The first MG was built because of a need, a need that
was sensed intuitively by Cecil Kimber, general manager of Morris Garages.
He felt that the public wanted a small, but high-performance sporting
machine that could be driven sedately on the roads during the week and
raced on Sundays. But the most important point was that it be priced
modestly. Not everyone could afford a Bentley or Mercedes, but a little MG
would fit the pocketbook, perform as a commuting car, and with a quick
change of sparkplugs make a hero of its owner on the weekend. This concept
fits practically every production MG from the first midget to the modern
In 1923 Cecil Kimber constructed the first MG. He
started with a Morris Oxford chassis and mounted a reworked Hotchkiss
engine in it. Around this skeleton he wrapped just enough sheet metal to
enclose the working parts, squeezed two bucket seats inside, and finished
off the rear with a flashy tapered boat tail. The fenders were a gesture,
square cut and mounted away from the body on outriggers. Strangely enough
this Model 1, with its rounded Cowley, bull nose and no windshield,
presented a sleek, functional appearance. It still does. The first MG is
still in fine running order and is shipped periodically around the world
for the adoration of MG fans everywhere.
395 produced during 1924-26
In 1926, the original Bullnose Morris models were
replaced by the so-called Flatnose types with a more conventional
radiator, and the MGs followed suit. In 1927 MG production was moved into
a new purpose built factory at Edmund Road, Cowley. In 1928, the MG Car
Company was formally set up, and the business began to separate from the
original Morris Garages. Work had also begun on two new MG models, both of
which would be introduced later that year.
14/28 “Flatnose” and 14/40
845 produced during 1926-29. Technical Data: 4 cylinders side valves, 1802
cc, about 35 bhp at 4000 rpm, single Solex carburettor, 12" brake drums,
19" wheels, top speed about 100 km/hour (60 mph). Bodies: 2-seater open,
4-seater open, 2-doors Salonette and 4-doors Saloon of different models.
The first of these was the MG 18/80, a
six-cylinder car with a 2.5-litre overhead camshaft engine from the most
recent Morris model. Available with a range of open and closed bodies, the
18/80 was an excellent touring sports car but comparatively expensive and
never made in large numbers. The later Mark II version featured a
redesigned chassis and four-speed gearbox and continued in limited
production until 1933. A special racing version, the Mark III 18/100 or
Tigress model was introduced in 1930. Priced at £895, it is not surprising
that only five were made.
By far the most important of the new models in 1928 was
the first MG Midget: the M type. This was based on the recently introduced
Morris Minor small car with an 847cc overhead camshaft engine. The chassis
and engine were little modified, but the bodywork was a fabric-covered
two-seater with a pointed tail. At £175 this was truly an affordable
sports car. 'The Autocar' declared that "The MG Midget will make sports
The Midget went into full production in March 1929 and the success of the
new car soon made it clear that it was necessary for MG to move yet again
to a bigger factory. At the end of 1929, MG took over part of the Pavlova
Leather Company's factory at Abingdon on Thames, a few miles south of
Oxford and destined to be MG's home for the next fifty years. The MG Car
Company Limited was formally established with William Morris as the main
shareholder and governing director, while Kimber became managing director.
M type midget
The period from 1930 to 1934 saw the development of the
MG brand to become one of the most famous sports cars in Britain and the
world. In 1930 MG built a special record car for George Eyston that had a
Midget-based engine in an all-new chassis with streamlined bodywork. This
car, the EX120, set MG on the path to a career in record breaking which
would last until 1960.
The company also began to produce more specialised racing models. Apart
from the Mark III, there was the Double Twelve version of the Midget that
gained the team prize in the 1930 Double Twelve race at Brooklands. The
most important award yet gained by MG was only a foretaste of things to
The EX120 led directly to the supercharged racing C type of 1931, while
later that year the first small six-cylinder MG was introduced the F type
Magna with a 1.3-litre engine derived from that of the contemporary
There was also the D type, a four-seater Midget, but both this and the M
type were replaced in 1932 by the new J type Midgets in two or four-seater
forms, with additional supercharged racing models.
With the J type, Kimber established what became the typical MG look: the
double humped scuttle and the fold-flat windscreen, the deep elbow
cut-outs in the doors, and the petrol tank and spare wheel strapped to the
back of the car. The J types originally had cycle type wings but later
versions had the long flowing wings that also became part of the MG look.
IN EARLY 1933 came yet another new model — the K type
Magnette with an even smaller 1.1-litre six-cylinder engine.
Long-wheelbase touring models could be fitted with four-door saloon
bodies, but a short chassis supercharged racing model, the K3, became the
most famous Magnette. The Magnette went on to take a class win and the
team prize in the Italian Mille Miglia road race on its debut outing,
while in 1934 a K3 was 4th overall in the Le Mans 24-hour race.
MGs also won the Tourist Trophy race
twice: in 1933 with Tazio Nuvolari in a K3; and again in 1934 with the NE
model. Meanwhile, a new record car, the EX127 or Magic Midget, had been
built for George Eyston to take further records in the 750cc class. This
car was later sold to the German driver Kohlrausch and ended up in the
experimental department of Mercedes-Benz.
Further developments of the Midget,
Magna and Magnette models followed — the L type Magna of 1933, the P type
Midget and N type Magnette of 1934, while the Q type and R type Midgets
were racing models. The R type of 1935 was MG's first single-seater racing
car and broke new ground with its all-independent suspension with torsion
bars. However, in 1935 the MG Company passed from the private ownership of
Lord Nuffield to that of the Morris Motors company. Almost immediately
afterwards, MG announced that it was going to stop building racing cars
and effectively withdrew from the sport.
L type Magna
New MG models of the period 1935 to 1939
were more closely based on standard components from the Morris Wolseley
saloon car range. The SA model, introduced at the 1935 Motor Show, was a
comfortable six-cylinder sports saloon and drophead coupé with a two-litre
engine (soon enlarged to 2.3-litres), which for elegance and performance
was a close competitor of the contemporary Jaguar.
It was followed by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder VA model and, in 1938, by the
2.6-litre WA — MG's largest car to date. Both were similar to the SA in
There was also a new Midget in 1936, the 1.3-litre TA, replaced just
before the war by the improved TB tha had a new and more robust
short-stroke 1,250cc engine.
The new Midget MG became an active and successful participant in
contemporary trials. Record breaking was not forgotten: in 1938 MG built
the EX135 for Goldie Gardner, based on a K3 chassis with a new
all-enveloping body. In 1939 this car set new 1,100cc and 1,500cc class
records at speeds over 200mph!
MG's best pre-war year was 1937, with almost 3,000 cars built. Total
production from 1923 to 1939 amounted to some 22,500 cars, with the most
popular individual models such as the M type or the TA reaching just over
The Abingdon factory was quickly converted to war production but in 1941
MG's founder, Cecil Kimber, was dismissed by the Nuffield Organisation for
failing to fit into the wartime pattern of the company. In 1945, Kimber
was tragically killed in a railway accident.
The company therefore faced the post-war world without its original
leader. However, the men at Abingdon quickly got back into car production
with the TC in 1945, a developed version of the 1939 TB.
In 1947 this was followed by the Y type, a new small
saloon using a similar 1,250cc engine and MG's first independent front
suspension, designed before the war by a young Alec Issigonis.
The TC was particularly popular and was the first MG to be shipped in
quantity to the USA, where MG would become established as the most popular
sports car marque. The TD model of 1950 combined the Y type chassis and
suspension with a TC-like body. Whereas some 10,000 TCs had been made, the
TD reached almost 30,000 of which the vast majority were sold in North
By 1953 MG had a new general manager, John Thornley (1909-1994). Together
with his chief designer Syd Enever, Thornley wanted an all-new sports car
to appeal to the vital American market. MG was now part of the BMC group
and Thornley was initially rebuffed by BMC's boss Leonard Lord, who had
recently agreed to produce the new Austin Healey sports car. A face lifted
TD was, however, put on the market in 1953 as the TF model, together with
an all-new Magnette saloon featuring unitary construction bodywork and
BMC's new 1.5-litre B series engine.
Leonard Lord eventually relented. He gave the green light for the new car
that was introduced as the MGA in 1955 with a new chassis, all enveloping
bodywork (in contrast to MG's traditional style) and the 1.5-litre engine
from the saloon model. This became MG's biggest success story to date.
More than 100,000 MGAs were made until 1962, including just over 2,000 of
the advanced Twin Cam model with two overhead camshafts and four-wheel
disc brakes. With the MGA, MG also returned to motor sport.
Today the MGA in coupe and roadster bodies are still
seen, while the Twin-Cam MGA, the production car with a double overhead
camshaft engine, provides the sporting bloods with enough power for
serious competition. But the EX's still march on. MG still experiments. In
1958, David Ash and Stirling Moss drove the EX181 to speeds of 243 and 245
mph, and in 1959 Phil Hill flashed it across the salt flats at 254 mph.
What is the appeal of the MG? The best way to describe
it is to call it a personal car. It will do whatever the driver asks,
within limits. But these limits are widespread. The engine is rugged, long
lasting, and easy to maintain. The car handles with the quickness of a
cat, and readily forgives most driving errors.
The T series models all had the classic style of
vintage machines if not the quality, while the new series has the
functional smoothness of a jet plane. No matter which model they possess,
MG owners love their cars with a rabid fanaticism, and MG Car Clubs were
among the first specialized sports car clubs. Most of our great racing
drivers started their careers in MG's. Perhaps the little car even taught
them to drive!
e MGA was furnished with a typical British tin body that began to
rust even in the showroom!