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Re: Tell me about the Midget, please...

Subject: Re: Tell me about the Midget, please...
From: Michael Chaffee <>
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 1996 18:54:21 -0500
On Tue, 23 Apr 1996 wrote:

> Hello,
> I have an opportunity to swap my '79 MGB for a '72 Midget, or a '72 MGB.  I
> know little to nothing about Midgets it general, but I have heard a few
> things...Some folks say that they're generally less reliable than a B, or
> that they have a very limited top speed, or even that driving at a cruising
> speed of 55 or 60 MPH will actually wear out the engine!  Is any of this
> true?  If someone could give me a comparison of the MGB to the Midget, I'd
> appreciate it.  Just so you know, my primary interest in either car is for
> pleasure driving, not as much collectablility.

        Oh, now you've done it.  I fear you've gone and started a thread. 
As those who bother to remember my previous posts no doubt are aware, I
drive a '74 Midget, so let me give you my feelings on it. 

        In order:  Generally less reliable than a B... Hmmm...  Well,
"reliable" is a funny word.  There are a number of components on the
Midget that are very much built down to a price, making them less durable. 
I think of reliability as the car's propensity to strand you somewhere
without warning.  In that category, the Midget isn't substantially worse
than a B, with one or two exceptions (the halfshafts leap to mind).  Other
parts, however (transmission, front suspension, etc), do tend to wear out
a little on the quick side if not properly cared for. 

        Limited top speed: Yep!  If I recall correctly, the terminal
velocity for a stock 1275 Midget is approximately 94-96 mph.  Mine
(slightly warmed up engine) has in fact seen a hundred (and had a bit left
in it), but don't tell.  As for driving at 55-60mph wearing out the
engine, well... I would say no.  At 55 the engine is turning 3300 rpm, at
65 it's about 4000.  If your mixture is hopelessly rich then yes, the
bores and pistons will wear out prematurely, but under normal use a
properly tuned A-Series engine will last a good long time.  The bottom end
of the engine in particular is bulletproof; it's not going to blow up from
running at 4000.  On the highway I typically run mine about 4500rpm (about
75); it's surviving nicely.  In fact, I think the engine is one of the
greatest strengths of the car; it is pleasant, flexible, and very much in
keeping with the car's character.  With a little bit of modification (mild
cam, higher compression), it's just delightful. 

        But the Midget is not a freeway cruiser.  The front suspension has
no caster, which means that it doesn't track very straight; coupled with
the short wheelbase, this means that it must be driven attentively on the
highway.  The ride is also a little more choppy than one would like for a
long trip, and everything starts to seem downright frantic at speeds above
80.  For long and/or fast trips I use a BMW. 

        It's not a fast car, but with a good suspension and a loud
exhaust, the illusion is pretty convincing to driver and passenger.  The
Midget's real forte, IMHO, is ripping around town at slightly antisocial
speeds.  It corners nicely and makes good noises, and the engine is
flexible enough that traffic is not a major nuisance.  I also autocross
mine, and although it is not competitive (more my fault than its) it is a
lot of fun. 

        Other drawbacks: There isn't room for very tall or otherwise large
people.  At 5'9" and 200#, I am a comfortable but snug fit, with the seat
adjusted all the way back.  Taller list members have recounted humorous
tales of woe involving trying to fit into Midgets.  I am also the only
adult-size person I know who has no trouble getting in and out; the car's
pretty low and the door openings are small.  The trunk, likewise, has room
for the spare tire, some spare parts, and maybe a medium-small gym bag.  
There is no room for a third person in the Midget, unless he/she is 
younger than about 12.

        In summary, deciding between a B and a Midget depends very much on
what you want to do.  If you're looking far a car to just kinda cruise
around in, especially if you spend a lot of time on the Interstates, then
a B (with O/D) is probably a better choice.  But if you're looking for a
very agile car that's almost inevitably fun to drive, then a Midget is the
car for you. 


Michael Chaffee

CCSO's secretary has officially disavowed any knowledge of my actions.

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