Purchased in February 1979 as a shell with a couple of trailer loads of bits, the Bugeye had been extensively modified to house a Holden 6 cylinder grey motor, gearbox and radiator. The transmission tunnel was missing from the handbrake forwards as was the inner footwell sides, chassis cross member, radiator supports and battery box area. The rear guards were cut and flared out 4″ each side to cover wide wheels. Front and rear inner guards were mostly missing. The body had been stripped of all parts and was to be crushed. John Fowler rescued the rusty shell from Bob Gill (Gillspeed) and for the bargain basement price of $400 threw in most of the other bits and pieces needed to assemble a complete car.
With the assistance of local night-school panel beating classes and measurements taken from Ray English’s Bugeye, the body was rebuilt using a combination of new and secondhand panels, as well as many hand-shaped repair sections. It’s now a complete shell but sports a fibreglass Bugeye bonnet and an alloy fuel tank that has been made to the original dimensions.
The restoration was completed by Xmas 1979. It ran a warm 948 engine, Mk 2 smooth case gearbox, front sway bar, 8″ front drums, a rear panhard rod, alloy Roll-over bar and chrome 4.5″ wheels. Everything else was standard.
The car has been used extensively since the rebuild. As well as regular weekend social use, it has competed in many motorkhanas, hillclimbs, sprints and rally events over the past 30 years, taking class wins in the Victorian Motorkhana Championship, Three peaks Rally, Sprite Championships, MSCA Championships and Concours events.
In 1998, to celebrate its 40th birthday, the Sprite was entered in the Lactos Heritage Rally in Tasmania and the International Healey Commemorative Race at Bathurst. A more powerful !!!! 998cc engine with a sidedraft Weber was installed; stronger stub axles and drive shafts were fitted, 5″ alloy wheels with sticky tyres found their way under the guards, cooling fins and cold air ducting were adapted to the front brakes and a collapsible steering column replaced the original. The little car performed well, placing 3rd in class in both events.
Since 1998 it has competed regularly at Sprite Club National Challenges and the Arthur’s Seat historic hillclimb where, until 2000 it held the class record. During the last few years the front shockers have been replaced with a ‘Front Line’ telescopic shocker conversion kit and a ‘Morriservice’ Datsun (Nissan Sunny) 5-speed gearbox conversion has also been fitted.
Web Editor’s Note: Steve is very modest about his achievements, attributing them to the car! He is also successfully punting a Morris Cooper S in the Victorian Hillclimb Championships and, with fellow Club member, Tony Young, as navigator, recently competed in (and completed all stages) of Targa Tasmania in his classic 1968 124 Fiat AC Coupe.