Whether they are driving it, riding in it, standing admiring it or occasionally pushing it from behind, the Howlett family love dad Graham’s classic sports car, a 1968 Mk III MG Midget.
He bought it for just £480 on September 18, 1972. It was love at first sight and man and machine have been more or less inseparable ever since. Clearly, it was money very well spent, even if it did break the bank at the time.
Back then a loaf of bread cost just 10p and a new house would only set you back around £5,000 but the average weekly wage was a very modest £30 a week.
With that in mind, spending almost £500 on a car was no mean investment.
The acquisition was also a considerable shift in gear for Graham, from Hindringham, Norfolk; having learned to drive as a 17-year-old, his first car was a far from sporty Austin A35.
The Midget was dubbed “Aggie” by Graham’s two sons, Andrew and Stuart, as they couldn’t quite get their tongues around “MG” when they were learning to speak. The name, and the affection for the car, has lasted the test of time.
A motoring dream come true
As well as the iconic MG badge, Aggie is liveried in beautiful British Racing Green – a colour to set the pulses racing if ever there was one. With its sprightly engine, clean lines and delicious drophead for wind in the face cruising, the Midget was a motoring dream come true for a young man.
Some people wonder how they will know when they fall in love. For Graham it was simple: “I looked at other models but when I saw the Midget I knew this was the one. Now I can’t imagine being without her.”
Today the Midget, sporting the distinguished registration XG0 840G, is pretty much as it was when it rolled off the production line with such style and elegance at Abingdon in Oxfordshire 49 years ago.
Brand new, it would have cost a tad under £2,000 to buy an MG Midget, famed for its roller-skate handling and diminutive dimensions.
The 1275cc engine lifted from the Mini Cooper made the mark III more urgent than the earlier 998cc version, and the Midget provided access to two-seater, open-top motoring to those who couldn’t quite stretch to its big brother, the MGB.
It proved an instant hit with the pretty young things of the late yet still swinging 60s.
Graham has pushed the little car to the limit in years gone by but now poodles around at a much more sedate and patient pace as befitting a creature of Aggie’s advancing years. But she still looks great and purrs when he does put the hammer to the floor.
Aggie was already on 37,000 miles when Graham bought her back in 72. He’s added a further 50,000+ miles in the interim, during which time, among other things, he drove it to his honeymoon in Framlingham, Suffolk, and it was used to convey both his sons to their weddings.
If the weather was bad you always got cold and wet
Two of the three marital occasions were not entirely without their setbacks.
Graham explained: “The longest road trip I have taken her on was about 80 miles when my wife Brenda and I were going on our honeymoon. I remember it was raining heavily and water was coming in through the floor. If the weather was bad you always got cold and wet.
“If there was one thing I could improve about the Midget it would be to install a better heater for winter months.”
When Graham’s sons were younger they considered it a treat to have a ride in the Midget and, it is no surprise that in the past two years, both of them opted for another extra special treat and used it for their wedding cars when they got married.
It is ironic that faithful old Aggie broke down on the last occasion and Graham’s younger son, Stuart, had to push it on the final leg of the journey to church along with older brother Andrew who was best man.
Fortunately, the wedding party saw the funny side of the drama and it was all good material for the best man’s speech.
When Graham first bought the Midget he drove it daily to and from work but nowadays Aggie only gets to feel the wind in her grille on short and sunny summer jaunts.
Occasional wedding day breakdown aside, Aggie has been a reliable car and Graham is happy doing his own maintenance, buying parts when needed from a specialist MG spares supplier, MGB Hive at Wisbech in Cambridgeshire.
Working on the Midget was a bit of a busman’s holiday for Graham as he was a mechanic in Fakenham, working for Edmonsons for 35 years and then Busseys from 1995 until he retired.
He reports only one prang in all those years of motoring. He skidded on ice on an ungritted country road and lurched awkwardly into a fence. Thankfully, damage was minimal and no one was hurt.
Aggie is just one of Graham’s cars. The 72-year-old bought a Ford Focus eight years ago and it is still his daily runaround.
But he also owns an Austin A35 – harking back to his first car – which he picked up as a restoration project in 1986. It is still a loving work in progress.
His fourth car is a Hyundai Pony pickup bought in 2008.
He would never get rid of Aggie but if he did he reckons she would sell for around £4,000, which is a pretty good return on the initial investment all those years ago.
As much as he loves Aggie, his classic British Racing Green MG Midget, he does, on occasion, quite fancy something a little younger and with a little bit more pep, perhaps an MGF to complete his car collection…
Watch this space, and listen for the purr of a sweet new engine.
Pictures by Simon Finlay.
Do you have a car with a story that you’ve owned for 30, 40 or 50 years? Leave a comment and let’s talk.
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