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MG Midget and Sprite Technical - Frontline 5 Speed Conversion

I have a horrible feeling I'm about to have to take the engine out of my 1500 Midget, and if so, I'm considering fitting a Frontline 5 Speed Conversion.

Are they worth it?

Also, I'd like to fit the kit myself, but don't weld. So, I was wondering... Can I cut out the crossmember, re-fit the engine, and the new mounting plate, and safely drive the car 500 yards down the road to the local garage for the welding to be completed? (Jumping the gun a bit, I know).


PS I don't know why my identity is 'Readlist'

a lot of people think its the best mod you can do.

I personally like to see how far I can stretch the 60s tech. nothing wrong with motorway cruising at 4000 plus rpm, everything shaking and your ears bleeding. its what classic motoring is all about :-D
Malcolm Le Chevalier

also, the problem with driving it about with no cross member is that the gearbox has nothing to sit on. you would have the engine mounts at the front, then the gearbox wanting to fall down out of the tunnel at the back.

unless you bolted it there temporarily, then you would probably be good.

Malcolm Le Chevalier

I get what you mean about keeping it real. It's just that I hear the engine screaming and keep reaching for that phantom 5th gear!

Is the the Ford 9 a superior gearbox as some people claim? Are the gear changes really better etc.

My gearbox issues may be solved when I fix the clutch problem (as mentioned in the other thread)

How I became 'readlist tables1' I don't know. I used to be 'Michael, Bristol.'

Type 9 is a good gearbox, but if you can find a Triumph overdrive gearbox l would go for that. I have had both and although the o/D box is older technology l think it suits the car better and it's much more fun to drive than just the standard 5 speed box.

For both the o/D box and the T9, the cross member needs to be cut out and a replacement cross member/ gearbox mount bolted on. So no welding required there unless you are fabricating your own parts. The welding needed is to fit closing plates to the open ends of the cut cross member. Difficult to access for welding after the box is installed. Perhaps you could do the prep work and tow it to the garage for welding, without the engine and gearbox in?

One method would be to slide (or hammer ?) two reinforcing box sections inside the cut cross member -its about 70 x70mm - and then close them off with plastic finishing bungs sold for square tube frames (check eBay). Seal with mastic to keep the damp out. Then no welding needed.

You dont have to weld to do a five speed conversion. Nut & Bolts.
You will have to cut the chassis X member.
You will need an Hillman Avenger clutch plate or a hybrid.
A spacer is required between your bellhousing and the T9 gearbox.
Canley Classics supplied the last one I fitted.
It was the car that I did a gearbox swop on at the NEC Practical Classics Show. Had a slightly mis aligned selector that was rubbing.
Make your own or buy a chassis kit from Morris Minor Centre (Birmingham) Ltd. You will need a 29 1/2" propshaft. MMC or Canley can supply.
G.S.Escorts advertise T9s at 250 if you cant find one cheaper.

I am currently on Tour with Kent Masc in France. 1300 miles so far. 1 MT75 - 3 x T9 (I have fitted 2/3 T9) Not one of us would swop back.


Alan Anstead

I'm with Guy......................

Go for an overdrive conversion. Great to use, it bolts str8 to the engine block, the gearlever comes out in the correct place and no propshaft to alter.

The only bits you need, apart from the unit itself of couse, is a fine spline clutch plate and a longer speedo cable together with it's right angle drive.

You could make up a bolt on crossmember, though I didn't, which would make it possible to remove the gearbox from underneath. Still need to weld plates over the square holes left by removing the oe gearbox mount to resore the strength.

Search e-bay for a 1500 spitfire or 1500HL Dolomite gearbox and overdrive, though they are getting harder to find, but type 9's are not as common these days either.

Good luck with it whatever you do.
SR Smith 1

Nothing wrong with the T9. I've driven plenty of Fords thus equipped as have most of us I suspect, and I've never had a problem with them barring wear in the gearlever mounting. However, make sure you get the right variant. They were given a seemingly endless variety of ratio sets for different applications and a box from a diesel Sierra, for example, will not be ideal. Or so I understand.

That said I would agree with Guy and Steve re: the single rail Triumph box and J type O/D. Guy even wrote an excellent how-to on the subject IIRC, which I have printed in my car-porn folder at home. I have recent experience of this box as I have regular access to a GT6 which uses the same box. There is an odd little dog-leg between 3rd and 4th, but you get accustomed to it very quickly and the O/D is a joy IMO. My Midget has the standard 4 speed, but the Triumph unit would be my first choice if and when I change it.

By the way you can mend your screen-name anomaly pretty easily by using the "Customise" button at the top of this page.

I have a proper name again! Thank you.
Michael Davies

I've got a FL (bought and fitted by FL) 5-speed conversion in my late Mk3 Midget, I've also had a MG BGT and a Triumph GT6 which had o/d fitted.

The type 9 box in mine has the standard long 1st gear which means in normal use that you soon have to change to 2nd so no 'traffic light drag racing' but it is useful for very steep slopes (after very tight bends particularly).

The standard T9 gear lever is a bit long in its length and travel movement for a (A-series at least) Midget but manageable, I've got a shortened and straightened standard T9 lever (with the rubber buffer still fitted) so it's only its travel that seem long.

The quickshift lever(s) I got with my kit from FL do cut the lever travel (by about 25% IIRC) but were too long and rattled at 70mph in 5th (no buffer) and quickshifting (for me?) beat the synchros so the q/s lever only really gains on length of travel.

If you want a q/s lever I've got a couple of shortened q/s levers you can pick from to buy cheap.

I recommend you buy the kit from the likes of MGOC Spares rather than direct from FL.

Personally I prefer the 5th gear (cog) to o/d but I can see the reasoning for an o/d with a Midget 1500.

Nigel Atkins

I have massively debated this in my mind. I came to the decision that I wand a triumph o/d unit. Might more period, much less work, much less money, looks much neater once completed (only tell tale is the switch)
Karl Bielby


Attached is a pic of the stanard spit gearlever fitted to mine.

I guess you could keep the original look by bridging the panel lamp switch and use that to work the overdrive.

The gearchange quality should be no different to standard, the forks and selectors are just the same.

Is the GT6 you mention Greybeard a single rail or the older 3 rail one, which I agree can be very notchy?

SR Smith 1

Are they worth it? Well it depends what you do with the car. If you plod along at no more than 50 or so and never use motorways or fast-ish A roads then no, but if you are constantly exploring the upper regions of the rev range at 60 or so then yes. T9 fitted in mine, but engine modified somewhat, which I find helps the extra torque required for 5th gear use - HIF 44, electronic ignition, Metro head being the main contributors to improvement. Personally I hate revving engines of any sort, so for me the T9 allows the engine to perform where it seems happiest at speeds which can easily keep up with modern traffic. In addition, I find I can leave it in 5th for much of the time if I simply want to cruise - even as low as 2000 rpm - and it will still pick up nicely if required. Probably improves fuel consumption also.

There should - theoretically - be plenty of them about still and they are probably the more affordable of the options. Any mechanic worth his salt should be able to fit one in.

Im prop....

if its only 500 yards to the welder... id go to your machine mart and get a tow rope/ cable just coast the car to the shop with another car truck tractor neighborhood dogs while people are at work and wont know your using there dogs

i cant say for sure but i dont know if you can do the kjnd of welding needed with the engine and tranny in the way

for some reason i was thinking the ford type 9 didnt mate up to the 1500 ... am i wrong ?


Im a huge fan of the 5th gear...but ive got a 1275 with the datsun 5 speed

so comparing dogs to rabbits im afraid


You've had some good answers I think. The T9 box is a fine unit. Ford spent millions getting it right!
The Triumph alternative is also a sturdy device. I don't know about the Toyota one, but I understand they're like hen's teeth anyway.

It's all down to personal preference I guess. I like O/Ds -I always have - but Nigel and others prefer a 5 speed. Either box would do very well. The work involved is not too much different and the cost is probably roughly the same. Both have been done so often and are so well documented that it would be hard to go far wrong.

As to the welding I am sure you could get a weldist to visit your garage, assuming you have space.

An O/D switch needn't be obvious as Steve remarked. How about sacrificing your headlamp flash on the stalk switch and wiring that through one side of a VW main/dip relay? Pull to engage; pull again to disengage. Just a thought.

The GT6 is a 1973 Mk3 so it should have the single rail box. I didn't mean it was notchy per se, just has a slight oddity in the throw from 3rd to 4th. Beyond that it's very nice indeed IMO. Much nicer than my standard 1500 box anyway.

"Customise" mate haha!

<<An O/D switch needn't be obvious>>

One of the joys, to me at least, of driving fast with an Overdrive box is that little switch mounted on the gearknob. I quick flick of the thumb and it drops instantly from O/D, effectively 5th - back down to 4th to power through a corner. Or on twisty roads flicking clutchlessly between 4th and 3rd (O/d 3rd and 3rd) makes for quick changes and overcomes Greybeards comment about the "slight oddity in throw between 3rd and 4th.

The problem is that many of those switched gearknobs have gone walkabouts over the years and they are even harder to come by than the gearboxes!

Actually, on reflection that little switch is what differentiates the driving experience between an Overdrive and a 5 speed. If the idea is to drop the revs for motorway or fast A roads then a T9 5 speed is probably better - more robust, better shift and quieter.
But if you are fortunate enough to regularly drive on fast twisty back roads with little traffic to slow you down then the Overdrive is definitely more fun to use than just another gear. And of course it still gives you the lower revs and better fuel consumption for those motorway journeys.

It possibly comes down to where you live and what your regular roads are like. On a recent trip "down south" I just found that every where I went I was always in a snake of traffic. Even on the quieter cross country routes in the evening there always seemed to be traffic ahead of me and I just never got that clear road feeling. So if you are regularly following other traffic, at speed, then 5 gears are good. Change up, sit back and relax. Otherwise, get an Overdrive box and have some fun!

The big plus for me was the ease of conversion. No special bellhousing/adaptor plate, no the aggro with the clutch relase, speedo cable or needing the propshaft altering. And it all comes from the BL parts bin, which somehow feels more "correct" than raiding the blue oval.

Mine came from a 1500HL Dolly, in fact I bought the whole car as a scrapper for 50! Mind you that was in 1992.

The other you can do, and I have, just cos I like gimmicks, is to rig up a "kick down" switch.

The overdrive relay on my 1500 goes to ground via a microswitch on the throttle linkage. When the throttle is floored the ground is interupted as the microswitch is opened and the overdrive drops out.

This is good if you want to overtake something qiuckly, no need to operate the manual switch!

And of course once you ease off the throttle the overdrive drops in again.
Steve Smith Midget 1500

Smart thinking Steve! I like that idea!!

Just a pity I no longer own my o/d 1500. :-(

I'll take a pic of it tomorrow Guy, tbh it's been on there so long I can't recall how I did it!
Steve Smith Midget 1500

I can appreciate the speed of gear changing with an overdrive, but blipping the revs just so on changedown from 5th to 4th, stroking the gearlever rather than forcing things - left wrist turned 90 deg to R thereby introducing a bit of lateral force to overcome the dog leg as well as pulling the lever back, guiding the lever into 4th if you will - and with a degree of anticipation, a T9 cannot be far behind.

I do approve of the kick down idea though!

There's an 1850 Dolly one on e bay atm.

Though it would need the bellhousing, input shaft and possibly other gears swopping with the Midget transmission.

Steve Smith Midget 1500

Hi guys,

Here's a pic as promised of the overdrive "kick-down" switch.

The small right bracket on the left opens the little microwitch button on full throttle application.

The in/out switch in the gearknob is overidden when it's activated.

Steve Smith Midget 1500

I did the Triumph g/b with o/d conversion on my 1500 Midget in 1992. I used the replacement 'crossmember kit' supplied by Nottingham MG (are they still in business?).

I got a local welder to visit me, to weld the replacement crossmember in place. I can't believe that an option of 'nuts and bolts' exists? Or am I misunderstanding what the nuts and bolts are used for?

The o/d gives, in effect, two extra gears as well as the existing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, ie o/d in 3rd gear, and o/d in 4th gear.

It's fun, but totally bonkers really, considering the basic age and 'intention' of the Midget as a car.

If one wants serious roadholding and speed, just buy an Elise! And enjoy the Midget for what it is.

There. I've said it.
Andy Hock

Are there no mobile welders in Bristol? Get the welding to come to you and do the job in the right order at a time that the welder can get in and do the job right!
dominic clancy

Welding is not essential with either a T9 or an Overdrive installation.

Cross member can be bolted. Only welding is to close off the open ends of the excised cross member. And that can be done in other ways without welding.

This thread was discussed between 16/09/2016 and 19/09/2016

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