I intend this article to be the first in a series looking at iconic British sports cars, predominantly from the years immediately after the Second World War (1945) to the middle 1980’s, which is when I believe that the British sports car was finally laid to rest (with one famous exception).
So, before we get to the “meat and potatoes” of this article let us set a few ground rules.
What IS a sports car? – In my opinion a sports car should be low slung, have good handling, preferably have 2 seats only, by open or have a soft top or a removable hard top and, most importantly, be FUN to drive!
In the 40 years between 1945 and 1985 British manufactures made some of the World’s most beautiful, most exciting sports cars. The also made some of the most unreliable, most frustrating sports cars too! Sometimes these were the same cars!
After the war there were thousands of returning ex-servicemen who had learned to drive whilst in uniform. These new drivers wanted to be mobile now that peace was once again in their grasp. The majority of these new drivers were young single men, and there were also thousands of female drivers whos job during the war had been to drive officers around. They also were in the market for cars, and what better than to buy a sports car?
Let us examine the first in the list – the car which got the driving public on wheels and into the open air immediately after the war, the MG Midget TC, TD & TF. (1945 – 1955)
First, a little history.
MG stands for Morris Garages, a company founded in the 1920s as a sales promotion sideline within W R Morris’s Oxford city motor retail sales and service business by the business’s manager.
The MG business was Morris’s personal property until 1 July 1935, when he sold MG to his holding company, Morris Motors Ltd, restructuring his holdings before issuing (preference) shares in Morris Motors to the public in 1936. MG underwent many changes in ownership starting with Morris merging with Austin in The British Motor Corporation Limited in 1952. MG became the MG Division of BMC in 1968.
The ‘T’ series actually started before WW2 with the Midget TA & TB, with only 379 TB’s being made in 1939 before the war intervened. After the war the TC replaced it; it was very similar in styling and construction, with swept wings, running boards, front opening cutaway doors (so called “suicide doors”), fold down windscreen, louvred bonnet and wire wheels (altogether a 1930’s throwback).
Although of modest (by any standards) performance it at least sounded sporty and started the export drive, with a large number being exported to the USA, despite them all being right-hand drive.
Late 1949 saw the introduction of the improved TD Midget –
it used the same engine as the TC ( a 1250cc XPAG with twin SU carbs) but had an improved chassis, taken from the MG Y-Type saloon but shortened and stiffened up to improve handling.
This allowed the use of rack and pinion steering and independent front suspension. The interior, however, was similar to, if not the same as, the preceding model. It had a bench seat and a very simple dashboard layout.
To the alarm of many would be owners the wire wheel option was dropped in favour of pressed steel wheels, but many of these TD’s have been retro-fitted with wire wheels, thus improving the looks of this classic car.
The TD was an altogether more comfortable and better handling car than the TC and to raise the level of driver satisfaction a heater and a radio were available as optional extras!!
Most of the TD production went to America as exports, now available in a left-hand drive version.
For the 1953 London Motor Show MG launched the TF ( there was no TE model); this was to become the last of the ‘T’ series.
The new car was essentially a rebodied TD but there were some concessions to modernity – a rearward sloping chromed radiator grille ( the TC & TD grilles were vertical ) and a lower bonnet line with the headlamps faired into the wings – the previous models had stand-alone headlamps. Inside the car there was a revised fascia with twin bucket seats replacing the older full bench seat.
Brakes were hydraulic drums all round, wire wheels were an optional extra and the folding windscreen was now fixed, allowing the wipers to be bottom mounted rather than a motor on the top of the window frame.
The Midget series continued to develop into a capable little sports car until the MG division was subsumed into British Leyland in 1968. By the start of 2000 MG was part of the MG Rover Group, which entered receivership in 2005. The assets and MG brand were purchased by Nanjing Automobile Group (which merged into SAIC in 2008) for £53 million. Production restarted in 2007 in China. The first all-new model from MG in the UK for 16 years, the MG 6, officially launched on 26 June 2011. This latest incarnation of MG dropped the ball and produced a boring hatchback, thus severing the link to a sports car heritage which had lasted almost 100 years.
Dates : 1945-1955
Numbers built : TC 10,000 : TD 29,664 : TF 9,600
Performance : TC Top speed over 75MPH 0-60 c.20 sec, TD & TF broadly similar
© Grimy Miner 2018