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Midget Published: 6th Apr 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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● Cheap to buy and run ● Great starter classic ● Caterham-like handling ● Big choice around

A frugal yet fun loving sports car which proves price and size aren’t everything – nor exotic hardware as the Midget is essentially an Austin A35 but with Morris Minor steering! If you’re after a cheap starter sports classic the mighty Midget is almost in a class of its own.

Driving

Assuming that you can fit the cramped crude cockpit (they’re not called Midgets for nothing) you enjoy as many smiles per mile as any Ferrari owner – well almost!

The gusty little A-Series engine provides peppy performance, but it’s the Lotus-like handling where the thrills come from. If you want to savour sports car motoring how it used to be in its most basic form in the 60s, then it has to be with a Midget.

“What it lacks in ride and comforts, it makes up with outstanding agility and responsive handling”, said Motor. And, make no mistake, Midgets are very noisy; the old gearbox on pre 1500 models wails like a banshee, while general engine and wind din makes the legal limit a test of endurance on all models – at least you’ll be kept legal!

The Triumph Spitfire-engined ‘1500’ is more mechanically refined and a bit quicker although it also suffers the same fate as rubber-bumper MGBs, though not to the detriment of the handling so much.

Best models

Purists will demand the proper MG-engined models because of its it’s rev-happier nature plus was unsullied by the accompaniment suspension changes and rubber bumpers. Of the pre ’74 strain, the 1275 Mk3 is the most sought after as the engines are almost to Cooper S tune and, for a short while during 1972-74, sported round rather fetching rear wheel arches and these models hold a premium as a result. In contrast, the 1500 ran up to 1979 and was usefully improved during its later years; twin circuit brakes, being one example.

Prices

While you do now see five-figure Midgets on sale, they have to be exceptional for this outlay as you can buy good examples for half this and probably an excellent 1500. Because of their lowly values, restoring a basket case is illogical as well as finally ruinous and it’s better to buy the best you can find at the outset.

Buying advice

Only immaculate Midgets will be lacking rust or cheapskate bodges and while British Motor Heritage can supply every panel, including complete shells, the costs will outweigh the car’s initial cheap price. Look closely for rot in the sills. Note: underseal paint that follows the upward curve at the front of the sills can be a clue to filler work underneath, since originally black paint was only ever applied in a straight line along the lower section of the sills.

Also check the thin A panel which the doors hang on as this usually rots where it meets the sills. If the main body strength has gone, the car can sag into a banana shape, often seen by imperfect door gaps as panels fall out of alignment.

Underneath, check the rear leaf springs where they meet the bodywork, especially just behind the seats where rust can really take hold. On the early cars with quarterelliptic springs, the full force on the springs is fed into this area and so it’s crucial that the steel is sound. Cosmetically all Midgets can rust everywhere so watch for deft filler work.

If anything, Triumph engines are weaker than their A-Series equivalents, suffering from premature wear in the crank and bearings (number three pot is the worst affected). Excessive end float on the crankshaft (due to wear of the crankshaft thrust washers) is an old Triumph characteristic and a sign that the unit is due for a rebuild. Due to the smaller air intake caused by the rubber-bumper 1500s are inclined to run hot.

Check for weak synchromesh on second gear, for ‘worn bearing’ grumbling noises from the gearbox and final drive, and, on 1500s, ensure that the gearbox operates quietly. Look for oil leaks too (very common). That said, those old BMC gearboxes are typically noisy. You should also check the front suspension as this incorporates king pins and bushes, plus threaded fulcrum pins.

 



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