‘I made all my own panels!’
Looking at Ken Hunt’s 1972 MG Midget it’s hard to believe it was once accident-damaged with a rusted-through floor and sills. It’s even harder to comprehend how Ken brought the car back to its current high standard in a single-car garage barely larger than the MG itself. Perhaps the real shocker is that this is not only Ken’s first resto, but also his first classic car. ‘I always wanted an MG,’ explains Ken, ‘so after I retired I searched for months until this turned up on ebay in 2007.’ Ken spent the next few years enjoying the car: ‘It was a decent enough example – a usable car. Really I just polished and drove it.’ Then fate intervened. ‘In 2010 I was out on a Yeovil Car Club run at the head of a queue waiting to turn right, when a modern car hit three of us and concertinaed our cars. The MGC behind me got rammed into my back wing. I was able to drive home, but the insurance company wrote my car off – so I bought it back.’
Taking the plunge
Ken replaced the rear nearside wing, bumper and taillight, repaired the dented boot floor and returned the Midget to the road. But after a while he was noticing issues with his MG. ‘The paint was mismatched across several panels and I wanted to sort out a few rust bubbles, so in October 2015 I took the car on a last run then put it into the garage and began stripping off the original paint.’
‘I made up a new offside floorpan from an old doorskin’
Ken’s not the sort to take the easy way out and just pour paint stripper over a car. ‘I don’t like using chemicals in a small space and they can react to later paint coats, so I scraped each paint layer off by hand with a couple of metal scrapers, then went over the body smoothing it with soft files,’ he says. ‘Yes it took months. It kept me fit though.’
During his efforts, Ken discovered plenty of hidden rust. He also found 12mm-thick filler in one door. ‘It looked like someone simply covered dents with filler.’ Ken worked his way round the body adding in repair sections to the front wings and A-posts. ‘I reskinned both doors with new skins from the MG Owners’ Club and they fitted perfectly. I made a joggling tool to line them up. I also had a pair of old garden shears and made them into a metal folder that fits into my bench vice to make repair pieces, including new A-post repair sections.’
Welding the 18-gauge steel sheet was done with a MIG Mate Turbo 130. ‘I use MIG for thin metal becausetig can get expensive.’ Ken also tackled some previous shoddy repairs to the driver’s sill. ‘It had been replaced badly in the past and the driver’s side had sagged, so I jacked it up and heated the sill until it was in the correct place. It only needed 2-3mm of movement.’ That repair was completed with the offside floorpan removed, since Ken had realised the floor and driver’s footwell was also rotten. ‘It explains why the accelerator pedal used to move about… then I scraped away more paint and found the seatbelt mounts covered in filler, so they had to be replaced with new metal. I made up a new offside floorpan from an old doorskin, hammering in the correct strengthening areas and swage lines by hand.’
Once stripped, the 1275cc engine was found to be in good condition. In fact Ken muses that the 40,000 miles on the clock might well be original. ‘I’m sure it had been rebuilt in the recent past. It was clearly ported and polished so I just gave it a good clean and service including a new rear seal kit – which turned out to be a mistake since it didn’t fit and all the oil leaked straight out.’ A new water pump and alternator were next, along with new hoses. Then a stainless steel three-branch
manifold was bolted to the original exhaust as Ken didn’t want to change too much. The carburettors got stripped and cleaned and Ken made up a tool out of brass to tune them. He scraped the old yellow colour off the engine bay and painted it with spray cans.
Ken then hand-painted the engine block and bought a Ford Type 9 gearbox from ebay. ‘I put in a silly high bid then somehow got it for just £80. The seller turned out to live in the very next street!’ A call to Frontline Developments got an adaptor kit that included all the mounts, shortened propshaft and a Ford clutch. Ken then cut 80mm off the remote arm to place the gearstick further forward.
The front suspension was still in generally good shape so just needed a set of polyurethane bushes and a coat of paint. The rear leaf springs still looked like new. Ken refurbished the front brake calipers, retained the standard front discs
and added new pistons to the rear cylinders. ‘I’d photographed all the wiring as I took it out so putting the electrics back in was straightforward, ‘ says Ken. ‘I also rebuilt the heater and cleaned the fuel tank.’ The windscreen and door glass is original but there are new runners and seals fitted. Ken replaced the studs holding in the quarterlights.
When it was time to paint the body Ken went over the car with 320-grit sandpaper on a rubber block, then etch-primered the MG one panel at a time. ‘I didn’t have space in the garage to do it all together. Once it was etched I sprayed on four coats of Hi-build primer and wet-sanded it with 400-grit – that made a mess. To stop it absorbing the water I dried it with a heater and a hair dryer – which fascinated my neighbours!’
Final paint duties were handed to Ken’s mate, and professional spray painter, Bob Ingam. Bob added five coats of Black Tulip two-pack – an original optional colour from 1971 to 1975 and one that could have been ordered with the car’s blue interior.
Once back in Ken’s garage, black mirrors were bolted on to match the black wheels – ‘they’re John Brown wheels I found cheap on ebay.’ Ken was also able to reuse most of the trim. The Midget rollbar was bolted on with the mesh screen from a modern MGF fitting perfectly within it.
The Midget was back on the road following an MOT in July 2017, but Ken considers it was finally finished the following April after all the fine-tuning was done. ‘My wife Chris said that being so low, the car was hard to see on the road, so I added the LEDS into the grille.
‘I didn’t buy many parts; the only metal bits were two door skins. Whenever I could, I made pieces from scratch, really to prove to myself I could do it. That saved a bit of money along the way and I knew they would fit precisely.
‘It took a lot of patience but I kept on going. Because I had a vision of what it was going to look like, I never gave up. I was really chuffed when I finished it. I’m now considering doing another one.’
JUNE 2007 Ken buys the MG that he’s always wanted, via ebay. It’s hiding rust but he doesn’t know that yet…
Ken created a tool to tune the carbs himself.
Luggage rack is handy for longer trips and touring.
This MG is tiny, but also mighty.
Ken built a bespoke centre console out of sheet metal to house a clock and a radio.
Talk about a quart in a pint pot… Midget punches above its weight.