My Life With A Midget

W Christian Mental Ward
by W Christian Mental Ward
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my life with a midget

The 72 MG Midget beckoned to me from Craigslist like an opened pack of Oreos grinning from the cupboard. I ignored the wisdom of all my gearhead buddies, insisting the little yellow car would be different; it would not leak, not rust, and be as reliable as a nail.

Of course, it isn’t, it’s British. It stranded me six times, the lights don’t work and it usually requires help to start. That is life with an MG Midget.

But I was right. It is different.

You learn things with an MG, and not just “Never have an MG for a daily.”

You learn that most pickups are just too big. Not just Excursions and Escalades. In the Midwest, there is a preponderance of quad cabs heavy-duty pickups. You stare right at their lugs in the little car. Sure, it’s amusing at stop lights, but unsettling on the highway. I have developed a newfound dislike of 20-inch wheels.

You learn that a frown is impossible while driving, unless it is raining. In that case, the top is up and no one can see you. Even then, you are probably laughing like a mad hatter. At least that is what I did during record rainfall, flash-flooding and road closures last spring. That morning, I took the only vehicle at my disposal on my 33-mile journey to work.

Two of the highways were under water and impassable, resulting in a commute in an ill suited vehicle for twice my normal drive.

You learn that old British cars are terrible in the rain. You knew this, but you cannot embrace it until you have lived it.

The top is merely a suggestion, electrics are useless and it hydroplanes on any body of water bigger than a sponge.

Approaching a road underneath 2 feet of flowing water, I remembered this. I may be crazy, but I ain’t quite that stupid. As I waited for the traffic in the opposing lane to pass before I would execute my U turn, the aforementioned oversized truck rolled up behind me, unable to grasp my reluctance to pilot 49 inch-tall car into newly formed urban rapids. So the laughing may actually be a result of a mental condition, brought upon by some form of Chinese water torture while driving, or a pre-existing condition that led to the purchase to begin with.

You learn that MGs require commitment, and a Midget requires dedication just to enter the car. As a 40 year-old, 6-foot male, it does require some warm-up stretching to enter the vehicle, especially if the top is up.

You learn not to leave the top up because the charging system sucks. The top prevents you from bump starting it. The best hope is to push, leap in it Jackie Chan-style and pop the clutch. Ideally, this fires the motor and you race into the sunset in a plume of oil smoke, almost overcoming the embarrassment of the ordeal. This procedure doesn’t apply if you have friends, but they will soon abandon you.

Not because the car is heavy at 1600 pounds, but because they will be known as the guys or gals, (yes, it happened) who always push that dorky little car. Unless it is an extreme case, you are better off just pushing the thing yourself.

You learn to talk to strangers. There will be plenty of them. You have to be nuts, but you cannot be an introvert. At barely longer than a Suburban’s wheelbase, the height of a computer desk, and the width of a college cheerleader, an MG gets attention. You cannot fill it, wash it, or leave a restaurant without a comment. Miata owners wave, strapped-in children point excitedly and retirees nod knowingly. If I wasn’t happily married I could parlay this little devil into several dinner dates. Cheap dinners at that, because an MG at a drive-in s much more fun than a minivan. Except when you don’t have a room and need a Minivan.

You learn that while this car makes you young, explaining it can make you old. Two twenty something’s stopped to compliment the car as I folded into it. “Cool car, what is it?” I smiled, “It’s a Midget.” They stared as blankly as they would at a typewriter. “An MG Midget.” I furthered. Nothing. I ended with “It’s an old British car.” They smiled and drove off. It was disappointing. Both were of drinking age. Also, I really could have used the help pushing. So if you hate feeling old, don’t buy an obscure little car that was born when you started walking.

Finally, you learn that aside from getting a daily driving lesson, none of this changes your perspective; it’s just where you take it and how much extra to build into the itinerary. With a more reliable vehicle in the stable, it has seen reduced usage, and as the leaves turn and the sun sets earlier, it will be spending more time in the garage. But maybe by spring, I can chase down that short in the headlight circuit.

W Christian Mental Ward
W Christian Mental Ward

School teacher, amateur racer, occasional story teller.

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  • -Nate -Nate on Sep 05, 2013

    " You learn that a frown is impossible while driving, unless it is raining " ~ _THIS_ . I'm a masochist as I own the ' Americanized ' version of the MG Midget : the mighty Metropolitan Nash FHC ~ it's a terrific daily commuter , always reliable and yes , it still has the crispy original Lucas ' Price Of Darkness ' wiring loom (I'll replace it whenever I finally paint it) It's also my favorite Rally Car as I handily keep up with the other Sports Cars in the twisty bits . It's designed & built of a compilation of MGA and MG Midget parts so it's no speed ball but eventually it gets up to 65 ~ 70 MPH where I'll drive it all day long , the smirk never leaves my face for one instant . I've driven it to Canada and back , Death Valley multiple times and when pressed , I take naps or sleep in it , being 6' tall I stick my feet out the window . As mentioned , it's a 1930's Tech machine and so unless you're ready to care for and feed it , it's not a very good car . I've managed to staunch 95 % of the oil leaks , it still gets damp on the engine's exterior but I discovered a secret to keep the gear oil in the rear banjo and off the damned brake shoes =8-) . Everywhere I go , folks look perplexed at it's overall un restored battered condition and California license tags and always ask the same thing : " you came from _where_ ? in_THAT_ ?! " . sure , why not ? it's the same as driving to work 265 times but all at one time , right ? . Besides , even if your ancient LBC blows a generator in the dead center of Nowhere Ville U.S. of A. , no worries ! just go to the local Ford New Holland Tractor Dealer , he'll have a brandy new one on the shelf for about $100 . You have to really enjoy cars & driving them to like any LBC , MG or other . I like the good heater , having grown up in New England with crappy heaters . If I could only figure out how to stop the ingress of water when it rains , I'd be set for life . THANK YOU ALL for the great MG Midget & LBC stories and comments ! . -Nate

  • Maggie McGoun Maggie McGoun on Jul 16, 2023

    I almost fell on the floor, laughing about the top being a mere suggestion. How true. I just bought a 1977 Midget and as soon as I figure out how to extricate myself from the car, I love it. Back in mid 60's, I had a 1964 Sprite and the top was definitely a mere suggestion. It leaked like a sieve, but at 16 I didn't care, and drove it for 5 years. No roll-up windows and no way to lock it (no door handles), but, again, I didn't care. So, thank you for the memories and carry on.

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