1959 Austin-Healey Sprite

by | Jan 10, 2020

Photo Credit: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company

1959 Austin-Healey Sprite

by | Jan 10, 2020

Photo Credit: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company












January 17

Carroll Shelby once had a race car driving school called the School of High-Performance Driving, in addition to his many accomplishments in the car business. The school was located at Riverside Raceway in California back in the 1960s. The school’s manager was Peter Brock, who also happened to design the original Corvette Stingray and the Cobra Daytona Coupe.

Among the cars used for instruction were the British made Austin-Healey Sprites, which Brock described as “workhorses” for training. Due to the placement of the front headlights, this vehicle developed the US nickname “Bugeye.”. This little British Bugeye was quite different from the GT350s and Cobras of that era. 

The Austin-Healey Sprite had a 948-cc, 48- horsepower inline-4s engine with a 4-speed transmission. Weighing in at 1,477 pounds and measuring only 49.8 inches tall, the Sprite could get to 60 mph in just under 20 seconds. The factory version claimed a top speed of 83 mph. Anyone who has ever owned or driven a Sprite of that vintage can smile and relate to how much fun the little cars are — quick and agile. 

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One of the Shelby Sprites is on offer at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction, and its history extends well past the time at Riverside. 

When the Shelby School of High-Performance Driving became the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving in 1965, the Sprite was sold to the manager of Algar Porsche in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. He used it in the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) competition in the northeast for several seasons before it was damaged and put away for safekeeping. 

By 1973, the Sprite was rebuilt to proper form and raced until 1992. That was the durability of the little Austin-Healey Sprites, which were a standard in the SCCA’s H Production class (HP). You can still find them competing in the organization’s annual run-offs. 

This Shelby Sprite has received a great deal of attention, and there are photos of it in the Healey museum. The little Sprite has been through a recent restoration back to racing form — just the machine to take on vintage racing.

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