Reprint from "Grassroots Motorsports" Magazine May/June 1998 Page 38-39
Small Car + Small Budget = Big Fun
Ever since their introduction, MG Midgets–and their predecessor, the Austin Healey Sprite–have been a favorite with the road race crowd. It seems they have dominated SCCA Production racing like it’s nobody’s business since two days after dirt was created. Bucking this established tradition, father and son team Bill and Will Perry have been running their Midget in a somewhat unorthodox racing arena: Improved Touring.
With ITD racing building a following in the Southeast, this Soddy Daisy, Tenn.-based team has quickly become a force in the class for ultra-small-bore cars, claiming ARRC ITD titles the last two years for their Rivergate Restoration Products team.
Instead of starting with a clapped-out wreck, the Perrys found a nice, clean car with only 23,000 miles on the odometer back in February 1996. "The motor we are using was bought at a salvage yard for $25 and rebuilt," Bill explains. "We couldn’t bring ourselves to open up the original , 23,000-mile motor as it seemed to be in excellent condition."
The race engine was built up to "typical" IT specs, meaning a .040-inch overbore, slight head milling (only .025-inch), and balancing of engine internals. A Kirk Racing exhaust header and stock twin SU carbs team up to keep the engine breathing, but due to the presence of the stock camshaft, a 6500-rpm redline is observed. A stock four-speed transmission and 3.9:1 rear end complete the drivetrain.
The Perrys report that the "car has been exceptionally reliable," adding, "never worked on it at the track, nor DNFed, until Sunoco 500K (1996) where it broke a hub. Never even added motor oil at the track."
Not only is the car mechanically reliable, but it has been extremely easy on tires. "Tires wear is almost nil: we run tires with full tread (no shaving) without overheating," Will says. "For racing on a tight budget, we suggest getting used Yokohama A008 front tires from National Spec Racing competitors. They toss aside tires that will still perform fine on the Midget."
Speaking of tips learned from experience, Will has the following suggestions for other who race a Midget: "Magnaflux or dye-check front spindles. Be sure front bearings are run with original spacer between bearings, otherwise spindles are sure to crack under cornering loads. Replace stock rear wheel bearings about ever three weekends or you will break axle shafts at the outer end."
The Perrys also found that removing the original fan and replacing it with a manual-control electric one allows them to save some parasitic horsepower, yet allows them to tool around the pits without overheating. With an oil cooler, stock radiator and 180-degree thermostat, temperatures run near what they consider ideal: 185-degree water temps and 225-degree oil temps.
One thing that makes the Midget extra fun is the fact that the Perrys can–and do–drive it on the street. "We think the ability to drive on the street helps reliability," they point out. Plus, "ITD cars are slow enough to avoid unwanted attention from law enforcement officers."
Story by David S. Wallens
Photos by John Swain and David S. Wallens