One of the 1965 "Works" Midgets
Now reg'd 6 GRX, & owned by Dave & Nikki Saunders
Following the success of the Jacobs Midgets at the Nurburgring it was recognised by Stuart Turner that MG had the opportunity to win the 1300cc GT Class of the World Championship of Makes. As a result of this two MG Midgets were taken from the production line and prepared for the Bridgehampton Double 500 championship race in the USA in September 1965. The cars were re-built using some aluminium panels and fitted with 1293cc in-line Cooper S engines with close-ratio gearboxes and limited slip differentials. They were finished in British Racing Green as required by the International Racing Regulations and were to be driven by Rauno Aaltonen and Timo Makinen, with US co-drivers, Gil Page and Leo Picard. In the event the pair of flying Finns drove the whole distance leaving their co-drivers without a run. The sensation of the race was the Aaltonen Midget which not only won its class but finished a superb 6th overall against such cars as Porsche 904 GTS, Lotus 23B, Lotus Elan 26R, and Alfa Romeos. The Makinen car was 3rd in class and finished in 11th place overall.
After this great result the cars remained in America and were used in promotional activities with the MG main dealers a year later when the 1275cc Midget Mk III was launched in the autumn of 1966. This car (now registered 6 GRX) passed into the hands of Ray Cuomo and was raced by him at such events as the Nassau International Speed Week in the Bahamas and at other well-known American circuits such as Sebring and Daytona.
The car subsequently disappeared into storage and many years later (in 2002), it found its way back to the UK, where it was acquired by its current owners. The Midget was a complete time-warp and its authenticity as Aaltonen’s car was confirmed by former Works personnel: Peter Browning, Bill Price, and Den Green. Since then it has been totally restored and repainted in its original colour of British Racing Green. It is believed to be the only known survivor of five MG Midgets (3 of which were rally cars) prepared by the Abingdon Competition Department. Now prepared for racing, the original seats, aircraft harnesses, and other period items are being separately preserved. During the restoration the car was rewired by Stan Chambers, formerly of Lucas Competitions Department who had wired the car back in 1965, and who recognised the original hand-made loom.
Most of the restoration was carried out by John Palmer of Specialist Cars, while the engine was prepared by Nick Swift of Swiftune and numerous parts and advice were provided by Ron Gammons of Brown & Gammons.
Eagle-eyed viewers of this site have pointed out that the entry list (left) shows the cars with 1,098cc engines whereas the "Thoroughbred & Classic Cars" article describes an in-line 1293cc Cooper S motor having been fitted.
See article from Thoroughbred & Classic Cars in 2009
Dave Saunders explains: "Both Midgets were entered in the GT3* class with engines to 1300cc which is the same class as the Jacobs Midgets ran in at the Nurburgring earlier in the year - that is why the car was fitted with a Cooper S race engine 1293cc from Coventry engines to the same spec' as the Jacobs. Stuart Turner wanted to win the GT3* Class in the World Championship but MG management did not want to send the Jacobs Midgets to the US** as there was no money to bring them back or run them. That is where the publicity department came to Stuart’s aid by giving him a budget provided they looked like Midgets and could be left in the US for publicity in 1966 to cover the launch of the 1275cc Midgets with the US BMC Dealers".
*According to the Entry List this should read "GT1 class"
** The Jacobs Midgets had in fact already been out to the USA earlier in the year (1965) to race at Sebring.
Dave Saunders continues: "The car ran in GT3 prototype class as Stuart Turner told me they (the organisers) did not correct the entry. The FIA papers have the car in the prototype class. When the car was certified by the works personal Peter Browning, Bill Price and Den Green (the mechanic who built it) stated the car ran with Cooper S engine of 1300cc".
An anomaly brought to my attention was the rusty rear wing visible in the picture (8th down on right) which conflicts with the car being described in the TCC article as a "Works Alloy Midget". Dave says: "The body is a mixture of aluminium and steel such as the main structure of the floors from the bulk head to the rear along with the inner wings and boot floor, and the main subframes". Clearly the rear wings were of steel, but the bonnet and front wings are alloy. "The way the Works-built the cars with aluminum panels were to use the steel frames and cut and remove the steel and pop rivet on the aluminum. For instance the front wings use the steel gutters and with the aluminum riveted to them".
The original combined brake/clutch master cylinder has been changed to one of Sebring Sprite type: "We found the Sebring–style pedal box in the car so decided to fit it on the grounds of safety having separate master cylinders. The original combined type were liable to failure when racing because of heat causing the fluid to boil!"