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It was deliberately intended to be inexpensive to buy and to run. With twin carburettors and other engine upgrades it produced good performance for its time. It handled well too, and the precise rack and pinion steering system received much praise.

In the summer of 1961, the body style was changed and the revised, more powerful models became known as the Mark II Sprite and Mark I Midget (effectively, from this time the Midget 'Mark' reference numbers were always one behind those of the Sprite).

As the years passed Sprites and Midgets were fitted with increasingly large versions of the A Series engine, first expanding to 1098cc in October 1962.  From March 1964 the power unit was uprated and the cars were improved in many other ways too, becoming known as Mark III Sprites/Mark II Midgets.

BMC's 1275cc 'A' Series engines were employed from the autumn of 1966 (Mark IV Sprite/Mark III Midget), to give even more power and better performance.

From January 1971, the Healey name was dropped from the Sprites, which were now known simply as 'Austin Sprites', and the model was discontinued a few months later.

The Midget soldiered on, gaining 'round' rear arches in place of the previous 'squared off' type.

The final Midgets (from October 1974 to November 1979) were powered by 1.5 litre Triumph engines (as also used in the Spitfire); these cars were identified by their black 'rubber' bumpers.  All Sprites and Midgets are easily looked after at home, and spares are widely available from specialists, at highly competitive prices.

Even basket case examples can be restored - and brand new, complete 'Heritage' body shells can be bought if rust in your much-loved MG is really severe.

When buying, and especially if the asking price is high, make sure that the example you are looking at really is as solid as it first appears ('bodges' are commonly encountered…). Make sure especially that there is no serious and/or disguised rust in the

sill assemblies, the door pillars, the floor pans (especially vulnerable if the hood leaks), the rear suspension mountings (check very carefully) and _ the extremities of the front wings. Rot can also take its toll along the leading edge of the bonnet, in the door bottoms, in the vicinity of the front and rear valance panels, in the lower sections of the rear wings, and along the trailing edge of the boot lid.

Always look closely around the floor of the boot too; you may find crumbling metal and holes here.

The 'A' Series engines are renowned for their reliability and longevity, but all versions need to be checked to ensure that they don't emit huge quantities of blue 'oil' smoke (indicating piston ring/cylinder bore wear), and that they do not rattle from the bottom end (bearing problems).

The Triumph 1500 engine used in the last Midgets needs to be checked carefully for the same symptoms; these units tend to be less long-lasting than the 'A' Series motors.

Ensure that the gearbox is not excessively noisy, that synchromesh on second, third and top gears works well (second gear is usually the first to suffer) and that the gearchange is precise in operation.

MG Midget

and Austin Healey Sprite

Fancy an affordable sports car that's fun to drive and easy to own? Classics author Kim Henson guides us
through the buying process

WEARING the famous MG badge, Midgets (together with equivalent Austin Healey Sprite models) are budget-priced classic sports cars offering much more hood-down fun per mile than their size and performance potential might suggest.

Even today Sprites/Midgets are still relatively cheap to buy, and fuel costs are as low as they can be for a sports car.

The original 948cc Austin Healey 'Frogeye' Sprite (the basis for all later Sprites and equivalent Midgets, which essentially differ only in badging and trim) was cleverly designed and produced around Austin A35 components, and appeared in May 1958.

FACTS AND FIGURES:
Built: Mark I 948cc: 1961-62
Mark I 1098cc: 1962-64
Mark II 1098cc: 1964-66
Mark III: 1966-74 1500: 1974-79
Bodywork: Two-door open sports car
Engine: All are overhead valve, in-line four-cylinder units; BMC 'A' Series: 948cc (Mark I): 47 bhp 1098cc: Mark I, 56 bhp; Mark II, 59 bhp 1275cc (Mark III): 65 bhp Triumph-derived: 1493cc (Midget 1500): 65 bhp
0-60 mph: 12-20+ sec
Top speed: 85-100+ mph
Typical fuel consumption: 30-45 mpg

PRICES*:
948/1098/1275cc: Rough, 1200. Good,
2500. Top Notch, 5000
1500: Rough, 1000. Good, 2000+. Top
Notch, 4000

It is essential that the front suspension receives regular lubrication; ideally re-greasing should be carried out at least every 1,000 miles, or the king pins and their bushes, also the lower threaded trunnions, will wear rapidly (eventually resulting in MoT test failure).

When viewing a car, check the suspension visually for signs of recent attention with a grease gun.

The engines are easy to work on, although access to the lower reaches of the engine bay is restricted. Asking prices for most Sprites and Midgets are still (usually) reasonable.

Organisations catering for the cars include:
Austin Healey Owners' Club:
www.austin-healey-club.com
Midget and Sprite Club:
www.midgetandspriteclub.co.uk
MG Owners' Club:
www.mgownersclub.co.uk
MG Car Club: www.mgcc.co.uk

*Values estimated at March 2008.

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