I had been wanting an MG Midget for over a year. I guess part of it has to do with rebuying my youth. You see, the first car I ever owned was a 1963 MG Midget. I paid a whole $350 of my hard-earned, teenager cash for a car that wouldn't go over 40 mph. My brother and father did some major work on it and by the time I lost the car to severe vandalism the '63 was able to do 70 mph without breaking a sweat. I did a lifetime's worth of sanding on that rust bucket, but did next to no mechanical work while I owned the car. I think my major contribution was to pump the brake pedal while my father bled the brakes.
The first car I bought because I hankered for a sports car and the '63 Midget was what I could afford. The second time around I approached Midget ownership with a threefold purpose.
1) Have a blast driving the nimble little roadster.
2) Meet new people who shared my interest in Little British Cars.
3) Learn something about how cars work and how to repair them.
Being on the Spridget and MG mailing lists have done more than I could have ever imagined to meet goals two and three which of course led to really enjoying goal number one -the glorious, free feeling of wind in my hair driving pleasure.
Like many folks, I found the lists by simply cruising around on the web. If you have browsed your way over to this fine site, take advantage of the links to the mailing lists and give them a try. That's one piece of advice I give with confidence - unlike any advice I might give on refurbishing the front suspension on a Spridget.
I joined the lists before I purchased my 1974 MG Midget - affectionately known as Arioch, Lord of Chaos. Michael Moorcock fans will recognize Elric of Melnibone's patron god in the wonderful Elric series by one of Britain's finest fantasy authors. The '74 earned the moniker Lord of Chaos by alternating between giving me the purest joy of top down motoring and the agony of putting the car up on jack stands for weeks at a time trying to puzzle out the latest repair.
The friendly folks on the list helped with advice on purchasing a suitable car, but they really shone when helping out with those repairs just mentioned.
Letís see - what have I done to the Midget since buying it in April (6 months now)? Replaced exhaust system from intake manifold on back, renewed front suspension bushings with polyeurythane, installed new front wheel bearings, installed new front rotors and brake lines, installed new rear springs and polyeurythane bushings, flushed the brake lines and bled the brakes, replaced the battery and alternator, checked compression (high and even thank you), put in new points, condenser, spark plugs, wires and rotor, timed the ignition and tuned the carbs. Oh, and installed the new header rail on the ragtop.
Keep in mind that I had never done more than change the oil and jump start a car before joining the list. Armed with a Haynes manual my greatest resource was the good people of the MG and Spridget mailing lists. I have asked what seems to be a hundred questions on the list and the list folks just keep up a steady stream of advice and just as importantly - encouragement. If youíve ever worked on a car, you know the frustration of not being able to get it to work correctly. In steps the list with a few well-chosen words of support and Iím ready to step back into the breach. Iíve said it before, but itís worth repeating - without the list I donít think I could own this car and Iíd be missing out on a lot of joy of driving. Iíd also not have been given the chance to meet some great, down to earth folks.
Iíd like to wrap up with a few words of advice on being a good mailing list participant. Itís all very obvious, but Iíve learned from some of my repair snafus that it is often the obvious we overlook.
1) Be courteous when asking for advice. Youíre asking someone to give up their time and effort to give you a hand. So donít be demanding. Ask like the folks on the list donít owe you anything - because they donít.
2) Be patient. Everyone is busy these days. We all have lives away from our cars (hard to imagine, eh?). If you donít get a reply in a day or two, go ahead and ask again, but donít berate the list for not answering. In my experience, advice comes fast and furious, but there are always lulls in list activity. Use the time to do some further research in your repair manuals.
3) When you get the advice, thank the good folks of the list. Itís just plain polite and the right thing to do for its own sake. It also makes folks glad they helped you. Isnít that a good thing?
4) Post follow ups telling the list how things came out with your problem. Itís no fun sending helpful hints into a black hole. We all like to see the results. Anyone with the right answers can feel a little pride in achievement and those who suggested something that might not have worked this time can learn from your experience.
5) Finally, when someone asks about something you know, answer. The lists only work if the knowledge is shared freely. Donít be just a taker - give something back to the lists.
In closing, please allow me to follow some of my own advice - Iíd like to thank the fantastic guys and gals on both the MGs and Spridgets lists for all their help in the past (and Iím sure future as well). Iíve gotten great advice on how to tackle repairs. Iíve been given encouragement when my spirits were sagging. Iíve heard rousing tales of autocross exploits and exciting fun runs that inspired me to get my car running and out on the road. For all this and more - thanks listees! Some photos of Arioch accompany this article so you all can see where your sound advice and encouragement has been going.
Now, if you arenít on at least the Spridgets list - sign up!
If you liked Phillip's article, why not e-mail him a note saying so!