A Silly Little Car Brings Huge Fun


Donald Healey could not have imagined that his simple design brief to build a small sports car that “a chap could put in his bike shed” would result in a car that is still being raced now, nearly 60 years later. Gerry Coker, stylist at the tiny Donald Healey Motor Company, could not have foreseen that the simple car he penned would become an icon and define a mini-genre, but it did.

Their bike-shed car was introduced in 1958 as the Austin-Healey Sprite, but it quickly became better known simply as the “Bugeye” in North America and as the “Frogeye” elsewhere. Its smile-producing headlamp pods somehow survived British Motor Corporation design review, and between March 1958 and November 1960, 48,987 were produced, far outpacing the quantity of Big Healeys made during the same period.

Instead of becoming an entry-level car intended as a step toward an eventual Big Healey purchase, it immediately assumed its own identity as the sports-car-hungry public snapped them up and went racing, rallying, cruising and touring in them.


Reid Trummel

SCM Contributor

Reid is editor-publisher of Healey Marque magazine, the official publication of the Austin-Healey Club of America (www.healeyclub.org). His interest in cars began when he taught himself to drive a stick in a hand-me-down 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. Wanting more power than the Alfa’s 1300 could provide, he bought a Healey 3000 and fell down that slippery slope of affection for British cars. Currently the owner of two 1956 Healeys — a 100M and a 100 with the Le Mans Kit — his affliction also includes non-British dalliances. He is also Chairman of the Columbia Gorge Classic Rally (www.columbiagorgemgaclub.org). He makes his home in Portland, OR.

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