Junkyard Find: 1979 MG Midget

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1979 mg midget

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.

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Join the conversation
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!

  • TheEndlessEnigma That's right GM, just keep adding to that list of reasons why I will never buy your products. This, I think, becomes reason number 69, right after OnStar-Cannot-Be-Disabled-And-It-Comes-Standard-Whether-Or-Not-You-Want-It and Screw-You-American-Car-Buyer-We-Only-Make-Trucks-And-SUVs.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Does this not sound and feel like the dawn of ICE automobiles in the early 20th century, but at double or triple speed speed!!There were a bunch of independent car markers by the late 1910’s. By the mid 20’s, we were dropping down to 10 or 15 producers as Henry was slashing the price of the Model T. The Great Depression hit, and we are down to the big three and several independents. For EVs, Tesla bolted out of the gate, the small three are in a mad dash to keep up. Europe was caught flat footed due to the VW scandal. Lucid, Lordstown, & Rivian are scrambling to up production to generate cash. Now the EV leader has taken a page from the Model T and is slashing prices putting the rest of the EV market in a tail spin. Deja vu……
  • Michael Eck With those mods, I wonder if it's tuned...
  • Mike-NB2 I'm not a Jeep guy, but I really, really like the 1978 Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept.
  • William I'm a big fan of 70s Lincolns. I really liked the 1980s Mark Vl. I thought it was very classy, and I never thought of it as a restyled Town Car. I did own a 1990 LSC, it was black over black leather interior. I loved the LSC as soon as they were introduced. I loved the sound of the duel exhaust, I thought it fit the car perfectly. I never had any problems with it. The 5.0 is a great engine, and never had any issues with the air suspension system. It had the the analog dash and I made good use of the message center. I highly recommend this Mark. The black paint and interior fit the car and me perfectly.