Home » Uncommon Classic Convertibles: 1962 International Scout vs 1976 MG Midget

Uncommon Classic Convertibles: 1962 International Scout vs 1976 MG Midget

Sbsd 5 28 2024
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Good morning! For today’s Shitbox Showdown, we’re looking at a couple of open-air fun machines. They’re probably not the sort of thing you want to drive every day, but either one would make a fantastic weekend toy. And they’re not the same old thing you see everywhere, either.

But before we do that, let’s see where you ended up with yesterday’s Hawaii trucks. Lots of you worried about the inoperative air conditioning in the GMC, which may have been a factor in giving the Toyota its easy win. I doubt the AC is a difficult fix, but then, I’m the sort of person who will tear apart anything to fix it – including air conditioning – so I’m hardly a judge of what others consider “difficult.”

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All things being equal, I’d take a GMT800 over a Tacoma any day of the week. But these two are not really equal; the GMC is a 2WD with a standard cab and an automatic, while the Tacoma is a stickshift 4×4 with an extended cab. 4WD and a manual are nice, but that extended cab makes it way more useful as an only vehicle, as it’s likely to be, so I’d take this Tacoma over this GMT800. But only just.

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So now it’s time to look at a couple more convertibles. Well, really one true convertible, and one sports-utility vehicle with a removable roof. But the end result is the same: Sunshine and fresh air, in forms you don’t see all that often. Let’s see which way you’d rather get there.

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1962 International Harvester Scout 80 – $5,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 152 cubic inch overhead valve inline 4, three-speed manual, part-time 4WD

Location: Colorado Springs, CO

Odometer reading: unknown

Operational status: Runs and drives, but has been sitting

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If you think about it, the SUV craze really started when World War II ended, when thousands and thousands of soldiers returned home and discovered that their beloved wartime buddy – the Jeep – was every bit as useful on the farm as it was on the battlefield. Other automakers took notice and started designing their own Jeep competitors, often improving on the formula. International Harvester, already well-known to farmers, entered the fray in 1961 with the Scout, first as a pickup, and later with a full-length roof. In either case, however, you could remove the roof and fold down the windshield for the same open-air experience as a Jeep.

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The standard engine in the Scout, for all nineteen years of its production, was a 152 cubic inch pushrod four, but an unusual one. It’s one-half of International’s V8, literally. They just lopped off one bank of cylinders and one head and called it a day, leaving the remaining cylinder head canted over at 45 degrees from vertical. It’s an incredibly durable, if not terribly powerful, engine. This one powers either the rear axle or both through a three-speed manual gearbox.

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It runs and drives, according to the seller, but it has been sitting around for many years, so you know the drill – change the fluids, replace everything made of rubber, go through the brakes, all that good stuff. But being able to hop in and turn the key and fire it up is huge.

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The seller describes it as “partially restored,” but to me it looks pretty good. It’s a truck; it’s not supposed to be pristine. You can keep your six-figure Broncos and the like. I’d rather have this old “Binder” with slightly mismatched body panels and no rear bumper.

1976 MG Midget 1500 – $4,195

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.5 liter overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Columbus, OH

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Odometer reading: 37,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

Time for a quick history lesson, if I may: The “Midget” name was first used on pre-war MG sports cars, way back in 1929 with the introduction of the M Type. The name stuck around all the way up to 1955, through the J, P, and T series cars, though the post-war TC through TF cars are not often referred to as Midgets. The name was officially revived in 1961 for a badge-engineered Austin-Healey Sprite, which was produced for nineteen years – coincidentally, the same nineteen years as the International Scout.

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The Midget progressed through four generations during that time; this is the final generation, equipped with a 1493 cc four-cylinder engine from fellow British Leyland marque (and rival) Triumph. It’s the same engine used in Triumph’s Spitfire. The Midget 1500, as the Mark IV cars are usually called, had been saddled with the same big black rubber bumpers as its big sister the MGB, but this one has been “back-dated” with earlier chrome bumpers. This is an easy and popular mod for later Midgets, and it really is an improvement. The rubber front bumper makes the Midget look like a stoned frog with an underbite.

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That’s not the only improvement that has been made to this car. It also features a really nice aftermarket steering wheel, an electric radiator fan, and a Weber DGV downdraft carb conversion. It all works, it all runs well, and the seller says they have put a lot of time and money into this car to put it in good running order. The only reason they’re selling it is that they’re moving, and can’t take it with them. (Well, not with that attitude, you can’t…)

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Not all is well, though: The seller also notes that this car has a fair amount of rust. The non-original British racing green paint is also substandard, though it does look all right from a distance. The number roundels are a nice touch. My advice is to just drive it and enjoy it, and don’t sweat the cosmetics too much.

We’re big fans of open-air motoring around here, whether on or off the pavement. But there’s no reason to limit your options to the common choices, your Wranglers and Miatas and the like. These two, by virtue of being a little more obscure, are relative bargains. Neither one is perfect, but either one could be perfect for you. Which will it be?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Chris D
Chris D
24 days ago

I voted for the MG, because you have to choose one. That steering wheel is nothing short of perfection.
But convertibles are my weakness, so I’ll have both, please.

1961ford
1961ford
24 days ago

I’ll take the Scout and bring it back to its home in Indiana.

HiwattScott
HiwattScott
24 days ago

The Scout all day! The Midget is my least favorite MG ever, really only good for racing other Midgets and Sprites. A Midget was a teeny car back when the world was full of small cars, and I can’t even fathom driving one in today’s world of gigantic pickups and SUVs…and this is coming from a Miata owner!

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