Bug Eye Sprite
To me, the Bugeye Sprite was a horrid car.
It didn’t even have semi-elliptical rear springs. Quarter-elliptical.
The British perfected rust on cars such as this. Quite a successful venture, I must say.
What heat?? The output was like a hamster breathing on my ankle.
Plus, the moral dilemma of the (only) two output flaps: do I give her all the heat, or split it? Is she worthy of any heat at all?
I hung some vinyl behind the seats to keep the heat in front of the “trunk” and in the passenger compartment. This helped not at all.
What power? My car had an E-Production 1100 cc motor. This meant it had no power below 4000 rpm. And, only a little power above 4000 rpm.
Years later, I learned that a Ford engine (1600 cc) would have been the better move.
Yes, it had one. I replaced 2 or 3 before finding the ribbed case version, which held up much better. One of those early transmissions blew a gear while I was racing….on Philadelphia’s Race Street.
Yup, had some of those too. I stupidly bought a larger drum brake kit instead of the much better disk brake conversion. I was being advised by the guy who had been BMC’s east coast racing specialist. I think he sold me parts he wanted to….uh…part with.
Same fellow got me a SCCA racing approved muffler & pipe system. It looked as if a muffler was part of this, but that was just some metal welded to the outside of the pipe.
It was loud!
I was in Newark. I started the Sprite up and began to drive down the hill. After 2 blocks, I saw my friend Charlie on the corner, apparently waiting for me.
“How did you know I was coming?”
“I heard you start the car.”
It had a bit of that, but not much. It tended towards oversteer. Which the aforementioned Charlie discovered after he bought the car and wrecked it in 2 weeks.
This it certainly had. Women loved the car. Until they took a ride in it in winter. Or spring. Or fall. Or the rain.
One day in Philly, a couple had seen me driving around and stopped me. They wanted me to join them in a threesome.
The girl was extremely hot. But, when I deduced that the guy was going to be number 3, I declined.
What reliability? It had none.
How bad was it? Once someone helped me get the hood-fenders combination off the car, I could have the engine and transmission separated in front of the car in under 45 minutes. I knew every wrench size.
I had no clutch alignment tool, but it got so I could do that by eye. The first time, I simply left the clutch cover a tiny bit loose. I inserted the trans and withdrew it gently, then tightened the bolts.
Replacing the rear axle:
Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? It was way worse than you imagine.
The differential broke on Naudain Street, a one-way alley in Philly. I was parked on part of the sidewalk.
We got a rear axle from a local junkyard and I went to work removing and replacing it.
But, a cop came by who was a bit angry that I was doing this on his beat. I told him I’d thought that it was okay to do repairs on the street. Only minor repairs, he replied.
He said he’d have a tow truck there in an hour. (If I had money for a tow, I wouldn’t have been doing this in an alley.)
I hustled. I enlisted Michael (I was parked in front of his house) to help bleed the brakes.
With only a few minutes left, I put him in the car and instructed him in the “Down/Hold/Release” exercise we all know too well.
I crawled under the rear and yelled the instructions. But, no brake fluid was flowing out. We tried it again with the same bad result.
After getting up, I walked to the car and told Michael to show me what he’d been doing.
Yes, he’d been pumping the clutch. But, you knew that, didn’t you?
Time was up!
I drove the car away to a better place to bleed the brakes.
I never found out if the tow truck arrived, but I couldn’t risk finding out.
Don’t talk about your car in front of it:
In NJ, on the way back to Philly, my good friend Jimmy stopped to talk. He was also a car nut (and had the sense to buy a TR3 and not a Sprite).
He asked how the car was doing. I replied that it was running well (Mistake #1) and that it should be, as I’d rebuilt everything except the wiper motor (Mistake #2).
I took off and went onto the NJ Turnpike. It started to rain. Of course it did.
After about 4 swipes, the wipers stopped. I pulled to the shoulder and got out to check the fuse and wires to the motor. When I stood up, a large jet flew right over my head! I was stopped next to Newark Airport. Scared the hell out of me.
Alas, the wires and fuse were fine. I detached the wiper blade and, during the 2-hour drive, occasionally opened the side curtain and swiped the windshield.
The Bugeye was faster than a 356 Porsche; both were terribly slow. But, that guy’s car looked more like a bathtub than mine did.
Also slower was the Karmann Ghia. The girl in my car didn’t know we’d been racing. Now, that’s slow!
I offered to drive Lynn, an extraordinarily beautiful girl to her opening night as star of a college play.
The Bugeye was parked on the street and I’d made up some heavy L-shaped “nerf” bars for its front, instead of the ugly, useless front bumper.
I proudly escorted the gorgeous, young Lynn to the car….which did not start.
This was not unusual and I went to open the hood to do whatever I did back then to get the car to start.
Oh! Someone had backed into the car with enough force to bend the bars, preventing me from opening the hood.
Embarrassed, I walked her to the subway station.
Returning to the Sprite, I got my tools out and unbolted the bars, fixed whatever under the hood and drove to the play…alone.
PS: Lynn was so good-looking that when my friend Michael saw us at his door, he was speechless for a couple of moments.
However, she turned out to be the worst actress one could imagine. I mean shockingly bad.
At intermission, my friends were not making eye contact with me.
I turned to them and said, “It’s okay. I know she’s horrible.”
They all breathed a sigh of relief. I laughed.