Home » Cheap 1970s European Sports Cars: 1974 MG Midget vs 1971 Opel GT

Cheap 1970s European Sports Cars: 1974 MG Midget vs 1971 Opel GT

Mg Midget Vs Opel Gt

Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown, where we pit two cars against each other to see which one seems less nightmarish. Today’s cars are cheap, fun, and rusty, which seems about right given my automotive history. Before we jump into things, lets take a look at how yesterday’s battle played out.

Flagship Drop Tops Poll

Despite the absolute terror of old German car problems, it looks like the 500SL took the win over the Oldsmobile. In fairness, I’d also choose the 500SL, simply because I love that old Mercedes build quality and this cabriolet seems ripe for a six-speed swap.

From flagships to dinghies, let’s switch gears and look at two cars barely bigger than those ginormous FILA dino-stompers you see Instagram influencers wearing. Of course I’m talking about tiny little sports cars from many, many decades ago. While relatively fast and loose safety standards allowed these cars to exist, an equally fast and loose approach to corrosion resistance means that not many examples exist today. Let’s look at some terrible examples for not much cash.

1974 MG Midget – $2,500 Canadian

Mg Midget 2

Engine/drivetrain: 1,275 cc four-cylinder, four-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel-drive

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Odometer reading: 90,000 km

Runs/drives? Runs but might not drive

If we’re talking about cars the size of shoes, how could we not include an MG Midget? While the model name hasn’t exactly aged well, this pint-sized British sports car is from a time when your knees were crumple zones and roadsters were affordable. Sure, it wasn’t the quickest toy in British Leyland’s arsenal, but it’s an endearing little thing that sparks heaps of joy.

Mg Midget 3

Unfortunately, time hasn’t been kind to this non-PC MG as the body looks new parent levels of tired. A gash on the left front fender shows clear evidence that James Bondo had his hands on this thing at some point in the past, while the paint appears to show more orange peel than a Tropicana factory. It’s also quite obvious that this car used to be blue, so the change to red seems a bit unfortunate. By far the biggest issue is the requirement of “transmission work,” which is usually classified ad lingo for “chuck the gearbox in the bin and find another.”

Mg Midget 4

However, there is some good news. The chromework appears to be in good shape, while this thing wears a tasty set of rostyle wheels. Plus, the MG appears to be largely complete, even if its dashboard is cracked six ways from Sunday. If the underside isn’t completely rotten, this could be a fun weekend beater that you could flog up gravel roads without a care in the world for the paintwork. What’s more, parts availability for these things is quite good, so it won’t be too hard to source all the baubles necessary to bring this thing back into banger spec. Forget getting it perfect, get it running and wear that patina with pride.

1971 Opel GT – $2,000 Canadian

Opel Gt 2

Engine/drivetrain: 1.9-liter four-cylinder, four-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Odometer reading: 116,981 miles

Runs/drives? Sort-of runs, doesn’t drive

Readers, I have a confession to make: Because the Toronto car world is relatively small, I’ve actually wrenched on this exact shitbox. I was there when it sputtered to life after decades of dormancy, so I’m probably qualified to tell you just how good or bad it is. Any Opel GT is hard to find in North America, so in case you’re not familiar with this baby Corvette, let’s run through the basics.

Opel Gt 1

With Kadett bones and coachwork by Brissonneau & Lotz, the Opel GT was a shot at an attainable German sports coupe of the 1960s. It’s roughly the size of a Croc, features some of the coolest pop-up headlights ever fitted to a production car, and likely confounded Buick dealerships once it arrived in America for sale. Much like the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, the only body seams you’ll find are for moving panels, which makes cosmetic repair quite the challenge.

As for this Opel GT, it looks to have been in a fight rather than be in fighting shape. Getting it on the road will require heaps and heaps of work. The floors and inner sills have been patched quite well, but the trailing arm pockets are crustier than that sock you kept under your bed as a teenager and the front subframe needs a spot of welding. Oh, and everything but the engine and rear axle needs to be installed. No pressure, right?

Opel Gt 3

However, the 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine runs like a top off of an external tank, while the interior’s in surprisingly decent shape. What’s more, most of the bits to finish this thing are actually on hand, so it wouldn’t be impossible to get back together, even if this is a car you’ll never be able to get pretty. Hey, the current owner refers to it as his “garbage son,” so that gives you a good idea of how it is.

Well, here we are. Two rather scabby examples of small, nimble sports cars. Are you choosing the dubiously repainted MG or the visibly-crusty Opel?

(Photo credits: Kijiji sellers)

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68 Responses

  1. Returned unexpectedly from an overseas military deployment to the US late on December 23. Up at the crack of dawn on the 24th, broke my ’71 MkIII Midget out of storage. Fired it up and water immediately begins coming out of the heater vents. Found the heat exchanger had rusted through, capped it off and returned the water directly back to the radiator. Hit the road from North Carolina to New Jersey with some canvas that approximated a top and no heat, at maybe 61 miles an hour downhill and no minutes to spare.

    Limped into hometown long after dark, changed into service dress uniform in the seat of the car (a feat in itself). Stepped into what was the end of Midnight Mass and spotted my family, who had sadly thought I was in France, in one of the front rows. I stepped down the aisle. A hush fell over the entire crowd. Even the priest stopped his sermon and broke into a new piece about the Prodigal’s Son, which was the wrong time for it but also fairly accurate. I still remember the sweat breaking out on my brother’s face when he saw me. It took a half hour to leave the church, as dozens of people came over to thank us for seeing a small Christmas miracle.

    So, if I have to, I pick the MG. You can buy virtually every single piece you need to rebuild one easily and pretty cheaply. But, as much as I’d like to rebuild one and go back to taking all sorts of corners without ever needing to lift, I think those days are passed, at least where I drive. Either of these cars is utterly unsurvivable on American roads now. I want a (K-swapped?) Midget, an Elan, a Big Healey maybe, but I think the time for those cars has come and gone.

  2. MG for parts availability and cost…..that’s about it.

    I don’t understand the fear of driving these, when they were new cars were as big or bigger, and had woeful handling and brakes to go along with poor drivers……so what has changed? Well, the brakes are better now 🙂

    I drive a classic Mini all over the country and I don’t feel intimidated or scared by traffic, I have a car that will simply get out of the way if needed.

    1. I mean the little tesla swap kit would like fit, but where to put the batteries, this little guy probably had very little carrying capacity when new, but with Cancer eating away in spots, it would be interesting to see if the suspension could handle the weight more than the body.

  3. All things being equal the baby ‘vette. The Midget is probably more fun to drive, but I have already had three, and I lusted after the Opel GT a bit as a teenager. But…all things aren’t equal. The midget is a weekend to diagnose and order parts and another weekend to have it back on the road. The Opel…looks very rusty…and disassembled. So among the two cars I will take the dimensionally challenged MG.

  4. Since I have a Midget I’m partial, but that wiring looks s-c-a-r-y. Plan 1500 for a harness and installation, unless you want to chance gremlins forever.

  5. “the trailing arm pockets are crustier than that sock you kept under your bed as a teenager”

    That explains the look of embarrassment and disgust on the well worn “face” of this metal sock puppet.

  6. Thomas, I really love the whole “devil’s bargain” joie de vivre that you’ve brought to the Shitbox Showdown. Either car would be a terrible decision, yet some stupid part of the brain says “what the hell, could make a good story either way.”

  7. As the owner of a 74.5 Midget I had to pick the MG is this showdown. IMO the round rear wheel arched cars with chrome bumpers is the pinnacle of Midget looks. The 1275cc engine is damn near impossible to kill. Mine has big square rubber blocks for bumper overriders (a 74.5 specific item) and I prefer the looks of the chrome overriders but I think the look best without any bumpers. Like has been said multiple times in the comments, parts are so easy to get for these that its not even a challenge anymore.

  8. Well, they are both tired, as in having them. The GT always make me grin with it’s “Corvette-left-in-the-dryer-too -long” looks. But…..my Dad had a ’64 Midget, white with wire wheels when I was wee lad. Dad and his size 12 feet and us 3 offspring would take off together & leave our poor Mom to her alone time. With this one, I could attempt my Smidget plans. Miata frame, power train & electrial replacing the old stuff. Either shorten the frame-or cut, section & fab bodywork to fit the body to fit the frame. A Midget, just a Smidge bigger!

  9. I owned a ’74 Midget and I loved the thing. If the floorboards aren’t rusted out, it would be kinda easy to get back on the road. Morris Garages for the win!

  10. I was working on restoring an Opel in high school, but ran out of money and then went to college, so my parents sold it. By default and unfulfilled promises the Opel wins it for me.

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