Over Fifty Years of Sprites and Midgets by Ian Macnab
It has been over fifty years since my love affair with Spridgets began. After completing high school in 1967 I bought my first car. It was a 1965 Austin Healey Sprite painted British Racing Green and it was love at first sight. The car cost $1,300 (CDN); I paid $700 towards it and my father loaned me the balance which I repaid over the next two years. I drove my Sprite through four years of university and two years of graduate school. Then I traded it for a Mazda but that car was never as dear to me as my Sprite. I even tried without success to buy my Sprite back from its new owner. Time passed and I still longed for another Spridget.
In the mid-seventies I saw a maroon 1974 Midget for sale. Soon it was mine but the emission gear on the car made it difficult to keep tuned. Two years later I sold it in a moment of frustration. It was time to grow up and focus on both family and career. Time passed but in the mid-eighties I came across a red 1972 Midget that just had to have a new home. A year of restoration work put that Midget back on the road. It was a great little car. However, in the early nineties my family moved from town to country and I needed a tractor. So my red Midget was sold and taken to Florida by a Canadian snowbird as a winter car.
I still loved these little cars and indeed everything MG. I would stop, look, and dream whenever I saw an MG. For Christmas 1998 my eldest son gave me a book on the history of MG’s. That was my downfall (or salvation). I just had to have one! In the spring of 1999 I saw a 1970 Midget for sale over the internet. It looked pretty rough but something about it called out to me. I bought it for $500 US and had it shipped from North Carolina to my home in Ontario Canada. Almost three years passed until I got my Midget on the road. Originally painted Blaze Red, I chose British Racing Green just like my first Sprite. I researched the history of the car and found that it was built on November 12/13 1969. It was shipped to Palm Beach Florida and then sent to a dealership in Fayetteville North Carolina. Bought by its first owner in January 1970, my car spent the next 29 years in North Carolina. I am the fifteenth owner of this little survivor. I named my car Bridget – British Racing Green Midget – and would never think of selling it. Although it may be a bit harder getting in and out of the cockpit than it was when I was eighteen, my little British car brings me great pleasure. Owning it, driving it and maintaining it just makes me smile.
Now retired, I have moved to the Haliburton Highlands of central Ontario. One of the “must have” things for the new home was a separate and heated garage for my Midget. When the winter winds and snow are blowing and the temperature is well below freezing, I can go out to the garage and “look after” Bridget. Sometimes there is a bit of maintenance; other times it’s just good to be with my little car and dream of warm summer days and a winding road. I drive about 3,000 miles each year. The roads in this part of Ontario are very scenic, very twisty with a large number of good ups and downs thrown in for good measure. Great fun for a British sports car.
For some time, I was a single parent with two teenage children to raise. This changed in 2006 when my daughter suggested that I start dating. Two years later, I remarried and the Midget was part of our wedding being used as our drive-away honeymoon car. Oh what fun to drive off into the night with my bride in my Midget! We have had several adventures since in the Midget. Many of these have been with members of the Victoria British Car Club (a car club based out of Lindsay Ontario). Usually these are day trips but sometimes we go for longer cruises in and about southern Ontario staying overnight in quaint hotels and exploring antique stores and farmers’ markets. Aside from outings with our car club friends, we will take the Midget for a wee run through the countryside and stop for an ice cream along the way. We have gone to Manitoulin Island on the north shore of Lake Huron twice in the Midget. This involves about 900 miles of travelling and exploring and makes for a wonderful vacation.
My greatest Midget adventure was in 2016, when I went with the MG Car Club of Toronto to the MG conference in Louisville Kentucky. It was an amazing experience. My Midget ran well all the way from Haliburton Ontario to Louisville Kentucky; a total of 1,002 miles from my house to the conference hotel. I did have a minor problem with my starter which turned out to be a loose connection, but my car usually started and a couple of times I got by with a friendly push. The roads we took down to Louisville were made for sports car driving with lots of twists and hills. Great fun! The four days in Louisville were filled with everything MG and were truly memorable. The Thursday car show was very hot but still amazing to see so many MG’s in one place (821 cars I believe). At the awards banquet, my Midget got an honourable mention – no prize but still good for a wee car from Haliburton amongst 27 other beautiful Midgets.
The drive home started off without incident. At Frankfort, we left the interstate and when I went to downshift on the exit ramp I had nothing! Rolling onto the shoulder of the road, I soon realized that my Midget would not go into any gear. Out came a tow rope and off I was pulled to a nearby Goodyear store. Well they were very kind but could not help. However they did know of a British car shop in Frankfort – Capital Restorations owned by John Wheatley. Now what are the chances of finding a British specialty shop when you have a breakdown in Kentucky?!! A flatbed ride over to John’s shop and we quickly discovered what we already knew – the clutch was pooched! Seems the whole clutch system had been burned out and so a complete clutch kit was ordered. Now with the weekend upon us, delivery would not be until the following Tuesday. That is how I came to spend four days in Frankfort Kentucky, meet some really kind people and fully understand why MG is known as “the marque of friendship”.
With the prospect of an early departure from Frankfort not possible, our convoy of MG’s decided to split up with the majority of cars continuing on our chosen route home. One couple however would not leave me behind on my own and insisted on staying with me. It was wonderful to have their support and it certainly gave my morale a much needed boost. During our time in Frankfort, we met a very personable local gentleman who took us on a tour of Frankfort and regularly checked in with us to make sure we were alright. The four days spent in Frankfort were actually very pleasant and filled with good memories. On Wednesday morning though my Midget was again in working order and we headed for Canada and home. We had some heavy rain and the trucks did not always make the trip pleasant but we made it without further incident.
The trip was in part an awful, terrible adventure but mainly a fantastic, wonderful adventure. When would I ever get to take my Little British Car on such an incredible trip with such incredibly good and friendly people? When would I be lucky enough to have a breakdown right on the doorstep of a British garage and have the owner so willing to jump to my assistance? When would I meet a local person and have him tour me around to see all the sites and genuinely make sure I was well looked after? Truly, the Louisville trip was a most excellent adventure and proof that the marque of friendship is alive and well.
So now it is on to the next adventure. Not sure where my little car may take me. All I know for sure is that when I am sitting behind the steering wheel and I hear the little A-series engine spring to life, I am a young man once more with my first-love “Bridget”.
Over Fifty Years of Sprites and Midgets by Ian Macnab