Rebuilt Engine: 1978 MG Midget

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This is not the first 1978 brown MG Midget that I have covered. And that in itself says something but I don’t know what. It’s not the best look on a jacked-up rubber bumper MG but I believe my issue with this, and other MGs of the era is more about wistfulness – we were approaching sunset for the Midget (’61-’79) and the iconic MGB. There are plenty of reasons for the marques’ demise but I’m not the proper individual to lead that discussion and that’s not the purpose of this review. Anyway, found in Portland, Oregon, this diminutive two-seater is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $1,975 with nine bids tendered so far.

As to whether black and brown go together is somewhat debatable. I have a pair of slip-on leather shoes so adorned and that color combo seems to work on footwear, but on a car, well judge yourself. The said-to-be original brown finish of this Midget is faded and the black bits i.e. the bumpers and rocker panels, are pretty faded but, everything seems straight and complete. My first thought centered on the possibility of lurking rust but the seller states emphatically, “There is no rust on the undercarriage“.  Grody as they may be, the wire wheels are a nice British touch but the car’s entire aesthetics are altered by its jacked-up stance – done obviously to get some bumper contact elevation going on but it just doesn’t look right on a car of this size.

Trying to accommodate U.S. emission control regulations meant the Midget’s 1500 CC, in-line, four-cylinder engine now wheezed out only 50 net HP. Tipping the scale at about 1,900 lbs. puts this car in a feather-weight class, but still, only 50 HP? The seller claims the engine has been completely rebuilt and, “It starts up even on the coldest days with NO issues. The engine runs absolutely amazing. It gets up to speed with NO problems“. That amazing running is aided by a four-speed manual transmission.

The black vinyl interior of this claimed 65K mile example shows well. There’s a crack in the dashpad but that’s about it for problems. The gauges are clear and intact, and the budget-looking steering wheel is at least free of notable cracks or missing chunks. The entire environment, as small as it is, seems to have had a conservative amount of time in top-down mode and it all seems well preserved. Speaking of the top, it is said to be new.

The seller has a good deal of included documentation and notes, “IT’S A LOT OF FUN TO CRUISE AROUND IN DURING THE SUMMER SEASON“. Yes, I can see that and it seems the perfect station in life for this aging, but fondly remembered, sports car. I think we are worse off, automotively speaking, without brands like MG and Triumph. Sure they had their peculiarities, but so did a lot of car companies, especially in the late ’70s – it was a tough time to be in the biz. I’m hoping that this Midget gets a continuing lease on life with a new owner who will appreciate it as it is, wouldn’t you agree?

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Certainly agree that brown over black with rubber bumpers doesn’t seem to fit sports cars like this one. To continue with the subject, I think the combination of everything on is car makes it pure ugly. Only good thing I see is the weak 50 hp engine can be easily pumped up to provide decent power.

    Like 5
  2. Reid TrummelMember

    Brown is the new orange.

    Like 3
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      Caught a big Healey in brown a few weeks go. Didn’t look right either.

      Like 1
  3. sign guy

    Iconic car from the 60’s, dressed up to meet the regulations of the late 70’s. Yech.

    Like 1
  4. justpaul

    Mine was a 79, first White, then Red after an unfortunate fender bender, then Silver when I “restored” it after letting it sit for nine years. Brown is not a good choice for these.

    On the upside, with just a decent set of tires on it, that optimistic 50hp was never going to unsettle the suspension and handling; certainly not with the extra weight of the bumpers. The result was a car you could drive as hard as you wanted. On dry pavement, it would not come unstuck.

    Rain, and sand in the corners at the end of winter, were another matter. Then those bumpers were working against you.

    Like 2
  5. JustPassinThru

    Few will remember this car, and of those who do, fewer will remember it with fondness. The heyday for the veddy-British sports car was, the 1950s – when the British motor industry, while in decline, still was technologically on-par with the US in terms of technology. Germany had yet to recover; and Japan was not even a blip on the screen.

    By the 1970s, my memory, MGs were the stuff of memories – our fathers remembered them from their time in uniform in Europe, and wanted some of that, here. Our own experience was of British Leyland, the motorcar company that made good footwear essential for a drive. Because you’d be walking out. To say nothing of the jokes about Lucas electricals.

    An older brother’s friend had a Midget – he had worked and saved and his father had coerced him into buying a conservative first car, a first-gen Mustang hardtop. That was before early Mustangs were A Thing – to him it was just an old six-cylinder American car. When he could, he traded for a used Midget. And immediately wished he hadn’t.

    This one…if I were in the market, I’d look to restomod it. Japanese engine…one small and light. Take the wiring harness, too…wire it like the donor car. You’d have reliable, and few looking under the bonnet would be the wiser.

    You’d still have the essence of the English sports-car experience.

    Like 2
    • Steve SmithMember

      I had a 74 Midget and drove it from California to Wisconsin and back with NO problems whatsoever!
      Even forced to sleep in it one night because I couldn’t find a hotel.
      I’d get another one in a heartbeat.
      Easy to work on and reliable if well maintained.

      Like 3
    • scottymac

      Short cut – buy an MX-5.

      Like 4
  6. AzzuraMember

    “It gets up to speed with NO problems“. Yeah, except that it takes a long time to get there.

    Like 3
  7. Michael King

    I’ve owned three of these (yeah, I know) and they are slow, but fun to drive. The paint color does this one no favors, but swapping to a tan interior would help. Those seats have aftermarket covers which look pretty good, but the door cards are homemade.

    Like 1
    • Eddie

      MG midget? Run away quickly! I had a 71. Could not keep the wire wheels balanced and it was one thing after another mechanically and with the electrical system.

      Like 0
  8. James Christie

    Turd on skates

    Like 1
  9. Lawrence Smith

    I have seen a few of these in Brown , if i had it i would change the bumpers out for chrome one,I know theres some modification that needs doing, I would change the suspension to lower it , change out that stupid steering wheel for a wooden aftermarket one.price seems fair.

    Like 2
  10. explodingpinto

    I had a relative who had a ’69 Midget when it was new and ohhh what fun it was to drive whenever it actually ran.

    Like 0
  11. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac DivaMember

    Yes, yes, fun to drive in the summer with the top down, but most places on the east coast have limited summer time and if you’re claustrophobic, don’t put the top up. Horrible little buggers in the winter. Manual choke (which I always forgot to push back in), sitting in hot summer traffic, at exhaust level to other cars……. let’s just say after 18 months of this I sold my new ’72 Midget and bought an Imperial.

    Like 3
  12. Kelly Breen

    Just got home from Walkerton in my 75 Midget. Huge amount of fun to drive. It does the speed limit and a bit more. 30 mpg and I can work on it myself.
    I wish I bought it 30 years ago!

    Like 3
  13. angliagt angliagtMember

    I had a ’74.Wife agreed to move it in the moving van when
    we moved from CA to VA.
    When I drove it onto my car trailer,I ran over the 4X4 that I
    put on the trailer to stop the front tires.I was by myself,& was
    wondering how to move it back when three big guys showed up
    in a car.They walked over & lifted it back in one quick move.
    I paid $350 for it,& after putting more money into it,sold it
    for $4500.I hated the Silver repaint on it,& the lack of legroom.
    They call it a MIDGET for a reason.

    Like 0
  14. 370zpp 370zppMember

    I like the color.

    Like 2

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