A Pretty Facelift: 1978 MG Midget Arkley SS

Sometimes it seemed that MG just couldn’t catch a break.  While they built some great cars, many remember mistakes like jacking up the ride height on MGBs in combination with ugly rubber bumpers, a lack of investment in their core products, and not focusing on improving build quality.  One mistake that is not often mentioned is the styling of what would become the MG Midget.  Based on the so ugly it is cute original Bugeye Austin Healey Sprite, the second generation Midget and Sprite came into production with rather bland styling.  Fortunately, owners of these diminutive sportscars were later offered an aftermarket choice.  Take a look at this 1978 Midget Arkley SS being sold here on eBay out of Willow Street, Pennsylvania.  Does this do it yourself body kit make an MG Midget into something more?  Is this converted Midget worth more than the current $5,400 bid?

While the Austin Healey Sprite soldiered on until 1971, its badge engineered stable mate, the MG Midget lasted in the marketplace until 1980.  Born a very cheap and austere sports car designed for young people, these cars were light, fun to drive, and got great gas mileage for the time.  Still, they were very small.  Sitting in one is sort of like sliding into an enclosed kayak.  Small improvements in comfort and function were made along the way.  Still, the styling stayed pretty much the same with only minor changes right up to the end.

Along about 1970, a chap named John Britten came up with a fiberglass body kit that made the MG Midget look less dowdy and more like MGs, Lotuses, and Morgans of old.  Combining semi exposed headlights, traditionally styled fenders, and a slant back rear end, these body kits looked great from any angle.  Around 1,000 kits were sold from 1971 through 1995.  While unusual to see in Europe, these kits are quite rare in the US.

This Arkley is an SS model.  S models had standard wheels, and SS models had wider fenders to accommodate wider wheels and tires.  According to the seller, this car is claimed to be a high quality professional build.  There have been just 2,000 miles put on the car since the rebuild, and modifications include upgrading the transmission and suspension.  We can also see that a roll bar has been added along with an aftermarket racing type steering wheel.

The engine had 49,000 miles on it when it was rebuilt.  During the rebuild, the engine was bored out for more power.  We can also see that the body kit allows better access to the engine.  The engine compartment picture looks like it was a shot of a Triumph Spitfire, which also allowed the owner easy access to almost every engine component.

Overall, the car looks neat and one wishes MG would have entered into license with Britten to use his design as a styling update.  This particular car seems to be very nice and well sorted.  A closer look at the pictures provided in the ad do show that the fiberglass parts are rather rough in comparison to the steel parts still on the car. There are also runs in the paint if you look close enough. Still, the overall design is very appealing.

Do you think the Arkley body kit is a worthwhile addition?  How much of a premium over a standard MG Midget is it worth?

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Comments

  1. ken tilly UK

    Yuk, just yuk!

    4
    • Dutch 1960

      John Britten was an interesting guy. He built a racing MG Midget fiberglass bodied Lenham, something like a poor man’s fastback Sebring Sprite. The light weight and better aero meant that he cleaned up in British club racing. So they banned conversion bodies (but not fiberglass bodies). So he chucked the conversion body and made up a Midget lookalike body in fiberglass, which kept the light weight even though the aero advantage was gone, and still did well. Then he did up the Arkley, for street driving, not racing (though some were raced by others). Finally, he got out of cars and started manufacturing his own brand of computers. Did OK with that, too, for a while.

      3
    • Chip Starr

      The word pretty has never ever been used to describe an Arkley!

  2. mike b

    I’ll take the rubber bumpers.

    4
  3. Dan

    This is a car that has been on my bucket list for years. Peter May Enginering still has it the body kit listed on their website.

    2
  4. sir mike

    Looks great to me….better than a Midget.And remember the ride height and god ugly rubber bumpers were to meet stupid USA regulations.

    3
  5. James

    Funny that you’ve mentioned it looks like a triumph spitfire engine bay – I’m pretty sure that’s a spitfire motor too!

    4
    • Pat

      It was, part of British Leland cost sharing…

      3
  6. Sam61

    Like the kit….stretch 30 inches firewall forward, duel sidemount spares, fake “Cord” exhaust…viola, mini zimmer!

    1
  7. Pat

    First time I saw one of these, the nose was peaking out from under a tarp at a British car repair shop. I thought it was a lotus 7, boy was I disappointed….I preferred the bug eye bonnet conversion that many spridget owners did in the 60s.

    2
  8. SubGothius

    It wasn’t MG’s mistake “jacking up the ride height on MGBs in combination with ugly rubber bumpers” — that’s simply what they had to do to meet changing US regs for bumper/headlight height and 5 MPH impact resistance. Many other imports at the time also jacked up their ride height for the same reason, but met the impact regs with ridiculous “diving board” bumpers, so arguably MG’s faired-in rubber bumper covers looked better, or at least better integrated.

    6
  9. Burns Rafferty

    Ditch that crappy Weber side draft carb and intake manifold and install a proper set of SU HS4’s, which is what the Spitfire 1500 engine was designed for. (UK spec) Later Midgets and Spitfires shared the 1500 Triumph engine.
    This could be a sweet little rocket.

    3
  10. Jeff

    Honestly it’s an appalling waste of a brilliant design by Donald Healy, contemporary and equal to Colin Chapman. On top of that it’s a poor pastiche of styling cues from 30 years before the midget. I know these cars are underrated but this is a crime against motoring and good taste.

    1
  11. bobhess Member

    Don’t know about price but this looks like a quality car to me. Design might not be for everyone but I sure like it over the rubber bumper, high rise dune buggy it once was. Agree on the carbs. Tuned properly they will out perform the single down draft unit.

    3
  12. Ben T Spanner

    Looks like a Siata Spring. that is not a good thing.

  13. George

    I think the writer’s critique of the Midget is WAY off base. It’s a well designed car, even if the later rubber bumpers did the car no favors……..just like every car sold in North America in the mid-late 1970s.

    Did the writer sit in one? They are actually surprisingly roomy.

    1
    • Nick G

      If you’re over 6 feet these (and Triumph Spitfires) are not a comfortable fit. More driver leg room in a Mini Austin.

  14. Bruce

    I agree with George. MD Midget had plenty of sitting room. I am 6′ 1″ and never had any problems and my best friend was 6′ 5″ and could drive with no problems. Granted you sat close to the road but there was room for 2. And the heaters were great. The few times I rode in MGBs I found them to have much less leg room. I did not have a rubber bumper year though so perhaps that is why we sat so very low. You could drag your hand along the ground it you wanted to…that is how low you sat. Also, surprising did very well in the snow. I kept winter snow tires to use and tossed in two concrete blocks for weight. If you cleared the snow height….that baby had terrific traction.

    1
  15. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Oct 09, 2019 , 9:53PM
    Winning bid:US $6,101.44
    [ 58 bids ]

  16. PairsNPaint

    Loved the Arkleys! Wanted one since the mid-80’s. Great and easy conversion.

  17. Philip Lepel

    Love the design looks a bit like a shorten Lotus 7 or a Cathram7. Either way it’s different and fun looking.

  18. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Way back I had a chance to pick up a midget for cheap. It had rust damage on the drivers side door hinges. At that time I was not set up for repairs like that so I let it pass. Had I known of something like this available, I’d have considered it.

  19. Kelly Breen

    I’m biased. I could not post the photo, but I brought a $200.00 shed find Midget home yesterday to help finish my project that is (finally) into the reassembly stage.

    Yes, I like the Midgets best. I rather like the styling. I think they look good stock or custom. I think they are like a beetle, in that no matter what mods you make they keep their charm. This is a very nice looking modification.

    1
  20. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Why am I just now seeing this Barn Find? Wasn’t in my feed on the 9th or 10th. The final price seems okay considering the build quality. Only nit to pick in my opinion is why retain the dowdy late 1500 Midget powertrain (bored out or no), faded factory interior, and add that stupid Pep Boys steering wheel?

  21. Mark

    I think it’s sridgets looked fantastic classic British styling,and they handled like a lotus. Also very easy and cheap to work on as well.

  22. Bill McClucas

    Hello, i am the Owner,. Car never Sold., Costa Rica buyer never paid….it is an great little car. Great quality build. over $ 15,000 invested. will relist on ebay wedsday night. yes it is an 1500 bored out, great power, an plenty of leg room. read the posting. kinda glad he did not pay. it went way to cheep. thanks for the write up. 717-553-3736 Bill

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