Home Car Stories One Owner 1979 MG Midget- Carol Lem
1979 MG Midget- Carol Lem PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Monday, 12 March 2012 16:37

1979 MG Midget- Carol Lem



Writing copyright D. S. Brown. Photography courtesy and copyright X Phan and Carol Lem.


Back in October, 1979 the car dealership to buy a British import car in Pasadena, California was Peter Satori Co Ltd. Peter Satori was located along Pasadena's 'Auto Row' at 325 West Columbia. To read more about this dealership as well as prior and current dealers on this lot see the story in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website.


Inflation was rampaging at the time this car was sold. The price tag was actually fairly cheap compared to other new cars of the time, but a bit of a shock compared to economy import prices charged prior. Three points to bear in mind regarding price; the cars became more expensive as the Leland Factory was forced to adhere to emissions and safety laws unique to USA. Secondly, costs associated with importing and shipping increase in lockstep with inflation. Third, the price includes all possible options loaded onto the car at time of sale.  

The dealer registration of first owner below is complete except for the final digits of the VIN which are deleted for internet privacy.


Carol Lew bought the less commonly seen MG Midget from the Peter Satori car dealership. As the name implies, the Midget was a smaller version of the MG MGB. At the time of her purchase, the MG Midget was ending production. The last car was built Dec 7, 1979. The MGB lasted only one more year beyond that. Below is the pink slip minus the final VIN digits. Carol was a poet and teacher at East L. A. College. She financed the MG through the L. A. Teachers Credit Union.


Below is a picture of Carol with her new car in sunny Temple City which is just a few miles inland of Pasadena. Below this picture is a shot of the car in 2012. Still as nice as ever!



From the very start the Midget was intended as a fun nice weather car. Carol didn't rack up many miles and serviced the car regularly at one garage for the entire life of the car. Subsequently the MG didn't fall prey to the usual litany of "British Car Issues". No rust out and no problems with the Lucas electrical system.

The Midget and MGB were a little bit like the VW beetle in the sense that they were produced for two decades with little change. They probably could have survived for longer if not for the intrusion of USA new vehicle legislation which hurt the export market of these cars. Rather than redesign the cars for just one market (USA) the cars were altered in ways that negated original design concepts.

The first MGs were originally quick for the time, but not fast. Over the years, performance declined in proportion to compression ratio drops and addition of emission equipment. The little engines didn't do well when loaded up with USA specific emissions equipment. The California standards were tighter which squeezed the engines that much more.


The MG wasn't the ultimate handling car even by the standards when first released in the 1960s, but were limber and handled well enough in the first few years. USA bumper and headlight regulations messed up the handling but work was done to compensate for this. The USA headlight laws meant that the body either had to be redesigned or the entire car be raised an inch to conform to minimum headlight height. Raising the little car meant that handling was compromised.

To further hinder handling, heavy 5 MPH bumpers required in USA forced a lot of weight to be added to either end of the car. No one liked the aesthetics of the new bumpers, either. Anti roll bars were added to improve handling and black covers cleaned up the large bumpers. In the shot below, Carol's MG is parked in front of the Norton Simon Museum.


All through the production run of the cars, the MGs were a happy compromise between affordability, utility and fun. The Midget has a tiny 91 cubic inch engine and four speed. The very small body and light weight allow the car to remain snappy enough to be enjoyed on a winding road.

Many of these cars go through frequent owner changes and suffer neglect in maintenance due to their 'sometimes' usage. This car escaped that fate and is still running fine and looks great.


Sadly, Carol became sick. By August of 2011 back problems prevented her from being able to drive the four speed. Carol had logged a few miles short of 40,000 miles during her ownership. Friends drive the car regularly to keep it running and the car currently shows 41,305 miles. Carol died in 2012. As of March, 2012 the MG was still registered in her name. Carol owned the MG for 32 years and 4 months. Carol's final wishes include arrangements for a friend to buy the MG.


Last Updated ( Monday, 11 November 2013 11:35 )