Featured: I Ruined My Friend’s Life with an MG Midget

I Ruined My Friend’s Life with an MG Midget

By Adam Kaslikowski
May 13, 2013
16 comments

Our cars mean a lot to us. They bring us comfort and friends, good times and lifelong memories. Many of us have entwined our lives with our rides of choice. We cannot imagine how our life would be without our vintage chariots. But what about when this goes wrong? What happens when a car drags its owner down rather than lifting them up? I have one such story for you.

Personally, I’ve always been a man with tastes above my station in life. I want only the best and most unique items to touch my personal world. Because of this, I can’t be bothered with safe or middling choices. I need flair and panache. This unfortunate personality trait leads me to suggest this same misguided course to others, often to their detriment. Case in point: a good friend and roommate of mine named Pete* was one day shopping for a new car. He was tired of his ancient and rusting Japanese pickup breaking down and had a little saved up. He planned on buying a fairly modern used car that had power windows and unbroken taillights and everything.

In other words, he was ready for the big leagues.

One night while shooting pool, he was flipping through the AutoTrader and pointing out Nissan Maximas and Honda Accords that looked particularly choice to him. I snatched the magazine out of his hands and, even though I knew less about cars than I do now (inconceivable as that may be), I proceeded to dictate at length how boring his life would be if he bought a Japanese family car. I animatedly reminded him of the following irrefutable facts: He was young! Single! A server at Applebees! The world was literally his oyster! What other time than now to have a unique and fun vehicle? What better way to proclaim your positive qualities and great personality than through some vintage sheet metal? None, that’s what I told him.

And then I found her.

Page 42, lower right hand corner.

An MG Midget.

“THIS, Pete, is what you NEED.  It may sound like an emasculating car, but you’re wrong Pete. This is your ticket to no-more-lonely-nights-burge. Oh look, it is even $2,000 less than you wanted to spend! This is such a good idea. Believe me Pete, I own a sports car and read all the right car magazines. I’m the expert here, and the expert is telling you to buy a candy orange MG Midget. “

He listened to me and promptly bought the Midget the next day.

His mistake.

For a while life was good for Pete and Bridget the Midget (Okay, so we weren’t THAT creative during our naming session). He seemed happier, and more outgoing. He made new friends and even scored himself a girlfriend. He got several months of open-top motoring and smiles out of Bridget, but then things all went pear-shaped for poor Pete.

Pete had never owned any truly unreliable car, especially nothing as uniquely unreliable as a British roadster. The roof started to misbehave and the car was suddenly a roadster only. Not great in snow-prone Utah but hey, it was summer; we (he) had plenty of time to fix it. The electronics (of course) started having a mind of their own. And then “the incident” happened.

Having only owned cars that generally behaved themselves, Pete didn’t realize that when the glaring and angry red oil pressure light comes on in a 1964 MG Midget that it is not a gentle suggestion, nor is it something to fix later. Pete kept driving, at freeway speeds, until Bridget ruefully disgorged a large percentage of her engine onto Interstate 15 northbound.

Lesson learned about that oil light then.

Bridget was towed to some chain tire shop in disgrace, and Pete was humble and heartbroken. He was never really the same after that. Fixing that little fiasco took months and he now had a hidden sadness and anger. The very thing that had brought him so much happiness had now betrayed him.

Once he starting fixing things on the MG, he fell down the rabbit hole familiar to many of us. He learned there is no such thing as just fixing one part. Once you start replacing, you can go all the way down to the frame with your repairs. The whole process lasted months, and in the end he lost a lot of money, lost his girlfriend, and worst of all kept his job at Applebees.

Pete spent the next few weeks just finding a local shop that was capable of basically installing a new engine into Bridget without being disgustingly expensive. He dumped about $4,000 into that little project alone. Bridget eventually got back up and running, but it was a different relationship now. Pete had been burned. It is doubtful that he will ever let anything or anyone inside the walls he has now built around his heart.  As the ladies say, he is now damaged goods.

Around this time Pete and I ceased living together and drifted apart. It could be theorized that I stopped calling him because I felt enormous guilt about what a shambles my suggestions had turned his life into. That theory wouldn’t be entirely accurate, but it wouldn’t be wholly inaccurate either.

I don’t know whatever became of Bridget, but I sincerely hope that Pete still has her. In my mind’s eye, he takes her out on especially nice weekends for a roll around the city while wearing his tweed driving cap. The two of us made some truly great memories together with that car, scenes I still hold dear to my heart. Our cars can mean a lot to us, but whether they are working perfectly or a pile of rust they give us memories and lessons. We learn with them and from them. For that reason alone, we should never give up on them.

So believe your warning lights.

Don’t pin your entire emotional well-being on an inanimate British object.

But most of all, don’t listen to my used car advice.

*Names and details have not been changed to protect the innocent, mostly because I’m the only guilty party here. If you read this Pete, get in touch with me.

Image Sources: postercorner.com, ebay.com, skateandannoy.com, eatworms.org, flickr.com, cartype.com, mclellansautomotive.com

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Phillip AllardyceBud OsbourneNick MaherJD HawthorneHardwig Recent comment authors
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[…] and high revving fun? Best of all, most can be found for cheap. But that cheapness ends once you actually own it, as these are some of the least reliable cars of all time. Add on the Midget’s lack of usable […]

Phillip Allardyce
Phillip Allardyce

I beg to differ. The angry red light does exist. I have a 1969 BMC MkIII Midget I have owned for 35 years. Mid point at the highest part of the dash is a large red light. It is wired to a sensor on the canister type oil filter. I was asked if I was a praying man by my Midget parts supplier. My answer was why? He said pray that light never comes on as it means you have no flow in your oil filter and your engine will fail for certain, Mine has never illuminated despite testing the… Read more »

Bud Osbourne

The only trouble with pre-’75 MG Midgets is that they were not and still are not IDIOT PROOF. Learn how to properly take care of them and drive them (hint: everything you need to know about care & feeding is shown, in exhausting detail) in the Driver’s Handbook (yeah, the book that no idiot ever read). The biggest problem the Midget (and, to a lesser extent, the MGB) had is that they were priced low enough to be well within reach of a LOT of idiots. This also meant that they ended up being the “first car” of a lot… Read more »

Nick Maher
Nick Maher

I very nearly bought a midget….until after seeing a few I realised that they were all to a car rusty rotboxes.
So I bought a mini, spent 2 years restoring it only to have it written off by a learner driver 2 weeks after getting it on the road… I subsequently spent the next 15 years passionate about cars but unwilling to drive anything that cost more than a grand!

JD Hawthorne

Adam, One flaw in your tale of woe. A 1964 MG Midget does not have an angry red oil light. Pending doom is much more subtle, as one acutally has to monitor the “safety gauge”, which housed b the oil pressure and water temperature gauges. There is a red light, but it is for pending charging failure and in keeping with Lucas electrics, not angry, but rather weak and timid.

Hardwig
Hardwig

My best friend is half Italian, he loves Italian cars for sure. I’m a bit like the writer of the article: very keen for things with flair and panache. So while he got the Alfa Spider I got the Fiat Coupé. It was an awesome car but haunted by a demon for sure. Some days (read 4 times a year) it wouldn’t start and when you finally called the towing service the car would suddenly start without a problem. Other times driving on the highway it would stall while driving 120 Km/H, turning it on again would make it run… Read more »

Jon Gonfalon
Jon Gonfalon

Oh God! That rings such bells. My first wife insisted that we bought this rubber bumper Midget that was being restored in my parents village.. Armed with a larger car loan that I really wanted we bought the nasty little thing. Having previously owned a Spitfire 1500, I wrongly assumed that even though startlingly ugly, at least it would be as reliable as the earlier car. Wrongo! The bloody thing rusted faster than it drove and it persistently filled with water in even moderate strength rain – I remember arriving at a smart party with my suit soaked up to… Read more »

Paer Pettersson
Paer Pettersson

I feel a strong resemblance with your relationship towards things – spending hours and hours digging into details that many, but evidently and to great comfort not all, would call madness. Be it cars, shoes, watches, fountain pens or the perfect espresso.. Oscar Wilde sums it up pretty well: “I’m a man of simple tastes. I’m always satisfied with the best.” That said, my obsession with cars have probably been pretty tiring for people around me. Perhaps there’s some charm in the incurable and sometimes infectious passion that makes people endure with me. Once i made one of my friends… Read more »

RdS
RdS

ha.. funny story! Well, not great for ‘Pete’, but well written. 🙂

This is why though, cars I like absolutely =/= cars i would recommend.
I’m personally very prepared to put up with a lot of pain from a car’s I own and love..

opsin
opsin

[i]I animatedly reminded him of the following irrefutable facts: He was young! Single! A server at Applebees! The world was literally his oyster![/i]

Excellent.

WhatDaFunk
WhatDaFunk

Nice write up of a bittersweet story! I wouldn’t put too much of the blame on yourself, Pete went into this willingly, and he was the one who continued driving after the oil light came on.

I had a similar experience with my first car, an ’83 Prelude. Drove it for awhile with the check oil light on and didn’t do anything about it, ended up destroying the engine. That drove home the lesson of preventative maintenance like nothing else.

jackscarpino
jackscarpino

Not really a vintage car… And as far as I know it hasn’t ruined his life yet but I did convince a (fairly young) friend to purchase an E60 M5. I honestly think it’s just a matter of time at this point before something terrible happens. As soon as he told me he bought it, I realized what terrible advice I had given him. Oh well! I hope he enjoys it while he has the chance!

Derek Entesano
Derek Entesano

Wow, such a familiar story! Its worse when you do it to family. My little brother always admired my Giulia Super and he had always had Hondas. I said he neeeeeeded a classic Alfa. Soon after he bought a sweet(looking) 79 GTV. Bought it without taking me along for the inspection and it was unregistered, but was told not much to do to get it there… He was happy, briefly. Then he took it to a mechanic I didn’t know who fleeced a fair bit of money out of him. Finally got it registered. Took it on a 1000km drive… Read more »

Dan Woodward
Dan Woodward

A little sad, but very relatable. If people realised what Im prepared to put up with for an interesting motor, they’d take even less notice of my car advice.

Find Pete and write a follow up.

olddavid
olddavid

Not an unfamiliar tale. At least he had those few months. That alone is better than most. Lose the guilt, he was smitten, too.