Martin Evans – MG Midget Restoration

In 2006, my late father bought a perfectly presentable GAN 5 MG Midget. However, as always happens, he soon started “Improving” things. One thing, that came out of the woodwork and which I couldn’t believe, was that whilst the car had new rear wings, the previous owner hadn’t changed the boot floor extensions. Since these go first and are an easy job, with the wings off, I found this staggering but underseal can camouflage for a time. When my father discovered this, I think it made him look more carefully at other things and wonder just whether the head really was lead-free. To save time (Though it didn’t actually save time), I gave my father the spare head off my 1275cc Morris Minor Traveller and it was sent to http://www.peter-burgess.com/ , for his Econotune set up (Like the Morris).

As can happen, the car was off the road for years.

The first job was the interior. He stripped the seats, checked and painted the frames, before getting http://www.suffolkandturley.co.uk/ to recover the seats and make new carpets. One thing led to another!!

In the meantime, the car went to http://www.rspanels.co.uk/ (Whom we had used before) for the boot floor extensions to be done and the wings repainted. At the same time, the bonnet was vented and the general panel fit improved. I used to do the driving on those trips, which usually took as through Leominster and I am sure we passed Holden’s at least once, en route. We picked up the motorway at Droitwich, so it was basically M42 and M6 for Nuneaton. I used to enjoy those trips and I am glad I took the camera along on one of them.

It finally dawned on me, last year, that my father enjoyed the work more than the results (To me, it is a means to an end). My father rebuilt the windscreen and the steering rack and between us we did the rear axle, in situ (I know, for one birthday, I sent his diff assembly to https://thegearboxandclutchcompany.com/ . My father often went into the finest of fine detail and I think needed to live about 200 years, in order to finish everything off to that standard. Progress was slow and sporadic and eventually I suggested that my father let me finish off what had to be done. I said something to the effect that I wouldn’t live long enough to see him do it, the way things were going (Though I didn’t know how short of time my father was by that time). My father saw the humour in the remark and agreed. It’s while since I emailed you, so can’t recall how much you already know. My father said he wanted to sell the car but I didn’t take note of this. Bodging isn’t in my nature, my father could have changed his mind and if he didn’t, I didn’t want to hand prospective purchasers reasons to pick hole in the car.

Up until 80, my father was not too bad but then in 2019, not long before he reached 81, came his second heart attack and sadly, a misdiagnosis of cancer which killed him. He seemed to get over the heart attack well enough, though the “Virus” occasionally caused trouble (He was prone to suffer in silence, so it was sometimes hard to know what was going on) and by the Spring of last year, it was a chronic problem. In July were learned that the virus was cancer.

I had spent most Sundays working on the car (As I was taking over the job, I had to see what had been done and what needed to be done….and what was in limbo) so that by April it was mobile and by July, it was roadworthy. Indeed, I took my father on one of the test runs just days before his first spell in hospital. I collected him from the hospital, in it (End August) and we were able to go out in it subsequently. His last trip out was on 4 November, in my mother’s MGB GT. On 25th November, he went into Brecon Hospital, where he died on 2nd January.

I had fitted a slightly reworked cylinder head, LCB exhaust etc and electronic points, so after some bedding in, it needed a rolling road set up. Due to the poor communications and lack of coordination, within the NHS, we were not sure of what the prognosis really was (I am still waiting on second opinions) but my father’s GP had advised that, without treatment, my father would see Christmas 2020 but not Christmas 2021. That may have proved correct, but it was highly misleading. The rolling road set up was planned for the (Hopefully post covid) Spring but at the end of November, I felt it a wise precaution to get it done ASAP. An early start (And my night vision is not what it was!!) on 9th December, saw me able to take the power plot into my father that afternoon!! He has been keen to know the power (I had guessed 75 – 80 bhp), which turned out to be 76.8 bhp. I really wanted him to know. It is such a shame that we could not have been allowed just another year to enjoy the car together.

When it was agreed that I would finish off the car, the aim was to then sell the car but finished rather than as another unfinished and hard to sell project. I did not allow this to alter the way I put it back together, in case my father changed his mind and so as not to hand any would be purchaser reasons to pick holes in it. In the event, when he saw it finished, my father told me that he wanted to keep it and furthermore, I was to hang on to it after his days (At the time, we did not know how soon that would be). It will call for some imaginative storage but with the Hamer four poster ramp, I should be able to house the five cars in the family. I will certainly do my best, as they are part of the family and my father lives on in his Midget and in the MGB GT V8, that he bought in 1985 (The day we went to see it is a clear and fond memory; again we used my Midget for that) and which I took over in 2003.

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8 Comments. Leave new

  • Reply to Richard Aktins – Many thanks. I suspect my father enjoyed the work he did on the car, more than he would have enjoyed driving it. Looking at things, as I do, it is a great pity that he drove it for so little time, at the beginning, before he started doing things to it (Had it been brand new, from the showroom, I think he’d still have found things to do to it and I don’t mean simply rectifying the odd fault) but I’m sure it was the work which made him tick. I’m just glad I got on with it when I did, so at least he got to see the results. I’d have very little enthusiasm to be doing it now. “I am sure he will be riding alongside you to eternity” is very much it. If my father’s last car had been Del Trotter’s van, I’d have done exactly the same, though I am relieved it wasn’t a Mark Ten Jaguar or something just as large!!

    Reply
  • Reply to John Davey – Sometimes having the cars is something of a responsibility and I certainly don’t want to add to what I have but I take the point; there is something special about old cars (And steam locos, though I haven’t room for one of those). I’ve owned the black Midget 1500 since 1984 and like the BGT V8 (Came to us in 1985), it’s part of your life and a source of find memories. The others have all been with is quite a long time and I take seriously my father’s wises, regarding “His” Midget. My mother still has her BGT and I don’t know what she plans to do with that and then there is my Minor Traveller (It needs a new clutch and a few other odds, so it’s been laid up in the garage a while; giving up it’s place, in the queue, to, among other things “My fathers” Midget but it’s now getting attention). I suppose, if one had to go, I’d VERY RELUCTANTLY, have to let the Morris go. I’m in no hurry to do this but I have said I wish to go to my own funeral in the back of the Morris but if it’s not available (As it wasn’t for my father), it’ll have to be Trudy once more – https://www.moggyhearse.co.uk/ .

    Reply
  • Reply to Nick Smith – I hope your get over what ails you. My mother has always liked the Jaguar E Type (My paternal grandfather once owned an XK140 FHC and I believe it’s still about), perhaps less obsessively these days and I’m not sure I wouldn’t prefer one, to an Aston Martin. The seats, in “My” Midget (The black 1500) were re covered in the same style, as the E Type (By Suffolk & Turley, who of course know the style; I just said “That’s fine”). If you want an example, of increase in value, my father sold a good Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, in 1960, for £795. If it was still in the family, I couldn’t afford to insure it!! I can fully understand how you feel about the “Family”. The Cooper S sounds nice; another potential member of a larger “Fantasy” collection of mine.

    Reply
  • Reply to David Saul – If I could have another car, a pre war car (Like an MG, HRG or 4/4 Morgan) would be top of the list. My father mentioned that “If I liked”, I could sell the Midget and buy such a car but I said I would never do that. A, better the devil you know but B, I just couldn’t do it!!

    Reply
  • Richard Atkins
    July 24, 2021 11:35

    Touching story; lovely cars. Well done and do sad your Dad couldn’t get to drive the finished car.
    You have done him proud.
    I am sure he will be riding alongside you to eternity. Happy memories and Happy Mototoring.

    Reply
  • David Saul
    June 12, 2021 20:01

    Really enjoyed your article. As an MG fan (I have a pre-war one) I like to see them looked after!

    Reply
  • Nick Smith
    June 12, 2021 12:44

    Martin,
    Thanks for your story, I don’t normally have the time but in a similar vein to your story I’m currently in hospital semi parlysed due to a misdiagnosis by the NHS. My late Father left me a once pristine E type Series 2+2. It would have been a mint Aston DB4, but he procrastinated (back then they were the same price!) and missed out. I went to see both cars with him, but his healtd declined very quickly, the E type got used a few times then got parked up. My visits were mainly to look after my Father. I didn’t love the eE type like dad did for some reason. When I inherited it my sister wanted to sell, but I felt an attachment to the car and kept it, subsequently spending a lot of evenigs and weekends gettin the old girl running and roadworthy. I’ve bonded with the E type (Bertha, all dads cars were Bertha) and she’s now part of the ‘fleet’. I’m a bit of a perfectionis too, I didn’t want to get too bogged down and not finish which seems to be a common problem so the finish is not as Iwould have liked, having seen your Midget I think I need to up my game. Also have a Classis Cooper S with the same engine thats coming on. Thats a tribute to my uncle Alan. What a softy!
    Kind regards, Nick

    Reply
  • John Davey
    June 12, 2021 08:17

    Well . They say you can have too much of a good thing but when it comes to classic cars l think we’d all disagree ! Although tinged with sadness that gorgeous Midget will always remind you of happy memories . Beautifully restored and the’re such a delight to drive ! And should you decide to sell her the next lucky owner will have one of the nicest examples money can buy. Thanks for sharing .

    Reply

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