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MG history


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 streamlined MGA.

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.

14/28 “Bullnose”   
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 car history".

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 come.

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 Wolseley Hornet.

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.

K type

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.

K type

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 concept.

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 3,000 cars.

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 America.

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!