tire stickers

People always ask ‘what we’re looking for’ in a feature car… 

Relatability. That’s it… that’s the big secret lol. 

Because to me, relatability has an energizing & encouraging affect. Relatability has more impact than perfection. Perfection is nice, but perfection often isn’t ‘personal’ like relatability. 

Pipey McGraw

Art, song, speech, sermon, etc… 

When something’s relatable, there’s an instant & intimate connection/bond to the source. A connection of spirits. A surge. Like when one sparkler lights another sparkler. That’s what were looking for. 

joy of driving

Pipey McGraw’s 1959 Austin Healey Frogeye (bugeye) Sprite…

(Text by Pipey McGraw): Aside from being the happiest looking car ever produced, it was never really a dream car of mine to own lol. But it all started when a friend of mine, Paul of Coltech Classics, built a gasser drag car out of one years ago. The project sat in his workshop for years in the corner… and it always put a smile on my face whenever I was in his shop. I think subconsciously the car grew & grew on me over the years. After Paul sold his project, I fancied building one myself.

These cars are starting to fetch serious money over here in the UK, even in rotten form. So I managed to track one down in California where it had been totally neglected & left outside for 30 years. I got the car from Kyle at Affordable Classics. It was a great/smooth transaction, and the car arrived in the UK about 6 weeks after doing the deal. 

british sports car

The idea was to build a little ripper go kart. Small, light, good power… a hilariously fun town car… 

Due to the lovely California climate, the car was no way near as heavily eroded as it would have been in our country (UK). Don’t get me wrong, it was a basket-case project lol, but a great challenge to do. After gathering a load of panels & parts from Moss (who greatly supported on the project), we set a build-plan with the help of my best mates, Liam & Martin Stolton of Stolton Engineering

Pipey McGraw Muttley Racing

First up was getting it structurally sound…

Apart from the amazing patina & sunburnt paint, there were lots of panels to replace. All new floors & tunnel were put in, plus loads of filling pieces like bulkhead & foot plates that had rotted away. The whole interior and underside of the car was blasted back to bare metal, primed, & painted.

Coltech Classics

Next was a complete mechanical overhaul of the car…

I don’t think a single mechanical part wasn’t replaced in the process. Brakes, suspension, bearings, hubs, gaskets, seals, steering rack/column, brake lines, engine, gearbox, exhaust, wiring, etc, etc. We really went to town with making it mechanically sound. Updated parts include: 

Frontline Developments telescopic front strut conversion kit with Avo adjustable shocks.

Later 1275cc MG Midget front disc brake conversion with EBC discs & pads. 

Peter May Engineering adjustable trunnions (camber adjustment)front springs, rear lowering springs, updated half shafts, rear panhard bar, and rear telescopic strut kit with Spax adjustable rear shocks.

Custom lowering wedges 

Quaife plate-type LSD

Custom fuel tank & header tanks 

OBP bias pedal box 

Fidanza lightweight flywheel 

SSR MK2

Once it was structurally sound and mechanically built, we moved on to the engine side of things… 

I chose the Toyota 20v 4age blacktop engine, mated to a Ford type-9 gearbox & a custom prop. I needed something small & light, as space is very tight in these cars. But I also wanted something that packed a punch! I love these engines. I think of them like a modern Cosworth BDA engine. Same bore and stroke… and great rev-happy motors out the box. ITBs come from the factory also! The engine was rebuilt, and we added some beautiful trumpets & the exhaust manifold, coupled with a custom wiring and ECU setup. This little thing puts out around 180bhp. Which in a 650kg car (~1400 lbs) is a hell of a lot of fun! 

Sprite engine swap

Next up was the styling…

I’m a big fan of Japanese styling when it comes to cars, and managed to track down a set of SSR mk2 wheels to go on her. Along with… 

Some vintage Alexander fender mirrors.

Marchal headlights. 

Kirkey Racing low-backs with a pair of cushions made by a good friend at Rawhide. 

Custom ally swage door cards made in-house at Stolton.

Smiths international gauges .

Vintage Lucas switches to finish off the the dash, a vintage stopwatch timer made by Classiknau, and a period-correct 60’s steering wheel, with a Koi Carp horn-push handmade in Japan. 

Lastly – a super rare original team hardtop that Austin would have used to race with in the 60’s!

Austin Healey Sprite

We poured our heart and soul into the build. Endless hours, late nights, and weekends spent at Stolton Engineering made the dream a reality…

Taking a full basket-case to something like this is a monumental amount of work. All the little details take so long to get done… and done right. But it was 100% worth it. The car is an absolute riot to drive. So much fun! It drives exactly how it looks… super happy & rough around the edges! 

Stolton Engineering

Leaving the factory with a stonking 42bhp, we’ve put over 4x the power into the Sprite, and boy is it fun…

It’s gone from a tootle along in the wind, to a dangerous weapon haha. I have no idea how the rear axle hasn’t blown up yet. Burnouts and drifts are way to much fun in this thing. 

Special thanks to… 

Martin & Liam Stolton of Stolton Engineering for all the help making this a reality. 

Owen & Matt at Moss for all the support with parts for the car. 

Thanks to everyone that follows Muttley Racing and buys merch to help fund these stupid projects. 

Thanks to Richard Woolmer for advice, knowledge, and rare parts sourcing. 

Text by Wooley & Pipey McGraw     Photos by Cameron Palmer

British car restoration