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MG Midget

MG Midget Published: 6th Apr 2020 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG Midget
MG Midget
MG Midget
MG Midget
MG Midget
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Midgets may be small but they’re big on driver appeal. In fact, they are arguably the closest thing to a Caterham 7 in character – and yet are a lot cheaper to own!

There are those who reckon the MG Midget (and the rarer Austin-Healey Sprite) aren’t real sports cars. They are pretend performance tools. And, while it’s true that the Spridget – the well known nickname to group Sprites and Midgets together – used nothing more exotic than Austin A35 hardware with Morris Minor steering, let’s not forget that Colin Chapman hardly used anything more elaborate when he cobbled up the legendary Lotus 7. Quite rightly, one magazine (in 1970) said that if the car is a pretend sports car then perhaps it’s a ‘pretend Lotus’.

MG made an impressive job of rebooting the MGB for the 1990s with the RV8 and it’s intriguing to imagine what it could have done with the Midget in the same vein. MG didn’t of course because it launched the advanced mid-engined MGF but the old timer Spridget remains just as much fun in a Caterham-like way yet for a fraction of the price. As a beginner’s 7 they are ideal thanks to a simple but effective make up that lends itself to DIY maintenance, tuning and improving or even racing in selective in-house championships. Whisper it, Midgets are even more fun and handle better than the big brother MGB!

On the move

Size matters in this case and your girth may well dictate whether you should own a Spridget at all because MG didn’t call its car a Midget for nothing and we’ve all become larger and lardier since its 1961 launch! Assuming you can fit in one and squeeze through those tiny doors, you’ll find only the bare essentials – just like a 7 – although later variants did sport luxuries such as wind up windows (albeit taller drivers with splayed out legs will find the window winder an uncomfortable companion), a decent hood and carpets. Once snuggled in, you’ll find that all round visibility is excellent and this cleanly styled sports car is a doddle to place on the road.

For the majority of folks, the Spridget to have would be the Mk3 as it sported the punchy 1275cc engine (to almost Cooper S spec we’ll have you know) and of these, the short-lived pre-1972 round rear wheel arch variants is the holy grail of models. The Sprite was pensioned off by 1972 after losing its Healey tag the previous year and some say that, thanks to their rarity, these will become the more collectible as will be any totally original cars although tuned and improved ‘Spridgets’ are no bad thing and certainly adds to their fun factor.

Make no mistake these cars are fun with a capital F. The similarity with a 7 comes from pure and simple driving thrills. A lack of refinement makes Midgets seem much faster than they really are but that’s a good thing because – unlike an MX-5 or MGF – you don’t have to break the law to savour wind-in-the-hair excitement. In straight line stopwatch terms, Spridgets are sedate (0-60mph in 13 seconds at best) but thanks to the lusty nature of all BMC engines of that era, and short gearing, real world pace in nip-and-tuck traffic is sprightlier than you’d credit and 70mph is more than enough to get on with. This is because refinement is virtually nil. Noise comes from every quarter, all battling for top decibels and this includes the gearbox which characteristically wails like a siren, especially first gear.

If it’s a more refined drive you’re after then the ‘1500’ fares a bit better as the Morris Marina ‘cogbox’ is all new (and with a synchro on first, too) plus the gearing is notably higher. The rubber bumper look notwithstanding, the 1975 Midget took on a slightly different character due to its Triumph Spitfire engine which while more powerful isn’t as sweet or as rev happy although it cruises much better and is the only official Spridget to top the magic ton.

Round the corners

It’s not a gross exaggeration to suggest that Spridgets are actually “pseudo Sevens” as they provide similar undiluted seat-of-the-pants sports car motoring. Shod on standard size 145x13in tyres there’s appreciably lower cornering grip limits, although a similar traditional front-engined rear drive layout serves up the same sensations and controllability plus out of the pair the BMC design can withstand a much harsher, heavier-handed driving style than the finger tip finesse required by the Lotus/Caterham.

Like the MGB – probably even more so – the real beauty of the Spridget lies in its sheer predictability meaning you can have tremendous fun without breaking the speed limit. In fact, those wishing to learn all about car control, in safety, couldn’t own a better classic. Another bonus is that, in common with the Lotus Elan (that’s featured elsewhere this month-ed) the Midget lives up to its name as it also takes up minimal road space, meaning you have enough room on your side of the white lines to indulge in a touch of playfulness without being a liability or a danger to others. Even in standard trim Spridgets are enjoyable and there’s so much you can do cheaply to make yours even better.

“Drivers new to the car are inclined to emulate a person driving a kart” said Motor in 1962 and praised the chassis for its “splendid controllability” and “positive control of the best vintage kind”. This hasn’t changed almost 60 years on.

Midget 1500s aren’t quite so enjoyable thanks to the raised ride height but the handling isn’t half as badly affected like it is on the MGB. Furthermore, in common with its larger brother, the ride is improved although one can never say that Spridgets are remotely comfortable (being considerably worse on pre-1964 models due to use of the rock hard original quarter elliptic rear leaf springs) because you sit virtually on top of the rear axle, which is prone to hop, skip and jump under full wellie at the best of times.

Go or no go

Today, it might not seem like a logical decision for a sports car enthusiast to choose an Austin-Healey Sprite or MG’s Midget, against say a Mazda MX-5. Yet if you want a taste of vintage motoring, the sort you get from a 7, TR2 or Morgan, on the cheap then Spridgets reign supreme. A cut price Caterham, well why not indeed?


At best only brisk but sharp and torquey A-Series engine has good low rev pull


Not a Spridget strong suit due to its harsh hard ride and lots of noise


By far Spridget’s strongest suit, nicely Caterham 7-like

Brakes up

To the job, especially on disc braked models and easily uprated

Ease of use

So long as you can comfortably fit in one it’s a practical, enjoyable sports car

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