Classics World’s Paul Bussey test drives and reviews the 1973 MG Midget MkIII…
The MG Midget was effectively a badge engineered version of the MkII Austin-Healey Sprite and was introduced in 1961, enjoying a long production run up until 1979. The idea of the Midget was to offer fun sportscar motoring on a minimal budget, on which it scored extremely highly. Just like the original Austin-Healey Sprite there were no frills with early Midgets, which didn’t have wind-up windows, external door handles or locks and even a heater was an optional extra. Over the years further development saw fitment of larger engines of 1098cc, 1275cc and finally a 1493cc. Over its long production run, the Midget didn’t really change too much in styling, several light facelifts excepting, though it did grow rubber bumpers for USA export requirements from 1974.
This MG Midget is a MkIII from 1973, being a ’round wheel arch’ model. The car had been completely rebuilt using a new Heritage bodyshell supplied by Ron Hopkinson back in 1992. A protracted rebuild was finally completed early in 2018, which has resulted in the car clocking up a mere 250 miles since being put back on the road. The rust-free bodywork is resplendent in British Racing Green, with a good panel fit and new brightwork throughout. The paintwork is mostly blemish free, other than a couple of minuscule imperfections on the bonnet. A huge amount of time has gone into detailing the engine and bay, which is in immaculate condition, as is the whole underside of the car. It would be a shame to ever drive this car on wet and muddy country lanes, such is the superb attention to detail. Plenty of work has centred around the car’s running gear, which includes a reconditioned 1275cc A-Series engine fitted with high compression pistons and a Unipart Silver Seal four-speed gearbox.
The car’s interior has black vinyl-trimmed seat covers, which look new, there’s a new black carpet set. There’s no damage or scratches to the black dashboard, but we noticed that the inside of the instrument gauge glass on the rev counter and speedometer showed signs moisture, which will be cleaned prior to sale. The car sits on refurbished Rostyle wheels, shod with Mohawk 145/80/R15 tyres
Getting into the Midget, with its low-down driving position, requires a little care, especially not to scuff the door card when swinging your right leg into the footwell! Only a little choke is needed before starting the 1275cc engine on a cold early autumn day. After letting the engine warm up for a while and pushing the choke fully in, I set off. This Midget is fitted with a stainless-steel exhaust system, though the engine/exhaust note is much quieter than I was expecting. Earlier cars can be much more vocal and very rorty! The first thing that strikes me about the Midget is its instantly responsive steering set-up, which is beautifully balanced and wonderfully light. If you have got used to driving a sports car with heavy steering, this Midget will definitely impress! Indeed, it’s a delight to progress along the country lanes, placing the car wherever you want with pinpoint accuracy. Equally pleasing is the action of the gearshift, which has a reasonably short throw and you can snick up and down the ‘box with the greatest of ease. There’s also an absence of any irritating rattles or squeaks; this Midget appears to have been re-assembled with great care and you really do feel like that you’re driving a fully restored example. The brake pedal feels initially a little soft, but the action is progressive, and the car pulls up in a straight line with no problem. While the seats may be pretty basic in design and shape, they seemed to be adequately padded and comfortable enough
This particular car has been rebuilt to a very good standard and you can’t fail but to be impressed by the attention to detail on the underside and engine bay. This Midget comes complete with a comprehensive history file, detailing all the new parts fitted, including a black vinyl soft top, etc. It’s on the button, ready to go, not requiring any remedial attention at all, just filling up with petrol. You’ll certainly have plenty of fun behind the wheel and be able to run the car on a fairly tight budget too. A really splendid example!
Engine: 1275cc, 4-cyl
Top Speed: 92mph
0-60mph: 13.5 secs
Gearbox: 4-spd manual