Classic: MG Midget

midget

The golden era of the British sportscar was undeniably the Sixties. People wanted small, nippy rides and the MG division of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) aimed to deliver. Though MGA with its 1.5-litre 70bhp engine was a grand-looking thing, it was a little too big and too expensive. And since most of the 101,081 units produced were exported, they never made a massive impact on British soil. So a badge-engineered version of the cute Austin-Healey Sprite was put into production and in 1961, the MG Midget was born. Since both cars were so similar, they became fondly known as Spridgets!

Sharing the same platform as the Austin A30 and with the BMZ A-series 948cc motor, they both produced around 45bhp. The cars were as basic as you could get but they didn’t lack in quality. Produced at the Abingdon factory in England, MG Midgets were charming, if a little Spartan. They didn’t have outside door handles for one and the interiors, though fitted with Smiths gauges, were best described as functional.

The following year, the engine grew to 1,098cc with 56bhp and front disc brakes were added as were the ever so popular wire-spoke wheels. Midgets were the talk of the town, perhaps more so for their lack of door locks and their sliding Perspex windows. But by 1964, they were becoming ‘real’ cars. External door handles were added as were roll-up windows and much to the annoyance of car thieves, door locks. Output grew to 60bhp but the interior didn’t. It really was a car for tiny people and anyone else slightly larger behind the wheel would look like a circus elephant.

The 1966 model year cars saw another increase in displacement. Its 1.275cc de-tuned Mini Cooper S engine produced 65bhp and had 98Nm of torque. However, enthusiasts took time to warm up to the Midgets of the late Sixties because the cute grille, side trim and upholstery were scrapped. Rubery Owen ‘Rostyle’ wheels came as standard while the wire wheels were now option only.

The Seventies saw the emergence of round wheel arches replacing the square-shaped ones and rubber extensions were added to the chrome bumpers to meet US impact regulations. Mechanically, changes included a Triumph steering rack and a second exhaust silencer and by 1975, it had grown larger and gained a 1.5-litre engine and a fully synchronised gearbox to help it move quicker. But 0-100kph times were hardly inspiring at around 15 seconds. But they were still as fun and engaging to drive and this was far more important than trying to set any lap records. By 1979, the rear wheel arches had returned to the old square shape to help strengthen the body while last 500 Midgets to roll of the line were painted black.

Mocked for being unreliable and rusting over if a drop of rain fell on them ever since they debuted, collectors will pay as much as $10,000 for decent examples with rounded wheel arches and chrome bumpers.

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