We picked a great day for our first indoor photo shoot (forgetting our 4am 1966 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 shoot as that was done in
The final photos are now in from Jason at Sugar and Spice Photography of our 1980 MG Midget 1500.
The shoot took place inside the newest barn within the Suffolk Plant Centre complex in Pettistree. Recently completed, the barn is currently empty and makes for an amazing indoor shoot especially with the white background behind the black car.
1980 MG Midget 1500
This must be one of the lowest mileage midgets on offer.
When it arrived at our workshops in Ipswich there were superficial marks on the body but absolutely no rust in the shell. After a lot of deliberation we decided to repaint the car. We removed the engine and gearbox and polished the wax-oyled engine bay that had done its job over the years in preserving the original paintwork and fending off rust.
A new clutch was fitted at this time and a full rebuild of the twin carbs.
We did not paint the engine bay, boot area or front slam panel as we wanted to retain as much of the original car as possible.
The engine and gearbox was detailed to original and at no time did we fit the glitzy parts that others think make the cars look better. We wanted to retain originality.
The original softop had one very small tear so we fitted a brand new Mohair roof rather than repair the vinyl one.
It still retains its original hood and tonneau covers. The original soft-top is sold with the car.
The car came with a fitted roll bar. I think this spoils the lines of the car so I haven’t refitted it.
The wheels have been professionally refurbished to as new and 5 new tyres fitted.
We picked a great day for our first indoor photo shoot (forgetting our 4am 1966 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 shoot as that was done in our workshops), it was pretty nippy but at least it was dry.
Our shoot took place early morning inside the newly built barn within the Suffolk Plant Centre complex in Pettistree.
William allowed us access into his building whilst it was empty so we had lots of space to play around to get some great shots.
As always, the main images will soon be arriving from Jason at Sugar and Spice Photography but for now I (Craig) took some ‘behind the scenes’ images for you to see.
We were out bright and early this morning with our 1980 MG Midget as we delivered her to Shine Supply UK for the full and final detail.
Being a 14000 mile car and working within our impeccably clean workshops the guys have a good base to work on as she is very clean and tidy as is.
All of our projects undergo a full detail once complete for the reassurance that she’s looking the best she can be.
Source: Shine Supply UK. Auto Detailing is the process of thoroughly cleaning, restoring and finishing a vehicle’s exterior and interior. Cleaning and polishing every accessible part and applying the correct and relevant protection where applicable.
This service aids the important purpose of rust prevention, corrosion and chipping.
The processes used on the exterior of the vehicle, will not only restore and protect, but it will inevitably increase the longevity of the paint. You will increase the life of the wheels and tyres.
Proper maintenance and protection for your wheels is obvious, but doing the same for your tyres is something that is nearly always overlooked. And as above, it will extend the life of both.
We arrived a little early but it was a great opportunity to make use of the empty car park and get some pictures pre-clean, seeing as the sun was shining.
The MG project is now complete and ready to find a new home. Before she goes too far she’s booked in for a full detail before the Bridge Classic Cars photo shoot.
Someone will soon own one of the best, low mileage MG’s on the road today.
Watch this space as this could be a future museum piece.
With a very minor tear in the vinyl roof we decided to replace the entire hood for new but this time we upgraded the material to Mohair.
As this is a rarer option on the MG Midget we arranged for hood specialists Don Trimming to manufacture the hood.
Here we are mid way through the refit.
Having now completed the re-fit of our soft top roof we have left her inside under the heat to settle the hood and ensure no creases develop.
Founded in 1958 Don Trimming are the UK’s most experienced manufacturer of replacement car hoods.
As the leading manufacturer of traditional car hoods for both pre and post war vehicles, Don Trimming use original manufacturing methods to replicate to the original specification.
The underside of our 1980 MG Midget bonnet was in need of a little tidying up. Although in generally good condition once the layer of dirt and dust was removed we felt it could benefit from being re-sprayed.
With the engine gleaming under our workshop lights it’s nice to have the bonnet above looking just as pretty.
Whilst the car is away at the paint shop and with the engine removed we are able to tidy up the areas that are less reachable when inside the car. It’s a great opportunity for us to clean and repaint the engine and gearbox to freshen up the look.
So we’ve had a visit from Tony at Wyatt Polishing and being a Midget man himself he had a little inkling that our MG Midget might be of historical value.
Not only is she a 14,000 mile, one family owned car from new which makes for fantastic history itself but the colour may hide more of a story.
He heard, from somewhere, that the colour black was the colour used on all/majority of MG models that were coming to the end of their production. The last 500 of a model are believed to be painted black.
After a little more research we have received confirmation from the ‘MG Midget Last 500‘ group that ours is indeed one of the final 500 produced.
The chassis number reveals the history.
Another very useful post can be found on SpridgitMania, they are detailing the Sprite and Midget History of Development and Production.
The Sprite Mk1
The relationship built up between the British Motor Corporation and motorsport celebrity Donald Healey in the 1950’s resulted in the creation of the Austin Healey 100 sportscar, a vehicle which enjoyed considerable sales success, particularly in the important North American continent. A potential market for a smaller “budget” alternative was soon identified, and this led to an ‘informal decision’ between BMC’s chairman, Leonard Lord, and Healey to develop a small sportscar based on Austin parts, mostly centered around the Austin A35 saloon car.
The engine, transmission, rear axle and front suspension were all to be used, but steering would come from the Morris Minor and better, hydraulically operated, brakes were needed. MG derived manifolds and twin 1 1/8” carburetors would boost power. The engine was developed by Morris engines, and they later supplied the units since Austin’s engine department was at the time overrun with work.
The new car, eventually named the Austin Healey Sprite, was to do away with a separate chassis and body shell. Instead, it was designed around a monocoque frame consisting of front and rear bulkheads, joined by ‘top hat’ sill sections and body stiffners, all mounted onto a floorpan. Extra rigidity came from the central gearbox tunnel. In many places, the body utilized flat panels and simple formed sections to keep construction costs down to a minimum. The bonnet and front wings hinged upwards as one assemble from the bulkhead, and the upwards curve of the front top edge of this sill panels accentuated this feature. This characteristic sill line was to last until the end of production of the last descendant of the Sprite family tree, the MG Midget 1500, twenty-one years later. The first prototype Sprite incorporated external hinges to reduce costs, but expensive pop up headlamps. By prototype number two, the headlamps had become fixed providing the ‘frogeye’ appearance so well known and loved today.
The little Sprite, built in the MG factory in Abingdon, was launched in 1958. It was a hoot to drive, if somewhat cramped inside (another which would see out production twenty-one years later). It quickly established itself in the motoring world, aided by a low price of £455 (less tax) and a successful motorsport career in the hands of BMC works team drivers, most particularly John Sprinzel.
The Sprite Mk11 and Midget Mk1
(H-AN6 and G-AN1 models)
For 1961 it was decreed that something of a revamp was necessary, and to this end the Austin Healey Sprite Mk11 was launched, together with a new, slightly more lavishly finished stable mate, the MG Midget. These two models offered a radically altered, more square body profile wrapped around essentially the same underframe. The rear of the body now had a boot lid for the first time, while at the front out went the charismatic (or ugly, if you prefer) frogeye look, to be replaced with the conventional set up of separate wings housing the headlamps. Between the wings a narrower, and certainly lighter, bonnet panel gave rather poorer access to the engine bay. The little 948cc engine became more willing, thanks to the fitment of 1 ¼” carburetors and improved cam timing. Steering, suspension and brakes remained largely unaltered.
The Sprite Mk11 1100 and Midget Mk1 1100
(H-AN7 and G-AN2 models)
The next milestone was the introduction of a 1098cc variant of the trusty BMC ‘A’ Series engine in 1963. Along with the improved performance, the brakes were duly uprated with front disc brakes’ appearing for the first time in production on the cars – prior to this, a disc brake conversion kit had been independently marketed by the Healey Motor Company of Warwick. Otherwise virtually unchanged, the new models were known simply as the Sprit Mk11 1100 and Midget 1100; they are now often colloquially referred to as the ‘Mk 2 ½’ and ‘Mk 1 ½’ respectively.
The Sprite Mk111 and Midget Mk11
(H-AN8 and G-AN3 models)
Many aspects of the design were changed at the next revamp, which occurred in 1964. The body of the Sprite Mk111 and Midget Mk11, largely unchanged in silhouette, received an all new dash layout, fitted carpets in all models, a new windscreen with easier to fit hood attachments, plus wind up windows to replace the sidescreens. These were all improvements inspired by the marketplace (America in particular), which was beginning to lean towards less spartanly equipped, more comfortable cars.
For the same reasons, the beautifully handling but harsh riding rear suspension lost its quarter elliptic springs, gaining instead a more conventional semi-elliptical spring layout which lost a little of the accuracy and sharpness but improved the ride enormously. A benefit not seen at the time, but in the cars’ old age now greatly appreciated, is the fact that the new suspension did not impose so much stress on the monocoque body. With the result that split seams, cracks and corrosion around the rear floor and bulkhead were (and are) on the whole much less common on post 1964 cars.
In answer to misgivings about the bottom end durability of the engine, larger main bearings were fitted. A larger clutch and strengthened (‘Ribbed Case’ as opposed to the previous ‘Smooth Case’) gearbox were also introduced, keeping the model range in line with the other BMC products using that basic type of gearbox, the Morris Minor, Austin A40 and A35 van.
The Sprite Mk1V and Midget Mk111
(H-AN9 and G-AN4 models)
By 1966, Sprite and Midget performance figures were beginning to look a little feeble when compared with contemporary saloon cars-not an idea situation for a sportscar to be in. Indeed, the immensely popular Mini Cooper ‘S’, which was also a product of BMC, was taking the limelight and eating into potential sales. In an effort to counter this, a slightly detuned version (apparently for reliability’s sake) of the 1275cc Cooper ‘S’ engine was fitted to the 1967 Sprite Mk1V and Midget Mk111.
Along with the improved performance, the new models also benefited from a new, convenient, fold down hood design. It was at this time that cars destined for North America began to seriously deviate in their specification from those built for markets in the rest of the world, due to increasingly stringent safety and emissions regulations there. Also during this period, Midgets bound for Australia were built there from completely knocked down (CKD) kits supplied from England.
The Sprite Mk1V and Midget Mk111
(H-AN10/A-AN10 and G-AN5 models)
‘Leylandised” versions of the cars arrived for the 1970 model year, in fact some eighteen months after MG, Austin and their parent companies had become part of the massive British Leyland Motor Corporation. The nomenclature-Sprite Mk1V and Midget Mk111 – remained the same as before, as did the mechanical and sheet metal specifications. However, the car now had a much more upbeat contemporary appearance, due to a myriad of trim changes both outside and in.
Gone was the 1960’s style brightwork. A new radiator grille (effectively a blacked out and jazzed up version of the previous Sprite grille) was complemented by slim-line bumpers, fashionably quartered at the rear. Completing the slim-line effect, the sills were also painted satin black, giving the car a sleeker side profile. New spoke steel wheels (‘Rostyles’) aesthetically matched the car as well as the optional, more traditional, wire wheels, demand for which began to fade. Inside the car, heat welded vinyl abounded, instead of stitched pleat upholstery; this style of interior trim was to remain with the vehicle up to the end of production.
Towards the end of 1971, the Sprite disappeared quietly form the new car showrooms. Sales had slowly slipped away and had latterly been confined to the home market. The last 1022 Sprites were simply labeled as ‘Austin’, since the agreement between Leyland and Healey had lapsed.
The Midget Mk111, however, remained comfortable in production, seeing in 1972 with new rear wings with the square top wheel arches replaced by round ones (not seen on Sprites and Midgets since the ‘Frogeye’). As a result it became easier to fit fatter tires and alloy wheels, which were popular aftermarket accessories at the time. If the urge to fit them was resisted, the car would definitely be sitting on radial ply tires: they became standard fitment alongside a much needed alternator (which replaced the by then archaic dynamo). As a sop to forthcoming home market safety regulations rocker switches found their way onto the dashboard, replacing the more satisfying but apparently less safe toggle switches. By 1974, Midget sales in mainland Europe had ceased, basically leaving Britain, the USA, Canada and Japan taking the car.
The Midget 1500
As an attempt to rationalize on the build specification, many of the safety and emissions changes necessary for the 1975 North American specification models were also implemented on home market vehicles. These included the well know ‘rubber’ bumpers (actually plastic), a ride height increase of one inch to meet bumper height regulations, a return to square rear wheel arches and a whole new power train.
As USA emission control equipment had progressively strangled the 1275 engine, the performance maintaining solution was to replace it with the engine out of its closet rival – the Triumph Spitfire. The Spitfire engine had already had its capacity enlarged from 1296 to 1491cc for the same emissions related reasons, while the old BMC ‘A’ Series unit could not reliable be taken any larger than its current 1275cc. As a result, the entire Triumph engine and gearbox assembly, with only a couple of detail changes, was fitted into the Midge engine bay.
This car became known as the Midget 1500, although actually it was still a Midge Mk111 officially (and in most respects under the skin was very similar to the outgoing 1275 engine Mk111). While it certainly lacked the keener, sportier edge of the earlier cars, it was undeniably a better cruising vehicle (though sadly it never benefited from the overdrive, which was optional on the same gearbox when fitted in a Spitfire).
Sprite and Midge production finally finished in 1979, when the last Midget 1500’s rolled off the line. Ironically, amongst the last cars built were five hundred special black models, celebrating fifty years of MG Midget production. In total, 355,888 Sprites and Midges were built between 1958 and 1979.
Although the car has only covered a mere 1400 miles from new due to the extreme weather conditions in the north of Scotland we felt the paintwork did not reflect how beautiful our MG could be.
We have decided to strip her back to bare for a sympathetic restoration and to have her resprayed to bring back the shine.
It was a late finish today for Craig as he stayed back to welcome in our newest addition to the Bridge Classic Cars, our 1980 MG Midget 1500.
Arriving in our workshops next month we have our 1980 MG Midget 1500.
Previously residing in Edinburgh she’s had just 2 owner’s and covered an impressive 14000 miles from new.