SMALL WON­DERS

The Midget 1500 may have had its ri­val Spit­fire’s en­gine, but how do they com­pare on the road to­day? We put both to the test

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Epic Battles -

Small, rear-drive open two-seater sports cars were very much in de­cline in the late 1970s and early ’80s as the hot hatch jug­ger­naut slowly gath­ered mo­men­tum. Deadly ri­vals, the MG Midget and Tri­umph Spit­fire were near­ing the end of their lives, but the com­pany that was build­ing them by this point – Bri­tish Ley­land – proved be­yond doubt that it had a sense of hu­mour. Af­ter decades spent pack­ing tra­di­tional A-se­ries power, the last MG Midget was un­veiled in 1974 with – gasp! – the 1493cc en­gine out of the new Spit­fire 1500. Worse, the MkIII’s del­i­cate chrome bumpers were gone, re­placed by enor­mous black plas­tic af­fairs that, along with the new tippy-toes ride height, were Bri­tish Ley­land’s Heath Robin­son idea of how to com­ply with the strin­gent US safety reg­u­la­tions.

The Spit­fire 1500, mean­while, es­caped such ig­nominy (in the UK at least – very late US-mar­ket Spit­fires also went down the plas­tic bumper route), re­tain­ing its ex­ter­nal jew­ellery and gain­ing a meaner stance thanks to lower spring mount­ings and a wider track.

To­day, both are still rear-drive sports cars with con­sid­er­able grin po­ten­tial, ded­i­cated fol­low­ings and the sort of di­men­sions that make the cur­rent Mazda MX-5 look like a Chal­lenger tank. But which en­ter­tains the most?

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