MG Midget, Austin Healey Sprite Cars
The MG Midget was launched to the public in 1961 at just under £670. But it wasn't a completely new model, it was just new to the MG badge.
A couple of years earlier Austin-Healey had released the 'Frogeye' Sprite with the 948cc A-series engine. Its bug-eyed headlamp set up quickly earning the amphibious nickname, or the even less charitable: sprog-eyed frite. It proved popular being great fun and cheap, a winning combination, but the handling could be troublesome on rough surfaces. In order to fix this problem BMC the owners of Austin-Healey and MG decided to build a Mark ll version. This would also be used as a basis for a new MG Midget reviving an old model name for MG that went back to the 1920s.
And so the Austin-Healey Sprite Mkll became the MG Midget Mkl. For this model the engine was upgraded to deliver a whole extra 4 bhp, giving a top speed around 88 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 18 seconds with 40 mpg possible (that's imperial gallons). But after 36,500 cars it was upgraded again by inserting the 1098cc version of the A-Series engine with 55 bhp and more torque, along with uprated brakes, clutch and gearbox.
After Triumph released the new Triumph Spitfire the Spridget, as it had become known amongst its fans, was updated yet again to keep up with the competition. It was known as the Sprite Mklll and the Midget Mkll, and the engine got another 4 bhp to push the top speed past the 90 mph mark. It also got the luxury of wind-up windows instead of sliding sidescreens, but a heater was still only an option.
In to 1966 and the Sprite MklV and the Midget Mklll hit the roads now powered by the ubiquitous 1275cc A-series. Probably most famous from its Mini Cooper S incarnation in the Midget it was detuned to give only 65 bhp to keep costs down. The car also got a complete redesign of its folding hood which made it easier, in theory, to put up or down.
The Midget 1500 hit the streets in 1974 along with its hideous safety bumpers forced upon MG by American legislation. The majority of MGs were sold in North America so they couldn't afford to pull out of the market. The engine was the 1493cc unit from the Triumph Spitfire and by now the Austin-Healey variant had been dropped leaving just the Midget badged model in production.
In 1979 Midget production was suspended and finally on 24 October 1980 the famous Abingdon factory was shut down and the entire MG marque was consigned to history, despite voluble protests from MG fans the world over. British Leyland, now the owners of the marque, said they were losing £900 for every car built, and with new cars like the Golf GTI arriving on the scene the MGs were to old and slow to maintain sales. With over 225,000 produced in eighteen years you could probably consider it a success.
In fact it only took British Leyland management around eighteen-months before they decided to resurrect the name to capitalise on its history by slapping MG badges on some pretty dodgy saloons and trying to pass them off as sports saloons, but that's another story...
MG Owners Club
- MG Midget Bodyshells - Being Assembled by British Motor Heritage
Photos of MG Midget and Austin Healey Sprite (Spridget) Body Construction and prices for a new shell.
- MG Cars Enthusiasts\' Club
The MG web site and car club for MG Enthusiasts world wide
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