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MG Midget and Sprite Technical - front suspension upgrade opinions welcomed

Ok, well today I had a significant birthday which means there are no longer any 3's in my age!

Anyway, I have had some money to spend and one option kicking around was to buy the frontline front suspension kit. It wil be fitted to my rwa K-series midget which is hoped will do approx 3000 miles per year at the most. (my blue 1098 midget did 900 miles last year and 1120 miles the year before so I am being very optimistic!).

I've looked on frontline site and also in moss catalogues to see what you get and although it is bound to be good quality and well designed, it is a lot of money to spend.

Is it really going to make a big difference to the way my car drives? (its already poly bushed all round and feels really tight and well placed on the road)

Or shall I carry on saving and buy myself the omega or Tag watch that I really want instead?

John Collins


It's got to be a Rolex Daytona in Steel...


S Deakin

I fitted the kit around 12 years ago, and give it 8/10; dampers still both 100%, after significant road miles and 5 years in speed competition.

I assume you already have some mods, e.g. 11/16 arb? This has to be the best mod in terms of improvement per ££.

Anthony Cutler

Go with your gut instinct - if it's running really well on the set-up you have, then, why waste money on something else? Or, look at the kit, and adapt what it has for what you actually need ....., and the watch you buy adjusts accordingly :)

>>>I had a significant birthday which means there are no longer any 3's in my age!<<<

so you don't expect it to make it passed 42 then!

if you really want a watch then get one but to be sure perhaps you could ask if there's anyone near you with FL or other set ups that you could try (subject to correct insurance of course)

I've got FL front and rear and think it made a significant difference, if you're ever down my way you could try mine (bring your isurance details) plus I've got an old Timex you can have

Buy FL from somewhere like Moss/MGOC to get a warranty
Nigel Atkins

Got the kit and i like it would advise it to anny one who drives it alot an drives it hard.

if you do not drive that mutch and your front shocks are fine then get some negative trunions and toplink kit from Peter May.

so get in that midget and drive it every where!
with a K you have no excuse not to ;)
Onno Könemann

I had Peter May negative camber trunnions, but I reverted to the standard, as I found the ride too harsh with the solid bushes. Anyone know if its possible to remove the solid bushes, and go with Poly on PM trunnions?.

Dave Barrow

I think that Bill has the frontline kit. Also people like Moss tend to sell them VAT free at the shows. NEC in November might be worth the wait (if you can wait that long).
One of the major advantages for me is the improved town driving, it really makes all those inner city sleeping policemen so much more bearable.
Gary lazarus

All the frontline kit does is add negative camber and replace a worn top link. It is slightly lighter than the Armstrong link.

Dave, If you find a suitable polybush (and s/s sleeve?) you can fit into a machined out Peter May negative camber trunnion please let me know.

Daniel Thirteen-Twelve

There's a little bit more to the kit

FL kit does away with the lever dampers that can sometimes require attention every 18 months

I'm no engineer just an owner but I noticed an improvement when I done the rear first swapping from a previous owners installed Spax set up and an even bigger improvement at the front when that was done

Braking is slighly improved (feel at least) and the dampers are adjustable altho' for road use I think you only need the lowest settings

All comments are my personal opinion and to suit my type and style of driving
Nigel Atkins

I like mine John, it's why my car was able to match/outmatch the Trevor on that roundabout near Redditch so many years ago, remember?

The car should be back on the road by the AGM so if you want a taster, there is the invitation.

but if you really want the TAG...

I would

Bill 1

Thanks to all for comments/suggestions,

I have a 1500 midget anti roll bar on the car now which is a bit thicker with poly bushes, but will look into the 11/16th (or is that the same as a 1500 bar? - can't remember)

I think as I'm getting older, I'm getting more reluctant to part with money, I'm currently trying to work out whether Moss or frontline are cheaper on this kit. But it still seems to be an awful lot of money for a box of parts. (I've bought cheaper cars with MOT and tax on them to use!)

One benefit of fronline kit is that it will give me a bit more space for the alternator as I'm having trouble with the bracketry for that at the minute, the car is in garage with radiator out and alternator off while I play with various bits of mountings/metal.

As for watches, its between a omega seamaster or the tag monaco (lots of saving up to go) thanks for offer of timex nigel, but I'll make do with my Longine that I got for my 21st until I replace it with another one!
John Collins

>>>thanks for offer of timex nigel, but I'll make do with my Longine that I got for my 21st until I replace it with another one!<<<I bought my wife a Longine for her 21st birthday (29 years ago) it cost me a months wages, I borrowed it a few months later and lost it - hence me stickimg with Timex, not used for at least 10 years but at £21 15 years ago it's a good 'un always kept good time

Or I know a bloke who has collected loads of watches for the centinary of the first world war ready to make a profit

PS I'd think 11/16 would be thicker than a 1500 roll bar
Nigel Atkins

They do those types of watches all the time on QVc/HSN.

perhaps its my age, but I think they would make a better clock then a 50 to 75 MM in diameter , I dont get the alure of 1-3 lbs of dead wieght on your wriste

Id go the Fl kit, you can always get a huge clock for your wrist at Kmart for $10, besides socity is so intellectually starved, A few to no one will know the differance



Okay So I exagered a bit...none at 75MM but here is one at 73mm

a butt load of them at 65mm x 60mm

yeah cool...LOL


go for the 11/16 roll bar and seiko titanium light and much more weight
saving and never needs winding or batteries!!

P C Knightley

Jon, my advise is the Frontline kit in combination with the 11/16 anti rollbar.
(Together with the 5 speed) the best mod ive done on my car in sence of improving drivebillity.
The steering became awesome after this modification!!

Forget about the watch and wait untill your wife and Austin give it to you on some future fathersday. :)

All the watch can do is showing you its time... time to get the Frontline kit! :)
Arie de Best

So that means I won't get to see the K series tonight then. Grrr. Surely one of the thousand Spridgets that have passed through your hands must have had a frontline kit on. I seem to remember you buying a non runner that had the kit fitted. You surely didn't sell it on with the frontline still fitted ?
I've got it on mine - made a huge difference to the handling. I accelerate into roundabouts now - no worries about drifting across lanes. Forget bling watches....:o)
Geoff Mears

Hey Arie,

Im curious ....How did the Barry kigns wishone work out with the FL it a noticable or no differance

I know you had some issues installing but I was curious about the performance know that there on

If I recall you have the hi performce version, not the standard stock

I to have often wondered about the Frontline kit as everyone seems to think it is the dog's whatsits. But I do think that it is excessively expensive for what it actually consists of. There isn't that much fabrication involved. Granted, it has to be accurately assembled and with good quality welding but putting the top component that replaces the lever arm together on a jig should deal with the accuracy element without problems.

As for the handling improvement, does it eliminate the "Kerrdungggg" and sideways hop experienced with standard suspension when hitting a pothole on a corner at speed?

Guy Oneandahalf Sprites


The original top link jig I made took about half an hour and consisted of a piece of BMS flat with 2 round bobbins screwed to it at the correct spacing to locate the inner and outer sleeves, one being stepped to hold the outer end in the correct relationship to the inner sleeve in the fore aft direction. After tacking the link was removed and finish welded.

I can't comment about the FL production tooling although the makers have changed a bit over the years as far as I know and each may have had to make their own. I know one of the last makers but don't know if they have changed since the move to the Oxford area.

It may be partly being a salesman and knowing what the market will bear above what it costs to produce. I'm not but a mate runs a retail business where knowing what the market will bear is key to survival. Lean times at the moment. I've bought from him because I liked the stuff, I also look at some of what he has to sell and the price and ask how much?. Fortunately his customers have far more money than me and the novelty of the products sells.
David Billington


Yes, I realise that most pricing these days is based on what buyers will accept, not what it costs to manufacture! And to me, although tempted, £420 is not what this buyer is prepared to accept!

Do I "read between the lines" from your comment that you designed this, or a similar unit?

Guy Oneandahalf Sprites

yes it eliminates those

not commenting on if they have the right to produce the kit and how they do it.
Just make the calculation to have a fair comparision.

-adjustable lever shock (originals are rare and the Peter Caldwell ones are not cheap)
-top link kit
-negative camber trunions

if you add all of that up you come verry close to the price of the kit.

But what is stopping you from making your own set?
If i recal corectly Arie has a spare kit so you could use that as a template.
When your finished i would like to see a calculation for the materials and labour.
Then add a bit and see what price you would charge.

Would make an intresting comparison
Onno Könemann

As you imply, making a one-off copy may not give much of a saving if one includes labour costs. But then if I did make a copy one I wouldn't charge my own labour.

But making a whole batch with standard cut components and jig assembled would be a lot cheaper in manufacture that building a one off pair. I am assumiong that there is a price "mark up" on the Spax telescopics as well.

Guy Oneandahalf Sprites

Prop, the Barry Kings are on but they didnt go on on their free will.
I was to buisy with work I hired a garage owner(who ownes a mga) to do it for me and he told me he had to use a lot of force and some hamering.
Sofar for the UK-bold-on-kits. ;)

But they are on and that is what is important.
They look very good with the extra enforcement and they have 2 greasepoints at the bottom of each wishbone insted of the standard 1.
Sadly on both my new wishbone two wont take any grease as if there is no opening to let it thrue...
No advantage there for me, its still one greaspoint per wishbone.
Arie de Best

Guy, David did design the item that Frontline sells I understand.

And yes it eliminates any un-natural tendency to turn cornering into a predictive game

Turn into a corner (or the tight fast roundabout I mentioned to John earlier where the inner edge of the guttering is riddled with potholes) and you can expect to come out "on-line" heading firmly long the surface rather than jumping and skittering along.

Moss tends to sell them at shows on a free delivery basis, that was how mine came along.

I could be tempted by a thicker ARB maybe, some time but for now I'm happy

The FL unit keps me very stable on the occasional track day too

Thanks to David for doing all the real work

Bill 1


yes they make money from them that is true (wheter it is fair to DB is not for me to decide)
I just pointed out that the alternative is likely to be as or more expensive.

So as a manufacturar what do you do?
Price as low as posible.
Or look at the competiton and price accordingly?

To us spridgets are a hobby and when i have spares to sell i just try to break even since i hope that others do that to to keep the cost of our hobby down.

For them it is their bread and butter and i know i would not show up at work if i would not get paid!
Onno Könemann

Not sure the kit helps with potholes at the side of the road??

To deal with potholes you need soft suspension, I opted for this kit to tighten up my suspension so that on fast cornering and heavy braking the suspension RETAINS its geometry and thus the tyre contact patch remains optimum.

I do run my suspension too hard however. :)

I think if you are a company that makes money by selling parts for cars then you need to maximise profits otherwise why bother?

We in the Spridget fraternity tend to not have too much money and need to make things ourselves and I don't think the kit would be too onerous to make, even as a one off.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

I wasn't saying that Frontline shouldn't price their goods to make a profit - they need to maintain their company viability. I was saying that I like the look of the kit but I am not prepared to pay that price.

But as Bob points out, there are other ways of achieving these things! e.g. I see that Frontline quote £1400 + for their 5-speed kit - a price I would not be able to justify spending on my car. My 5-speed cost me £210 + £40 for a second hand box. I made up my electronic ignition for £12, I installed a concentric clutch slave cylinder for £37. etc. I get real enjoyment from making up these parts, just as I do from driving the thing.

John was asking for opinions!


Guy Oneandahalf Sprites


I conceived, designed and built the original units back in 1987, spurred on largely by the poor quality of rebuilt lever arm dampers at the time. I new Tim Fenna at the time and made the mistake of loaning him one of the units to make a copy for his own use, the rest is history.
David Billington

Oh so it was a non amicable arrangement then David?
There is no doubt about the Spridget fraternity someone sometime will stab you in the back my dear Ceasar!
Bob Turbo Midget England

I didn't know that David. It seems that there are some people who one might expect to have higher moral standards than that - but don't!

I see that Frontline are also now selling shortened Type 9 tail housings. I shortened mine like that in 1998 and at the time wasn't aware of anyone else having done it before me. I didn't keep the idea to myself as I was quite happy for other individuals to benefit from it for their own use. But now Frontline are profiting commercially from the same thing. I believe that BGH are also now selling the same shortened gear selector housings, modified in exactly the way I did mine.

Guy Oneandahalf Sprites

not too hard to make, or at least copy. copied my front susp from a combination of frontline and PM 'cos i'm cheap and need money for other things, like gearboxes :)
Rob Armstrong

i got approached this week from some geezer asking for my Mumford link engineering diagrams, when i asked him to join this BBS & post some pictures of his car the emails went cold.

Brad 1380

I've had a front suspension design in my mind (and on bar napkins) for several years. One of these days I'm going to get around to building it. To date, I've not seen anything like it. So that means it is a clever and unique design that will work but no one has thought of ...or it is a complete bit of rubbish that only an idiot would pursue. ;)

Truthfully, it is not far off from the frontline kit, but it corrects what I see as a significant shortcoming of the frontline setup.
Trevor Jessie

any time you have a mod like that and are going to put it out there, before doing so......

always keep a good documentation of the entire thing with specs, drawings, photos, notes and dates ...have every page noterised, then placed in a SECURE tamper resistant envolope and take to a post office put postage on it and have the postal guy cancel the stamp and have it notorised with a the postal inspector singniture and witniss on the outside, and photograph the event

and never ever open it... let a judcal judge under witness in a court room under offical proceedings do the opening.

slam dunk you win!


Lets say I wasn't very pleased when I was given a heads up about the article in Practical classics in mid 1988 where Tim and his father claimed to have designed and developed it. I had some words with them but it didn't do any good.


I did a shortened and offset remote back in 1986 on a Ford 4 speed box so the gear stick location was the same as the A series box. I doubt it was a new idea to modify the position. The offset required a couple of small UJs. In the end I never used it and when I fitted an Escort Mexico gearbox, the better ratios, I just modified the gear lever aperture. I still have the selector shaft with the UJs in the workshop.
David Billington

Good advice, but, they would then just use the argument of parallel development - which means that, if you both come up with an idea, even if it was "yours" to start with, they can still argue that they were developping it at the same time - and, coz they generally have more money to persue ...............

John - I hope that, by now, you've decided to change the arb to a 11/16 (which no, isn't standard on the 1500, as no-one has answered that now!), and look into what other things you can do - and bought a really nice watch that you can hand down to Austin - and on and on - and generations will treasure it :)

I understand the fun in making it yourself and not wanting (or being able)to spend a fortune on a spridget.
That is part of what makes it so fun (the other is the driving of course!)

But in your original post you only judge the book by its cover.
Where John was asking for experiances with the kit.

to sumarise
Is it expensive?
No compared to what the alternatives cost.
Yes if you look at what it is.

Is it worth it?
Hell Yes!

Would i like companys to behave and give the actual developers credit?
Yes but sadly as long as money is involved that is not going to happen
Onno Könemann

I had no idea of the back story of David and FL but it would go some way to explaining my personal experienes with FL, I always put buy from some where like Moss/MGOC for the warranty

You have to be very careful what you write so as to not to get yourself in trouble with the Forum site or to get the Forum site
Nigel Atkins

Copied/stolen or not, I must say im very pleased many kits are available to people like me who do not have the knowledge, skills, tools and time to make own kits.
I love working on my midget, can take it appart en rebuild it again but thats where my limit is.

Somany great designs are lost as the owner/designer never shared it with the public.
If your init for the money get your rights sorted first, if you enjoy to see other people having fun with your design then share your knowledge like its done on this BBS.

"rather expensive then not available" ;)
Arie de Best

Hey David,
Got any detailed drawings of your suspension design that you would like to share? I'm quite happy to give it a go!
Neil (cheeky)
Neil (K series)


If I had £5 for each time I'm asked that I might be £100 better off. The units were literally designed on the back of an A4 envelope and that doesn't exist any more to my knowledge.

You would be surprised how much of the design falls out of the dimensions of the lever arm damper it replaces and the choice of materials. At the time I had access to machining facilities but no heavy folding equipment so it was designed around standard material sections rather than fold items specifically for the design. At the time I designed it for my use as a one off. Once fitted the transformation was amazing and I thought there must be a market for it but at the time I was about to start my engineering degree so was busy with other things.

The base that bolts to the car was made from 4" x 2" structural steel channel, I used a shaper to make sure the base was flat and the inside faces parallel. The inner end was 1.25" OD 10swg ERW tube, I had a length so it made sense to use it and I used it for the outer trunnion replacement on the lower wishbone also. It was reamed 1" after fabrication. The outer end of the link was 1" steel and bored so the 1/2" bolt was a press fit to save having to make the pinch arrangement as on the lever arm, also a press fit so no chance of fretting. The link box section was made from 2" x 1" x 10swg RHS box section cut to form the taper and welded together then mitred to suit the tubes. Inner spindle in 3/4" stainless, these days I'd likely use hard chromed bar. The inner bearings are 1"OD 3/4" ID Oilite tophat bushes.

Due to the 4" wide section there had to be a column welded onto the back of the channel to support the bolt as it ran right next to the web, see

I guess the current FL offering is narrower as they use a tab for that bolt.

The lower pick-up I used was different to the FL design as I used very short dampers left over from a Spax 1/4 elliptic kit and it fitted above the lower wishbone attaching on one side only. I don't know if FL designed the current lower pick-up themselves or sopied it as at the time there were a couple of other LA damper replacement options around, it looks very much like the Minimania lower pick-up so which came first is a question.
David Billington

Thank you for that. I know I'm cheeky but hey, if you don't ask, you don't get!!!
I'm going to tinker and see what I can do with this description.
Coming to Bath on Sat to visit my son. A quick there and back.
Neil (K series)

That mod to the botom pan looks great.
that realy removes the weakest link in the front suspention design.

Alex is bussy modding a set of botom pans in a simulair way.
He had not seen this before i think ;)
Might try to get him to make me a pair as well...
Onno Könemann


I'm in the phone book so give me a call if you want, I'm around much of the weekend.


I did the wishbone mod at the same time as I knew the outer trunnion was a weak link and adding the load from the damper wouldn't help it. Apart from the mods I did I spoke to a chap in Kent some years ago who said he had modified a number of spridget wishbones to use Triumph Spitfire trunnion components in a similar manner.
David Billington

R or V?
Neil (K series)


Bath number 722570, not actually in Bath but nearby in the Bath dialing code area.
David Billington


thanks for all comments, it makes for interesting reading,

however, what I was after was the discussion about benefits of the kit, ie could/would you drive a standard spridget again? if you sold your car, and bought/built another sppridget would it be a must have or would you use something else?

I took my k-midget out today and whilst it is great fun, it did get a bit nervous at speed, long sweeping cornners are fine, but ones that tighten as you round them got a bit worrying, however, that may have something to do with the fact that it was at unspridget like velocities, and I actually lost a headlamp surround whilst out today, it sort of blew away in the wind! very, very good fun though and I cant wait to go out again tomorrow in it.

BTW anyone got a 11/16th anti roll bar or 2nd hand frontline kit that is taking up room in their garage that they no longer want?

Its now purely the fact that I don't want to spend money, if the frontline kit was 300ish I'd order one now, but nearly 500 makes it sound too much.


PS at certain speed, the front goes light too, is it worth fitting a front spoiler under the bumper?
John Collins


If you dont want to spend vast sums of money, you would be hard pushed to beat using MGB lever arms on the front.

An adapter plate of circa 10mm (to allow for countersunk bolts) to affix the B shocks to the Midget mounts.

We have used this for the last 3 years of hard competition mileage without any signs of bump steer or adverse handling characteristics.

For my own car I am starting from scratch, rose jointed arms and coilovers (when i get round to playing with my own car)

As for your wayward cornering antics, perhaps panhard rod and a good 11/16 ARB would sort that out. Also what shocks are you running at the rear? May i suggest spending a few hours under there fitting telescopic dampers, as the ONLY reason you would ever keep lever arms is to remain within MSA regulations or if you built a trailer queen, aside from that they are pure scrap.

Certain Speeds??? I wont ask :P But I would suggest sticking to roads where you can scare yourself stupid without having to reach those speeds ;)

My 1.8 K is running on standard front and rear dampers. I have a panhard fitted. I also have a larger ARB (not 11/16th though). I have now driven over 5000 miles in it. What you are describing aren't the characteristics that I have experienced. After 30 years of driving Midgets I consider myself familiar with their driving characteristics. They handle really well in standard suspension format. Driving on a race track will be different. Speak to Peter May about it. The fact that there is a 1.8 under the bonnet makes little difference. Perhaps you just need to slow down on tight corners especially on public roads!! In our area you're likely to drive into a tractor, horse, cow, cyclist, pedestrian etc etc
Neil (K series)

I don't want to tell you the obvious, but have you set up the tracking, and are your front dampers topped up? I use a heavier weight oil in the dampers which helps a bit.

My belief is that the standard front suspension system is fine for public roads other than dealing with uneven surfaces and bumps, - mid corner. Since such things are common on our roads the Frontline (maybe we should be calling it The Billington suspension ) would be a worthwhile improvement in this respect alone. As you say, its just that price tag!

Peter, I would be interested to see a photo of one of your cars fitted with an MGB damper.

Guy Oneandahalf Sprites

well mine's not frontline, but If I had another midget, I would be triangulating the top link again. made a big difference to mine and means that the front wears out more slowly

would and could drive a standard one again (albeit slower!), and have (dad's one), but I'd be after telescopics and top links again if it was mine :)
Rob Armstrong

Guy was right, the tracking was out (supposed to have been set up at same time that MOT was done) and also the tyre pressures were low on the front 2 tyres (don't think that the alloys seal that well)

Drove it on the same road today, and it was totally different, it turns in nicer now and get more feedback from steering.

It's like a big go-kart and I don't think that it can get much better for a road car, although I will invest in a new anti roll bar.


John Collins

Very nice looker.
Neil (K series)


My understanding is the MGB damper conversion has been around for a very long time but requires an adapter plate as the bolt pattern is different to the spridget. The adapter plate needs to be thick enough to cope with the heads of countersunk screws going into the spridget damper fixings and to accept the threads holding the MGB damper.

IIRC someone posted recently that there was a damper fitted to a bigger Austin, or similar, that had a triangulated damper arm like the MGB but fitted the spridget bolt pattern directly as I understood the post.
David Billington

yes, someone posted recently about using an Austin Oxford, or something like that (I forget precisely which vehicle it was), but the down side of it was the rarity of those parts!

Also, someone mentioned in that same thread that there was a much simpler way to achieve the same thing: using a longer pivot bolt allows the use of TWO arms on a midget damper body.

In any case, if you want a triangulated front damper, you've got to cut the body work to make room for it. Luckily, that portion is just holding up the "mudguards" over the wheels, and can maybe give up some of that if needed for this.

Norm Kerr

Nigel - I do have a Frontline kit on my car. Typically Armstrong dampers require attention after 18 months because they have been poorly reconditioned.
Daniel Thirteen-Twelve

This thread was discussed between 04/10/2010 and 10/10/2010

MG Midget and Sprite Technical index

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