The history of the MG Midget


The MG Midget is a small two seat 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 roof, 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, allowing the power to increase to 59 hp (44 kW) at 5750 rpm and torque to 65 lbf·ft (88 Nm) at 3500 rpm.
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'. However, enthusiasts were disappointed that this was a de-tuned version of the Cooper 'S' engine, giving only 65 hp (48 kW) at 6000 rpm and 72 lbf·ft (98 Nm) at 3000 rpm. 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 roof was now permanently attached to the car, with an improved mechanism making it much easier to use. There were minor 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 roof hinges, and anti-burst door latches. 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.
22,415 were made between 1966 and the 1969 face lift, and a further 77,831 up to 1974.
MG Midget 1500 (1974-1980)
In order 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 A-Series engine was dropped to be replaced by the 1493 cc unit from the Triumph Spitfire and a modified Morris Marina gearbox with synchromesh on all four gears. 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. There was no Austin-Healey Sprite equivalent. However, there was a limited number of cars produced in 1980 of the MG Midget.
ADO34 was the name of a project active between 1960 and 1964 that aimed to develop a Mini based roadster to replace the MG Midget and Austin-Healey Sprite.
The car developed by Donald Healey that started as an Austin-Healey Sprite, and which spawned the late-model MG Midget, has more recently been given the generic name Spridget. It really was a Healey, not an MG, but the generic name does not reflect this.
From the late 1980s on, Spridgets became popular cars for inclusion in club racing in the UK, because they were readily available and the lack of development by the original manufacturer made them easy targets for performance tuning.
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. It is a serious, professional but very friendly championship and has been running since 1977.
The Spridgets are also popular in the U.S. 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, many MG Midgets are being restored helped by the availability of parts with many being re-manufactured. 'British Motor Heritage', which owns many of the original press tools, makes body panels and complete body shells. In the UK, among other suppliers, 'Moss Europe' and 'MG World UK' supply many other parts both new and used.
On 24 May 2008, the Official UK Golden Anniversary of the introduction of the Austin Healey Sprite, "Spridget 50 - The Big Party" was held at the British Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon, Warwickshire. Up to 1000 Sprites, Midgets and derivatives were in attendance - a record number. The event was jointly organised and promoted by the UK's Midget and Sprite Club, Healey Drivers Club, MG Owners Club, Austin Healey Club and MG Car Club - the first time an event of this size has been supported by all of the marque-representing clubs.
A brand new Midget was announced in January 2003, to be based on the Tata Aria concept car (Rover used another Tata as the basis of their Rover CityRover). The concept never made it into production and Tata Motors made it clear that they did not wish to share platforms if the MG Rover Group was bought up by another company.
A small business in Cheshire also had similar ideas on the MG Midget in 2007 but were withdrawn from bidding for the rights after lack of financial aid.
Apparently the Smart Roadster was to be used as the basis for a new MG under Project Kimber however this has not come to fruition. The Smart went out of production in 2005.

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