Stuart Gunn did something remarkable; he set about creating this remarkable car in a remarkable way.
He sat down and thought about it, worked through the options, made templates and jigs and then went about welding it all together in a sensible logical well engineered way. Which is remarkable when the very idea of a V8 4×4 Midget is so splendidly mad.
The basic concept was to take the drive train (gearbox, props, diffs and hubs) off a Sierra XR4x4, take a Rover V8 3.5 with a good road tune, add in the MG Midget and blend with a home made chassis and subtle body mods. The result is a beautiful looking car that is easy to drive and blisteringly quick, particularly off the line where the extra traction from the four wheel drive gives it one hell of an edge.
Stuart learned his craft over the years with a number of projects, which all started off a couple of decades ago as a yoof with a Morris Oxford with a jacked up rear, a flip front and side exhaust pipes. By trade Stuart is a panel beater, which shows in the skill with which the steel wheel arches are seamlessly blended in to the MG body.
The build started with his mildly tuned Midget that he had driven round for a year or two. He then measured everything up and made suitable jigs for the wishbones and chassis out of steel box, so that the final result would be spot on and match on both sides.
The chassis uses the best bits of the original MG tub, added to a box section lower chassis and tubular upper rails which hold the top wishbones and coil over dampers on.
The 4×4 system uses the Sierra front diff and so Stuart created his own unique front cross member with the diff mounting on the right hand side (on the Sierra it mounts onto the sump).
Wishbone jigs held the bush carriers in the correct place, then steel tube was cut and welded in place to join them together, that way Stuart knew the geometry would be as predicted and both sides match.
The suspension uprights have the struts removed and a ball joint fitted in there place, these parts came from the kit car manufacturer, MK Engineering. Being a tad narrower than a Sierra, the drive shafts had to be shortened, but not by too much, only 70mm.
Springing comes from coil over AVOs all round, with adjustable spring seats and damping. The first iteration saw 150lb springs on the rear but these ended up coil bound, now it has 225s which are spot on. Damping was adjusted to give good ride quality and handling, but also to stops the mud flaps dragging when going over speed bumps.
Stopping the car is taken care of by Sierra based disk brakes with EBC Green stuff pads. As yet there is no servo, this is one possible mod for the future, but for now the braking is still excellent as long as you press the pedal firmly.
When it came to fiddling with the engine, Stuart had a chat with Dave Ellis of DJE fame. Stuart is working on a tight budget and isn’t after stupid horse power figures so a package was assembled to give the 3.5 litre about 200bhp and great drivability. It has a pair of 4.6 heads which have bigger ports and valves than the old 3.5 units and are not too expensive, a DJE 210 cam for good road manners, a Webber 500 4 barrel carb and Rover electronic ignition coupled to an Accel Super Coil. The carb breathes through a filter with a cleaver mod, because of the lack of space the top of the filter housing is the bonnet, a flexible mounting lets the filter seat even when the engine twists under acceleration. Though fuel injection is on the cards for a future mod.
Stuart made his own exhaust manifolds from tube and then Custom Chrome Racing very kindly chromed them and made the rest of the system. Stuart has known CCR for many years and so was allowed to use their workshop to do the fiddly bits. In fact CCR even provided the steel for the chassis and wishbones as well as making the oil catch tank. The resulting exhaust has that wonderful V8 burble but is not intrusively loud, quite subtle in fact, in keeping with the theme of the car. And all with just one small CCR muffler on each side.
Various wheel arches were tried by Stuart, including ones off a Transit double axle, but in the end he again made his own which complement the understated look perfectly. To make these he took a piece of small steel tube and bent it round the tyre, then he flattened the tube and braced it to the body with more bits of tube. This made a perfectly formed skeleton which he could then make up some cardboard arch templates and offer them up until he got the look that he wanted. Once satisfied with the templates he made steel arches and welded them on to the skeleton. The result is well made and has a factory quality feel to it as well as looking the dogs danglies.
The body was finished off by removing the bumpers, fitting a natty small bumper at the rear, adding a boot wing, a small bonnet bulge and smothering the thing an a gorgeous Rover Caribbean Blue paint job.
When designing the car Stuart wanted it to be usable every day, and on a short trip round town the car proved that this goal has been well and truly achieved. The suspension soaks up the bumps well and copes with speed bumps effortlessly. Once out on the open road the thrust from the engine is never ending, pushing you into the seat and putting a grin on your face. The Toyo Proxes tyres grip well and corners are dealt with easily.
At low speeds the steering is a little heavy, using a power steering rack to get the 2.8 turns lock to lock, but as yet without the power steering bit fitted due to the lack of space in the engine bay. Electric PAS is a possibility. But as the speed builds it becomes lighter and very communicative.
All in all, this is a simply splendid car, well thought out and professionally built. Stuart has plenty of ideas for future tweaks but the basics are very well sorted out. The car would be marvellous at hillclimbes and sprints and Stuart is toying with the idea of doing a few competitions in the coming year, I for one would love to see it out there.
As a footnote, how different would history be if BL had put something like this into production back in 1972….
Stuart would like to thank the following:
Graham and Nigel at Custom Chrome.
Dave Ellis at DJE
Many friends, family and Midget And Sprite Club members for their support and encouragement.
MG Midget Mk3 1972.
Rover V8, 3.5l, lightened and balanced flywheel, Vitesse pistons, 4.6 heads, DJE 210 cam, Webber 500 4 barrel, Rover Lucas ignition and Accel coil. Approx 200bhp @ 5500rpm.
Owner fabricated 4-1 tube exhaust manifolds with Custom Chrome Racing system.
Owner fabricated spine type chassis.
Owner fabricated double wishbones all round. Fully adjustable.
Ford Sierra Xr4x4 gearbox (type 9), props, diffs, hubs, steering and brakes. Narrowed by 70mm each side.
EBC greenstuff pads.
Toyo 195/45-16 Proxes tyres on Ace alloys.
Avo coil over adjustable dampers with adjustable spring seats all round.
0-60 4.5 seconds ish.