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Since I am in the process of building a 59 Bugeye pretty much from scratch, I thought that I would kind of chronicle the saga. I'm sure that I will encounter a lot of the problems that are encountered on a day to day basis by other Bugeye owners or at least problems that have been encountered and conquered in the past. I will be relying on the "spridget" list for a lot of insight and guidance in this process. Hopefully this will also provide insights for others that are contemplating doing similar things to their Sprites.

I learned of this car through a "friend" and fellow member of the Pebble Beach Sports Car Club (PBSCC). The car had been setting in a Pacific Grove California backyard, uncovered and totally exposed to the elements for some time. Although the winters here are not as severe as in other parts of the country, it is damp, and the air is salty so its not like the desert but its not real bad either.

The current owner had purchased the car for the Bonnet and one door and had no use for the rest of it. The car had apparently been raced at one time since it had a big roll-bar and was sporting Goodyear Blue Streaks on the rear. It had a lot of rust but most of it was just surface stuff and was not a problem. The biggest problem with the car was the Bonnet. The current owner had purchased the car strictly for the Bonnet and the passenger side door to replace the ones on his MKII, which has a Bugeye Bonnet. The
Bonnet was a total loss as far as my metal working skills were concerned. The fender seams where rusted through almost the entire length of both fenders. The flange on the fenders and the center section were mostly gone. It would have required finding someone with a lot of skill and paying him a lot of money to fix. Being a sucker for a pretty face, I bought the car anyway.

Somewhere along the way the slave cylinder access hole had been enlarged and a hole had been cut in the driveshaft tunnel to facilitate driveshaft installation. Two, two inch square holes, one on each side of the license plate recess area had also been cut out. The holes looked like some kind of lights had been installed in them. I contemplated for a while and decided to keep the enlarged slave cylinder access hole (even though I will probably install a 5-speed) and the driveshaft tunnel hole, looking on them as improvements. I made some covers out of sheet metal and bolted them on to cover the holes but still allow access for clutch bleeding and driveshaft installation when required. I made patches and filled the holes in the license plate recess.

The car had been totally stripped of parts and all that remained was the rust, six layers of paint, suspension, steering, doors, and Bonnet. The inner fenders on the front had also been removed (why?). The passenger side door that had been swapped with the MKII's was in pretty bad shape, the skin was stretched and it would just flop in or out when touched, and it had a large dent in the front hinge edge above the top hinge, how this was done I don't know. I found a very good door at a Mini Mania Swap meet and it fits pretty well so that problem was solved.

The front and rear suspension was removed and checked for usability. The only things retained where the front hubs, the rear axle housing, the differential, and the rear axle shafts. Although I plan to replace the axles with hardened ones, I will probably use them initially. The next order of business was removing the old paint, under coating, and 35 years of accumulated crap.

The tub and doors were taken down to bare metal, top and bottom, inside and outside. The only place not stripped was the inside of the transmission/driveshaft tunnel and if anyone has any good ideas (other than growing longer arms) on how to do that area by hand I would be interested. I used a combination of paint removal wheels of various types, wire wheels of various types, chemical paint remover, an electric drill, a propane torch, various scrappers, and a siphon type sand blaster. You have not lived until you have sandblasted the inside of a Bugeye trunk.

It took me about three months of hard labor but I got the entire car down to bare metal. I know there are easier and probably better ways to do this but they are not nearly as much fun and do not provide nearly as much satisfaction as doing it by hand. Its very therapeutic laying on your back scrapping and wire brushing on the bottom of a Sprite for hours at a time. It gives you a lot of time to contemplate the vagaries of life and LBC's. The hardest stuff to get off was the undercoating. I ended up using a propane torch to heat it up and then a putty knife to scrape it off. After the outer crust of undercoating was removed, paint remover would dissolve most of the rest and then the wire brush would clean it up.

There was not as many bad rust spots as I first thought. The lower portion of the door hinge post on the drivers side, the pockets behind the rear wheel wells (found a partially decomposed pine cone in one side), and the trough that runs across the rear of the Bugeye trunk pan. If your Bugeye has to set outside in the rain or is driven in the rain keep an eye on this trough, it is a perfect water retention spot. I drilled drain holes in the new sheet metal after it was installed. All of these places had to be cut out and replaced along with the inner fenders on the front. I got the inner fenders from Moss because they sell them in one piece. Other places that I checked sold them in the two separate pieces that they consist of. I made my own patches from 20 gauge sheet metal using a sheet metal nipper. I then used a pair of flanging pliers to flange the edges of each patch. This works o.k. when you can put the patch in place from the back but it can be difficult to insert the flange from the outside so you may not be able to flange all of the edges. I used a spot welder attachment of my welder to spot the patches and inner fenders in place. The spot welder works o.k. as long as there is no air gap between the two pieces being welded. If there is any air gap at all, it will just burn a hole in the outer piece. After the patches were spot welded, I used a combination of an arc welder and a gas welder with a #1 tip to weld the seams. I then used a heavy sanding/grinding wheel (paper backed) in my trusty drill to grind the welds down to surface level. At this point the dreaded Bondo came into play. I don't really have a problem with Bondo just the way some people use it. I used it to smooth the area after welding and grinding.

I have taken some flack over this but I coated the entire floor pan, top and bottom with POR-15. I have used this stuff in the past and liked it. Others have told me that after putting it on they could peel it off in large sections. I used it over bare metal (most of it sandblasted) after prepping the surface with a metal prep also made by the POR-15 company. I had previously used it on sections of my other Bugeye's floorpan and don't see any problems with it. I then painted over the POR-15 with a semi-gloss black enamel followed by a coat of rubberized undercoating in the wheel wells. At this point the tub is pretty much finished.

Gave up on finding a Bugeye bonnet in decent shape for a decent price. The pickings are kind of slim when one of the requirements is that the bonnet has to be within reasonable driving distance. Can't imagine what it would cost to ship a Bugeye bonnet cross country. Looked at bonnets with asking prices from $300 and $1000. The ones in the $300 range were as bad, if not worse, than the one I started with and the one for $1000 was pretty good but not perfect. Decided to go with a fiberglass bonnet from Mini Mania.

The fiberglass Bonnet is at least light enough to handle but is too flexible. The Bonnet is wider at the shoulders than the car is (about 1/2 inch on each side) and the wings stick out about 2 inches from the car. I installed two hooks on each side to clamp them down and bonded a bar across the back edge to keep the bonnet from bowing up in the middle when closed.

After looking at the Bonnet that came with the car I decided that the radiator ducting was in pretty good shape compared to the rest of the Bonnet, so I took my trusty torch and cut it out. After welding in some extra braces and cleaning it up, I used fiberglass and rivets to bond it in place on the glass Bonnet. I then used the Mini Mania front hinge kit to mount it and this worked out o.k. Except for requiring the hooks to hold the wings in, the fit is not that much worse than most bonnets. It fits almost as well as the original on my other car. I might add that the other car has been wrecked a few times.

I installed "Thread-Serts" for the headlight and hold-down hook mounting points in the bonnet.

The following is a quote from Mike Gigante: "Well, I have yet to see a good fitting fibreglass bonnet for the bugeye. They may exist, but they have eluded me. I bought mine from Mini Mania. It has a reasonable exterior finish although it is pretty wobbly and required a lot of work and bondo to make it smooth enough for a nice paint finish. The big problem was fit. It seems a little low at the front (in the area between the headlight bowls) and the side 'wings' or quarter panels stick out about 4" on either side and are a little too shallow (leaving a gap between the bonnet and the sills (rockers). The top section around the scuttle was too flat. It doesn't come with any radiator shrouding, so you should plan do do something about that too. MM is not alone, the local ones have problems of similar magnitude. If you do go for a f/glass bonnet, be prepared to spend lots of hours on finish and fitting and be prepared for a less than perfect fit."

The stock rubber seal that rides in the channel on the firewall proved to be too thick. The back of the bonnet would not go down flush with the crowl,sticks up about 1/2 inch all the way across. Checked the J.C. Whitney catalog and found a piece of 5/8 inch wide by 1/2 inch thick rubber and this fits o.k.

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All new front suspension and brakes have been installed including the Frontline Tube Shock conversion kit.

List Of New Front Suspension/Brake Parts:

1. Springs<br>
2. A-Arms<br>
3. Bushings<br>
4. Braided Brake Lines<br>
5. Calipers<br>
6. Rotors<br>
7. Swivel Axles<br>
8. King Pins<br>
9. Bearings<br>
10. Tube Shock Conversion<br>
11. Wheel Studs

The only parts used from the original car were the hubs.

I had planned to paint the car myself but due to time constraints (Honey Do List) the car goes to the paint shop the first week of August.


Fitted the seats. Used a fiberglass bucket made by RCI. This bucket just barely fits on the drivers side after trimming a little from the  inside edge to clear the brake handle. The seat covers sold by RCI for this seat are really cheap affairs so I went to a local upholster and had a set made out of high quality vinyl. I mounted the seats using two pieces of light angle iron, one bolted to the floor, one bolted to the seat, and then bolted together. The seats could be mounted on the original slides to make them adjustable if you wanted. The seats have slots for the full harness that I intend to install.


The Bugeye went to the painter today. Should be back in early October.

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The Bugeye came home from the painter on the 19th and looks great.

I'm in the process of building the wiring harness. The car is too far from stock to buy a pre-made harness and then chop it up. The car has an Alternator, key starter, headlight relay, front tilt bonnet, clock, amp gauge, electric tach, etc. I also am using the latest Smith's speedometer and tachometer and they do not have provisions for high beam and ignition lights.

I purchased most of the bits and pieces from British Wiring and wired everything in the proper wire colors. It cost a little more than a pre-made harness and was a whole lot more work but I didn't want to buy a stock harness and then have to chop it up.

Non-Standard Items
1) Electric Tach
2) Amp gauge
3) Clock
4) Ten circuit fuse box with everything on a seperate fuse
5) Headlight relay for Halogen headlights
6) Key activated starter solenoid
7) Electric fuel pump
8) Alternator
9) Front hinged bonnet

A lot of the bits and pieces from the car are away being powder coated. I'm having all the front air shrouds, the master cylinder box, the cover for the right hand drive MC box hole, head light buckets, and all of the various brackets powder coated in glossy black.


All the parts are back from the powder coater and look real good.

Well it's starting to look like a car. Installed all of the lights, the dash, the wipers, the windshield, and badges.

I finished building the wiring harness last night, installed the battery, turned it on, and every thing (that I could check) worked except the left signals. I didn't feel like diving in the dark hole so I left it at that.


The problem with the left signals turned out to be swapped wires at the switch.

Onward and upward.


Got a set of 13x5 Minlite replica's and a set of Falken FK-06U 175/60HR13 tires. Hope to get them installed next week so that I can install the transition engine. The car is destined to have a 1380 but am installing the 948 from BUGIIIS' as a means of getting the car mobile so the kinks can be worked out of the suspension.


Installed the seats. Removed the steering wheel from BUGIIIS' and installed it on the transplant car. Discovered in the process that a new mounting hub is going to be needed. The splines in the old hub are kind of chewed up.

Mounted the fuel pump and filter on the bulkhead ahead of the rear axle. Ran a 5/16" fuel line from the pump to the engine compartment.

Sent a MkII 3/4" MC off to be fitted with brass sleeves. BUGIIIS' has a 7/8" MC and it seems to work ok with the disc brakes and the Toyota slave cylinder on the 5-speed but thought I would give the 3/4" a shot. It should provide a little less pedal effort. I plan to start removing the brake lines from BUGIIIS' and installing them on the transplant car during the week. I hope to have them installed by the time I get the MC back. As soon as the brakes are working I can install the engine and actually do a test drive

Removed all the interior panels from BUGIIIS' to use as patterns for new panels.

Getting closer!!!

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Ordered new stainless brake lines from Classic Tube ($199) for a complete set.

Installed the engine and transmission from Bugiii's over the weekend.

The speedometer I'm using is the latest from Smith's and is the clip on cable variety so I had to have Palo Alto Speedometer make me a custom cable to connect to the Datsun 5-speed ($58). Had to enlarge the hole in the firewall to 1 1/4 inch to handle the new cable end.

Big problems with the front suspension. As mentioned previously, I installed the Frontline shock conversion kit. I also installed new "stock" springs. Well with the engine and tranny installed, the upper control arm sits on the bump stop (without the rubber buffer even installed) while at rest. I compared the height of the new springs against the old ones and they were within fractions of an inch. Guess it's time to remove the springs and see what's going on. With the Frontline kit installed, the lower shock mounts have to come off before you can remove the springs.

Another problem, I'm trying to install roller front wheel bearings but without any luck. The hub will not go on far enough to allow the cotter pin to be inserted or for the outer brake pad to be installed.

I first noticed this when I was looking at installing MGB calipers and Spitfire rotors. At that time I noticed that the caliper was offset and blamed the caliper as not fitting the Sprite hub correctly. This was the main reason that I abandoned the idea of the big brakes as I did not want to grind the mounting tabs on the caliper to make it fit. I had the roller bearings in at the time but had never tried to insert the cotter pin so I did not realize that the problem was probably with the bearings and not the calipers.

Not Getting Closer!!!


Solved the problem with the front suspension setting so high. Loosened all the nuts on the fulcrum's, bounced the car a few times, and lowered it about one inch. It no longer sits on the stops when at rest.

Received the SS brake lines from Classic Tube yesterday. This appears to be a complete set for any Spridget. The Bugeye has 8 total lines and with disc brakes only has 6. The set comes with 14 lines. I assume the extra lines are for a dual line car.

If anybody orders these, ask about just getting only the lines that you actually need. In my case, without the extra lines it should cut the cost ($199) in half.

All of the longer lines were folded for shipping but were no problem to straighten out.

Mike Maclean told me a couple of days ago that the set he got from them did not fit very well.

I installed the 3 front lines last night.
1) MC to 4-way block
2) 4-way block to left front
3) 4-way block to right front

These all fit ok. I had to do some bending because my flex lines to the calipers have been re-routed due to the Frontline shocks.

Compared the left and right rear lines with the old ones and they are close but not exact. They should fit with some minor bending.

The long line from the 4-way to the flex line in the rear appears to have a couple of extra bends in it. The end that connects to the 4-way in the front will not fit as bent. The first bend after the fitting is too far down the tube, it will not fit between the 4-way and the frame so will have to be straightened and re-bent.


Got all of the brake lines installed. The long line from front to back was a bit of a problem but finally got it bent correctly.

Finished the installation of the 3/4 inch Master Cylinder and the brake/clutch pedals.

Used one of the extra brake lines to make a new line from the MC to the slave cylinder of the 5-speed. This is a relatively short line as the slave is on the left of the 5-speed as opposed to the right on the Sprite transmission.

Had to use a Dremal to get the roller bearing inner race off the axle. After cutting the bearings away, tried to use heat to expand it and then drive it off. This did not work. I cut a slot most of the way through the race and was then able to spin the race off with a chisel in the slot. Don't understand why these bearing will not work. I'm going to try a set of stock bearings and see if there is a problem with them also.

All of these suspension parts and bearings came from Mini Mania.

To Be Continued!!!

Update 3/11/99

A long time since my last update and a lot has happened. What with Christmas and New Years, and a two week visit from my only Grandson, plus the really cold weather (for California), I have not spent much time in the garage the last couple of months.

Installed a set of stock front wheel bearings and got everything to go on. The clearance for the outer brake pad is not what it should be but should work ok after they are driven for a little while.

Finished up the brakes, clutch, and engine installation. When I first filled the system and started to bleed the brakes, both front calipers leaked from around the pistons. I bought the calipers a year or so ago and was afraid that the vendor would not exchange them. I need not have worried, I got them from Mini Mania and they had me another set in a couple of days.

Installed the bonnet for the first time with the engine in place and discovered it will not close over the Weber DGV. The glass bonnet slopes to fast and needs about 1/2 inch to clear the air cleaner. I'm already using the shortest cleaner made for the carb so no can use.

Got a Weber 40 DCOE and Canon manifold to replace the DGV. This at least solves the clearance problem. The engine will not run with the DCOE as delivered even though I was assured by the vendor that it would. The carb came with the following setup:

28 mm Chokes
45-F9 Idle Jets
115 Main Jets
F16 Emulsion Tubes
200 Air Correction Jets
40 Pump Jets
175 Float Needle

The engine would start and after a minute or so of using the "Cold Start" would idle ok. You should not have to use the "Cold Start" at all. It will not take any throttle, just bogs down and dies. You can blip the throttle and get it to rev ok and it would run at the higher rev once you got it there. A slow transition from Idle to Mains was non existent. Over the last couple of weeks I have changed it to the following setup:

28 mm Chokes
45-F9 Idle Jets
145 Main Jets
F2 Emulsion Tubes
175 Air Correction Jets
45 Pump Jets
175 Float Needle

Other combinations were tried along the way but did not provide much improvement.

Got it running last night and it ran better but not perfect. Out of all of the changes, the richer emulsion tubes made the most difference. Took it out to see how it ran under a load, got two blocks, and the new fuel pump died. Pushed it home and parked it.
The pump has less than an hour run time on it but I've had it for 6 months or so. Probably will have a hard time getting the vendor to take it back. I have not checked yet to see where I got it but I know it was not from Mini Mania, too bad.
More later....


Turned out it was not the fuel pump. Don't really know what the problem was. I played around with it the next day and got it started. Has not happened again.

Played with the Weber some more and ended up with the above combination but with 115 main jets. Need to get some  120's and some 125's and try them. My next step up from the 115 is a 135 and the 115 works better than it. It runs pretty good at the moment. Have not had the time to take it out for an extended run yet, maybe this weekend.

Bought some 1/8" thick pressed wood paneling and made the interior panels. Used the panels from Bugiii's as a pattern. Covered them in Black vinyl and installed them last night.

Ordered a "Deluxe" carpet set from VB. Sent it back. Debating whether or not to do it myself or to have it done.

Maybe take it down next week and get an estimate on having a tonnau cover made for it.

3/4 Anti-Roll Bar is on order from Mini Mania. Plan on installing offset upper bushings at the same time as the bar.


Installed the anti-roll bar from Mini Mania but did not get to the offset bushings.

Took it out for what was to be it's first extended run and after about a mile it starting bogging down and did not want to run. Stopped an pulled a plug and it was black and wet with gas.

Got it home and replaced the DCOE with a DGV and took it out for about a 30 mile drive.

The front suspension is the best I have ever had on a Bugeye. Every thing really works well, better than I dared to hope when I was collecting the parts and putting it together.

Had a clunk in the rear and it turned out to be a spring u-bolt was not as tight as I thought.


After talking to the Spridget list, I Put the DCOE back on and set the fuel pressure to 1/2 lb vice 2 1/2 lbs. and took it out for a drive. Works much better. I guess the pressure was over-driving the float needle valve.

Still not perfect. Off throttle going into a corner, down shift and back on the throttle and it stumbles pretty bad. Have to clutch and blip the throttle to clear it.