Restoring an MG Midget Interior

Restoring an MG Midget Interior Part 10: Reconstruction – Panels and Parts

Your carpet has been installed, and before you applied your sound deadening materials and carpet you took lots of pictures to remind you where the little holes are in the side wall interior. And you’ve also got in hand a diaper pin or large embroidery needle.

Chock, block and disconnect, as usual.

Lay out the vinyl panels on the garage or living room floor, in the positions they go when inside the car. If your panels are like mine, they are constructed with a fiberboard interior, a thin piece of foam on top of the fiberboard and sealed by a piece of vinyl on the front and back. Some of the panel backs may be clear vinyl – it just depends on your manufacturer.

You may find some pre-drilled holes – some only through the back of the vinyl, and a few through the fiberboard as well. While these are useful in generally being in the place you need them to be, you can’t rely solely on these positions as matching your own car. Dry fitting the panels where they go in the car and measuring / marking the holes that you need saves you the pain of drilling a hole in the wrong place.

I also found that some of my panels were bigger than where they were to fit – the two I had most problem with were the ones over the wheel well. Be careful when forcing a fit – the interior fiberboard is sturdy but will not tolerate a lot of stress.

Starting in the footwells, dry fit and mark the places where your screws and grommets need to go to attach the panel to the side wall. If you’ve covered some or all of the side walls with sound deadening material, you will use your diaper pin or needle to poke through the material into the hole of the metal side wall. Find the holes first, then mark your dry-fitted vinyl panel.

Some people find it easier to create a paper template of each panel piece, and dry fit that to locate the holes. Just remember to mark each side of the paper as “front” or “back” and lay the “back” side of the paper on the front side of the vinyl panel.

For the screws to get through the fiberboard, use a razor blade to cut a small “X” where the hole should go on both sides of the panel. Then using a drill and the appropriate sized drill bit, AND TIGHTLY PRESSING DOWN the vinyl into the foam and interior fiberboard, drill a hole so your screw will go through the fiberboard.

Why, you may ask, are you emphasizing the “tightly pressing down”? Experience is a harsh teacher. If you don’t firmly hold the foam in place against the vinyl, the drill bit will grab the foam and quickly spin it into a ball underneath the vinyl, much like I’d imagine a tumor would look just under the skin.

And you’ve guessed I found out the hard way – yes, that’s true. The passenger side, under door vinyl panel above the carpeted floor is cut open on the back, so I could carefully reach around the fiberboard and untwist the foam. I then patched the back of the vinyl panel…one of those secrets that won’t show but you’ll always know is there.

Back to the footwell panel. After your holes are ready, put the panel in place, put a grommet (looks like a donut) next to the screwhead and screw the panel into place. The grommet distributes the holding surface of the screw across more panel area. You’ll have to judge how tight is too tight – remember you can fracture the fiberboard if you force it too tightly against a curved sidewall.

Continue working your way through the vinyl panels, lower to upper, overlaying pieces as they are needed. Behind the doors, you will recall that the side wall is actually covered with a piece of vinyl fabric. Carefully measure and dry fit this piece, then spray adhesive on the back of the fabric and the side wall itself (protecting the carpet and other vinyl panels from overspray). Allow the adhesive to dry to a tacky touch, and firmly press and smooth the fabric around the corners and into place. Do the same for the door caps, and go through that painful process to bolt the caps back onto the doors.

Pre-bend the panel that goes across the back wall to separate the passenger side from the trunk – you’ll see the melt lines in the vinyl panel that you follow to bend the panel.

If you plan to install speakers on your upgraded radio, most people put the speakers in that back panel. You’ll run the wires to the speaker under the vinyl panels from the radio to the speakers. Measure, cut and install with care – this is an expensive piece to replace.

Some of the panels, including the panels for the doors, use the “V” clip (with the “hat”) to hold the panel to the side wall. Slip the “hat” into the hole cut into the fiberboard, and twist the “V” around to fit into the hole in the metal wall. These pop nicely into place!

I did run into a problem where I could not find a hole. I did drill a couple of my own, and I did that with great care. You need to know what is behind the wall that you are drilling into, and you must STOP drilling before you punch through the exterior wall!

There are also restorers who will use small pieces of the vinyl ‘fabric’ to glue to the side walls where two pieces of vinyl panel meet. My previous restorer had done that. When I dry fit the panels, I decided I really didn’t need to do that work – I was happy with how the panels looked where they met on the wall. That’s a preference you’ll have to decide – just make sure that you cut pieces from the vinyl fabric that don’t leave you with enough fabric to cover those door caps.

Your panels should be in place, and the car’s interior should have a much more finished look. From a time perspective, it took me much longer to do the panels – about 24 total hours – than it took me to lay the carpet.

Now the fun part starts!

The first thing I put back was the ashtray! I had cleaned the pieces, and re-sprayed the appropriate pieces with matte black spray paint – several coats. Stabbing my diaper pin through the carpet and DynaMat, I located the two screw holes, and screwed the ashtray base to the carpeted hump. I fit the rod through the base and cover, and inserted the ash catcher! It was fast, easy, and started to bring the car back to life – and I don’t even smoke!

Got through your baggies and put back the glove box, door handles, window handles and door pulls. I did all this before I replaced the door trim, because I was in a hurry to see more of the finished look!

You will fit the door trim over the exposed metal edges, and over the vinyl fabric and panels. The trim I used was longer than I needed, to allow for variance in different MG door sizes. I started from the top behind the seat to the front of the doorway. Pressing the channel of the trim firmly onto the edge and over the vinyl takes some patience but is easy to do. Use a clean plastic putty knife against the vinyl and force the trim channel over the putty knife, to avoid damaging the vinyl. (Wiggle the putty knife out from under the hard channel to free it).

Cut the excess trim with a very sturdy pair of scissors, a tin snip or a wirecutter. Alternatively, you could cut it with a razor blade, but I’d suspect that would be hard to do. Return the finisher and the front trim clip to their rightful places for each door opening. Reattach the door straps over the trim and through the vinyl panels as well.

You’ll firmly close the doors against the stiff, new trim to get them to close, and it’s recommended you leave the doors closed for 24-48 hours to allow the trim to adjust to the door.

That’s all for now – the last 2 articles will cover the seats (no pun intended) and discuss some of the exterior maintenance items you may also want to address.