“A sportscar should look fast, even
when it is standing still”
Cecil Kimber was born on 12 April 1888
in south London during a time when the world had just discovered the
combustion engine and realized its possibilities.
Cecil's father owned a company in the
printing business in Manchester and his first job was with this company.
However, his main interest was motor bicycles and he bought his first, a
1906 Rex, at the age of 18. According to Cecil's daughter, Jean Cook, he
started early to join in meetings and racing competitions with Warrington
and District Motor Cycle Club where he learnt to save money by repairing
his cycle himself.
In 1909 he changed to a 1907 Twin Rex
and continued trying to race. The following year his right knee-cap was
completely wrecked in a serious traffic accident and two years of
convalescence followed. The surgeons despaired and started to plan for the
amputation of his leg. When the doctor finally decided to go ahead Cecil's
knee fortunately started to mend. He could walk and even dance and learnt
also to ski but, above all, he could drive a car!
With the insurance money from the
accident Cecil bought a Singer 10 which he used for his work selling
printer's ink. When his father wanted Cecil to contribute his compensation
money into the family business Cecil refused and they became enemies for
the rest of their lives. His father got so furious that he died without
ever talking to his son again. In 1914 Cecil left the family company to do
his own career.
In 1915 Cecil was hired at
Sheffield-Simplex as assistant to the chief engineer. He now switched his
Singer 10 to a Singer 14, formerly raced at Brooklands several times
reaching 80 mph.
In 1916 he switched job and began
working for AC Cars in Thames Ditton but he didn't stay long. His daughter
Jean remembers many years later that her father was dissatisfied with the
job at AC. In anger he made up a plan how the enterprise should be
reorganized but when the plan was presented to the management it was
returned with "What is this?" which is why Cecil left AC.
From AC he moved to Martynside Aircraft
at Weybridge, Surrey, close to the Brooklands. He was now married and the
newlywed stayed in a hotel there.
In 1919 the Kimbers moved on to
Birmingham where Cecil got a job at E.G. Wrigley. He met Frank Woollard
who later helped Cecil to establish the MG as a car marque of its own.
Cecil's assignment at Wrigleys was as supervisor and Jean remembers that
Frank once mentioned that "it was so clean in the machinery hall that you
could have dinner underneath the machines".
Through his work at Wrigleys, that
manufactured shafts for the Morris cars, Cecil early on got in touch with
William Morris. So in 1921 Cecil got a job at Morris Garages where he as
sales manager soon got everybody enthusiastic. According to Jean her
father had a magic ability to make the simplest task into a fantastic
campaign. What Cecil lacked in engineering he compensated for in
enthusiasm. He had a way of working methodically which showed in his smart
and purposeful way of organizing the factory often through easy ways like
color coding the separate working processes. Cecil was an energetic and
skilful administrator way ahead of his time.
1922 Cecil became manager of Morris
Morris approved that Cecil modified the Morris car by using lighter and
more racing adopted body. The springs were flattened to lower the cars and
the engines disassembled and balanced. Sometime during winter 1923-24 it's
said that the first MG car was manufactured but the difference between the
MG and the Morris was very small. The important thing is that the MG
became more and more like a racing car while the Morris stayed the same
Of course, Cecil Kimber was really
interested in racing and was convinced that successes at racing,
especially on the continent, should make a small car manufacturer famous
world wide. Not as enthusiastic was Cecil when clients returned to his
factory to have their racing cars repaired. This problem was left to
During the following years until World
War Two a lot of different MG models ware produced. Several winning cars
at the racing courts made the MG known all over the world. But, of course,
success has to be paid, and the profit from the factory was not so
In 1935 William Morris, now made Baron
Nuffield, sold his enterprise MG Car Company Ltd. to Morris Motors Ltd and
as a start MG had to quit all factory racing to instead earn money. Even
the development department was moved to Morris which was considered a
The following MG types contained more
details compatible with other parts within the Morris group like engines,
gear boxes, shafts and brakes. The specialized MG engines with overhead
camshaft was to give way for ordinary push rod engines and the mechanical
brakes was replaced by hydraulic ones, in which Cecil didn't believe. But
in spite of all outcries from MG enthusiasts the new cars was sold well
even better than the old ones and the MG factory profit increased.
Repairing Matilda tanks
When war broke out in1939 the MG factory
was made into a war machine factory. One of the first assignments was
repairing and maintaining the Matilda tanks. Modifying existing cars into
light lorries was also done.
However, Cecil had big plans for the
factory, which was not considered well by his employers. In 1941 Cecil had
secured a contract on assembling the cockpit for the bomb aircraft
Albemarle. During the following years the MG factory made more that 900
cockpits which was a fantastic achievement. This contract, however, got
Cecil fired from the MG factory in November 1941. He who had created the
MG 17 years earlier was now fired.
Cecil soon enough got a job with
Charlesworth in Clouchester, the company that manufactured the open bodies
for MG SA and WA. From there he went on to Specialloid Pistons in London
where he became the factory manager.
Cecil never saw out the end of the war
and he never saw his car develop. He was tragically killed at 56
in a train accident on 4 February 1945.