There was no MG version of the “Bugeye” Austin-Healey Sprite when it debuted in 1958, but Morris Garages would have a corporate stablemate when the redesigned Sprite launched in 1961. The Midget Mk I and and Sprite Mk II now had straight-through fender lines and an opening rear trunk, though they were still fitted with plastic side curtains, and a top that had to be dismantled rather than folded. Because of the similarities between the two cars, they were often referred to as “Spridgets”.
After the new MG Midget launched in June 1961 as a 1962 model, car became one of the most popular British sports cars for the next 20 years. Nearly 74,000 had sold by the time the last one left the factory in 1979. Built alongside the redesigned Sprite, the Midget was recognizable by a chrome strip running down its side, and a full-width vertically barred grille.
In 1961, the engine was a 948-cc A-series straight-four motor with twin SU carburetors. It generated 46.4 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, but an optional high-compression head would bump it to 50 horsepower. Performance was modest, with an 85 mph top speed, 0-60 mph in 20.2 seconds and a quarter mile time of 21.9 seconds. The Midget had rack-and-pinion steering and a close-ratio four-speed gearbox. The price was an affordable $1,939.
For 1963, the Midget gained front disc brakes and a 55 horsepower 1,098-cc engine, though it was still referred to as a Mk I. Options included a radio, heater and hard top. Many SCCA race cars began life as this model, given that the engine was particularly receptive to tuning. The car was still quite Spartan, with a pull-cable starter, and weighed only 1,400 lbs. In stock form it topped out at 92 mph.
Early 1960s Midgets are best driven with the top down, as assembling it takes long enough to get drenched, and it does not seal well when it is in place. The ideal owner will be shorter than 5 feet 8 inches tall and weigh less than 150 lbs. Check for crash damage, and rust or a noisy first gear are deal-breakers. Avoid tube shock conversions on the front suspension. The lever shocks are the top A-frame struts so when the shocks are worn out, the front end needs to be rebuilt.
Although the cars aren’t substantial, fuel consumption is an estimated 40 mpg and the cars have an undeniable charm. Prices have also remained low for decades, meaning that it is ultimately hard to go wrong with one of these cars. Still, with a minimal amount of due diligence, it is almost impossible to go wrong with one of these cars.