Say Hello To My Little Friend

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My daughter has a horse and does horse things – barrel racing, Western events, camps, etc.  She often goes away and then my wife and/or I will go pick her up (mostly my wife). On one particular occasion, our daughter was at a friend’s ranch in Central Washington during Spring break. My wife had taken her over the mountain pass earlier in the week and dropped her off for some training and general fun, and we both went to go pick up her and her horse, Remi, in Ellensburg, Washington.

We arrived as they were working on poles (think horse slalom, not strippers) and watched them go through a few runs in the arena. I noticed, just past the arena, a small convertible in a shed. Or perhaps we should call the structure a “barn”. I moseyed on over to get a closer look while still watching daughter not fall off of her horse. As I neared the car, our friend and trainer, who was also on a horse in the arena, yelled over “You want it? It’s free!” This quickened my pace and I soon recognized the car to be an MG Midget.

I looked the car over and recognized that it could be a ton of work. On the other hand, it was free. And tiny. How much work could it be to get an MG Midget back on the road? It can’t be much more time consuming that completing one of those little plastic models one gets at the drug store, right? I was told the car was left by the previous owner when our friends purchased the property. They said it was covered with a tarp in a field, and was a single-owner vehicle. They just needed it gone so they could use the space.

I searched for signs of fatal rust, but only spotted minor surface rust. The things that looked the worst were mechanical rather than the body or structure of the car. This was good news because my skills are oriented more toward the mechanical (though I can hold my own in the powder coat department). The dash looked dirty but cleanable. The seat covers were shot and the carpet would have a date with the garbage man as soon as possible. But, I thought “I could make this work”. I committed to picking up the car at a future date, we loaded up Remi and our daughter and made the drive back to our home barn.

Fast-forward to the end of September. After a busy summer, I decided it’s time to go get my 1977 MG Midget. I drafted my dad to help with its retrieval since his truck has more horsepower and he’s a more experienced tower than me. We ventured out with the open trailer on a sunny Friday with a two-hour drive ahead of us. Doug, who owns the property with his wife, where the car was left, met us there and helped load the MG onto the trailer. It proved to be a bit of a struggle because the rear wheels on the Midget are seized and one of the front tires does not hold air. Between the winch on the trailer and Doug’s winch on his truck, we managed to drag the car onto the trailer with its trunk facing forward.

Doug provided a bit of history on the car. The man who owned the car purchased it new in New York in 1977. He was a CIA officer, and a big one at that, measuring around 6’6″. He moved to Arizona at some point and drove the car from New York. I picture him in goggles because his head had to be above the windscreen. After some time in Arizona, he moved to Washington and then parked the car for good in 1988 (the last time the car was registered).

We returned home without incident and left the car in the open, on the trailer, for the weekend. After making room (it only needs a little) for it in the warehouse, it now resides inside, sitting on wheel dollies.

You are now wondering what I intend to do with this little convertible. Especially since I already have three convertibles and live in one of the cloudiest, rainiest places in the country. Long term, my thought is to have a fun little lightweight speedster type of vehicle, something that will avoid the freeway in favor of the back country roads outside of my doorstep. The car, as it sits, weighs only around 1850 lbs and has some fat on it that I could remove. If you google “bumper delete MG Midget” you will see how good these cars look without the hideous rubber bumpers mandated by the  government. The weight savings from that and by removing the top and spare tire would add up to be fairly significant.

Short term, I intend to start by looking at the rear drums and getting those unstuck. I expect this will involve much banging on the drum with a rubber mallet and possibly a torch. Either way, it should amuse anyone watching. Keep an eye out for details on the pay-per-view of this event. The punctured front tire will be replaced with the spare in the trunk, which appears to be holding air. Once the car is able to roll around, it will be much easier to work with. After all of the deteriorated interior is cleaned out of the car, I will set out to see if the engine can turn over, which will be a significant step in determining the path of this project.

I’m excited to work on this project. I don’t want to spend a ton of time or money getting it on the road, but I think the fun per dollar ratio will be high when completed. I now own two yellow British 1970s convertibles. That’s going to take a while to sink in.

Engine will need some attention, but it’s all there.

The only trouble spot so far is on the firewall obove the battery.

Three wiper blades (eventually) for the little wind screen.

 

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