John Fenrich & his '60 Austin Healey

I bought my first Bug-Eye Sprite with my newspaper carrier earnings in Tulsa, OK when I was a junior in high school in 1964, it was a red 1959 and my Dad and I pulled it home with a rope. We spent the summer getting it running and I drove it through the high school years and on to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
I would drive back to Tulsa on Fridays, pull the engine and put in a Huffaker (sp?) cam, a racing rear gear, take off the muffler and the windshield and run it in local gymkhanas on Saturday. Then on Sunday my brother and I would pull out the engine, return everything to stock and I would drive it the 80 miles back to Stillwater for school.
I eventually sold the Sprite to my roommate, who bought it with the agreement that I would drive it with him to his home, which was in upstate Pennsylvania (that is a complete story in itself). I bought a 1962 Morris Mini Minor, BRG with a British flag painted on the white roof. This was quite an unusual ride to see in Oklahoma in the late 1960s. I was often asked why I had sold the Sprite and bought the Mini and my answer was always: "I could scare the (furnish your own word) out of one person in the Sprite, now I can scare the (furnish the word) out of three." 
Eventually I graduated with my degree in journalism and became a reporter/photographer, then an editor and eventually a publisher. All the time treasuring the years I had owned British iron with all of their quirks. During these years I had another Bug-Eye (in Hilo, HI of all places) and an MGB. 
Eventually I found myself the owner of a Fiat 124 Spyder and working as the publisher of the newspaper in Woodland, CA. (near Sacramento). I was happy with the little white convertible (it had incredible torque), but it wasn't a Sprite. So, one weekend I went to visit a friend in Oroville, CA and we went next door to his neighbor to have a few brews. We talked guy things, sports, women and, of course, cars. I mentioned that I always remembered my first car, the red Bug-Eye Sprite.
"Well, hell, I've got one of those things in my storage unit. Belongs to my brother-in-law and he won't get it out and I need the space," was the exclamation from the neighbor.
The next day we went down to the storage unit and there was this really nice red Bug-Eye Sprite, sitting there on semi-soft tires. I walked around it and could see no easily identifiable problems, the body was straight, and nothing was missing. So I asked whether it would run.
Well, the owner was a retired Air Force officer who had only driven it on the AF base in Texas. When he retired and moved to Northern California, his wife (the neighbor's sister) refused to let him drive it for fear we would be smushed by logging trucks. So he drove it into the brother-in-law's storage unit, turned off the key and walked away. He didn't do any prep for long-term storage so the gas tank was full of gunk and the battery was long gone.
I got the owners phone number and gave him a call to tell him I had seen his Sprite and if I didn't already have a "play car" as my wife called it, I would be interested.
In the meantime I had gone on Hemmings and other classic sports car websites to see just what a 1960 Bug-Eye in good condition (the top was brand new, the side curtains were aluminum and perfect) was going for. Whew, those were some big numbers.
A couple of weeks past and the Sprite owner called and wondered if I could make him an offer. Seems his wife was giving him all kinds of grief to get the car out of her brother's storage unit. I told him the only way I could do it was to sell the Fiat (and no one wants to buy a Fiat) and use that money for the Sprite. He told me that since I was a newspaper publisher I could run some classified for free, so what the heck, see what happens. I did that and lo and behold I got some offers and finally got someone who wanted to give me 2 grand for the Fiat.
I knew this was way, way below what the Sprite was worth, but hey, he made the suggestion. So I called him and said I would buy the Sprite for what I could get for the Fiat. He asked what I was getting for the Fiat and I told him. Silence, more silence and then "what the hell, come get the car."
A 1960 Bug-Eye Sprite in 2001 going for $2,000, unbelievable. I had the car hauled to a local mechanic I knew there and asked him just to get it cleaned out and running. He did that for a couple hundred dollars and I drove it home. I spent a year tweaking the engine, got a great paint job on it through a retired hot rod painter who kept it for 6 months, but did the task for a bargain price and soon I was driving in parades, going to car shows, taking the grandkids to school and all of that with a big grin on my face. Plus I had a total of under $5,000 invested.
Then we decided to move from California to Oklahoma. Driving the Sprite was a possibility, but not a good one and towing it was an even worse idea. I wanted it hauled and hauled inside a transport, so I ended up paying as much to move it from California to Oklahoma as it originally cost me.
So when it arrived in Owasso, OK I now had about $8,000 invested and it was still a great deal.
Again, driving the little car, showing it and getting grins and thumbs up was a kick. But then the master cylinder gave up the ghost and after that the clutch went south. So doing the repairs myself and having to borrow the engine hoist and getting help from old sports car buddies, I finally got the Sprite back on the road. But, every time I took it out I did so holding my breath wondering what would break next on the half-century automobile.
I decided that if I couldn’t enjoy driving it, I needed to get it to someone who would. So I found a guy in Tulsa who had a sports car classic website and he put my photos and info up. I told him what I wanted was to find someone competent to buy the little car and give me enough to get a modern version of the Sprite that I could enjoy and be confident of its reliability. In other words, a Mazda Miata.
Well two weeks after the Sprite went up on the web I got a call from a dealer who had a client looking for a Bug-Eye. The guy was a former sports car mechanic who had just retired from the Post Office. The dealer had seen the photos and had shown them to his client who thought it would be the perfect match. The dealer had a 1999 Mazda Miata he wanted to trade. I told him if he could bring the Miata over to my house, we might make a deal.
The dealer brought the beautiful blue metallic Miata over and it was love at first sight. It was the 10th Anniversary Edition with all of the bells and whistles (6-speed, air, cruise, Bose stereo---basically everything the Sprite would have liked to have). After a little haggling, he went off with my Sprite and I sat there in the Miata looking at a nice big check).
I probably drove the Sprite a thousand miles in the five years before I traded it. I have driven the Miata 10,000 miles since the deal was done two years ago. I miss the little red beauty, but when the top is down, the stereo is going and the a/c is in my face, I have no regrets.
I know your British Sportscar Life readers will probably say I sold out, but, hey I gave it a good long run. I had a lot of fun (plus my share of grief) with my British jewel. 
My recommendation is that if you want to recreate the joy of driving with the top down and working the clutch, brake and gas pedal, think about going Miata MX-5.