Richard Wanserski's 1962 model features a tiny 948-cc four-cylinder engine, but it revs freely and emits a nicely throaty growl. The engine's 46 hp is enough to make the 1500-pound almond green Midget feel shockingly energetic, and it feels even quicker after Wanserski steps up and out of the passenger's seat, almost as if a one-ton trailer was just unhitched. A sprightly seventy-one years old, the trim Wanserski has affixed a state-park sticker to his MG's windshield so he can drive it to his favorite hiking spots. Standing six-foot-three and wearing size-twelve work boots, he's far from petite, but he actually finds his Midget to be quite comfortable. "It is hard for me to get in with the top up, though," he admits. The fact that he fits at all tends to surprise attendees of Detroit-area car shows, where he also often exhibits the equally diminutive, 27-hp 1950 Crosley CD convertible that he's owned for twenty-one years. "I enjoy driving older cars," he says. "In the 1970s, I had a '38 Pontiac that my wife wasn't very fond of. I got rid of the car, and she still divorced me! Unlike my Crosley, though, the Midget can stay in the flow of traffic."
Indeed, despite a spec sheet more suitable for a lawn mower than an automobile, the Midget keeps up with traffic very well on city streets and back roads. Still, Wanserski hasn't worked up the nerve to take the car on the interstate since completing a cosmetic and mechanical restoration in 2009. We can't blame him. After all, the MG has no seatbelts, and from behind the wheel it gives you the notion that you're driving a lidless shoebox. Which, it turns out, is a fantastic feeling that's enhanced by the car's firm steering and notchy, slightly stiff four-speed gearbox, whose rubber cover you instinctively grab like you'd hold a pencil. The clutch pedal feels a bit tight and engages high in its travel, but it's easy to modulate, so much so that Wanserski has used his "street-legal go-kart" to teach two of his grandchildren to drive a manual transmission.
More advanced drivers can enjoy pushing the limits of the car while staying far below the radar of the local constabulary. "You can get the thrill of speed but still be going way under the speed limit," Wanserski says. The thrill is heightened because you're intimately exposed to the car's mechanical noises and the elements around you, both nature and traffic. You'll induce moderate body roll if you push it, but the featherweight car is very nimble and lots of fun.
As the years accumulated, the Midget got heavier and became diluted, but this model retains its status as a "slow car" that's extremely fun to drive quickly. Just like a modern Mazda Miata.