Harvs.com.au – Tom Harvey

The History Behind Our 1970 1275cc MG Midget

Posted in Cars, MG Midget by Tom Harvey on February 19, 2009

1965 Jaguar S-type

The story of our MG Midget actually starts with a 1965 S-Type Jaguar. This car was most certainly responsible for a few shades of gray on my fathers head and was looking like it might have induced a committal. It is easy to see how we were both tricked into falling in love. A jaguar S-Type is a car with truly gorgeous lines, this one had recently been finished in a light metallic rose red and renewed leather interior throughout. It also had an immaculate timber trim with a walnut dash and the quint essential picnic table. The problem was it was a jaguar, so when it went wrong it went extremely wrong.

There were a few problems with the car:

  • It was for ever dropping oil
  • It had a non standard 4.2 litre XJ6 engine in it (the standard engine being a 3.8 litre) which had flow on effects
    • It slightly interfered with the dip stick feed to the automatic gear box, which caused us to crack two separate pans in about 2 years
    • It caused overheating problems
    • The overheating problems affected the brake booster which had been added, meaning that as the engine heated up the brake would be applied more and more – making the problem even worse
  • Jaguars are difficult cars to work on, there is very little space and servicing didn’t appear to be in mind when designing the cars. For example to replace the hand brake pads (which were definitely designed for gentlemen, being the size of a matchbox), which were on a separate rear disc my father and I had to drop the whole rear subframe out of the car. This is not an easy task when all you have is two engine stands and hydraulic jack. The things must have weighed about 200+ Kgs. To add insult to injury the model a year later added an inspection panel which would have made it an hour long job not a 10+ hour job.

The car was unbelievably good fun to drive when it was all going smoothly, but unfortunately there was always this guy Murphy looking over your shoulder to make sure it went wrong at the most inconvenient of times. A few memorable times include on the Harbour Bridge and 8 hours before my year 12 formal.

So time for a slightly more practical classic, something that was a little smaller (not difficult), easy to work on, had readily available parts and was good fun to drive. The search began for an MG Midget or Austin Healey Sprite.

We looked at 2 other cars before we settled on ours, The first a 1098cc Austin Healey Sprite. This car turned out to be quite the rust bucket, and the guy was "dreaming" (asking $9 G). The second was a really nice bright yellow 1275cc MG Midget which had been heavily modified. It had a Weber carburetor, a hot cam, high compression pistons, head work, brake boost kit, telescopic suspension conversion, etc. It was definitely in better condition than the previous car, however we weren’t sure that we wanted such a molested car (or if we did we wanted to do the work ourselves). It was also significantly more expensive which was the nail in the coffin, the guy wanted $12 G for it.

After browsing through Carpoint again we noticed that we somewhat overlooked the cheapest MG Midget advertised. It was located out towards Camden and the guy was asking $8,500 G. The reason we’d overlooked it was that it was a very original "Golden Harvest" colour (baby poo browm/yellow). Anyway we decided to look beyond the colour and check it out.

The car turned out to owned by a collector of mini’s who’d picked it up off a lady in a job lot when buying a few mini’s. Initially we were a bit concerned when we were told that it was unregistered. But we couldn’t believe it when the cars history as it was explained. The reason that it was unregistered was that it had been in storage (a dry garage) for the past 16 years since it had been acquired. The car had an original ~60,000 miles on the (that’s less than an average of 2000 miles a year). We asked the owner it he’d done any work the the car while he had owner it:

"Yeah I reconditioned the engine and resprayed the body it in the original colour, and its’ just sat there"

We took it for an extensive test drive around the car park (as it was unregistered) and told the guy we’d have a think about it and get back to him shortly. A few days later we said that we’d be happy to take it of his hands for $8,000 as long as a blue slip was provided. The deal was done! And we’ve loved the car ever since.


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