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Need Engine Swap Ideas for '76 Midget

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midget4387 Dennis Mosley
Jacksonville, FL, USA   USA
Hello to all.

A newbie here. Well, let me begin. I have a 1976 MG Midget that needs pretty much a thorough restoration. It’s complete, nothing missing, and the body is sound (i.e. little to no rust). I would however, like to swap the engine for something more reliable for daily commuting. Nothing excessive mind you. Simplicity is key here. Just another little carbureted four-banger with a 5speed of approximately the same dimensions and power (maybe a tad more) as the1500 and tranny currently residing under the hood. It would be nice to be able to retain the original Midget driveshaft and rear-end. It would also be nice to win life’s lottery I suppose. Perhaps something of American or Japanese origin ( I am Stateside) that is in abundance, reliable, and easy to obtain parts for from say roughly the same year to maybe the 80’s or 90’s. My greatest concern with this swap is keeping it as least invasive as is possible. I would really prefer not having to hack up the transmission tunnel if that can be avoided altogether. I also understand that I’ll more than likely have to fab new motor mounts. I can live with that. My only issues with the current crop of ECU managed 4 cylinders, what with DOHC/SOHCs, is that they may be to tall to fit under the hood as I would rather not alter the hood. Hey, stop looking at me like I don’t know what I’m talking about when I am absolutely clueless. What I am really asking for is the least expensive and invasive and the most economical swap. How practical and reasonable is a project of this description? Please forgive the tall order. With sweaty palms and bated breath, I await your recommendations. Thanks to all and have a positively smashing day.


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hpmowog Avatar
hpmowog Karl Keiger
Take a look at the "Lumps" section of the forum at:

There are a lot of different options discussed, and links to various other websites showing other people's work.

If it was me, I'd be looking at a Toyota 4-AGE.

PAMidget Avatar
PAMidget Thomas Reimel
Philadelphia, USA   USA
Good advice above, but I think you already know that you won't "probably" have to fab new motor mounts, you definitely will have to do so--more to the point, that will be one of the easier bits. As to retaining the drive shaft, umm.. no. There is exactly zero chance that a new motor and transmission will allow that. The good news is that custom length driveshafts are not all that expensive. Or, change the rear end, and use the driveshaft you get from the donor vehicle. Original rear end? More do-able, but very risky inasmuch as it was none too strong to begin with.
the Toyota engine is a nice choice, but I've always wanted to see a Midget Hayabusa, but that's just me.
How practical and reasonable a pronject is it? That depends on how much fabrication experience you have, and access to the right tools, etc. It'll cost not less than 3 or 4 thousand, but realistically, much more.

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O, Ontario, Canada   CAN
1967 MG MGB GT "Maggie (GT From Hell)"
Toyota as mentioned above.
Rotary fits well, if you like the technology.
Focus engines are cheap and easy to convert to RWD/T5 combo.
Suzuki Swift engine/tracker tranny makes a cute swap.

Sure there are others but those are the usual North American suspects.


scoutll Avatar
scoutll Bryan Durham
North Dakota, USA   USA
1965 Chrysler 300 "Annie"
All good choices above, but in your post you mentioned that you would like it simple and talked of carb(s) instead of injection. I would seriously consider a Datsun/Nissan 1400 or 1500 from a late 70-early 80's 210. Cheap, plentiful and reliable with parts availability. Other than an A-series swap, that's about the easiest I can think of.

mg man 75 Avatar
mg man 75 maurice sallee
Campbellsville, Central Kentucky, USA   USA
Here is page maybe with a few ideas.

midget4387 Dennis Mosley
Jacksonville, FL, USA   USA
Hi Hpmowog.

Thanks for the link advice.


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midget4387 Dennis Mosley
Jacksonville, FL, USA   USA
To all respondents:

Wow guys! Thanks for all of your tips and advice. I appreciate your time and wisdom.


Derek up North Avatar
Derek up North Derek Nicholson
Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada   CAN
1961 MG MGA
Quote: Nothing excessive mind you. Simplicity is key here. Just another little carbureted four-banger with a 5speed of approximately the same dimensions and power (maybe a tad more) as the1500 and tranny currently residing under the hood.
That would describe a rebuild of the 1500 you now have. Desmog and slightly upgrade and you'll have all the power that the standard rear axle can handle. If everything's in good condition and well maintained, they're so simple it's hard for them not to be reliable. smiling smiley


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moonie527 Avatar
moonie527 Josh Eberle
Central Iowa, USA   USA
I agree with Derek, freshen up the 1500 and it should be every bit as reliable as anything else you can swap in. It also fits with no mods. I drive a '76 Midget almost daily and have encountered very few problems. Despite their reputation, Mgs are as reliable and easy to maintain as any other 30+ year old car out there.

midget4387 Dennis Mosley
Jacksonville, FL, USA   USA
Hi Gang.

I want to thank all respondents for your advice and wisdom on this vast repository of all things MG.

Derek Up North:

I think I just may go ahead with your recommedations. Er....the first half that is. I'm not much for steroids, thank you. Nice pic. I think I see a Midget hiding amongst that behemoth motor and tires. Akin to a collaboration of sorts between David and Goliath.

Tell me then, why other than for more power, do I see so many engine swaps on the 1500 Midgets? I guess I was under the perhaps misguided notion that the 1500 engine was unreliable. Although, maybe I'm confusing that with the woes of the Lucas alternator/electricals.

Again, thanks to all.


Bill Young Avatar
Kansas City, MO, USA   USA
1952 MG TD
1959 MG MGA 1500
1973 Lotus Europa
1973 MG Midget "Half Asp Or Frank"    & more
The 1500 engine has indeed got a reputation of not being totally reliable, comes mostly from oil pressure problems. The design of the block is such that there are no seperate cam bearings, so any excessive clearance on the cam journals bleeds off oil pressure, and the crank shaft design seems to lead to low oil supply to the number 3 rod and the crankshaft thrust bearings at the center main. Most cars use a combination main bearing and thrust washer, but not these, they use a seperate thrust washer that when it becomes worn can drop out of position and allow the crank to contact the center main web resulting in damage. I know it sounds bad, but if you assemble the engine carefully, keep good oil levels, change oil regularly, and many recommend an oil cooler to help keep oil viscosity up and therefore better pressure the engine can live a long and happy trouble free life. The head design is pretty good, much better than the A series head and flows well. With some flat top pistons to get the compression ratio up to around 9 or 9.5 : 1 and a mild cam it will really run well and give great mileage. A lot of guys replace the single Stromberg carb on the US models with a Weber, but it's more a factor of a restrictive intake manifold design rather than the Stromberg carb that is the real problem. A nice replacement is the dual SU manifold and carbs from a Canadian or British model, these show up on e-bay from time to time and in the trader sections of the various bulletin boards. Building a nice running 1500 and adding a Spitfire OD is certainly going to be easier and probably cheaper than any swap and I think you would be quite happy with the results as you said you're not looking for max horsepower, just a good engine with enough power to drive comfortably on the road.

Bill Young
'73 Midget
'59 MGA

There is a fine line between a 'hobby' and 'mental illness'.

midget4387 Dennis Mosley
Jacksonville, FL, USA   USA
Hi Bill.

Thanks for chiming in. Great info. I appericate it.


O, Ontario, Canada   CAN
1967 MG MGB GT "Maggie (GT From Hell)"
The problem with any engine swap is that you are starting with the asumption that you are a better engineer, designer and fabricator than the people who built the car in the first place.

A swapped drivetrain will be as reliable as you make it. The 1500 engine in your car has some known faults. The engine has also been around long enough to ensure that fixes are available.

If you do a swap, you will have exhaust, electrical and cooling issues to deal with. Since you do not already have a prefered engine that you are comfortable with, I suggest that you could just be trading one problem for another. Unless you are going to do a re-build on this new engine, there is no guarantee that it will be better than where you are now.

If you do a swap, mechanics will run from you if you should ever want professional help.

From a cost pespective, you could re-build two 1500 engines for what you will spend to do a good conversion.

midget4387 Dennis Mosley
Jacksonville, FL, USA   USA

Thanks. Point well taken. Keep the advice/tips comin' y'all.


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