bit of autocross and racing, so info on the car may still be out there.

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/5/21 12:25 p.m.

Thank you all for your interest in the car and the story. 

Trent said:

Well unfortunately my friend has no recollection of this car. It might have been a cage project for one of his other fabricators. 

All I remember is that it seemed pretty rough, I was told it had a 302 in it and it had a distinctive front end for a Mk1 sprite.

 Thanks for making the effort.  Was that 808?  Obviously I'm only sort of on the very fringes of the car scene here, but that's the only shop I know of that fits that description.

 

ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter) said:

My family moved to Oregon a couple decades after your dad's ownership, and I checked with my dad who had Lotuses, Hillmans, friends with Minis, and therefore some connections to the LBC community, mostly focused in the mid-valley Corvallis/Albany/Lebanon area from the late 80's to the mid-2000's. Sadly the car doesn't ring any bells with him.

FWIW, we would attend track days and vintage races at PIR, and sometimes the All British Field meet as well. He wasn't really involved with the club/show/meet n' greet side of the community....more focused on trackday driving and a bit of autocross and racing, so info on the car may still be out there.

Thanks for checking!

By way of an update, we have been able to confirm the identity of the car's builder.  He's fairly well known in the region for building a famous custom that won lots of awards and was featured in multiple magazines over the course of several decades.  I was fortunate enough to make contact with another guy in the custom car scene who actually knows the builder and his family.  He'd never heard of the Sprite but was happy to chat about it and about the builder.  So for now I'll hold off on naming names.  We're going to wait and see if the family is interested in talking about it in any way, and if anyone else in the region remembers seeing the car after Dad lost track of it.

We're not necessarily any closer to the car, but it's been fun to put together a little more of the story from the other end of the timeline and share a few old memories.

Trent
Trent PowerDork
9/7/21 10:23 a.m.

Sort of an update. 

Spoke with another frogeye owner and he said the flat black car I remember sat with a for sale sign on its windshield on Prarie road near Junction City and was last seen there 6 months ago.

My customer interaction guy says that someone contacted us a few months ago looking for a standard Sprite bonnet to replace what they called the "Cobra nose" on a flat black sprite.

 

Again, not sure if it is the same car.  

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/7/21 2:55 p.m.
Trent said:

Sort of an update. 

Spoke with another frogeye owner and he said the flat black car I remember sat with a for sale sign on its windshield on Prarie road near Junction City and was last seen there 6 months ago.

My customer interaction guy says that someone contacted us a few months ago looking for a standard Sprite bonnet to replace what they called the "Cobra nose" on a flat black sprite.

 

Again, not sure if it is the same car.  

Wow. That's really interesting.  The mind fairly boggles at the possibility. 

I'm assuming your front desk man didn't get a phone number for the "Cobra nose" guy looking for stock tin.  That would be too easy.

Looks like it's time to look up any local LBC clubs and get these photos in front of them.

Edit: You reminded me that I remember seeing an exceptionally rough project Bugeye with similar front end treatment on the local (Eugene) CL some years ago. Sent my dad the link and he damn near had a heart attack before we determined that it was almost certainly not his car.  Maybe this is that same one.  Worth investigating to some degree, though.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
9/7/21 3:10 p.m.

I started poking around a bit and came across this, so I had to share. It's the smallest, dorkiest, happiest looking 250 GTO in the world.

http://www.sebringsprite.com

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/7/21 3:33 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Little charmers, ain't they?  It's inherently difficult for an early Sprite to be less than adorable. 

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