MG Midget Mk 1 1962 – Restoration

midget-002-vitreWell, the time has finally arrived when I rebuild my MG Midget Mk1. The car has been off the road since 1997, dry stored in a garage or outside under cover for the last 11 years. Pressures of work and a growing family, plus the distractions of an MGBGT, Mazda MX5 and a Range Rover. It failed its MOT with structural problems (rust) on the H frame (below the engine) and the front splashguards (footwells) and at the rear. The bodywork – rear wings and A posts were all rotting away too, though the sills were in pretty good nick following the last full body restoration in the late 70’s.

After placing a Wanted ad on the MG enthusiasts a nice chap by the name of Alistair Shaw got in touch to tell me of a completely restored shell lurking in Suffolk. I got in touch with the owner, Dominic LeFanu of MG Restorations, got him to send me lots of photos, and we agreed a price. The shell had no V5 but was complete and in very good order, with new front and rear suspension and an Ashley fibreglass front end. I sold the latter on through eBay which helped to make the deal much better value. When you think a heritage shell for a Midget is @ £4500, then there would be a pile of conversion work to make it a Mk1, the price of £1900 for this shell, less the £330 I got for the Ashley front end made a good price and worth-while exercise. The cost of sorting out my existing shell ( I am rubbish at welding and bodywork) would have been much the same (£4500). An uneventful trip with a trailer on the back of the Rangie to Suffolk saw me back home with the new shell. A couple of months passed as I waited and waited for the right time.

Plan was to reuse as much as possible, given that most of the mechanicals and ancillaries were in better nick than the car itself, but to treat myself to a new wiring loom, and to convert to disc brakes on the front.

Colour and trim, planning for MG Nightfire Red Pearlescent, with a cream interior. Undecided on whether to refit all the chrome / bumpers, and may decide to paint all the chrome/ally trim in Old English White or similar. The car has never been “standard” since I have had it (1979) and I may as well have it as I want it :)

DISMANTLING:

Started: October 17th 2008

I decided to work from the front to the back.

Stripped the front trim and centre trim from the bonnet, then removed the bonnet. Worked through removing the front scuttle and the wings. In all only had a problem with 3 bolts, not bad after 20 years.

The two bottom bolts that tie the wings to the front scuttle were seized solid, so I decided to remove the wings and the scuttle as one, and tackle them in comfort (hacksaw!). A wing to the top of the scuttle bolt also sheared off on removal. Surprisingly all the wing bolts/screws to the footwell came out with ease. Secret bolts securing the wing to the bulkhead, at the top of the wing and underneath. I had previously fitted an oil cooler in situ, and of course it wouldn’t comoe out of the small space it occupied in the scuttle, so the pipes were disconnected from the engine, sealed off, and it all came out together. Oil black and mucky. Inside the distributor cap it looked just like the day I last used it.

Every nut and bolts and screw is all going into one pot, hope I don’t live to regret this! but planning to replace most of them with galvanised or zinc plated on rebuild

All trims and lighting removed, along with bonnet locks.

With the wings and the front scuttle out of the way I got on with the removal of all the ancillaries, working first the drivers side, removing all electrical and mechanical items, moving the loom out of the way as I went. Lots of additional wires for extra things! (horns, screen pump, fuel pump, stereo, etc). Removed exhaust and carburettors at the manifold. All water pipes came off easily, and still about a pint of water in the cooling system, beautifully clear blue as well. Dynamo and starter all came off easily, the bendix still working, a little stiff, but a dash of WD40 made it like new :)

Hoping to be able to get the engine out using jacks and scaffold boards, as no hoist available. Continued to strip down the engine bay, its got fiddly now. little bits and bobs. Engine and gerabox out went fine.

Removed exhaust. Jacked up the engine a bit, tied the gearbox onto the bonnet supports to hold it up, released the bellhousing bolts, more jacking and a good tug. needed a serious yank to get it up onto the steering rack, then slide it down a scaffold plank to the ground. Almost went as well for the gearbox, undid the two bolts on the tunnel, and then the two bolts going up thorugh the floor. Put jack under the box, removed rope, and gave a similar yank. Oops, fell of the jack and oil everywhere. Fortunately, not as heavy as the engine. Dismantled all my brake piping and removed master cylinder (now that will be a job to refurb), removed engine mountings, windscreen (finally shifted the big philips, without the need to go get an impact screwdriver) and doors (strangely crosshead bolts holding these in, not on the new body). Good days work, can start on the interior next. Oh the heater box crosshead screw refused to budge, so they came off with a chisel and Birmingham spanner.

Went to work on the interior, removing all the carpeting and trim. The dash surround was going well until I had one nut that was the wrong size for every spanner i had in the garage. Finally took off the steering wheel to get at it properly! Both footwell carpets were pretty rotten, but the floors were in actually fairly solid nick thanks to the glassing I had done all those years ago. Slowly, slowly everything came out, tackled the dash last, which is only held on by three bolts above and two below. Some gentle tugging and it all came out in one piece, instruments, loom, radio the lot.

Back end and brakes. Petrol tank bolts all came off, but were stiff, bumper bolts fought for some time. rear lights in good nick, and number plate light all came away OK. Found a nice rusty hole middle of the boot though. Removed UJ bolts on the propshaft and squeezed myself under enough to undo the hidden nut holding on the hand brake cable – why put it there. Whilst underneath I noticed that I had previously fitted SPAX rear shock absorbers, so they had to come off too. Dismantled one rear brake, but again no right sized spanner to remove the bolt holding the rear brake cylinder on. Time will provide the solution to this. Now both bodyshells are looking very similar.

Had a big tidy up in the garage, tucked some body parts away in the loft, and stripped the wings and doors of all trim and electrics. Been looking at the prices of new/used parts so will need to be doing a far bit of refurbishment. next job is really to make a start on the new bodyshell, find a good sprayman and agree a price. Still undecided as to whether to go for tartan red again, or to go a bit more custom and have Nightfire metallic or similar. I guess cost will be the issue here. Also need to decide what to do about the brakes. probably need a new master cylinder so should I upgrade and us 1275 masters given I will need new front calipers.

More tidying up, piled up the carpets and trim, wrapped in cardboard and stored in loft for later. Hood, tonneau and seats likewise. Removed the drivers side shock absorber, and loosened the rear axle fixing bolts on both sides Cut through the rubber axle straps, first lazy thing I have done! Removed front brake drums and dismantled brakes, removing brake cylinders and pipework. That’s just a bout it for dismantling, other than it stopping being a rolling shell. Will push it out into the front garden tomorrow so it can live under a sheet. Photos taken to see if I can flog it on eBay or via MGOC – Restorations. Found a good frogeye spares website, so should have no problems getting all bits and pieces needed.

Moved the old shell out of the garage, and place it out under a tarpaulin. Put it up on ebay as well, and have two watchers. We shall see!

Old bodyshell sold on eBay for £152.50 ! Now have to hope for some reasonable weather in order to remove the front and rear axles and get it up on stands awaiting collection. Started working up a parts and supplies list as well. Purchased a set of calipers and pedal box with master cylinders from a 1275, to improve the braking. Some work required to get the pedal box fitted as is a different shape. Still tempted to do my own respray with aerosol cans. I know its not recommended but reckon its worth a try, even if it has to go off for a final spray over. Some good help regarding under body protection from the internet, with a choice of products, one for stone chip prevention that can be oversprayed, the other for salt and corrosion protection for the bits that do not need to be shiny. Etch primer is also available in cans but won’t be getting it from Halfords at £12 a can! Also bought a couple of aerosol can triggers to improve spraying control. The cost of Christmas is going to get in the way!

Moved bodyshell back onto the drive, in order to remove axles.

On a freezing cold evening, in the dark, removed the rear axle. please I released all the bolts earlier on in the dismantle, so it was a simple job, but cold. Upper Link bolts siezed solid, so they will have to stay. Released track rod ends and removed steering column

Removed steering rack, and both front suspension units (remember to take the bolt on the damper arm out in order to release it from the top trunnion!) Removed both rear springs, but reinforcing plates wouldn’t budge, probably been welded on at some point in the past, so will have to get two new ones, as the new shell doesn’t have them. Bought spanner (19/32th) to remove rear brake cylinders. One undid, the other was so corroded I had to bang a 9/16 on to get it off. One cylinder came out easy, the other required force! That’s it now, time to get on with the rebuild!

Finished: December 6th 2008

Got on with sorting the new shell, need a damn good clean up after sitting in a barn for 10 years. Pleased to find no rust anywhere and everything as it should be. Measured up and cut out some metal around the pedal box, to allow for the different / newer pedal box and master cylinders for the disc brakes. The originals are just not good enough for today’s motoring, and more expensive.

Time passes, car gets covered in old boxes and stuff my wife doesn’t want in the house any more. Fast forward to 2010 !

Prepared all those little bits, the cowl things inside the engine bay (you know on one side it holds the washer bottle), the brake pedal blank, number plate light, gear lever turret, boot and bonnet hinges, and primered and sprayed with Nightfire red and lacquer.

Prepared the engine bay and the heater channels and sprayed them up too.

Prepped up the bonnet, wings, doors and boot, but only in primer for a trial fit

Fitted all the panels. This is normally easy, but I found with the wings and the front scuttle i had to take a wrap around approach: fit drivers side wing, then fit scuttle, then fit passenger side wing to scuttle then fit passenger side wing to car. Only way I could get it to go all together.

Time passes again, car fills up with bags and boxes again. fast forward to 2013!

Started to clear up my clutter, made several trips to the skip, shifted stuff out of the garage into the garden shed, and began to find room in my garage for the first time (hadn’t helped that I had filled it up with 12 Range Rover tyres! Built some new shelves with some old shelving from the skip at work, which got things out of boxes. Also constructed a trolley support for the MG so I could move it around. I used an old catering trolley, cut down to its flatbed bottom shelf. really good castors. Then two 8ft lengths of 4 x 2 and a 5ft length of the same. Screwed this all together and placed on the trolley. The two long lengths run from the bumper mounts at the front of the H framed through to the diff tunnel, and the 5ft length and spacers supported the two 1/4 elliptic spring mounts.

I then did a quick hand sand with 100 grit on the entire interior and boot, vacuumed out, then primered the whole area. Once dry I masked up with newspaper the interior, the boot and the engine bay.

Now with all the panels on the car I took to it with 100 grit (non clogging) sandpaper to knock off all the high spots and sand down scratches and imperfections. I used a power sander for this, then followed up by hand.

Next step was to vacuum off all the dust, then Wet and Dry 400 grit, buy hand, with lots of water to start getting a smooth finish.

April 2015

Yes, it has been a while, but finally prompted to action by a warm April. Over the winter I constructed a spray tent in the garage using polythene dust sheets, and got the car sanded down with 1200 grit and applied primer inside and out. had a good couple of months to dry. But towards the end of April with good weather I pushed the car outside and applied the first coat of Rover Nightfire Red. Takes some practice to get a a good shine on it, will need to take my time with the final coat of colour. Warmer weather helps to prevent runs. Will not be sanding down the paint as this prevents the sparkly effect.

October 2015
4 & 6th

Where did the summer go? Paint and lacquer sitting on the shelf finally got the better of me. Given last week offered us lovely warn weather, and with a week off, the MG was rolled out into the drive, given a quick clean and rub down with a tack cloth and another good coat of paint, using a further six cans. Applied three coats of lacquer to one of the rear wings in order to test the shine, which after a further sand down with 1000 grit paper and a quick buff with Meguairs Ultimate produced a mirror finish :)

The rain then descended for the next two days, so was confined to the garage with the gas mask (Did a good job, btw). One of the few problems with cans is the drips and runs, these needed rubbing down and then the car was sprayed all over again with a further four cans, followed by three large cans of lacquer. Bloomin’ drips from the lacquer cans as well will require further rubbing down and respraying.

Several purchases also made over the summer, new mesh grille, grille surrounds, water pump, rear brake cylinders (again!), heater tap, engine gasket set, clutch master cylinder, slave cylinder, brake master cylinder. Buying things bit by bit, every now and then helps to ease the financial pain. 😉

7th October

Hopefully painting finished today, @ 5 light coats of Nightfire Red, followed by 6 light coats of clear lacquer. This has left me with a dull finish (by design)

After painting and lacquer

After painting and lacquer

Now for the magic! I did a test area on the rear wing next to the door. 1200 grit wet and dry, lightly sanded to a dull finish. Followed up by a brisk polish with Meguairs Ultimate and my Silverline Polisher, starting at speed 1 then moving up to 4.

After sanding and polishing

After sanding and polishing

Hopefully the difference is visible on the photos. I have a lot of lacquer left over so must do the insides as well, then allow the paint and lacquer to harden properly over the next dew days, before going for broke over the whole car with sanding and polishing (will then get washed and polished too!)

14 thoughts on “MG Midget Mk 1 1962 – Restoration

  1. I really enjoyed reading your midget renovation blog. My neighbour and I are renovating a 22year old barn find too. But our work wont be so deeply thorough! We kept a website and a seperate blogspot record too of our progress, and I know what you mean by time flying!

    • Thanks for stopping by. You have some nice shiny bits going onto yours. My problem will be not knowing where to stop. I keep finding bits I was originally quite happy with, but now thinking they need to be new! Keep up the good work, I shall follow with interest.

  2. I have enjoyed your record of the restoration . I have my eye on a 1962 midget and your record might just give me the shove i need. I have a morris 1000 tourer that i restored years ago and fancy another challenge if i can build up the enthusiasm .
    cheers
    ps
    i like the slideing windows and the fact they can be removed , it looks far better than the newer ones
    Dave

    • Thanks for the encouragement. You will be right at home working on an MG after a Moggie 😉 The Mk1 Midget does sit nicely between the frogeye and the later Midgets having the characteristics and best bits of both in my opinion. Do it now before it is too late, unless you have a sensible moment and get an unbreakable MX5 instead (got one of those too!)

  3. Really nice renovation blog you have made, will it continue?
    Just got hold of two MG Midgets 1961, and planning to renovate both of them at home in Norway

    • Yes, still ongoing, waiting for it to warm up a bit before I carry on with the painting. Starting to think about the drive train, tempted to go for a new engine and 5 speed box!

  4. Just what the doctor ordered!!!! I have just undertaken a 63 MG Midget restoration. If not for your photos, I would have never known the ride I was in for….I will send you some photos as I get completed….maybe a competing website? Job well done….
    Vince

  5. Hi, I am looking at a 63 mk 1 tommorrow, 2nd May. Not been used for a few years, ( 4 ). Is there any areas that are prone to rust. You mentioned the H frame. I could not see any rust in your pics, was it all under the car ?.
    Jon

    • Hi Jon
      If you don’t know about Midgets, you will find rust (or you need to look for it!) everywhere below the top of the sills: sills themselves everywhere – inner and outer, door bottoms, front wings, rear wings (front and rear of wings), H frame under engine/radiator, in the boot, the A pillars in front of the doors, floorpans – especially footwells and behind the seats, bonnet front edge, rear spring hangers, front wishbone hangers. A car not designed to be rust free! Usually OK topsides and in the gearbox tunnel (where all the oil is!) Take a magnet too. :)

      • Well I done it. Bought the car. Its a 1964 model There is a private plate valued at £2+K, paid £2700 for the car aswell. Lady had owned it for 35 years. Now its getting the time to fit everything in. 2 splitscreens, 1 kawa z1a (complete), and now the mg.
        Getting spares with the mg, an engine from another mk1 , a hardtop and 2 tea chests full of parts. Thanks for your reply, went through the inspection with my list. Not to bad , some rust. May be asking a few questions if you dont mind.

  6. Nice Blog

    I have been slowly restoring my 1964 MKII. I have been putting off the engine removal to replace a scroll seal for some time but this winter is when it all begins, you have motivated me!

    Strip down and re-spray, mine is also originally tartan red but would like something a little more vibrant. Would like to see some more photos when you have the final coat on, will you also be putting on a clear lack?

    Question: when you removed the brake pipe (could be fuel pipe actually?) from the transmission tunnel, was the pipe connected to the tunnel wall? I ask as every time I go over a bump especially with a passenger in there is a slapping noise like a pipe hitting the wall. I have been looking for months for this noise and finally found it by mistake, my sleeve caught the pipe while working on the engine and that very noise was produced, I have since found that the pipe tends to bang on the side wall of the transmission tunnel, dont know why its worse with extra weight in the car, but I now somehow need to secure it and cant find out any info how its done.

    I am off on a 1400km tour in September with the car and don`t want that annoying noise the whole way!

    Oliver (Switzerland)

    • Hi Oliver

      Still not finished the painting, but it is coming on.

      Regarding fuel pipe, memory fails me, but there should be a couple of clips to hold it on running back underneath, I may have added some, or jammed a bit of padding to stop it kncoking!

  7. Hi
    I have an Ashley hard top for a mk2 midget for sale if anyone is interested.
    It has all the glass windows and boot lit and they all open and close.

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