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MG Midget and Sprite Technical - 1971 Sprite Leaf Springs

Hi, I have been putting off replacing the leaf springs on my 1971 Sprite but after a weekend jolly my little car now sounds as though it has a box of squeaky critters in the boot - I think it is time...

I really would value any advice that anyone can offer. My car is an every day driver and I could do with it not being off the road for too long.

I have read that new springs could make the car nose dive so am looking into the one inch lowered ones from Frontline but have read that these don't last too well.

I could get mine retempered but this will result in my car being off the road for too long. I could get a second had set and get these retempered.

I have seen posts from Clive Berry on here who said that he would be placing an order. Does anyone know if this happened, if the springs were good or can anyone put me in touch with Clive?

Alternatively does anyone have a good set that they would like to sell?

I am in the West Midlands and could really do with getting moving this week on this as in addition to the squeaking I also have an iminent MOT - Meh!

Thanks in advance!

Melissa

Melissa
M Guest

Hi Melissa,
Mine is also a 1971 Sprite. Firstly, "squeaky critters in the boot" Doesn't necessarily mean its time for new springs. More important would be how low the car sits.

Assuming you do need new springs, the problem is that bad reputations take a long time to clear, and probably even longer with internet forums! There were certainly some very poor quality repros a few years ago, but whether the current batches are as bad is almost anybody's guess. So if taking advice, you need to know a date that goes with it!

I replaced mine (the originals really were bad) with repros in around 1998 as part of a full rebuild. They were OK-ish and lasted about 10 years, which isn't great. Nothing like as poor as some were reporting though!
When I replaced them around 3 years ago I went for the Clive Berry ones which gave a really nice compliant ride. They have settled (rather than sagged) a bit since then but I still think they were worthwhile, certainly compared to what else was available at that time. But I understand that the main suppliers (Moss etc) are claiming that theirs are now improved too. So I am not sure what you can make of that.
Guy

Oh, I have contact details for Clive, but not sure that he would want them posted here. E-mail me at GuySpriteATWellerSprite-lakesSpriteCoSpriteUK. Remove the 4 Sprites!
Guy

Thanks Guy

This is really helpful, yep they do certainly need replacing as there is no longer any curve at all. At least they are even as the passenger side has fallen as low as the drivers side now :/ I'm fairly sure my new squeak is related, the bushes have been ropey for some time. It's a job that's long overdue!
M Guest

Oh, I've sent you an email for Clive's details - cheers!
M Guest

The rear shackle bushes can squeak. A quick and easy improvement there would be to replace just those with new (Polybushes suggested) It won't make the springs curve any more, but will tighten up any slack and may get rid of your mouse! Then if that isn't sorting it out you an go on and change the springs.

Incidentally, I think flat springs are probably just about OK. Its when they bend the wrong way or go S shaped that things are really wrong!
Guy

That's really helpful thank you. The springs are borderline - flat to going the other way. They came up as an advisory on my MOT last year, the car has done plenty of miles since so it's definitely time.
M Guest

Been discussing this with Mel off the BBS but it needs a wider input on other users' current experience.

My belief is that once a poor reputation (for bad quality springs in this case) has been acquired, then it tends to stick. Possibly long after the original problem has been sorted. It would be helpful to establish what sort of quality the “normal” suppliers’ ones are now. What was certainly factual 4 or 5 years ago about poor quality, may now be a myth in relation to currently supplied ones if they have changed their sources (in China?). But maybe someone has up to date experience of the more recent ones. It's difficult talking to the big suppliers like Moss as they are likely just interested in a quick sale. MGOC may be prepared to discuss, or someone like Greg at Sussex Classic Cars.

I am not trying to discourage anyone from the Clive Berry ones – they are good quality and do give a nice ride!

Guy

Guy,
I agree with you that a bad reputation takes a long time to lose but unfunnily enough a good reputation takes even longer to lose

Melissa don't get the 1" lower springs I've had standard springs on for over 2 years no problems

I think it is safe to ring and talk to someone at the big suppliers and get an honest answer - I emailed a big supplier about the quality of their rubber gaiters before I ordered them pointing out the poor quality of the one I'd got from Argentina that lasted less than 6 months of light use and they replied "the ones we stock are not made in Argentina but South East Asia, have to say not best quality"

so honest enough there, you can't expect the employee to say we're selling absolute rubbish but it's all we can get because tight-fisted classic owners want lowest possible price rather than pay more for increased quality - of course I can say it :)

so in summary get standard springs as they seem to be much better mow but by all means check with various suppliers first - ALL suppliers I've used have some poor quality parts - and watch out for parts with poor quality rubber

electrical parts were terrible a couple of years ago but now seem much better
Nigel Atkins

For info - I got mine 6 years ago, the 'cheap' sort. Car now has detectable lean to the driver's side, it's flattened the spring off on that side, but not enough to warrant replacement yet. I reckon that's mostly due to the weight of the driver's right foot mind.
Rob Armstrong

So Nigel, You bought standard springs from ?? about 2 years ago and they were OK at that time?
And Rob bought some 6 years ago and they are failing.

2 years ago is probably about right for real-life testing. Anything less than 2 years old won't have had enough use yet to tell.

Incidentally Nigel, I don't think it is fair to blame classic car owners not wanting to pay higher prices, and for the fall off in quality. Its the whole supply chain at every step from producer through to consumer using cost as the only measure of value. Clearly value is a compound measure of cost and quality. The difficulty is that no one has the time, or maybe the ability, to judge quality until its too late. So one is left with just the measure of cost. Its why discussions of this sort are helpful as we can advise each other on how we have found the quality. But to be of any use it does have to be reasonably current and specific. Not much help without being backed up with real experience. Generalisations and urban legends just confuse the whole issue and do hard working supply companies no service at all.
Guy

There was a real problem with spring steel quality as a result of the huge demand for steel in general by the Chinese a few years back, driven in part by preparations for the 2008 Olympics on top of an already booming economy. It affected not just leaf spring quality but the availability of spring steel in general. There was a period when some suppliers withdrew springs & antirollbars from sale because of the quality issues. Those issues now seem to have worked their way through.

The relationship between preparedness to pay and quality is a difficult one. Nigel certainly has a very valid point. Compounding that is that it's difficult sometimes to tell the quality difference when purchasing, as many problems don't become evident until fitting or after some use. So naturally in these cases we all go for the apparently better deal.

However, there are also issues in the supply chain, including a perception by those comissioning parts that owners won't want to pay for quality, sloppiness/lack of checking of specifications by manufacturers and at various points in the chain, and a lack of product knowledge & understanding by some buyers for larger suppliers.
Paul Walbran

Thanks everyone & especially to Guy for the helpful advice today which has helped me to decide againt lowered springs. Had a chat with my mechanic this afternoon & we talked through using standard springs with lowering blocks which can be removed if they drop. I've also spoken with Clive Berry who sounds like a really decent chap with a top grade product. If money didn't come into it this would definitely be my preferred choice. As it stands I think I'm going to have to opt for the less expensive option so am really grateful to hear of positive experiences using cheaper springs. Fingers crossed & I'll keep you posted! & If you read this thread Clive, thank you again & if it all goes wrong I dare say I'll be in touch in around 12 months or so :/
M Guest

midgetr>I got the rear springs 28 months ago I
Nigel Atkins

Nigel,
I was not challenging your comments. I was saying that your real life experience with the springs was valuable to others. All I was asking for was that you were a bit more specific in the information you had supplied about the springs as that would further increase its value. Now you have added that detail: the age and the mileage.

You do always seem to take an underlying paranoid attitude - you seem to think you are being criticised when that is not the case.
Guy

sorry Guy it's my poor reading and writing skills, I thought I'd put enough first time, I don't mean to be parnoid on this occasion it was Melissa mention of getting those 1" lower springs from a particular source that might have set me off - experiences which unfortunately I could only tell in private emails
Nigel Atkins

No problem Nigel. I had said much the same to Mel about lowered springs on a road car.
Guy

I think the comments about people being unwilling(unable) to pay for quality, is to some extent justified by evidence. Take for example, the current thread about front wheel bearings. For that matter every thread about front wheel bearings. Most posters baulk at the prospect of paying the price for the OEM spec bearings, and prefer to buy the cheaper "incorrect" spec bearings. It's understandable, in that these cars are not that expensive, and proportionately the wheel bearings seem overpriced, ---- on the face of it. But that's a supply and demand issue.

The main issue is that Spridgets are essentially obsolete. As the years have passed, global economic factors have altered radically. We rely on specialist parts suppliers who have to source ever more expensive parts, materials, and labour. Even the costs in China are escalating.

As people use these cars less and less, items such as rear springs are replaced less and less frequently, and inevitably higher quality items will cost more.
Lawrence Slater

You are correct about the bearings, but I think it is an unusual case. There is a very big difference in the prices of the good and poor bearings, and the difference in quality is well documented so it is clear what the extra is that is being gained at the higher price. All quantifiable.
The problem is too often with there either being no choice to the customer because competition in the supply chain has already sifted out anything of better quality simply because it costs more to make. Or there are items offered at different prices but it isn't possible other than by trial and error, to judge any difference in quality. Bare in mind that a lot must be bought mail order / by phone or online so no opportunity for close inspection. And then, there is nothing to say that a more expensive supplier is automatically providing a better product.
Guy

Hi Guy,
Speaking specifically about the wheel bearings, this isn't a quality issue. It's a specification issue. From what I can tell from all the discussion, the cheaper bearings aren't poor quality, they are just not the right ones for Spridget axles. They are being sold as the correct bearings, but in fact, are not. So it's really a description issue, that ought to be flagged to trading standards. If they were being sold as requiring modification to fit, that would be ok. But they are sold as direct replacements.

Frankly I'm amazed that someone hasn't sued somebody over this. To date, I haven't needed to replace my front wheel bearings for many years, and the last time I did, I was able to buy originals at a "normal" price. However, I might be due to change mine shortly, so this is now more than of passing interest to me. Until I read the threads over the last year about bearings, I had no idea there was an issue. Now I do. Like others, I baulk at paying over the odds for bearings, but I'm not going to fit the wrong ones either, unless I have to. I don't want to make them cheap ones fit, I expect them to fit properly. So I'm about to start questioning the suppliers myself, and quite possibly reporting this to trading standards if they all claim falsely that the bearings are a direct replacement, if in fact they are not.

As regards the rear springs, I also asked about this last year, (1500 vs 1275 springs, because mine are too loow and weak), and the concensus was that the poor springs had passed out of the system. But I too am still concerned, that there is no way other than fitting the springs, to find out how good the new ones are. If I had a spare set, I think I would take them to a forge and have them reset.

Sussex sell standard 1275 springs for appx 100 quid per pair. How much are Clive berry springs, I don't have a price.

I've also been looking at this, from http://www.rubbersuspension.com/index.php?f=data_home&a=0 They come in various loads, this is just an example.








Lawrence Slater

Lawrence,
I wonder if the Sprite would be too light for the rubber suspension kit to er, spring
Nigel Atkins

Lawrence,
Not so very long ago I mentioned on here that there used to be things sold as spring assistors, commonly used by caravanners when all cars had leaf springs at the back. My comment didn't get much (any?) comment at the time, but I knew I wasn't dreaming it! Those are very much like the devices I recall. I think they would be a useful addition to fit for your summer touring holiday (or in my case when collecting bags of sand). It would be good if they were readily removable so they could be used just as and when needed.

I do agree your comment about the wrong wheel bearings being a specification rather than a quality issue. Although the principle remains the same - given the choice, how much extra should one be prepared to pay to get the proper (quality) part? I did make the comment to Daniel that the issue on the wheel bearings isn't actually one of longevity. Daniel was making the assumption that because the proper expensive face adjusted bearings last a long time, that a cheaper alternative would work just as well, but for a shorter period of time. A logical non-sequitur! Its probably the other way around, i.e. IF the cheaper non face-adjusted bearings could be made to fit, then they probably would last as long as, or nearly as long as, the face adjusted variety!
Guy

Just looked at the video. They would in effect replace the standard rubber bump stops on a Spridget. I wonder if they are air filled? - in which case one could fit them with a valve and inflate them to give a firmer ride, and let the air out again so they are just standard bump stops for when returning to carrying normal loads
Guy

Guy
yup thats the idea, replace the bump stops with these progressive rubber springs, matched to the correct length.

These are the makers, http://www.timbren.com/aeon-rubber-springs.htm Ride-solutions are the UK agents.
Lawrence Slater

I have kept my head down to avoid being overtly commercial but...

Based on my knowledge of the market, most of the leaf springs readily available for classic cars, including ours, the cheap springs for 4x4's etc come from India or East Asia, Malaysia etc.

I also have a soft spot for leaf sprung Land Rovers and would love to supply into this surprisingly large market but LR owners just will not spend money on quality parts. The cheap and cheerful multileaf and parabolic springs on the market are, forgive the technical term, sh*te. The mid range ones have, I understand, wildly varying quality and are nowhere near as good as they were. These come from North America and I would guess, to cut costs and increase margins they have changed the source of material and moved production south of the border. Even the most expensive parabolic springs available (GBP 1000 per set, including ubolts dampers etc) have had quality problems. It's a bit of a lottery.

There are fluctuations in the quality, Paul W hit it on the head regarding the Beiging Olympics, but the problem is the very fact that there are variations.

Some eastern manufacturers produce very, very good, consistant product, when they are OE supplier to Ford or Toyota etc. Sadly, a years worth of Midget springs could be made in half a days' production in these factories and they don't make them.

With springs not only is the quality of the spring steel vitally important but the quality of the heat treatment when converting into springs. There are plenty of opportunities to "drop the ball" and they do.

What I offer is UK manufactured from certified steel. I only wish I could make them less expensive but it is not possible. Small batch production drops the price a bit but bigger volumes do not bring any further savings. The cost is in the steel, the time and the process costs.

Oh, and I'd like to have a batch made. Any takers? Can do Super Pro bushes too. And coils, leaves and anti-roll bars for any classic and specialist application.

Clive.

c dot berry at f s mail dot net

Clive Berry

This thread was discussed between 26/03/2012 and 28/03/2012

MG Midget and Sprite Technical index

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