Buying and Driving a Sprite or Midget

Why choose an old Sports-car like a Sprite or Midget? Old Classic and Historic cars of all descriptions have their own distinct individual appearance and characteristics. They are unique in the history of the automobile, and are quite different to today’s ‘homogenised’ (all-be-it safer) designs. Different cars from different eras appeal to different people, but the most important thing is that you only choose a vehicle that you have a strong feeling or affinity for, so that it becomes ‘valuable’ to you. This also enables you to ‘make allowances for’ any of that Marques specific characteristics or idiosyncrasies / problems should they arise.

So why are so many people deciding to invest their time and money into a collectible ‘Heritage Vehicle’ (NOT ‘old car’) such as a Sprite or Midget? Our current new cars are safer and have all types of aids to assist the driver: such as Power Steering, Cruise Control, ABS, Traction Control, Stability Control, electronic Variable Suspension settings, Reverse sensors, Reverse auto Parking, and of course, Air Bags, Climate Control, Central Locking, Electric Mirrors, Power Windows, Power Heated seats, Power Roofs for Convertibles, sophisticated Auto and semi-auto Gearboxes, Headlight washers, Surround Sound Stereos, etc.

The downside of this is that these aids effectively mean that the driver does not have think or do as much, so they almost become ‘steerers’ with limited interaction with the car – which can even lead to boredom – as well as an over-riding belief that the car will get them out of any critical situation without much skill needed on their part. (Many who ‘cut their teeth’ driving the older more ‘primitive’ cars, find this a concern for the younger drivers.) The 30 plus year old vehicles were much less sophisticated, and needed full driver input, attention and control. In fact it could be said that with these vehicles you actually had to ‘Drive’ them all the way – and this ‘challenge’ and resulting satisfaction and enjoyment is one possible reason why people choose a collectable ‘Heritage Vehicle’ like a ‘Spridget’ – a real ‘Drivers’ car!

But it seems there are many other different reasons for choosing an old ‘Spridget’, with perhaps the most common being a return to those cars that their parents owned or they aspired to own, when they were young. Others have developed an enthusiastic interest in a particular car over time after seeing/ hearing/ experiencing that car. These cars can often ‘transport’ us back in our mind to a simpler, less hectic time which many find to be a desirable aspect as well. And of course, where else can you find such simple and enjoyable open topped motoring? Some see the purchase as a financial appreciating investment, but most enthusiasts do not even consider this. Whatever the reason, when finances allow it, an ever increasing number of people are seeking out these Heritage sports-cars. Another benefit is that as time permits, this investment also allows the new owner to stay at home in the garage periodically working on, or tinkering with their fairly simple new ‘toy’ rather than being away with some other hobby. And then of course, there is the real fun of actually driving it.

Of course, Open Top Motoring only appeals to a certain section of the community. There is something stimulating about having the wind in the hair experience, having an unobstructed view all around and above, being closer to the road surface, and feeling more at one with the environment. Although Sprites / Midgets are seen as an economical entry into the classic sports-car scene, they are also recognised as one of the best fun sports-cars because of their light, responsive performance.

The exceptionally good handling, light, direct and responsive steering, all add to the huge amount of fun it is to drive an economical Spridget. Of course the older more primitive sealing hoods and sliding side curtains / windows on early Spridgets – appeals to an even more select enthusiast group looking for a true ‘classic’ sports-car. Interestingly, Sprites and Midgets have just as much – and often more usable room in the cabin than modern sports-cars. (However length of leg room and steering wheel position can be a bit better on the modern ones.) Open Sportscars like Sprites and Midgets are often seen as a logical progression for enthusiasts who have owned motorbikes as well.

Having made the initial decision to buy a ‘Sprite/Midget’, which particular model would you choose? There is a huge amount of information within the AHSDC to help you with your choice about the various models available. The lower powered 948cc Mark One / Bugeye / Frogeye is now the most ‘collectable’ because of its unique cheeky individual appearance, and so you will pay much more for one compared to other models.

The Sprite Marks 1, 11 and 11A (MG Midget equivalent Mk1), all have the same rear suspension, which although firmer, means the handling is a little superior to the later models. They were also the last models with the lighter and traditional sliding Perspex side-screens of the ‘classic’ sports-car. The Mk11 had the new ‘modern’ body shape, and the Mk11A had the stronger and improved 1098cc engine, baulk ring gearbox and new disc brakes. The Mk 111 (MG equivalent MK11) had the same body and mechanicals, but now with better sealing although slightly heavier wind-up windows with improved soft-top, and a more comfortable (although slightly less precise handling) rear suspension. The Mark 111A had the addition of the attractive and traditional looking wire wheels. The Mk 1V (MG equivalent Mk 111) had the superior 1275cc engine and an improved soft-top permanently fixed at the rear. However the Mk 1V Sprite was not officially released in Australia – just the MG Midget Mk111 version.

The Mark 11A’s are usually chosen for their classic features plus the more precise     handling and lower price, and are often also used for road & competition or as pure competition cars, whilst the 1275 MG Midget Mark 111’s make ideal sporting tourers. The Mark 111 fits in between as a popular sports-car. As you can see, each model has its own special advantage and pricing, so it is up to the personal preferences of the buyer – but drive each of the models first before making your final choice, and do your home-work thoroughly.

The prospective owner must always be aware that there are some ‘dodgy’ sellers out there, and this is now particularly so with buying on the internet. Regardless, make sure you (or a reputable ‘agent’ if it is too far away) actually see the car and fully check it out, and check its authenticity and verify its ownership, as there are many ‘scams’ occurring. Many photos and descriptions of cars have been high-jacked, and these ‘ghost’ cars offered for sale in many different ways to the unsuspecting buyer, with money demanded before the car is either seen or delivered. If it sounds almost too good to be true – it often is! “Buyer Beware!”

The search for a particular Spridget can be a long painstaking – but rewarding – journey. We can learn a lot about this ‘marque’ not only from research, but also from other owners you meet (including AHSDC Members), and from the inspections of the possible cars to buy. If possible, take an experienced friend (or a knowledgeable Club member) with you to examine the Spridgets. Some may find that a good car with a genuine full history can be even more desirable than a restored car without a history. However, you may well have to pay more for a car with a proven unique or desirable history, whether it is restored or not.

Buying a Sprite or Midget to drive and progressively restore is often seen an easier option that also spreads the cost over time, but the purchase of a ‘basket case’ car to totally restore is initially cheaper and an exciting and challenging option, whereas the possible cheaper long term option of buying a car that has been totally restored (with receipts) and ready to enjoy now, is another way to go. Everyone will have a different preference depending on their own circumstances, but each will provide great satisfaction to the owner. Vehicle restoration can be particularly rewarding, but driving your Spridget and showing it off should still provide the greatest enjoyment.

During this process of researching, purchase, tinkering or restoring, and then driving the Spridget, the new owner will have some great opportunities to meet other like-minded enthusiasts who have or have had Sprites or Midgets – particularly from within the AHSDC. These enthusiasts can provide invaluable information about the particular car under investigation or restoring. This process in itself can provide some enormous enjoyment when it comes to the discussion of that particular model and its characteristics, and of course overcoming its particular problems or sourcing parts.

People often worry about the availability of spare parts for their Spridget, but there is a world-wide movement of enthusiasts collecting and restoring these Heritage Vehicles, so there is a world –wide trade in selling parts. AHSDC members can be especially helpful here. It seems that for many Marques there are companies scattered around the world that specialise in producing new reproduction parts for them – and so it is for Spridgets – so do some simple research before your particular purchase. In fact for Spridgets you can purchase many of the necessary panels that are actually made in Australia to replace rusted or damaged ones.

Sprites/Midgets are relatively simple and fairly easy to restore because they do not have a separate chassis, but a’ simple lightweight Unitary body construction, which means that once these body and sub-frame parts have been assessed or replaced, it is a fairly simple job to bolt everything else back onto it. Most parts are available new or reconditioned.

Commonly, engine gearbox and brake units from the later models, are often used to replace worn units in the earlier cars because of their more robust nature and better performances. There are still a few ‘donor’ cars available for spares out there in the community. These can be quite helpful with a total restoration job too.

Servicing and ‘tinkering’ with these simple and basic Heritage Vehicles, can be very enjoyable, satisfying and therapeutic – but also potentially time consuming! Panels and parts can usually be removed easily by an amateur enthusiast for servicing or replacement – with little more than a good Workshop Manual (although a Parts Book with its ‘exploded’ diagrams is sometimes a great help with detailed components). The relative ease with which work can be done on a Sprite/Midget, encourages the owner to get more involved with it, and to even develop a ‘relationship’ with the car – often giving it a name!

Perhaps most of all, just admiring your ‘Spridget’ should give you a huge amount of satisfaction and enjoyment. Many owners get a ‘buzz’ out of the simple acts of just cleaning and polishing their classic sports-car, and admiring it as they do so. Some look good just sitting there, and glisten and reflect with the simple chrome-work, and they have marvellous proportions and ‘lines’ that draw you in and mesmerise you. Each individual will find visual aspects of their car that excites them, so you could even just sit down and admire it for ages – such are the aesthetics of these old collectable ‘Spridgets’.

As we drive these classic open sports-cars, we often get waves or admiring looks from the public, and when we stop, there are often people who turn up who want to look at, discuss, and reminisce about it. This can give you great feedback and sometimes provides valuable information, as well as your Sprite/Midget providing enjoyment to the others. You could be in for long enjoyable talks with perfect strangers!

But perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy these old ‘Spridgets’ is to meet other like minded individuals at specific events for these open topped cars, which can be great and rewarding fun. These displays or rallies can be almost as rewarding as the opportunity to join a drive there with others on some enjoyable or even challenging ‘drivers’ roads. Getting there can be huge fun. Many find that to be part of a Club convoy is exhilarating, especially when you can see these wonderful machines snaking away in front of and behind you on the winding or open roads. ‘Spridgets’ after all, are renowned as wonderful and stimulating ‘drivers’ cars.

There is a huge array of activities available to the Classic and Historic car owner every weekend across our state (as well as nationally & even internationally), so there is no excuse not to be able to get your Sprite or Midget out and enjoy it. The Classic and Historic car scene is thriving, with available activities expanding rapidly each year – particularly since the introduction of the new Log Book ‘Club Permit Scheme’. We have seen a dramatic increase in Classic cars on the road since the new scheme was announced, as it has encouraged many to buy a Heritage Vehicle and transfer it to the scheme, or to finish their restorations (or to buy and start a restoration), and others to just get their cars out of the garage and back on the roads on the CPS to enjoy them.

So how can we maximise this motoring enjoyment?

All of the above can be enhanced by being part of a Club of like-minded enthusiasts like the AHSDC, where the opportunities to join in activities that are regular and varied enable us to enjoy these classics all the more. We are all very fortunate to be members of the friendly AHSDC which welcomes owners of all models of Sprites and Midgets to a variety of events. As a result, one of our ’pluses’ is the huge variety of ‘Spridgets which we can admire and enjoy for their own individual characteristics and differences – be it a concourse car, a touring car or a competition car. Also there are enough members who have, or have owned a particular model, if an owner needs more information, or even help in locating a particular car. Likewise, there is a huge amount of expertise and help freely available within the Club should an owner have any technical difficulties.

The AHSDC puts on events with venues that are designed to be attractive to both the partner/spouse and the owner, so that the ‘Spridget’ can be taken out on a stimulating drive, and enjoyed by both partners for the full day. Events range from evening ‘Cruzes’ to a day of touring to social venues, to multi-day tours & Rallies, to social events, to displays and concourses, as well as a range of competition events. The friendships and camaraderie shown within the AHSDC, together with quite a balanced mix of genders, are major reasons for its success. Club activities in a Sprite/Midget can be a lot of fun!

Are you getting the most out of your Sprite or Midget and the AHSDC that you could?

John Fowler

2018-07-19T12:09:22+00:00July 19th, 2018|TECHNICAL INFO|