This Is Not a Great Car

1971 mg midget
This Is Not a Great CarDaniel Pund
1971 mg midget
Daniel Pund

The MG Midget is not one of the 20 greatest cars we’ve ever driven. You’ll find those in some of our magazine stories that follow this one in the coming days. Objectively, the Midget is not even a very good car. The only thing the diminutive Midget is truly great at is making normal-size drivers look like hulking circus bears driving tiny toy cars. Ask me how I know.

This story originally appeared in Volume 22 of Road & Track.

That’s my first car pictured up top, a ’71 Midget with a backdated grille and a set of Minilite wheels. I backfired my way through the latter part of high school in this simple yet inexplicably unreliable cart. I wouldn’t have bothered you with the car, except that I’m not alone in considering this plebeian putterer a formative drive.

When we set out to create our list of greatest cars, we canvassed influential, talented, famous, and occasionally off-kilter car folks about their choices. The rules were simple. First, the respondent needed to have actually driven each of their choices. We didn’t want to simply venerate the established sacred cows of the car world. Or at least, if we were going to venerate some of them, we wanted the veneration to be inspired by actual experience. And, actually, that was the only rule. We provided no guidance on price, practicality, technical significance, national origin, anything. We were seeking the peak experiences of a group of knowledgeable and enthusiastic individuals.

We were looking for, in the words of onetime Road & Track ad salesman David E. Davis, the cars that “knock your hat in the creek.”

The first 21 people to respond with their choices were in. Even then, we had more compelling nominations than we would ever have space to cover. Editors added their own choices, and we whittled a list out of the combined woodpile. But no list will satisfy everyone, particularly a list of only 20 cars. This one is heavy on European supercars, the semi-predictable result of no price cap. But what a thing to be heavy on! Your favorite might not be on the list. Most of our panelists’ choices didn’t make it. But you'll be able to find their complete lists, along with notes about their nominees, on this website soon.

Certainly, most of my choices aren’t on the list, including that Midget. But noted Porsche collector Jerry Seinfeld put one on his list. He’d test-driven a ’71 Midget at a British-car dealership in Hempstead, New York. “A magical place. First time at the wheel of a true sports car! First time feeling rack-and-pinion steering, which Road & Track magazine taught me to worship since sixth grade,” he wrote.

Road & Track, specifically longtime columnist and British-car maven Peter Egan, is probably the reason I bought that heavily used Midget back in 1988. It is my honor that he contributed a story for this issue on the Ruf CTR “Yellow Bird,” the car that he and Road & Track made famous around the time I bought that MG. It’s the first car on our list (the Yellow Bird, not the Midget).

daniel pund
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