Sprite Mk1 Restoraton

For years I’ve wanted to write about what all is involved in doing a complete restoration of a Mk1 Sprite. It is amazing the amount of work involved to bring back what essentially is a very bare bones, simple car. I’ll get more into the story of Tom Spangler and his Sprite later on but he brought his car to Speedwell just over a year ago after it sat in his garage for 30 years. We received the Sprite the way it is below.

Tom had been collecting parts for years and along with the car he brought a 1275 engine and ribcase gearbox, front disc brake components, etc. We started with complete disassembly, bagging & tagging, sorting out parts for acid dipping and powder coating, parts to be zinc plated, etc. We cut out rusted out areas of the chassis before sending it out for media blasting to help get bare steel to anywhere it might help.

Once back from blasting, the tub was put up on our rotisserie for replacement of (among many things) front frame rail stubs, floors, tips of all wheel arch corners, door hinge pillars, battery box, etc.

The front left frame rail had some issues and the right front of the bonnet was pretty badly beat up, along with the lower portion of the bonnet being cut-up from a previously but poorly done version of reverse hinging the bonnet.

Here’s a few pics during the rust repair process:

Shown is the rear portion of the left rear fender after the cancer was cut away and below is after the new steel was formed, fitted, welded and ready for primer.

I’m jumping quite a ways ahead here, I’ll try to slow up and write more details in the future and while we do pride ourselves on all of our work I wanted to show all of you what truly competent craftsmen can do¬† – I’m referring to Lanse’s Auto Body who actually removed the fenders from the bonnet structure and made the right front fender go from this:

To this:

Don’t let the fact that the “after” picture here is with the paint on the bonnet – it’s not filled with bondo, I just don’t have the pictures here of it in bare steel.

Here’s the tub back in our shop and starting assembly, beginning with the stainless steel hydraulic lines:

Honestly, ain’t this amazing?!

and take a look at the lower apron here:

and now:

Meanwhile, we were busy restoring the mechanicals:

Rear axle assembly with late model rear brakes

and here’s the 1275 going together which will be just a slightly higher compression and 1967 Cooper S cam.

Been a long time since I updated this. Here it is almost Thanksgiving 2012 and this thing of beauty started on the first crank. Hoping to have it driveable in one more week.

About Tom Colby

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11 Responses to Sprite Mk1 Restoraton

  1. Tom Spangler says:

    Tom, I’ll bring up the pictures of the bonnet Lanse took so you can add them to the site. Lanse cut and added metal, removed metal, but no bondo.

  2. jim woods says:

    I am interested in a fiberglass bonnet for my bug eye – I can’t find a full discription of what you offer on your website or prices for same.

  3. Mike Summers says:

    Hi Tom,
    I’m hoping to buy a set of Lexan clear headlamp covers for my Walker bonnet, bought from you in nov 09.
    Could you please advise the cost including freight to Australia

  4. Eric says:

    Hi Enjoyed your pic’s Say, I did the same rear brake change as you.. Still trying to find the hardware to connect the emergency brake. The rod end and the shaft for that matter are different than the OEM BE. Any idea’s? Also, my BE is pale primrose too.. Do you have a paint code you could pass along? Thx

    • Tom Colby says:

      On the paint code – don’t hold your breath too long but I’ll try and remember to ask our painter next time I see him. Regarding the E-Brake linkage rods, I just wish I knew how much interest there is in them. For years, every time we install a late model rear brake assembly to an early car, we end up fabricating a set for that particular Sprite. If there is a need for them, we can produce them in small quantities, I just need an idea for the actual interest in them. I notice that Moss Motors has a set that is length adjustable but I have no idea as to the quality, or whether the clevis pin hole size is correct on both ends (silly me for considering such mundane things such as complete, and correct fit & function! Sounds great but I have never tried them so I have no idea it that’s the ticket or not. Have any of you out there tried them?

  5. Tom Spangler says:

    Eric, I’ll get you the information on the paint, the color match was eyeballed from an old Sherwin Williams Import Car Color chart. The chart was from ’64 or ’65.

  6. Tom Spangler says:

    Eric, the paint was mixed and supplied by R&R Paint Supply Inc., 5723 Atlantic Ave, Long Beach, Ca, 90805, (562) 428-3648, Lindsay Maine or Dick Reed. The paint was a PPG product, OMNI 2.8, MTX 2.8 VOC Single Stage Topcoat. Lance, the owner of the body shop, said the product was very easy to work with.

  7. Tom Spangler says:

    Here’s an update on my Sprite.
    I picked the car up from Speedwell on 12/31/2012 and I’ve been having a great time with it ever since. Currently I have 4700 miles on the car with no problems, except the turn signal flasher unit gave up after six months.
    I’ve had the car at several car shows over the past year, met a lot of interesting people, and even won a few awards!
    The most fun of the year was attending Healey Rendezvous 2013 in South Lake Tahoe the last week of June. My brother and I put 1400 miles on the Sprite in 8 days. We drove up 395 to Tahoe, stopping the first day in Mammoth, then on into Tahoe the next day. Going home we took three days, stopping in Auburn, then took Hiway 49 to Bass Lake. From Bass Lake we drove home.
    We encountered all kinds of weather from rain in Tahoe to 106 degrees in Delano. The car ran between 160 to 190 most of the trip, pulling some of the passes it got up to 212 but dropped back down to 190 when we got to the top. Between Fresno and the Grapevine it ran a steady 200 and never missed a beat.
    I’m looking forward to another fun year with the car. I’m even thinking about going to Rendezvous 2014 in Bend Oregon. Will I trailer it, heck no, you got to drive them!!

  8. Frank Pernice says:

    Hi …

    I found your site today while sitting at the office goofing off. I love Sprites and had no idea that there were folks like you making new body and performance parts and such. I bought my Sprite brand new in 1958. If I remember correctly, I paid $1800 for it from a BMC dealer in Hawthorne, CA. I put 36,000 miles on that little car in the year and a half that I owned it. It was the most fun car I’ve ever owned. I left the engine stock, but did install a Judson supercharger on it. That was a nice upgrade in power … it gave the MGA owners fits. There used to be a retread tire guy who’s name was “Leftie” Jenkins out in Firestone who retreaded the 13″ tires with soft rubber into a Pirelli racing tread. Those tires were amazing. Only good for about 15,000 miles at best, but the handling … oh my gawd! With these tires and the supercharger, my little sprite used to tear Latigo Canyon up in the wee hours of the morning. There were a bunch of us who owned Sprites and we would race through Mulholland, Latigo and Decker Canyons back in those days. So, here I am, now 75 years old, and still have the enthusiasm for the Bug Eyes. Maybe one of these days I’ll come down to your shop from Thousand Oaks where I now live just to see what you folks have going on. Take care …


    • Tom Spangler says:

      Hi Frank,

      I found your story interesting, when I first got my Sprite, one place we raced around was Sky Line Drive in Orange.
      On the 27th of April, there is a large car show called The Queens English in Woodley Park, Van Nuys, you should come out if you have time. Should be about 400 to 500 British Cars including several Bugeyes.

  9. Tom Spangler says:

    Well, 2014 has come to a close and it’s been another fun year with the Sprite! This second childhood stuff is great!
    We now have 8800 miles on the car without any problems, except those created by me. Started 2014 on Jan 1st with the Tour d’ Orange, which is a 70 to 75 mile cruise around Orange County, approx 500 to 600 cars take part in the event, lots of fun. The next big event was the Grand National Roadster show in Pomona for the second year, the car got a lot of positive attention, one of four British cars there. Took part in several recurring club events during the year such as Cars and Coffee in Irvine, Super Car Sunday, Breakfast at the Peterson, UA Theater Cruise In, tours etc. We did the Riverside Show and Go in May, that’s a fun one because you get to cruise around the old part of downtown Riverside as part of the show. The Sprite is a big hit because it’s usually the only one there, event does draw real Mini Coopers, Jaguars, etc.
    The hi-lite of the year was taking the car to Rendezvous in Bend Oregon, yes we drove it there and back. My brother and I left Saturday morning and we were in Bend Sunday evening, stopping in Sacramento. Once again the event was lots of fun, a car show, seminars, cruises, dinners, auctions and lots of good conversation. We have a Cousin and Uncle in Bend, so we were able to get together with them several times over the week. Uncle Dale is 95 years old, still gets around well, drives, and still lives on his own. He is the only adult supervision any of us “kids” any more. It was real good seeing him.
    The trip home from Bend took three days and was some what more event full than the trip up. We left Bend on Friday morning, and got into a downpour about 10 miles out of town, now when you don’t have a top, and your wind screen wipers wouldn’t clear mist, it doesn’t give you a secure feeling at 65 mph! We got of the road safely and found a spot to wait it out, within 20 minutes we were back on the road. We made Vacaville the first night. Saturday morning we headed for Bodega Bay to try and recreate a picture taken of the car in 1968 by the fellow I bought it from. After running up and down the West side of the bay, we found the spot, but couldn’t get the car in the exact spot because “they” had built a trash enclosure were we needed to be. We did get the picture, and it’s darn close to the 1968 picture. In all this running around looking for the picture spot, I ran into a curb, which screwed up the steering a little. While in Bodega Bay we hit all high light spots from the “Birds”, not much there anymore. The rest of the trip was smooth, got home Sunday evening, and had covered 2000 plus miles in 8 days!
    I didn’t use the car much after the trip, needed to get the steering fixed but didn’t want to know what I had done to the car. I finally took the car to Tom, got everything checked out. It turned out I only knocked a few things loose, but didn’t bend or break anything.
    We are now ready for another year of playing cars.

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