Junkyard Find: 1979 MG Midget

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

BMC and then British Leyland churned out MG Midgets and near-identical Austin-Healey Sprites for 20 years, with the final example coming off the Abingdon line in 1980. Because project-grade Midgets still clutter garages, driveways, yards, and fields throughout the land and they’re not worth much, the clock runs out for many of them every year.

The next stop, usually, is among the Sephias and Jettas of the IMPORTS section at a self-service wrecking yard. Here’s a forlorn ’79 I spotted last week in California.

Contrary to the belief of those living in Michigan or Massachusetts, cars do rust in California. Oh, yes they do! The worst corrosion horror-shows in the Golden State will be cars that park within a block or two of the ocean, where salt spray mixes with morning fog, but cars that sit outdoors for years will have their paint scorched away by the sun and their weatherstripping turned into black crumbly powder by the smog. Then the winter rains come and water collects under trim, carpeting, and vinyl tops. If a certain doomed British corporation saved a few pence on materials due to labour strife and the imminent collapse of society, you might see this process take place even faster than usual.

Worth restoring? No way. But owners of surviving Spridgets — of which there are many near this San Francisco Bay Area junkyard — will find plenty of useful parts on this car.

For 1979, the U.S.-market Midget had big plastic bumpers, jacked-up ride height (to meet Uncle Sam’s headlight regulations), and the single-carb 1,493cc engines out of the Triumph Spitfire. Fifty horsepower, which was sufficient to make this tiny 1,826-pound car feel a lot quicker than it really was. Meanwhile, the ’79 Honda Civic two-door weighed 151 pounds less and had 13 more horsepower. Sometimes life isn’t fair.

Beneath all the junkyard clutter, the interior looks to have been spared the worst ravages of the weather, probably because the car’s top stayed up during the wilderness years.

It’s got four wheels and reflexes so quick it almost seems alive.

If you like these junkyard posts, you can reach all 1600+ right here at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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4 of 29 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 29, 2019

    Off to China to become a refrigerator for a dorm room, a cooking pot, a lawn mower, auto parts, and a couple of other Chinese made products.

  • MKizzy MKizzy on Apr 29, 2019

    Given how quickly those little things rusted, Midgets had about a 36 month shelf life in Ohio before they turn into dust like vampires in the sun.

    • See 1 previous
    • Millmech Millmech on May 02, 2019

      @millmech Maybe drop an Austin Marina on it, THEN drop a piano on both of them. Top with Range Rovers & TR7s & light the lot on fire. Maybe both of the Sterlings left,the fine wood in those + the Range Rovers would a bit of colour to the flames. BRING HOT DOGS!

  • Zipper69 Current radio ads blare "your local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer" and the facias read the same. Is the honeymoon with FIAT over now the 500 and big 500 have stopped selling?
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh hmmm get rid of the garbage engine in my chevy, and the garbage under class action lawsuit transmission? sounds good to me
  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.