My Life With an MG Midget

This is the one that started it all. My first online published piece.

The 72 MG Midget beckoned to me from Craigslist like an opened pack of Oreos grinning from the cupboard. I ignored the wisdom of all my gearhead buddies, insisting the little yellow car would be different; it would not leak, not rust, and be as reliable as a nail.

Of course, it isn’t, it’s British. It stranded me six times, the lights don’t work and it usually requires help to start. That is life with an MG Midget.

But I was right. It is different.

You learn things with an MG, and not just “Never have an MG for a daily.”

You learn that most pickups are just too big. Not just Excursions and Escalades. In the Midwest, there is a preponderance of quad cabs heavy-duty pickups. You stare right at their lugs in the little car. Sure, it’s amusing at stop lights, but unsettling on the highway. I have developed a new dislike of 20-inch wheels.

You learn that a frown is impossible while driving, unless it is raining. In that case, the top is up and no one can see you.  Even then, you are probably laughing like a mad hatter.  At least that is what I did during record rainfall, flash-flooding and road closures last spring. That morning, I took the only vehicle at my disposal on my 33-mile journey to work.

Two of the highways were under water and impassable, resulting in a commute in an ill suited vehicle for twice my normal drive.

You learn that old British cars are terrible in the rain. You knew this, but you cannot embrace it until you have lived it.

The top is merely a suggestion, electrics are useless and it hydroplanes on any body of water bigger than a sponge.

Approaching a road underneath 2 feet of flowing water, I remembered this. I may be crazy, but I ain’t quite that stupid. As I waited for the traffic in the opposing lane to pass before I would execute my U turn, the aforementioned oversized truck rolled up behind me, unable to grasp my reluctance to pilot 49 inch-tall car into newly formed urban rapids. So the laughing may actually be a result of a mental condition, brought upon by some form of Chinese water torture while driving, or a pre-existing condition that led to the purchase to begin with.

You learn that MGs require commitment, and a Midget requires dedication just to enter the car. As a 40 year-old, 6-foot male, it does require some warm-up stretching to enter the vehicle, especially if the top is up.

You learn not to leave the top up because the charging system sucks.  The top prevents you from bump starting it.  The best hope is to push, leap in it Jackie Chan-style and pop the clutch. Ideally, this fires the motor and you race into the sunset in a plume of oil smoke, almost overcoming the embarrassment of the ordeal. This procedure doesn’t apply if you have friends, but they will soon abandon you.

Not because the car is heavy at 1600 pounds, but because they will be known as the guys or gals, (yes, it happened) who always push that dorky little car. Unless it is an extreme case, you are better off just pushing the thing yourself.

You learn to talk to strangers. There will be plenty of them. You have to be nuts, but you cannot be an introvert. At barely longer than a Suburban’s wheelbase, the height of a computer desk, and the width of a college cheerleader, an MG gets attention. You cannot fill it, wash it, or leave a restaurant without a comment. Miata owners wave, strapped-in children point excitedly and retirees nod knowingly.  If I wasn’t happily married I could parlay this little devil into several dinner dates. Cheap dinners at that, because an MG at a drive-in s much more fun than a minivan. Except when you don’t have a room and need a Minivan.

You learn that while this car makes you young, explaining it can make you old. Two twenty something’s stopped to compliment the car as I folded into it. “Cool car, what is it?” I smiled, “It’s a Midget.” They stared as blankly as they would at a typewriter. “An MG Midget.” I furthered. Nothing. I ended with “It’s an old British car.” They smiled and drove off. It was disappointing. Both were of drinking age. Also, I really could have used the help pushing. So if you hate feeling old, don’t buy an obscure little car that was born when you started walking.

Finally, you learn that aside from getting a daily driving lesson, none of this changes your perspective; it’s just where you take it and how much extra to build into the itinerary. With a more reliable vehicle in the stable, it has seen reduced usage, and as the leaves turn and the sun sets earlier, it will be spending more time in the garage. But maybe by spring, I can chase down that short in the headlight circuit.


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The odd musings and automotive observations of a guy who willingly calls himself Mental

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