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MG Midget

Published: 1st Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG Midget
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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their name on stages and circuits, and still provide a fine drive today

With the Big Healey such a storming success, motoring entrepreneur Donald Healey reasoned the world also needed a really small and economical sports car, in the true traditions of the tiny MGs that rocked the world in the pre-1939 era. With the diminutive A35 saloon as a starting point, designer Gerry Coker fashioned a minimalist two-seater that - despite just 43bhp from its 948cc, twin carb, A-Series engine - was light enough to be a lively performer. Morris Minor rear brakes made the stopping system hydraulic all-round, and rack and pinion steering from the same car sharpened the handling. Just like the Big Healey, BMC really liked the idea and the Austin Healey Sprite went on sale in 1958. The Frog-Eye bonnet was cheeky looking (it lifted in one piece, just like the later Triumph Herald and Jaguar E-Type), and no-one minded the plastic side-screens, or that the only access to the boot was from behind the two basic bucket seats either. People soon discovered what a marvellous car the Sprite was for club motor sport. Rallyman John Sprinzel took one on the ’58 Liege-Rome-Liege, and the following year Marcus Chambers’ BMC team entered a brace on the Monte Carlo, Tommy Wisdom netting 5th in class. That year Sprinzel (with co-driver Stuart Turner) won the class on the Liege. The Sprite, and later its Midget clone, was a consistent class winner. Pat Moss got into the cockpit on several occasions with good effect, and in 1961 the MG version took an excellent 1-2 on the RAC Rally with Derek Astle and Roy (‘King Cod’) Fidler. In ’63 the Reverend (really!) Rupert Jones was a class winner on Monte Carlo, but by then the Mini Cooper S was the rally car of choice for BMC. But Donald Healey then went racing, particularly in the USA where the Sprite was a sensation. Check this result from the 1962 Sebring 3 Hours for one-litre cars: Stirling Moss (3rd), Pedro Rodriguez (6th), Innes Ireland (7th), Steve McQueen (yes him) (9th)! Sprites and Midgets raced at Le Mans and the Targa Florio, as well as in the US. Development continued with lightweight cars and engines that were delivering over 110bhp. Alec Poole and Roger Enever delivered the works’ swan-song in 1968, with 15th overall at Le Mans in a very special alloy-bodied coupe. Sprinzel created his own Sebring Sprite - front disc brakes were a feature - and several others also made their own specials, DouglasWilson-Spratt’s WSM being one of the most successful of them all. Austin Healey or MG, from 948cc to1275cc(but excluding the rather nasty 1500cc Triumph engine model that ran from 1974-79), sidescreens or wind-up windows, the Spridget in all its forms was, and still is, the ultimate classic small sports car for road or track.

MG Midget Summary


Sprite,1958-71: 119,400 (all models)
Midget, 1961-74: 137,400 (all models)
NB: Excludes 1500cc versions 1974-79


Engine: BMC A Series in-line, four-cylinder, pushrod. 2 SU carbs (various sizes), 948cc, 43bhp (‘58-62); 1098cc, 56/59bhp (‘62-66); 1275cc, 65bhp (‘66-74).
Gearbox: Four-speed, top three with synchro.
Drive: Rear wheels.
Suspension: Front, independent wishbones with coils springs and lever shock absorbers; Rear, live axle with quarter-elliptic (‘58-64) and half-elliptic (‘64-on) leaf springs and lever shock absorbers.
Brakes: Drums all round until 1100cc, then front discs/drum rear.

Claim to fame

Numerous international class wins with BMC team and Donald Healey. Racing success include Sebring, Daytona, Targa Florio, Le Mans. Rallying successes: Liege-Rome Liege, Tulip, Monte Carlo, RAC. Famous names: Tommy Wisdom, Pat Moss, John Sprinzel, Rauno Aaltonen, Andrew Hedges, Alec Poole, Roger Enever, Innes Ireland, Steve McQueen, Stirling Moss, Paddy Hopkirk, Paul Hawkins.

Where to buy

Almost everywhere!

What to look for

Rust in most places, particularly rear spring hangers, floors and door pillars. Check oil pressures (20psi idle, 40psi minimum, hot) and watch out for knackered gearboxes and rear axles. Beware updates such as Ford five-speed ‘boxes and telescopic shock absorbers if you’re looking for originality. Mechanicals can be cheaply replaced from many sources.

What to pay

Spend no less than £1500 on a driveable project, nice 1098 and 1275cc cars go for up to £6000, whilst properly restored cars can cost £8000. The same figure will get you a really tasty Frogeye, but beware of glass fibre conversions. A Sebring or car with competition history can be a lot, lot more!


MG Car Club;
MG Owners Club; Midget and Sprite Club;
Austin Healey Club;

Classic sport

Now outpaced in top-level rallying, but still a force in the right category on the race(and sprint) tracks. Ideal for (non-damaging) classic tours.

Maintenance, tuning and sport

Great for autotests and an economical way to go sprinting or hillclimbing. Outclassed in rallying nowadays (that blasted Mini!) but owners clubs run competitive races. Ultimate power means fitting a 1275cc engine (drops into any model) where 100bhp is obtainable with modded head, big SUs (or single Weber) and 731/648 camshaft, but tuning of 948cc and early 1098cc with smaller main bearings should be limited. Many well established specialists out there to help you.

Competitive Rating: 7

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