Classic Cars

Unearthed: 1979 MG Midget

Although they were known to be possible human deathtraps, the MG Midget was a huge seller for nearly 20 years.

For many roadster enthusiasts, MG was the British automaker who helped create the affordable and fun convertible. The simple, yet elegant combination of a two-seat roadster with a small engine and a manual transmission was nothing but pure motoring bliss for countless driving fans for many years. But there was a downside: the cars were borderline deathtraps with questionable reliability. For example, many owners awoke in the morning to find a growing puddle of dripping oil beneath their beloved MG.

In terms of overall safety, might as well forget it, but these factors alone couldn't stop the growing number of people who loved these cars based on their charm alone. It wasn't until 1989 when Mazda launched their original MX-5 Miata that those reliability and many safety problems were resolved. Unfortunately, those issues were never fixed when MG was still in its heyday (the brand is now owned by Chinese firm SAIC). One of the most beloved and best-selling models that ever rolled off the company's assembly line in Abingdon, England was the MG Midget.

First launched in 1961, the original Midget was simply a rebadged (yet more expensive) version of the Austin-Healey Sprite. Power came from a 948cc inline four rated at just 46hp. The car was so basic that there weren't even external door handles or locks. 1964 saw the introduction of the second generation which by then had been equipped with roll-up windows, external handles, and locks. Power was also given a slight boost, now coming in at 59hp. By 1966, MG once again gave the car several updates, including more power. Now bumped up to a whopping 75hp, the Midget's body was also slightly changed.

Sales continued to be strong in both the UK and the US, but it was the next generation that debuted in 1974 that many are most familiar with. Unlike those previous versions sold in the US, MG was forced to ditch the chrome bumpers in favor of black plastic pieces due to new safety regulations. Added to front and rear, these new bumpers actually increased the car's ride height which therefore impacted handling. To help deal with this, an anti-roll bar was added. Performance was never stellar, only going from 0 to 60 mph in 12 seconds, but it was the driving experience that remained the star attraction.

By the time production ended in 1979, a total of 73,899 Midgets were built. One of those is this 1979 example. The current owner recently bought it and it had 91,000 miles on the clock, but the engine was rebuilt at 90,000. Overall, the car was in great shape with the major exception being the seats. They were in such a bad state that the previous owner had to put seat covers over them. Fortunately, the seats are in the process of being reupholstered. Another small issue was the fact that it was missing the side mirror, but thanks to the endless supply of MG parts out there, it was quickly replaced for very little money.

Next up will be the addition of a stereo and speakers. Overall, this MG Midget still appears to be in solid shape despite its age and sometimes shaky build quality. But neither of these factors really matter for the countless MG Midget owners out there who absolutely love their cars. Photos courtesy of mln330.

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