|Body style(s)||2-door roadster|
948 cc A-Series I4|
1098 cc A-Series I4
1275 cc A-Series I4
1493 cc Triumph I4
|Wheelbase||80 in (2,032 mm)|
|Length||137 in (3,480 mm)|
Mk I and II 54 in (1,372 mm)|
Mk III and 1500 55 in (1,397 mm)
|Height||48.5 in (1,232 mm) (before springs enlarged for 1974 Rubber Bumper cars)|
|Curb weight||735 kg (1,620 lb) (approx)|
27.5 L (7.3 US gal/6.0 imp gal)(<1973)|
32 L (8.5 US gal/7.0 imp gal) (>1973)
The MG Midget is a small two-seater sports car produced by MG division of the British Motor Corporation from 1961 to 1979. It re-used a famous pre-war name used on MG M-type, MG D-type, MG J-type and so on.
MG Midget MkI (1961–1964)
The first version was essentially a slightly more expensive badge-engineered version of the Austin-Healey Sprite MKII and retained the quarter-elliptic sprung rear axle from the original Sprite. The engine was a 948 cc A-Series with twin SU carburettors producing 46 hp (34 kW) at 5500 rpm and 53 lbf·ft (72 Nm) at 3000 rpm. Brakes were 7 in (178 mm) drums all round. A hard top, heater, radio and luggage rack were available as factory fitted extras.
In October 1962 the engine was increased to 1098 cc, raising the output to 56 hp (42 kW) at 5500 rpm and 62 lbf·ft (84 Nm) at 3250 rpm and disc brakes replaced the drums at the front. Wire-spoked wheels became available.
The doors had no external handles or locks and the windows were sliding Perspex side-screens. A heater was an optional extra.
Production was 16,080 of the small-engined version and 9601 of the 1098.
A car with the 948 cc engine was tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1962 and had a top speed of 87.9 mph (141.5 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 18.3 seconds. A fuel consumption of 40.2 miles per imperial gallon (7.03 L/100 km/33.5 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £689 including taxes on the UK market.
MG Midget MkII (1964–1966)
Externally the main changes were to the doors, which gained wind-up windows, swivelling quarter lights, external handles and separate locks. The windscreen also gained a (slight) curvature and was retained in a more substantial frame. The hood (US – top), though modified, continued to have a removable frame that had to be erected before the cover was put on. The rear springs were replaced by more conventional semi-elliptic types which gave a better ride. The engine block was strengthened and larger main bearings were fitted, increasing the power to 59 hp (44 kW) at 5750 rpm and torque to 65 lbf·ft (88 Nm) at 3500 rpm.
A total of 26,601 were made.
MG Midget MkIII (1966–1974)
The engine now grew to 1275 cc using the development seen on the Mini-Cooper 'S'. Enthusiasts were disappointed that this was a de-tuned version of the 75bhp @ 5800 rpm Cooper 'S' engine, giving only 65 hp (48 kW) at 6000 rpm and 72 lbf·ft (98 Nm) at 3000 rpm. A reduced compression ratio of 8.8:1 was used instead of the 9.75:1 employed on the Cooper S engine. The Midget used the 12G940 cylinder head casting that was common to other BMC 1300 cars, whereas the Cooper 'S' had a special head with extra-large valves: however, these valves caused many 'S' heads to fail through cracking between the valve seats. The hydraulic system gained a separate master cylinder for the clutch. The hood was now permanently attached to the car, with an improved mechanism making it much easier to use. There were minor facelift changes to the body in 1969, with the sills painted black and a revised recessed black grille. Rubery Owen "Rostyle" wheels were standardised but wire-spoked ones remained an option. US-spec cars received several safety additions: a padded fascia (dashboard) with smaller main gauges; collapsible steering column, scissor-type hood hinges, a third windshield wiper, additional side marker lights, and anti-burst door latches.
In August 1971 the compression ratio on North American engines was reduced to 8.0:1. Engine power output fell to 54.5 bhp @ 5500 RPM and 67 lb-ft of torque @ 3250 RPM.
The square-shaped rear wheel arches became rounded in January 1972. Also in this year, a Triumph steering rack was fitted, giving a gearing that was somewhat lower than earlier Midgets. A second exhaust silencer was also added in 1972. Alternators were fitted instead of dynamos from 1973 onwards. For the 1973 and 1974 model years, rubber bumper extensions were added to the chrome bumpers to meet the first US bumper impact regulations.
Between 1966 and the 1969 face lift 22,415 were made, and a further 77,831 up to 1974.
MG Midget 1500 (1974–1980)
To meet US federal regulations, large black plastic bumpers (usually called rubber bumpers, despite not actually being rubber) were added to the front and rear and the ride height was increased. The increased ride height impacted handling, and a anti-roll bar was added to help with higher center of gravity. The A-Series engine was replaced by the 1493 cc unit from the Triumph Spitfire and a modified Morris Marina gearbox with synchromesh on all four gears. The increased displacement of the new engine was better able to cope with the increasing emission regulations. Although the horsepower ratings were similar (65bhp - home market) the 1493 CC engine produced more torque. The increased output combined with taller gear ratios resulted in faster acceleration, (12 seconds 0-60 compared to 13 for the 1275cc version) and top speed of just over 100mph. In the US market British Leyland struggled to keep engine power at acceptable levels, as the engines were loaded with air pumps, EGR valves and catalytic converters to keep up with new US and California exhaust emission control regulations. The home market's dual SU HS4 carbs were swapped for a single Zenith-Stromberg 150 CD4 unit, and the power fell to 50 bhp at 5000 RPM and 67 lb-ft of torque at 2500 RPM. The round rear-wheel arches were now square again, to increase the body strength. The last car was made on December 7, 1979, after 73,899 of the last version had been made. The last 500 cars were painted black. There was no Austin-Healey Sprite equivalent. A limited number of MG Midgets were titled in 1980, and appear as 1980 models.
Originally designed by Donald Healey and his team, the car may have started life as an Austin-Healey Sprite, but was always manufactured by the MG Car Company at its factory in Abingdon, Berkshire. MG developed and improved the Sprite to the point where they felt it was fit to be known as the first post-war MG Midget.
Over the years, the two models came to be given the joint soubriquet 'Spridget', and from their inception, Spridgets became popular cars to use in 'grass roots' motor sport events all over the world, because of their predictable and entertaining handling characteristics and the ready availability of tuning parts, both from the manufacturer BMC and from independent tuning concerns – particularly Alexanander Engineering and Speedwell Performance Conversions.
The UK still has a race series dedicated to the MG Midget which is run by the MG Car Club. The MG Midget Challenge is a national race series for MG Midgets and Austin Healey Sprites (built 1956–1979). The championship is run at all major UK circuits, with the occasional visit to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, and has been running since 1977.
Spridgets are also still highly popular in the US and elsewhere for vintage racing. All Sprites and earlier model Midgets are powered by the very common A-Series engine which is very tunable for higher output.
Today, MG Midgets are increasingly being restored to a high standard, helped by the excellent availability of re-manufactured parts. This made easier because many of the components used are common to other Austin and Morris models, and many body fittings on the later cars are common to the MGB. British Motor Heritage, which owns many of the original press tools, makes body panels and complete body shells, and is backed up by a small army of suppliers of parts, both new and used.
A number of examples survive and can be seen at car shows in the UK and participating in various classic car owners club events such a road runs/tours during the summer.
- Known examples
- UOB 522B - seen at Wollaton Park Vintage Rally 2011
- "The M.G. Midget", The Motor. March 28, 1962.
- "Autotest: MG Midget MkIII", Autocar 134 (nbr 3906): pages 20–23. date 4 February 1971.
- Daily Express Motor Show Review 1975 Cars: Page 29 (MG Midget). October 1974.
- Sedgwick, M. (1986). A-Z of Cars 1945–1970. Devon, UK: Bay View Bookz. ISBN 1-870979-39-7.
- Sports Car Market, October 2007.
- Robson, G. (2006). A-Z of British Cars 1945–1980. Devon, UK: Herridge. ISBN 0-9541063-9-3.
- Projects ADO34, 35 and 36.
- Terry Horler (1993). Original Sprite and Midget. Motorbooks. ISBN 1-870979-45-1.
- Ray Bonds (2003). The Illustrated Directory of Sports Cars. Motorbooks. ISBN 0-7603-1420-9.
- John Heilig (1996). MG Sports Cars. Motorbooks. ISBN 0-7603-0112-3.
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