River Wissey Lovell Fuller


March 2004

A loving dissertation on the MG T-Type

In the 1930's, 40's and 50's almost every young man's fantasy was to have an MG 'midget' - and the girl friend to go with it, of course. It was the archetypal sports car and even today there is something appealing about its simple no nonsense lines. It remains the choice to put on birthday cards and is often seen in illustrations depicting the period. By modern standards it is rudimentary and its performance almost pathetic yet one that is in good condition will sell for nearly forty times its original price.

It all started in 1928 when Cecil Kimber, the manager of Morris Garages, with the support of William Morris, built a sporty version of a Morris car. This led to the establishment of the Morris Garages Car Co, MG for short, which was wholly owned personally by William Morris. The first MG Midget was the M type, which used a Wolseley 867cc overhead camshaft engine. The car was capable of 65mph and was an instant success. In the competition world, in highly tuned form, it won the Irish Grand Prix, the Ulster TT and had many successes at Brooklands. A number of production models of similar design followed designated D, J, P, Qand R types. By today's standards sales were low, such cars were for the dreams of all but for ownership of a privileged few, nevertheless sales of 2500 cars in 1932 represented a significant production rate in those days. In the following years sales were hit by the depression and the stock market slump and MG lost money. Ownership was transferred to Morris Motors, a public company headed by William Morris, by then Lord Nuffield.

The new managing director, Leonard Lord, later of Austin fame, killed off company sponsored racing and killed off the Wolseley ohc engine, much to the disgust of the enthusiasts, - going over to the Morris cheaper, but larger, 1292cc ohv engine. Thus, in 1936, the T-type was born, similar in style to the earlier midgets but bigger and sleeker. The reception from the motoring press was not very enthusiastic - the softer springing (still rather like a rigid board) and synchromesh on third and fourth gears were seen as rather girlish. With its larger engine it was faster, however, and surprisingly roomy. There was no seat adjustment and drivers with short legs needed a cushion behind them, drivers with particularly long legs had a problem. It was relatively successful and between 1936 and 1939 over 3000 were sold. This was the TA which had a wet clutch, rigid axles and skinny tyres, nevertheless it handled well with its high geared steering. In 1939 the engine was changed to the new Morris Ten (1250cc) ohv unit, which was regarded as offering more scope for tuning for higher performance. A few cars of this type were produced before production ceased because of the war, I assume these were TB type.

In 1945/46 the T-type was resurrected with a few minor modifications, including larger wheels, this was the TC and it was this model which really became the icon. Over 10,000 of this model were sold making it far and away the best selling sports car of its time. Domestic sales of cars were restricted because of the desperate need to earn foreign currency and the majority of these sales were to the USA. A freer home market might have led to greater sales if production capacity would permit. In 1950 the TD appeared, similar in style but with the slab petrol tank at the back in a slightly more sloping position. It had independent front suspension, wider wheels, which were of pressed steel type as standard, although wire wheels were available as an optional extra, and rack and pinion steering. 30,000 TD's were made 90% of which went to the USA. The MG midget had a further makeover to produce the TF, similar once again but with smaller wider wheels, a less vertical radiator grille and a more sloping back. Later production versions of the TF had a 1500 Triumph engine. Despite the much higher sales of the TD and TF, the TC remains the car that most remember. In 1954 the MGA appeared, a slightly bigger very pretty car with an all enveloping body style but it never acquired the status of the T-types. Perhaps the more recent and more familiar MGB was the most successful of all the MG's but even that never quite had the charisma of the 'midgets'.

In 1949 The Motor road test of a standard TC gave a maximum speed of 73mph, a fuel consumption of 33mpg and an acceleration of 0-50mph in 13.9 secs. Not the sort of performance to set the pulses racing of today's youngsters, but it was superior to most cars on the road at that time. The engine power output was 54hp (compared with 126hp of the current MGF), there was no boot, although there was space behind the seat for a couple of small cases and it cost £527 including tax.

Ron Watts

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