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“Bug Eyed Sprite” Scrutinized at Oklahoma City Auto Safety Check

One would think that a British sports car must have been somewhat rare in Oklahoma when this image dated September 11, 1959, by the source was taken in Oklahoma City. Although apparently, that wasn’t the case, because directly behind the little Austin Healey “Sprite” in the last row of the parking lot appears to be a dark-colored MG T-Series roadster.

The scene was at one of six “Auto Safety Checks” sponsored by either the national, state, or local Petroleum Dealers Association in the City. There are also plenty of late-model and earlier domestic automobiles in the background for you to peruse.

Please share with us what you find of interest in this image by Cliff King for the Oklahoma Publishing Company courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

39 responses to ““Bug Eyed Sprite” Scrutinized at Oklahoma City Auto Safety Check

  1. In the background behind the `59 Chevy I see a black `55 Cadillac; possibly a cvt., a `51 Plymouth next to a `54 Ford Crestline hardtop.

  2. Remember, OKC was oil country, so I bet a few college kids got sports cars from dad.

    Also, a large Air Force base there, so likely some service members bought some or brought some back. As a kid in the ’60s, I knew of two officers who brought used Aston Martins , DB4s, IIRC, to America when they were just affordable used cars.

  3. A safety check on new cars? What do they expect to find, that wasn’t standard from the factory. I kept my semi trucks in pretty good shape, but the annual “safety check” always made me nervous, on the road checks, even more so. They do a lot of good, however, and a recent “surprise” truck inspection in Nebraska, a well known tough state for inspections, yielded a whopping 43% of the trucks placed out of service. THAT should make anyone who travels our highways cause for concern.

      • The indicator glass cannot be lost through vibration. The securing chrome ring is still there and so the glass cannot slip out of the rubber frame. It is more likely that the glass is broken and has fallen out or the remains have been removed afterwards. I have never seen the strange front bumper application after more than 25 years with Frogeyes and I don’t think it was standard equipment on US models.

        • There was a front bumper on US Sprites that I think was that one, but without the top bar. That might be an after-market addition.

          • Wondering how that AM bar attached. On the right and left sides at the bumper bracket, yes, but on top at each over rider, there is only a small hole attachment point, at least on mine. Is there a tiny tab sticking out from the AM bar to the hole in the over rider that could be screwed into? That bar did little good in my opinion except to distort every piece of chrome on that bumper when plowed into.

      • Back then, when folks still “parked by feel,” those got busted pretty regularly, to the point I simply stopped replacing them on mine. And it looks like that particular bumper guard left them somewhat exposed. Given the low height of the Sprite, most people couldn’t even see the car out their rear window, especially if the top was down.

  4. I’ll suggest the ’59 Ford wagon may be a Country Sedan due to its two-tone paint…but that’s not a determinant. Next to it would be a ’55 or ’56 Chevy sedan (it has neither the flat cowl of the ’57 nor any chrome trim on the top of the rear quarter panel…even the One-Fifty had about an 8” piece at the trailing edge in ‘57). Seen through its windshield appears to be a ’59 Pontiac

  5. I reckon the bumper must have been to meet some US standard, because I found reference to it being an option on UK frogeyes, while every US bugeye had them when they were shipped over. (Naturally, whether or not they stayed on the car is a different story)

    Visually, these always remind me of the Crosley Super Sport due to the hood and fender shape and headlight style, though the two are easily told apart because of the front grill on the Sprite.

  6. These things are very dear now,Truth is they were cheap and only just not nasty.The Frog eye in the UK did indeed keep sporty two seaters alive.Next step a B or TR..

  7. Altho the Sprite was first introduced in 1958 in Britain, it wasn’t imported to the US until ‘59, so that car is still pretty new. BTW, those headlights were originally supposed to flop backwards, flush with the hood when not in use but cost cutting ultimately nixed that feature.

    • I’ve seen a ’58 Bugeye in the US. The way to identify one of those is that the top attaches to the windshield using only snaps while later cars used a different method. (I also think that a ’58 windshield is not quite as tall as the later ones, but I’m not sure about that.)

      • The “improved” method had a thin flat bar sewn into a pocket along the front edge of the top that would slip into a slot along the top outer edge of the w/s frame. The tension on the top once attached to the snaps at the rear kept it more or less locked into that slot altho there was a snap at the outer edge of each side for safety. I can imagine a row of snaps not being particularly effective. But then those BMC A engines had no rear seal on the crankshaft either.

        • Early overhead cam Jaguars did not have a rear crankshaft seal.
          Only a groove machined into the rear main to spin the excess oil back into the oil pan

  8. In the Netherlands we call it a “Frog eye” Austin Healy, although officially “Sprite”. Built from 1958 until 1961; 46 BHP only.

  9. I don’t think the gentleman on the right us inspecting thecar, but more interested in the driver! Maybe writing down her number.

  10. I owned a 1960 Bugeye. It did not have the horizontal bar on the bumper but it did have a heater and as reported it was not very functional.

  11. Staged photo obviously, missing park/signal light lens….good publicity shot
    The grille guard would likely contribute more extensive damage than it might ever prevent!

  12. I had a good friend killed in a Sprite in a light spring rain as a cornering car lost control and stuck his. Low impact in town. Not a safe car.

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