Today’s Nice Price or No Dice MG is a re-badged Austin Healey powered by a Triumph motor. Let’s see if its price makes it a mutt that you might give some thought on adopting.
Certain automotive features always sound more exotic when presented in Italian. Iniezione is much sexier sounding than its sterile injection anglicization. The equally libidinous Quattrovalvole supplants four-valve in a similar fashion, while quattro posti sounds like a fancy bed for lovemaking rather than just a simple four-seater.
The 1984 Ferrari Mondial we looked at last Friday possessed all of these features and sounded damn sexy as a result. However, if you’ve ever dug into one of these ’80s Ferraris you likely know that, under the skin, they are far less sexy and far more sixties, as in when much of the technology of the car was first brought to market. That means many components need frequent refreshing, and that was a main point of contention with the Mondial’s $35,000 asking price. With the last major service being fully five years in the past, it would be likely that the car would need a fresh injection of cash to keep it running, and for the majority of you, that demanded a lower initial cost of entry. The result was a 66 percent No Dice loss.
We should be clear at the outset that the 1977 MG Midget we’re looking at today is another older car with a reputation for the fragility and the rapid wear of certain componentry — I’m looking at you, BL gearbox synchros.
It should also be pointed out that I have over the years owned a number of MG-branded cars and presently own an Austin Healey Sprite, the Midget’s former factory mate and the car from which it originally sprang. That means I have a soft spot in my head… er, heart for the little buggers.
The Midget arrived as a re-badged Sprite in 1961 carrying the long-soldiering A-series engine and a convertible top that could earn you a scout badge upon completion of its assembly. By the time the ’70s rolled around, MG had been rolled in under British Leyland, along with competing brand, Triumph. As U.S. emissions controls became more stringent, BL determined that it would be more cost-effective to only have to engineer one motor for the American market and so the Midget (the Sprite having been long gone by then) got upgraded from the 1275 cc A-series to the 1493 cc OHV four out of the Triumph Spitfire. Other adaptations for the U.S. market included the adoption of a smog pump (an air pump that feeds into the exhaust stream to help reduce unburned hydrocarbons) and the exchange of the twin S.U. HS2 carbs for a single “emissions-compliant” Zenith Stromberg 150 CD4 side-draught.
This ’77 Midget has seemingly seen a good bit of work. Part of that is the adoption of a TKC 3239 head on the rebuilt Triumph mill. That’s a low-compression head that omits all the smog stuff. The builder has also gone to the Euro-market twin S.U. carbs. Along with a shiny alloy valve cover, this all makes for a very pleasing engine bay display.
According to the ad, there’s been a number of other updates to the car as well. Those include some suspension work, new carpet, and what’s described as “additional soundproofing.” That must be nice. My Sprite has exactly zero soundproofing.
New brakes round out the mechanical updates and come on the car with just 56,730 miles reading on the Smiths odometer. All in all, the ad claims the car to be “95% RESTORED.”
Aesthetically, the car presents very well, as long as you can get past the enormous rubber bumpers that were also mandated by the U.S. market. The (almost) British Racing Green paint is complemented by a black vinyl convertible roof that doesn’t need a scout troop to erect and a lovely brown interior. Everything looks tidy, and totally livable just as long as you’re not some sort of freakish giant of say, over five-foot-ten in height. Yeah, these are really small cars, hence the Midget name.
That name was resurrected from a series of pre-war MGs and there are certain aspects of this era of Midget that still feel antiquated and quaint. If it’s Miata-level refinement and performance you’re seeking, the Midget is not your car.
Of course, at $4,800 this MG is not priced like a Miata either. And, it will still give you fun in the sun motoring enjoyment, all at speeds that are far less likely to get you into trouble if things get dicey. It also comes with a clean title so you don’t have to worry about getting insurance or having people point and laugh.
What’s your take on this Midget and that $4,800 price? Does that seem like a deal to learn English cars as a second language? Or, is that just too grand a price for this little Midget?
H/T to picoFarad for the hookup!
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