MID­GET RESTO

‘I made all my own pan­els!’

Practical Classics (UK) - - FRONT PAGE - WORDS MIKE RENAUT PHO­TOS BOB ATKINS

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.’

Melt­ing metal

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.

Primer time

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.

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