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cRaig

[Car_Restoration] 1976 Mg Midget Into A 1968 Ah Sprite - A True 's

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cRaig

As I find writing up project threads for unfinished cars a useful way of both procrastinating, and summoning up motivation to finish them, I thought I would have a go at one for the Midget. I did have an old thread on here with some photos, but I can’t seem to find it, and it wasn’t really a 'proper' project thread anyway..

 

Like most of my projects they take a while, so this one started back in 2008. I was bored, and on a Uni placement so had too much free time and a little money, so went half’s on a 1976 MG Midget 1500, so came with the lovely rubber bumpers..

 

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(Very questionable seat covers, were quickly binned..)

 

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It was purchased for the bargainous price of 600quid, which for a complete running; albeit off the road convertible it seemed almost too good to be true! (spoiler.. it was :ph34r: )

 

So we snapped it up, and trailered it back to Bristol and set about stripping it down enough for a quick blow-over respray (the paintwork was pretty flat and dubious) so as we had the time and the space, a quick paint job and a tart up gave a good opportunity to get all the other bits and pieces needed for the MOT.

 

With a couple of mates we stripped it and painted it in a weekend in a derelict shop in Bristol (Don’t ask.. was very convenient.. high ceiling, carefree neighbours etc) Driving it up off the road, over the pavement and into a shop was quite good fun! :D

 

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It didn’t really need much for the MOT, a little welding by one of the spring hangers, few electrical niggles, dodgy wipers and a leaking damper were all easily (and cheaply!) fixed and it was on the road in time for the summer :)

 

 

So once it was through the MOT, we spent the summer pottering around Somerset, when the only issue we had with reliability was a fairly spectacularly blown head gasket! We put it down to lack of use and not enough octane booster. (It was fairly obvious that compression was an issue! :D)

 

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So once I had stuck on a new head gasket (a joy to work on after the 205's cramped engine bay!) and when we were feeling brave enough, we embarked on a 1750mile round trip to France, which was really good fun! The car performed admirably, with no reliability problems at all!

 

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Edited by cRaig
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cRaig

After a summer of use, we tucked it away for the winter, and then decided, as the car had been so reliable, and had given us so much fun, we would strip it down to check the underside, put right the few bubbles which had appeared in the paintwork, and remove the hideous rubber bumpers in exchange for some chromework.

 

The easiest way we figured to check out the underside was strip it down, and roll it on to a couple of mattresses. Worked a treat, and the empty shell was pretty easy to lift around really!

 

It was only when we flipped it up did we start to discover the true horror which lay beneath (usually hidden by filler..)

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It was a complete dog.

 

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Someone had undertaken previous repairs by adding new layers without removing any existing rust. A true onion skin of filler, rust and crap.

 

The rear spring hangers were completely gone, all of the unpicking was done with nothing bigger than a medium sized screwdriver, the car was just waiting to fall apart.

 

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We found genuine buscuit tin (still with fox's label stuck on!!) which had been welded in to create a structural point near one of the seatbelt mountings!

 

The general approach the previous owner had taken was to weld over a new layer, cover liberally in filler (over 1cm thick in places- generally on the bottom of the floor pans, where you dont really need filler anyway! And then coat it in underseal. Absolutely no paint used at all!

 

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Some high quality pigeon sh*t welding on the chassis rail!

 

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After a depressing day poking around with a screwdriver we gave up and went to the pub and decided that the scrapyard was the best place for it, and began looking for another shell.

Edited by cRaig

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cRaig

Fortunately we came across a very local, and more importantly very tidy! shell on ebay. We snapped it up for 300 quid, it had clearly had time and money spent on it, but remained unfinished and incomplete, and had been left after being blown over with zinc primer to protect the new panels which had been welded in before it had been left.

 

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It was also fortunate that this shell was older, and was the chome bumper 1275 shell, rather than the much later one we had just scrapped. At this stage we didnt know the exact age or any details, as it came without a V5 or any info at all! (partly why it was cheap I guess!)

A suitable garage was hired, and the shell trailered over in preperation for a 'proper' job this time round, with a determination to avoid any hidden rust!!

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cRaig

The first job was to COMPLETELY bare metal the car. Partly because primer absorbs water over time so old primer isnt a great base for paint, and secondly I wanted to be completely sure there were no hidden horrors!

Out came the paintstripper for the body panels and some knotted wire brushes for the angle grinder for the underneath!

 

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A few bits of welding needed finishing off, but it was all fairly minor

 

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Cleaning up the front wheel arches was VERY tedious!

 

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We also stumbled across the body number screwed to the passenger door opening, which was a start towards finding out the car's identity. We contacted the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, who amazingly have a full record with all the chassis, engine and body numbers cross referenced for the production run of Midgets and Sprites,and they set about trying to find it in the archive.

Edited by cRaig
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bondyshambles

Feel your pain with rotten Midgets. I had mine for 7 years and it went from being mint to a wreck in that time....she was a daily though. I dropped it a few years for £500 quid and it was the rarer round wheel arch model. Reckon i could have still got £1500 of E-bay for it but in and outer sills on both sides were rotten as hell. Still miss her though..such good fun

 

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cRaig

Looks tidy! I do like the round wheel arch models, but like you say, they are rare! But like you say, they rust either way! :D

 

Once the many many hours of sanding, scraping and wire brushing were over, it was on to the many hours of filling and sanding

 

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Unlike the 205 which saw professional bodywork, the midget is an entirely DIY affair, so a impromptu spray tent was constructed out of an old 8 man tent, which is an ideal size for a midget!

The shell was liberally coated in Zinc 182 inside and out, all the panel joins were seam sealered, and lots of stonechip was applied to the wheel arches. Followed by some 2K MG Flame Red, and quite alot of lacquer!! It was an awesome weekend with my mates of long nights, beer and takeaways, dodgy airfed masks and getting covered in blood red paint while trying to spray the underside! Enjoyed it, but no rush to paint it again, hence all the attempts at preventing rust! :D

 

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Edited by cRaig
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ORB

Awesome!

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pugpete1108

Awesome, nearly bought a job lot of three a while ago for like £1500 or something.

 

If I had space I would have snapped em up.

 

pretty rotten tho but I should have been able to make 2 good ones.

 

Good job and keep up the pics

Edited by pugpete1108

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stufarri

Awesome thread.

 

I have always fancied one of these but with a modern more powerful drivetrain as I'm not sure how long I'd stay interested with 60bhp.

 

Cracking looking project Craig.

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cRaig

You would be surprised, with suitably crap tyres on the back they are an absolute barrel of laughs! :D

 

But the long term plan is to get something in it with a bit more power.. deciding what is tricky though. The K series conversion is quite popular, but I think I would like a tuned 1275 engine, to stay a little bit more 'period'

The other option I have thought about which is a little odd as a diesel lump! Given its nice to take it on long drives around Europe, the added efficiency of a modern derv engine would make it alot more affordable!

Edited by cRaig

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pugpete1108

Yeah my plan was to zetec it anyway along with a full rewire

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cRaig

Well, it was around this time that we heard back from the archive people, and for around 30 quid they sent us a very useful certificate, with as much info as you could hope for about the car!

 

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Now we have all of the relevant numbers, we can approach the DVLA and get a age-related numberplate and ensure it remains tax free! :) Its also nice to know its full identity, the original trim colour and FS key number etc! I was so impressed so much information has been kept after all of these years.

 

It also meant that alot of the parts we had kept from the first shell were no longer entirely appropirate for a Sprite (wrong dashboard, wheels, front wings, engine etc etc..) At this stage we decided to continue and combine all of the parts to make a true spridget- almost 50/50 between sprite and midget components! The long term plan is to eventually get it looking original and standard, so we are slowly colecting the rarer AH Sprite bits to replace things like the grille and steering wheel and dashboard etc.

 

Once the paint was dry and hardened, I set out putting it back together!

 

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We also picked up some very cheap decent quality chrome bumpers! Think they were 120quid for the pair, but in good usable condition- much cheaper than trying to get anything chromed! And I quite like the slightly pitted/used chrome look on old cars, new chrome (unless something really concourse) can look a little odd in my oppinion, so I try and find good condition used where possible.

 

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Although with a decent paintjob.. the bumperless look was pretty tempting! :D

 

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Edited by cRaig

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cRaig

Next step was to sort out the engine bay and prepare for fitting the engine!

 

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We then set about fitting the "wrong" Triumph 1500 engine into the earlier shell, and it turns out when being assured by people that "yeahhh, that engine will fit fine mate" what they actually mean is "well, i guess it should fit, but I really have no clue!" Extra clearance was required on the front fanbelt pulley which fouled the steering rack chassis rail. This was chopped out and reinforced with some steel box section.

 

Still, its in now, and I'm happy the crankshaft pulley has enough room. Its not an ideal situation, but we couldnt really justify buying and refurbing 1275 engine at this stage, especially when there is nothing wrong with the engine we have.

 

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cRaig

Bumpers look great! :)

 

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Also invested in a decent set of carpets, the MG club do an amazing range of stuff, so this is a "mid-to-premium" carpet, with nice bound edges, should make the interior a breeze compared to trying to replicate carpets from scabby old ones!

 

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Also bought a Mocal thermostatic sandwich plate, and a 10 row cooler, as the 1500 engine does have issues with oil pressure when hot (especially trekking through France in the summer!!)

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As we try and get everyone involved, my girlfriend's mum retrimmed the seats in really nice leather, with red piping. A really nice addition to the interior :)

 

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kyepan

Awesome work

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Paul_13

Crying out for a redtop engine on bodies ;)

 

Nice work though :)

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cRaig

The best I have seen fitted is a Jaguar straight 6 fitted :D

 

There wasnt alot of progress for quite a while, as university work took up more and more time. Eventually, after hibernating it was moved to our new garage in Bath, where it finally joined the 205, the first time they had been in the same place for years!

 

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(dodgy camber on the front was due to the top trunion being on the wrong way round, an easy fix fortunately!)

 

Then set about getting the garage storage sorted (I have alot of crap for both cars) and then the first priority was finishing the 205! (naturally :D)

Now that is done, the plan this year is to get the midget finished. This brings the thread more or less up-to-date, so will try and update as I get things done. The first job is empty it out, sort out all the parts and find everything! Then make a to do list and get cracking! First job is to underseal the underneath, a rubbish job, but anything to postpone the (inevitable) rust! :D

Edited by cRaig

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cRaig

Well, thought I would start off small and easy getting back into working on the Sprite- it take a while to get used to imperial sizes after years of working on the 205 :D

 

Refurbed the heater box and fan. Unlike the 205 it is much more civilized to work on, no need to scrabble around under the dash, both are mounted seperately in the engine bay. This car has the earlier 'snail' fan setup which is generally more expensive than the later combined fan and matrix box, but fortunately we picked up both fairly cheap at Beaulieu autojumble last year, so I stripped them down, powdercoated the bits and bought new clips/bolts.

 

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davey sprocket

Great work sir! My fleet isn't too dissimilar... My 205 has to share my affections with Maggie... SDC10521.jpg However, unlike you I have no intentions of a major restoration, a snotter she will remain. They're great little machines to work on and it's a different world from the Pug... Absolutely everything is available. I've really enjoyed the mechanical overhaul I've given her. Look forward to seeing your progress. :-)

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cRaig

Thanks! Yours doesnt look like a snotter at all! I do like the look of MG Bs, would really like a V8, but the draw of the cheap and cheerful midget was too much!

 

Have spent to day going through all the various bits I have, and trawling the parts book/ ebay buying various bits I need to make progress; fuel hose, need to make up some new battery to starter wires and some new bushes needed on the rear.Will hopefully get alot done in the next couple of weeks, would really like to try and get it finished before the summer.

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Bogsye

[quote name=cRaig" post="1329639" time="1359622290"]Well, thought I would start off small and easy getting back into working on the Sprite- it take a while to get used to imperial sizes after years of working on the 205 :D Refurbed the heater box and fan. Unlike the 205 it is much more civilized to work on, no need to scrabble around under the dash, both are mounted seperately in the engine bay. This car has the earlier 'snail' fan setup which is generally more expensive than the later combined fan and matrix box, but fortunately we picked up both fairly cheap at Beaulieu autojumble last year, so I stripped them down, powdercoated the bits and bought new clips/bolts. [img=http://imageshack.us/a/img191/3010/img6590o.jpg]

So that's what the blower fan looks like!! :D The one bit I never got round to fitting to mine. Mind, it did have some Frontline parts fitted on the front suspension. Your project looks good!

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cRaig

Fitting the heater is a key priority for me in a rattly old draughty convertible :D I would love some frontline kit for mine, but it is expensive stuff. One day maybe.. Hopefully when its rebushed and nice and standard form, it should handle ok.

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cRaig

Okay, well all those photos bring the project up-to-date (2009-2012)

 

This is how the car stands now. Have spent the last couple of days clearing out all the parts and junk which had piled up in it, and began familiarising myself with what jobs had been done/what needs finishing and what parts were required to do so. Gave it a quick wash to get all the garage dust off it.

Its certainly a cheery sight in the garage :)

 

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Since the progress last year we also picked up a pair of original earlier-spec rear lights, which suit the car alot better, with a nicer chrome trim, and a rounded indicator, much more '60s' :) Subtle, but quite a big change on the rear end overall.

 

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Font end is pretty much finished, bar the bonnet being put on (will be done last as acess to the engine bay is much easier without it!)

 

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As a 'Spridget', it is full of contradictions, such as the MG grille on the front, and the Sprite badge on the back. Im sure it would drive the beards in the MG club mad! :D

As you can see close up it is a little organge peel-y but it hasnt seen a drop of polish since it was painted, once it is all assembled it will be getting a good going over with a machine polisher, as there is plenty of lacquer on it to cut back into :)

 

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The underneath and arches have been undersealed, and I have stuck a new pair of front discs on. Not sure why I didnt do it before, as they were well rusted! Should improve stopping abilities hopefully. Front suspension is nearly finished, just a few things to torque up and split pins to fit. Also want to fit new steering gaiters and grease everything up.

 

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Engine bay has come on nicely, with manifolds and carbs fitted, pedal box, and heater matrix all fitted. Just waiting for some coolant and fuel hose to arrive so I can finish plumbing things in.

 

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Got one of the carpets out of the loft to see how good it will look when finished in red! With the black seats, doorcards, dash and parcel shelf it should look awesome :)

Transmission tunnel has also been carefully covered with dynamat-style bitumen/foil sheets.

 

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As well as retrimming the seats the girlfriends mum also did the gear gaiter. Certainly smarter in leather compared to 70's BL quality vinyl!

 

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The door cards were bought new, but came with white piping, so were carefully retrimmed with leftover red leather from the seats, small detail, but it all helps.

 

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As we have done this project over so many years we have occasionally treated ourselves, in the long term aim to return the car to a true 'Sprite' so one thing we were keen to get from the Beaulieu autojumble was a proper steering wheel. Was about 70quid I think, but for a uncracked one thats pretty decent, as with metal spokes and a very thin bakelite finish, they are easily damaged and quite rare! I was going to restore it, but the worn patina is growing on me. Its certainly a huge wheel, much larger than the little mountney wheel we previously had, will take some getting used to.

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The horn push was also picked up at the autojumble for about 5quid, being sold by someone who didnt know how rare it is! Small bargains do cheer me up, help to offset the rest of the costs on nuts bolts and other small silly bits which soon add up!

 

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Another bargin we picked up at Beaulieu last year was an original radio box, the sad hardboard DIY attempt our car came with had given up, and was only held together with carpet and cableties.

 

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It should have a lovely chrome grille on the front (covering the oringally fitted 1 speaker! I have mounted 2 in the rear parcel shelf instead.) Sadly the grille is over 40quid new, so I shall be keeping my eyes peeled at autojumbles/mg scrapyards for a cheap one.

 

We also have a pair of the correct sprite dashboards 'in stock' waiting for the time money and patience needed to strip them, paint them in crackle finish paint and fit it. They were picked up very cheaply off ebay, the plan is to paint them both and sell one, which will cover all the costs of both of them. This job will wait until we fit a new engine and new loom, as the current loom has been bodged/extended and repaired to its limit!

 

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Did what I hope is my last bit of angle grinder bare metalling yesterday, on a couple of splash plates for the front arches. Would have bought new but for a tiny panel they are 45quid each! Some things for this car are joyfully cheap, but then occasionally you have to keep your wits about you to avoid being ripped off. These were bought second hand off ebay for about 30 quid.

 

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Next week bags and bags of screws, washers, pipes, clips and fixings should be here so there should be lots of small, but important forward progress :)

Edited by cRaig

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Bogsye

I remember refinishing my dashboard in crackle finish paint. The main problem for me was getting a warm enough environment to get it to all react evenly! Weird how paint only wrinkles when you least need it ;)

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cRaig

Yeah, I had a little experiment on a little bracket with some crinkle paint, and it seemed to work quite well, but a dashboard is a much bigger undertaking. Im thinking of waiting until the middle of summer, and sitting the dashboard over a oil filled rad to get it nice and warm. Will see how it goes!

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