Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Current Midget to date

In order to 'cut to the chase', as they say, I'm going to summarize the last 5 years:

I brought the car back to Arkansas in 2005, whereupon I attempted to catalog the various loose parts.  Hmmm.  Shotgun shells... Unless the motor starts like the airplane Jimmy Stewart flew in 'Flight of the Phoenix', I won't be needing 'complete' engine (for the most part) and one engine torn down...etc., etc.  I won't go into too much detail.

I eventually disassembled the entire car.  It wasn't enough to just get it running.  I had to do it all.  So, over the next few years, I bought a lot of parts...carpets, tires, trim rings, mirrors, rings, seals, gaskets, bearings. In 2006, I had the block 'boiled' and the head done.  The machine shop polished the cam and the crank, as well.  All for about $200. The only mistake I made was unwrapping the block before I was ready to re-build the engine.  Well, that's not quite true.  That was the second mistake.  The first mistake was venting my dryer into the garage.  The combination of moist dryer venting and an exposed block was, of course, RUST.  When my brother announced that he was coming up for the weekend, and would help me rebuild the engine, I panicked.  For another $90 of my 'MG money', I took the block back to the machine shop, and had him clean it up for me.  Ah, the lessons we learn...

With my brother's help, I reassembled the engine with new rings, gaskets, seals, bearings.  I painted the timing chain cover and the valve cover (which I'm now re-painting the correct silver).

Here are a couple of shots of the engine reassembly process...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Current Midget Acquisition

It's been a busy weekend.  Last week, I replaced the shocks on the rear of my 2003 Honda Pilot.  I ordered a set of shocks/struts from  I got the KYB brand.   Replacing the shocks was easy, and it only took an hour, maybe.  My trusty air ratchet made it that much easier, especially when spinning off/on lug nuts.

This weekend, I tackled the front struts.  This task is not particularly daunting, but it is a hassle.  The struts/springs are heavy and unwieldy, they're dirty, you have to compress the coil spring, blah blah blah.  My sidekick, whom, in deference to his cyber-anonymity I will refer to as 'Sidekick', was there to lend a hand, and this was most fortunate.  After multiple trips to the auto parts store, to return the coil spring compressor I borrowed and to get a 'strut spring compressor', to the hardware store for sockets required that I didn't have, to Sidekick's house for Allen wrenches that I couldn't find, we successfully coupled the new struts with the old springs.  In the course of this process, I dropped the new bearing that came with the strut, and had to clean/grease each of the individual ball bearings, and re-assemble the bearing.  Fun.  It wasn't until today (hey, I had to stop to watch the Hawgs yesterday) that we got it reassembled.  One 'sproing' as we backed out (I assume this was a coil spring 'self-adjusting') and everything was good.  Hope this improves the ride of my 130k-mile daily chariot...

Here's a picture from the day in 2005 when I acquired the 1500 Midget.  My oldest brother  found the car in Cleveland, Tx.  I previously found him a 1959 MGA here in central AR, and he was returning the 'favor'.   See his blog here:
A fellow was divesting himself of his father's estate, and the Midget had been in the garage in the back for 20 years.  Seems his sister was driving it and the engine blew.  It was never re-built.  He was GIVING IT AWAY to whomever would come get it.  I borrowed a trailer and away I went (with wife in tow as well).

Five years hence, here's how I remember it:  the car was dusty, with 4 flat tires, a couple of engines, etc., but it was all there, pretty much.  I would find out later that there were some bits missing, but I've compensated for that over time.  The car was also straight.  It had never been in an accident, and, because it had been in storage for 20+ years, it didn't have much rust.  The floors were solid, the rockers were solid, the fenders were solid.

So, with the help of some muscle and a come-along, the car was dragged up on the trailer and tied down.  We started for home, some 7-8 hours away.  The trip was uneventful.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

History Pt 2

So, I had a '71 in '73 'clothing'.  The DPO had pop-riveted the VIN from a 'salvage title' car (before Arkansas enacted its 'Lemon Law').  No biggie to me.  I could still license the car and drive it, and now at least I knew which parts to buy.

Notice the missing front marker lights, how the driver's    
headlight seems to be aimed at an upward angle, and how
the rear tire is somewhat splayed out...
Next, I replaced the brake cylinders on the rear.  Huh, my leaf springs are broken and sagging.  Then, driving it to work one November morning, the fan belt broke, and jammed itself behind the water pump.  That repair was an all-afternoon affair that involved one person with heavy gloves on, grasping the fan belt, while the other 'bumped' the ignition.  Fan belt removed/replaced.

Then I made my fatal error.   I dismantled the front of the car.  Took everything off.  Stripped it like an 8-year-old unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.  And there it sat. 

For my anniversary, my loving wife bought me new floorpans and two new (to me) front fenders.  And there it sat.

I went to a local u-pull-it yard on $25 day.  Even paid my buddy's entry fee.  You pay $25 and it's all you can carry out in one load.  We flipped an MG hood, loaded on chrome bumpers, gauges, shocks, everything we could carry.  Probably $1500 in used parts.  All for $50.  And there it sat.

I moved to another town.  And there it sat, sometimes in the garage, and sometimes in the backyard.  Occasionally, I would work on it, but a) I didn't know what I was doing, 2) I didn't have much money to 'invest' in the project, and c) I didn't know what I was doing.

Eventually, I sold it to an older gentleman, who originally only wanted the engine, for about $400.  He got the whole kit and caboodle.

I then focused on another kind of British auto - Land Rover's Range Rover Classic - and ignored MGs for some years...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

History - Midget # 1

I'll start at the beginning - About 1992, I bought, for $640, a 1973 MG Midget.  Those in the know will recognize this as a chrome-bumpered, RWA (round wheel arch) Midget.  It was white.  I negotiated the seller/DPO down from about $800-$900, by showing him 'all' the cash I had in my pocket.

I didn't have a lot of money at the time, being about 29 years old, and a new father.  But, I rationalized the purchase, based upon two factors:  owning a British sports car, specifically an MG, was a family tradition, I was fulfilling my destiny, AND I had spent the money my paternal grandfather had left me on a house for my wife (down payment), and I ought to buy myself something before it was all gone (ignore the fact that I frittered away most of it by being unemployed for 11 months after college.  Without subjecting myself to too much self-loathing and critical reflection, suffice it to say that I looked down on the people who worked at the pizza place across the street from my apartment, so while I looked for a 'career', I'd just watch TV.  Imagine the employee discount on pizza/beer.)  But, I digress...

One day, while perusing the 'classic cars' section of the want ads, I spied the Midget, and immediately set off with a friend in tow, to drive my truck back.  I wasn't going just to look.  I was going to buy!

After a couple of surreptitious passes, I pulled in.  Talked to the owner, took it for a test-drive, went away to 'think about it'.  In reality, I went to the ATM to get more cash.  We negotiated - he gave me some song-and-dance about having to confer with his 'partner', but when he saw the cash, he pounced.  And away I drove, stopping to put gas in the little car.

On the drive home, on the interstate, I noticed the carpet in the passenger footwell floating up and down.  (Note:  this is BAD.)  Reaching over, I lifted the carpet, and there was the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, going by at 60mph.  Floorboards were rusted out!

Things only got better.  I discovered that the side marker lights had been removed and the holes taped/Bondo'd.  Keep in mind, this was before I knew much about the model changes, etc.  This was very confusing to me.  In addition, the driver's side headlight shined on my garage wall much higher than the passenger side.  That was because the front bumper support on that side had been bent, and moved about an inch or so above parallel. 

The kicker came when I went to the local British car expert and argued that my car was a '73.  I didn't know that a '73 had round rear wheel arches and a '71 had square wheel arches.  Mine were square. (I THOUGHT that VIN # plate looked loose...)

Friday, October 1, 2010


This blog is intended to document the trials and tribulations of my restoration of a 1979 MG Midget 1500.  In subsequent entries, I'll detail how I acquired the car, work that has been done to this point (with pictures, where available), and other information.  In addition, I'll hold forth on other MG-related info (family car history, other MG adventures), and possibly regale my audience with non-MG automotive stories.

Stay tuned...