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MG Midget Rubber bumper 1500

Published: 27th Jan 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG Midget Rubber bumper 1500
MG Midget Rubber bumper 1500
MG Midget Rubber bumper 1500
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Do you drive this great classic or are thinking of buying one? Here’s how to ensure that you get the best out of your car for years to come

As Midgets go, the 1500 isn’t exactly mighty but there again, don’t feel small if you own or are about to buy one! This Triumph-powered MG may cross the red line for some fans of this much-loved sports car, but you can’t knock the rubber bumper version for value for money. And with a bit of uprating and updating, a 1500 can be made as good as any earlier Spridget – here’s how!


You’re out of luck with this stretched Triumph engine because transition from 1.3 to1.5-litres robbed it of its revvy nature. It’s more a slogger but in excess of 100bhp is still attainable by head camshaft and carburettor upgrades. A Stage 2 engine from Messrs, Oselli, Moss and the MG Owners Club retails at over £2000 so it’s not bad value if you need a new engine.

Engine is essentially Spitfire so using a Triumph one and swapping ancillaries is simple enough. Car can be converted back to A-Series although demands considerable work, likewise installing a Ford Kent GT engine to make a modern ‘Atlantis’. However, a K-Series might be worth doing as fitting kits are available from the likes of Frontline Developments.


There’s a little scope for further enlarging up 1600cc – again for more torque rather than outright power – with a normal rebore and oversize pistons. Having the crank and rods balanced for happier higher rev work isn’t a bad idea if you drive hard or considering motorsport. Smaller intake ‘mouth’ due to rubber bumper design can lead to overheating and while modified early on, needs a watch on tuned and hard used cars. An uprated rad and electric fan helps

Main foible with virtually every Triumph engine is excessive crankshaft end float. Check for movement at crank pulley as an aid works the clutch pedal. Repair work means engine strip down – if bad, the block is scrap! It pays to drop the sump to renew the big end shells every 40,000 miles – numbers three and four are especially weak, not helped by standard fit oil pump (£32.50 to renew) allowing lube to drain back and starve the main bearings on initial start up.


The 1500 uses a Spitfire ’box which is essentially a modified Morris Marina unit which features wider ratios than previously. There’s not much you can do to improve matters other than fit a Ford Sierra Type 9 five-speeder and gain an overdrive ratio as well as better intermediate ratios for a £1500-£2000 outlay. In theory, so long as you modify the transmission tunnel and shorten the propshaft, an overdrive Spitfire ’box could possibly be fitted plus a lower axle ratio for better pull.

The Morris Marina-derived gearbox is much quieter than old A-Series ‘wailer’ or should be so – if not it’s clapped out and needs replacing. Actual gearboxes are strong affairs although the synchros deteriorate at high miles and lever is prone to ‘zzzzz’ at speed but that’s usually simply a worn bush on lever which needs changing. A new gearbox costs around £265. It’s as well to remember that the axle ratio was altered in August 1977 from 3.9:1 to a higher geared 3.7:1 unit.


MG raised the Midget’s ride height by an inch through changes to the front crossmember mounting. First step is to lower the car again by shorter springs, then fit uprated dampers and polybush the lot. Various thickness of antiroll bars are available, but 5/8” or 11/16” are most suitable and work well. Ultimate set up is Frontline Developments’ telescopic damper and wishbone update that also introduces some welcome negative camber, but costs around £500.

It’s the same old story with the long suffering trunnions, which, unless lubricated yearly, can seize up. EP oil was always recommended – and best – but the majority of owners and garages use grease as it’s easier to fil with a grease gun. New trunnion bushes cost around £13 per side and transform the drive. Do this before attempting further mods. The bolts holding the front dampers are pretty long affairs and can work loose. Worrying and if left unchecked elongate the holes so check yearly.


Harder pads such as EBC Green or Redstuffs usually suffice before going for larger anchors; Metro Turbo items fit – if you can obtain them. Or go for an aftermarket nine inch conversion at around £650. There’s also a disc kit for the rear, although costing some £600, is only needed for huge power or track use. A cheaper alternative is eight inch drums from a Riley 1.5 or the Wolseley, again if you can find them.

Spridgets with a ‘loose and worn’ front suspension can lead to the tyre chafing the brake hoses as it ‘twists’. Little used cars can cause the rear wheel cylinders to seize on the back plate – high melting point grease helps here. A ‘sky high’ handbrake action is usually lack of adjustment and wear at the bell crank or relay arm (on the rear axle); check annually and keep all linkages doused in lube in future.


Converting to chrome bumper isn’t as easy as an MGB because the wings were significantly altered to accept rubber bumpers, which also means you can’t convert to a ‘round arch’ either if you need new wings. New shells available from BMH so in theory you can make a ‘chrome 1500’ but not worth it. GRP panels available but really for ‘chrome’ cars.

Midgets rot like murder and there’s very few which haven’t seen a welder’s torch. The flipside is that every panel you need is available from BMH. There should be a gap of three inches or so between the top of the rear tyre and the wheelarch. If much less the rear spring box has collapsed, which entails major surgery – if really bad consider another shell. A posts rot badly, too.


The 1500 has differences with the older cars but the trim is still readily available in standard or a more elaborate spec from a variety of suppliers. A good mod is a roll bar which at around £300 looks good and is an added safety feature. The Bayflex 90 bumpers were always black, but thanks to modern paints and techniques can be colour coded although watch it as we’ve seen it – and in certain colours (bright ones, usually looks naff!

Certain trim parts are special to the 1500 – depends if you hanker for originality. Remember that Triumph Spitfire switches and dials also figured on the dashboard which can make part finding even easier; the rear light lenses are actually MGB Roadster, too. If you’re re-painting the sills, remember it follows a straight line and not curved to match the front wings (see pic on spread). Hoods are cheap enough not to bother with repairing.


BL also fitted the steering rack from the Spitfire to the Midget 1500 that is lower geared requiring 2.7 turns lock-to-lock instead of the original 2.25, which further makes the car feel less precise than earlier 1275. Consider fitting the earlier Midget type? 5J rims are fine for most driving needs on good quality 165/70s, but you can go 175/65 on 14 inch wheels if you so wish.

Just the usual check on the gaiters and track rod ends are required and there’s no ‘trick’ geometry settings to fiddle with. Steering should be sharp; if vague then it could be due to worn or loose wheel bearings or a slackness in the rack’s clamp bolts. Again, regular greasing of the relevant nipples is essential. Wire wheels were optional but we’ve never seen ‘em on rubber bumper cars.


You need to lower the car; lowering blocks do it for £52 but doesn’t aid handling, unlike new recambered rear springs, says Frontline at £97 each. Axle tramp is a Midget bane; choose between a Panhard Rod (£157) or a more elaborate Rear Traction Control Link that’s also rose-jointed which improves the ride it is claimed, costing £424. Ultimate set up is a dedicated kit featuring AVO adjustable dampers for a reasonable enough £260.

Poke and prod around the spring hangers; rust can be hidden by underseal applied by past owners. Knocking noises could be due to the welds on the leaf spring’s shackle pins breaking away causing the pin to move. Rear springs use ‘top hat’ ‘Harris’ bushes which wear out. Lever arm dampers prone to leaking; invest in good quality ones (£85 from Moss) as they’ll work better and last longer than cheap recon alternatives widely seen.


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