My good friend Leslie forwarded an email to me recently with a link to an advert for a Bugeye Sprite. I called her and, among other things, suggested she could buy the best early Miata on the planet for about 2/3’s the money. She simply said “My father owned one.” Well, there you go. One of the top 3 reasons we want a certain car, with the other 2 being “I wanted one of those badly when I was in high school”, usually followed by “I couldn’t afford it then but now I can.”
The car in question was being sold by The Bugeye Guy up in Branford, CT. Now, CT is quite a distance from NC but in the case of Leslie and this, or any Bugeye, it seemed like a good idea to buy from a specialist. Apparently, Leslie found a car at The Bugeye Guy and a sale was completed. She sounds to be reasonably happy with the transaction, although the car has been back to CT twice, the second time for a Ford 5 speed tranny conversion.
As Leslie opened her garage door, the car presented quite well with its sparkling new paint, new interior, and Minilite wheels. Panel fit was pretty typical for a Sprite, which means close enough was good enough! The bonnet hinges forward (just like an E-Type!). You could probably fit 3 engines in that engine bay, which means there is plenty of room to work on things. The dash was nicely restored. All the chrome plating had been redone. The paint appeared to be a modern version of opalescent silver and looked great against the deep red of the burgundy tonneau cover. The wood rimmed steering wheel was classic. A lot to like here, I thought.
It was time for a test drive. It is best if you do a few preliminary stretching exercises before you attempt to fold yourself into the seats. But I did it! The exhaust makes a nice burble in the confines of the garage. We backed out of Leslie’s suburban driveway, at an angle so the exhaust wouldn’t drag. And off we went.
I know it is an overused analogy but the Sprite is like a go-cart. When you can stand next to the car and just about reach out and touch both the front and rear tires, it is the definition of short coupled! In a world obsessed with impossibly large wheels, the tiny tires on the Minilites look just right. The view through the windshield immediately reminds me of my Porsche 928 with the headlights popped up. As we motored along, Leslie said she liked the top down experience for the same reason she liked her motorcycles. One gets to smell things. No cabin filters. No electronically modified exhaust note. Just an organic driving experience.
We drove through the rural landscape near her home on a lovely, if cool, January day. Leslie said that in NC, she actually prefers winter versus summer, when the sun can be unbearable. I had to agree. It reminded me of a top down winter trip up the coast of CA in my Miata, a long time ago. What are old cars good for, if not bringing back memories?
I didn’t really think about the fact that we were driving around in a car with the crashworthiness of a shoe box! Leslie is a Nurse Anesthetist as her day job so she holds the lives of other folks in her hands on a routine basis. Although she told me that she doesn’t like to go on the freeway I sensed that with her profession being such a high wire act, driving around in this little shoe box is just want she needs to unwind. Probably the same reason her father had one.
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