When Midas Cars of Corby in Northamptonshire decided to create a convertible from its long-running coupe, which depends on Metro running gear, it hit a chord with the enthusiastic public, one that could well see the soft-top model as a sales mainstay of a company which is supremely individual even by the extraordinary standards of Britain’s specialist manufacturers.
The convertible seems to bring the whole concept to an elevated level of fun. Niggles like the the four-speed gearbox, A-series engine commotion and lack of refinements to the finish still await attention in the coupe. Then you step into a convertible and those cares just seem to blow away in the breeze. When equipped with the 175/50 Pirelli P7s, the convertible’s adhesion limits are definitely increased over the standard 165/60 Goodyear NCT, but the remarkable bonus is that there is little loss in ride quality on the modified front Hydragas suspension, plus dampers (the rear is by steel springs, again Spax-damped).
A Midas convertible exhibits little of the flexing that is so common with mass-produced cabriolets. Such structural integrity is owed mostly to the presence of a 1in double-thickness floorpan, but the rollover hoop (now mounted 2in further rearward than on the demonstrator) certainly does no harm in this connection, and serves to act as a swivelling point for the hood.
Ah yes, the soft top. I can tell you how it works and what it should look like, but it did not exist when I drove the car. Mr Dermott designed his own folding hood after the failure of three suppliers to supply what the unfashionably honest Harold required at a price he was prepared to pay. Heart of the mechanism is a three hoop system, the front top screen moulding now altered to take two over-centre catches. With the top down, and the side glass absent, I found that anything between 60 and 80 mph was an enduring pleasure, the dashboard and trim of this example far preferable to that of the earlier Midas coupe.
Normal Midas production rate from just 13 employees on site is six to eight per month, but this has been hard to maintain in 1989 because of a fire which destroyed the assembly building. A new assembly area will be constructed, but that is not scheduled to be operational before September.
Midas pricing is complicated by the quoting of ex-VAT costs in three stages of completion: self-assembly, Midas 45 and Midas 15. Most expensive package is the “15”, which refers to just 15 hours of work needed to complete assembly under the supervision of a Midas technician. To duplicate the example we drove, the cost would be £11,672.50.
However, convertible customers could spend from £8337.50 opting for the 45-hour Midas in 1.3-litre trim. Cheapest option for those who can supply their own Metro components is the £4594 (including VAT) self-assembly package.
A convertible customer can chose from a secondhand 60 bhp upward, but the most impressive unit (based on new or used parts), is the 1.4S specification.
This modified and single-carburated unit is by Avonbar at Weybridge in Surrey, and it supplies a torquey 100-102 bhp that we exploited gleefully in both coupe and convertible demonstrators. Performance from a 1.4S Midas is not quite as accelerative as Honda’s CRX (circa 9.5 seconds 0-60 mph), but Harold Dermott expects a similar top speed, around 124 mph for the Midas coupe.
The £1000 origins of Midas out of the remains of the original Marcos company have seen the coupe establish a much bolder stance beneath the flared wheel arch styling of Richard Oakes. The convertible takes the essential theme, but incorporates a number of freelance designer Steve Pearce’s detail changes beyond. For example, the screen is now slightly more upright (by 3°) and the driving position is subtly modified, steering column raked further into the horizontal plane, and seat raised by the increased floor height.
These and other styling touches seem to please a greater number of onlookers than the stumpy coupe, which does draw the occasional snigger. So the Midas Gold convertible should assure a sunnier future for Harold Dermott and company. JW