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An “everyman” roadster, the MG Midget is the perfect starter classic


#1

Before there was the Mazda Miata, there was the MG Midget. Well, technically the Austin-Healey Sprite was first. That car rolled out of the MG factory a few years before the badge-engineered Midget debuted. But the Midget was in production for far longer (1961–80, compared to 1958–71 for the Sprite). Semantics aside, the Sprite/Midget (aka “Spridget”) was the tossable little everyman sports car three decades before the Miata took up the mantle in 1989.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/11/30/mg-midget-perfect-starter-classic

#2

Just make sure you do not live in a hilly area. These little roadsters, like the austin healey sprite “twin to the midget” that we owned (a '62), was extremely underpowered if going up an incline. That is why we sold it and bought a 240Z back in '73. They are super cute and easy to work on, however. The early cars also had no roll up windows, so you had to use plexiglass clamp on windows. How quaint is that? Still, we had a set of minilites on it and some nerf bars so it looked very cool for its day.


#3

And the pool of oil on your garage floor is a free bonus!


#4

I owned a 62 sprite that I purchased in 1966 at the age of 16 for 500 bucks. My first car. Michigan winters were not kind to it and by the time I sold it a year and a half later the rust metastasized and hardly a panel was immune. I used quarts of alumalead ( slightly better than bondo) in a fruitless effort to keep it at bay. You’d have to look south or west for an example that wouldn’t require massive work to restore. But I’ll always think about her as one of my most favorite vehicles.


#5

In 2014, I went looking for an old roadster. Saw many MGs; but ultimately found a 1981 Fiat Spider.
I chose over the MGs because of engine, brakes, seating room, and useful trunk.
Just wanted to mention because it’s also an inexpensive collector to buy; and inexpensive collector car to fix. And although I was weary of the “Fix It Again Tony” acronym , the car has been tremendously reliable ; and easy to repair.
After cleaning up the electrical grounds, everything is still factory except the ignition control module (which was manufactured by GM!). But that only cost $22 at Autozone.
So if in the market, definitely take a look a Fiat Spider


#6

Never owned a Midget but did have an MGA and an MGB. Got real good at repairing the MGB. Can’t imagine the Midget is ant better.


#7

A friend owned a Midget in the late '60s. When needing to replace the clutch, he learned that he had to drop the engine, which is absurd in a front engine/rear drive car. Then, could not easily reinstall the engine, as the “unibody” sheet metal simply spread apart without the engine in place to hold everything together. I wasn’t, and am not, a mechanic, but I believed him. The car was a Tonka Toy for grown-ups. Plus, a 50 cc Honda Super Cub (“You meet the nicest people on a Honda”) was faster to 30 mph, or close to it. Those things belong in a Shriners parade.


#8

The Sprite and Midget have a lot going for them. Performance upgrades have been going on since the early 60’s so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Simple things can make a lot of difference, swapping out the fan and putting an electric one on is a slight gain in hp but its noticeable. Funny thing about these little light weight cars when you do 4 or 5 small improvements it really adds up. Put headers, larger SU carbs or a weber, lighter flywheel and if your budget allows port the head and drop in larger valves and now you have increased the HP by probably over 50% maybe more. Great way to go less slow and at least make it feel fast without having to spend much. If you really want to go into more HP strap on a Magnum Supercharger (Moss Motor’s kit). But be aware the rear axels most likely will need to be upgraded and possibly clutch, but the lil Midget will become a contender and often fly by big Healeys and accelerate better than a stock 240Z. :slight_smile: I have both a 1970 240 and a S/C bugeye and the bugeye gives the Z a run for the money.


#9

In 1967 I had a Austin Mini (that I souped up with a shaved head and twin Strombergs) but I exchanged it for an MG Midget in April 1969. My sister had bought a Midget a few years earlier and I thought it was cool. My Midget came with a Bermuda hard top, which was worthwhile, considering the British weather in spring time. However, one month later I was posted to West Africa for 18 months and when I returned, having been well paid, I immediately exchanged the Midget for a Lotus Elan S4 SE in what was described as “Cobra Blue.” I loved that but sold it when I moved to the US in 1971 and hankered after another Lotus and ended up buying a Lotus Plus2S in NY in 1983 which I sold when I was once again posted in 1990. Finally, in 2001 I bought and imported a British made (but left hand drive) AC Cobra replica that consisted of a 1976 Jaguar XJ6 chassis and a 1986 Morgan Plus 8 engine and gearbox and named a Cobretti Viper V-8. However, it was the Midget that got me into the roadster market and made the biggest impression on me.


#10

I bought my first Spridget in 1974, a 66 titles as a 67 painted like a BRE Datsun racer. Great “boys first sportscar” I have owned many more since then, and restored a Bugeye with my son a couple of years ago, so I feel qualified to comment. Great little sportscar. I drove 3 in succession as my daily drivers, 74 through 1980. Once at 34 below it started running rough, the extreme cold had shrunk the metal around the intake manifold enough that the bolts backed off. If I got stuck in the snow, I would put it in first, pull out the choke, get out, push it with the drivers door open then jump in when it started moving. Great autocross cars, in our club it takes a VERY well driven Miata with very sticky tires to come close to the faster Spridgets. If you can’t find a part here in the US, try places like AH Spares in the UK, they have oddball items you can’t get here. God Bless Geoff and Donald Healey for adding so much fun to my life!


#11

I have owned a 1972 MG Midget for the past three years now, and I love it! It is great fun to work on, and I have rebuilt and replaced almost everything on it. Parts are super cheap and labor is free! I actually forgot how much fun it was to do a real “tune-up” on a car. Setting timing and tuning the twin SU carbs takes a little time, but it is really rewarding. The fact is, if in proper tune, it really is a true sports car! I drive it fast, and my greatest satisfaction comes from passing Miatas!


#12

Had a Bug Eye back in the 60’s and it was great fun. reliable for the few years that I owned it. Always put it away for the winter months, and it took me to Florida (from Ontario) a couple of times in April. No break downs, and it was always the center of attention.
Move up to 2016 and I wanted to recapture my old memories. Bought a “restored” 1960 Bug Eye, and, for the next two years, I had to drive it on a hope and a prayer … hope that it started and prayed that it kept running. Oil on the ground was a given. Great for attention; especially when you are stranded at the side of the road. Everybody looks and smiles, but they never stop to help.
Sold it and, although I have sellers remorse, there will not be another British car in my garage.
By the way, I also had owned an MGA and it was also reliable back in the day. Parts are readily available for most British cars, as long as you want to pay and wait!
Great memories, though, and that is what life is all about!


#13

I had an MGA and loved it but it wouldn’t get out if its own way…1/2 mile to pass on 17 South in the old days. Girlfriend had a midget in the ‘70’s. I am 5’11" and barely fit in the passenger seat. She was 5’ and 99 lbs and fit the car very well. We live in SO FL where the roads are flat, but it was definitely under-powered for getting on I-95. Cute car, though, but they do rust if you don’t keep after them.


#14

I really wanted a Midget or MGB in the mid 70s, but didn’t buy one as most were already rust buckets. The itch never wore off and I ended up buying a new Miata 30 years later. All the fun without the headaches. I would say an early Miata (89-90) is a better starter. Prices are good, there are lots that were garaged winters, and they are reliable!


#15

At the end of Midget production, I believe it was Car & Driver that called it something like “a crude little coal cart of a car”, and that is still how it seems to me. Contemporary road tests (1970’s) showed the Triumph Spitfire to be so much better. If one could go slightly larger and more expensive, the Fiat 124 Spider was way more capable. And until it was discontinued, the Fiat 850 Spider (what a blast to drive!) was a viable competitor to the Spridgets.


#16

Amen on the older Miata!


#17

These comments need better examples on which to judge. I own a '66 Sprite track car with a 1275 in it and a '78 Midget 1500 mostly original, no rust on either. The Midget doesn’t leak anything but it needs some help to rescue it from pollution control and 5 MPH bumpers - a bumper conversion, a normal exhaust system, delete the air pump, twin carb setup from a Spit and shave the head for normal compression and it goes pretty well. Granted, not many creature comforts but that’s not really the point of owning and driving.


#18


#19

Ah, Spridget stories. Gotta love 'em. My first car was a 1965 Mk III Sprite that we nicknamed “Precious” (like the Ring, get it?) My brother helped me buy it in 1985 out of somebody’s front yard in West Michigan. He had raced a Spridget in SCCA so was familiar with how to get one running. We (mostly him) spent the next year and a half getting the engine rebuilt and enough mechanicals to get it road-worthy. I eventually got to drive it home (under escort) and then off to college. I loved that car, but like any disfunctional relationship, there were more than a few bumps. I tinkered with it constantly, adding bits that might make it go faster or look fancier. Had the main wiring harness develop a short that melted the entire harness, my Dad and I ended up having to build a new main wiring harness using the melted one as a pattern. Then there was the transmission issue. Unknown to me, the rear seal on the transmission had failed and the oil was draining out of the case each time the car was parked on an incline (hence the large puddle of oil on the ground). However I continued to drive the car and refill the transmission case when I noticed it was low. Eventually, the rear end of the case started to fail and the drive shaft started to whip around inside the tunnel making a god-awful grinding noise. It failed completely one day as I was driving from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids in a huge cloud of smoke. As the fates would have it, none other than John Twist, one of North America’s experts on MGs happened to be driving on the same highway with an empty car trailer as he returned to his shop in Grand Rapids. My car got a free ride to GR and a couple hundred dollars later, a repaired transmission as well. (It still leaked though). This was the adventure of owning a Spridget. I kept the car 16 years, eventually rust caused me to undertake a foolish attempt at restoration which cost me many times more than the car was possibly worth. But as they say, love makes you do funny things. I ended up cutting my losses and selling what was left of the car to a guy and his son in Pennsylvania who thought they could finish the restoration. I hope it worked and somewhere my car is out there on the road someplace. Would I get another Spridget if I could?..In a heartbeat.


#20

I fell in love with MGs when a good friend’s father bought her a new midget. Fun but a little too small. I went out and got a 6 year old B, had a slight mishap, replaced it with a 69B roadster which I still have 38 years later. After 18 years added a matching GT. It helps being in the west where rust is not such an issue. I now have a 52 TD Mark 2 that I inherited from my dad, (he caught the MG bug from me) so now I have a midget too. I laughed out loud at the comment about dropping the engine to replace the clutch!