I’ve had my eye on a car that is older than me (but not by much) - a 1979 MG Midget. The one I’ve had my eye on has less than 60K miles on it, and is described by the owner as ‘runs great, garage kept’. My father used to own one and is confident that he and I could handle almost at problems that could arise with it. I think I could talk the owner doen to $2600.00 for this vehicle. Is it really worth my time and money, or should I stray away from a 30 year-old vehicle and buy something more reliable?
If it really is in pretty good shape, that’s a pretty good price for it. But these are definitely weekend toy type cars-- even when they were new they weren’t that reliable. If you’ve got another car and see constantly tinkering with it as part of the appeal, I’d say go for it!
They were simple, but very short lived cars. They were also very rust-prone.
If you want to buy this vehicle as a hobby car and have space to work on it, by all means. I worked with a guy who had one and it performed poorly in cold weather, the heater was not great, and he quickly got rid of it.
Again, I would only recommend this vehicle as a hobby car and then only to somene who can buy the manuals a do most of the routine work himself. Most garagesw will charge an arm and a leg to fix it and parts won’t be available.
They are fun to drive in the summer.
I agree with GJ and Doc. “Reliable” and “old British car” just don’t go together. Also, these ‘rubber bumper’ ones are less desireable because they were loaded down with the big bumpers and pollution controls, and the ride hight was raised, hurting handling. But, it’d still be kind of fun. If you like this kind of car, but want to ‘buy something more reliable’ you’d probably be $$ ahead in the long run to get a clean used Miata.
Edit-On the other hand, it this would be a fun project with your dad, and no concern about overall reliability, then do it! You may wish you had.
Edit2 - here are some Brits’ comments on owning a '79:
No one ever bought an MG Midget because it was reliable. Those words really don’t even belong in the same sentence. People buy MG Midgets because they want old British sports cars and are willing to put up with their idiosyncrasies.
If that’s you, then by all means, go for it, as long as you can tolerate the “rubber bumper” look. Personally, I’d look for an older Midget with the chrome bumpers.
Having said that, the cars are about as simple as you can get, and if you have a service manual and a minimum of mechanical skill you can probably fix whatever might go wrong with it. You’ll get lots of practice.
I hope you don’t expect to use this car as a daily driver.
If a Mazda Miata appeals in a similar way go for one of those as they are a reliable version of those old brit cars and out handle them any day.
Anything can happen with a 30 year old car, but these cars are bone simple to work on and parts can be had pretty easily.
I’ve owned 3 British cars (2 Morris Minors and a Sunbeam Alpine) and wished I still had the Sunbeam. That was a fun car, got the stuffing drove out of it, and only had one mechanical failure. (alternator)
Alternator failure or not, that car got me the last 200 miles home without a hiccup with the last 100 miles being at night on the backroads using the full moon for lighting.
Before you buy it take some time and really go over the body looking for rust. Pull up the carpet off the floor, look under the mats in the trunk, etc. If it is rusty the frame maybe so rusted that it could be structurally unsound. If the car was never driven in the snow belt areas and didn’t get exposed to road salt it could be OK, but check it out carefully.
My college roommate had a ''60 MGA in 1967 that we’d have to get out and bang on the gas tank a few times to restart the electric fuel pump on a 50 mile trip. Don’t count on reliable, but these were fun cars for sure.
1979…If it has a lot of smog stuff cobbled up on it, I would pass. Catalytic converter, smog pump, EGR valve, sealed carbs, this stuff is a nightmare. If you want an MG, you want a '74 or older…And you might as well step up to a MG-B…