Historic Car Brands
MG is a British automotive marque initiated by Cecil Kimber, who was the general manager of William Morris’ Morris Garages. Best known for its open two-seater sports cars, MG also produced saloons and coupés, with engines up to three litres in size.
1926 Morris Oxford – Spencer Wright
There’s debate about when MG car production started, because the first rebodied Morris models bore both Morris and MG badges. Reference to ‘MG’ with the octagon badge appears in an Oxford newspaper from November 1923 and the MG Octagon was registered as a trademark by Morris Garages on 1 May 1924.
MG cars were an offshoot of Morris’ retail sales and service centre, so the first cars were modified standard production Morris Oxfords. A separate MG Car Company Limited was incorporated in July 1930.
The earliest volume-built MG was the 1924 MG 14/28 that was available with open or closed body work, seating two or four people. Around 400 of these rebodied Morris Oxford chassis were sold.
1925 MG – De Facto
The first car that can be described as a new MG, rather than a modified Morris, was the MG 18/80 of 1928, which had a purpose-designed chassis and the first appearance of the traditional vertical-bar MG grille. This car was powered by a six-cylinder, 2.5-litre Morris engine that never went into full production in Morris vehicles.
1925 MG Morris Oxford 14/28 – Rhino
MG went small-car in 1929, with the first of a long line of ‘Midgets’, starting with the M-Type 8/33, based on the 1928 Morris Minor chassis and powered by an 850cc four.
It was launched at the 1928 London Motor Show, when sales of the larger MG saloons were faltering in a depressed economic climate. This small car brought MG ownership to a new sector of the market and probably saved the company.
MG C-type – Malcolm A
The MG C-type was the racing version of the M-Type Midget and was developed from the EX120 special MG that George Eyston used to break the 750cc-Class, 24-hour record at Autodrome de Montlhéry in France.
The car used a tuned, short-stroke version of the bevel-gear-driven, overhead-camshaft engine that powered the 1928 Morris Minor and Wolseley 10 models. With a single SU carburettor it produced 44hp at 6400rpm, but the Powerplus supercharged version put out 52.4hp at 6500 rpm.
The MG D-type was produced in 1931 and 1932. It used the engine from the MG M-type in the chassis from the MG C-type and was only available as a four-seater.
The Magna was a six-cylinder-engined car, produced from October 1931 to 1932. It was also known as the 12/70 and used one of the engines that had become available from William Morris’s acquisition of Wolseley. It was a 1271cc, six-cylinder version of the overhead camshaft engine used in the 1929 MG M type and 1930 Wolseley Hornet.
1932 MG J3 Midget Super Sports – Sicnag
The MG J-type was produced by MG from 1932 to 1934. It used a twin-carburettor, 36hp, updated version of the overhead camshaft, crossflow engine, used in the 1928 Morris Minor, Wolseley 10 and MG M-type.
The MG K-type Magnette was produced from October 1932 to 1934.
Launched at the 1932 London Motor Show, the K-Type replaced the F-Type Magna, but because it had a slightly smaller capacity engine it took the name ‘Magnette’.
1934 MG K-type Magnette K3 – Zoom Viewer
The chassis was similar to the Magna’s but strengthened and with a track increase of 150mm to 1200mm. It was available with a wheelbase of either 2388mm or 2743mm. The steering was modified with a patented divided track rod which was claimed to reduce kick-back in the steering wheel.
Drive was to the rear wheels through either a four-speed non-synchromesh gearbox or ENV-made pre-selector type.
The brakes were cable-operated, 330mm magnesium alloy drums with shrunk in steel liners. (Allan Whiting can remember lining-wear issues with similar Q-type drums on his MG hill climb special.)
Suspension was by semi-elliptic springs and Hartford friction shock absorbers. Wire wheels with 4.75 x 19tyres and centre lock hubs were used.
Engine variants were based on the Wolseley overhead camshaft design, but the stroke was reduced from 83mm to 71mm, to reduce capacity from 1272cc to 1087cc and a cross flow cylinder head was fitted. With triple SU carburetors this KA version produced 39hp at 5500rpm.
The KB had a changed camshaft and twin carburettors for 41bhp. The KD had the original long-stroke dimensions for 48.5hp.
The KC racing engine had 1087cc capacity and a supercharger to shoot power up to 120hp at 6500 rpm.
The MG L-type was produced in 1933 and 1934 and was powered by a 41hp version of the short-stroke six.
MG NB Magnette Airline Coupe – Ed Callow
The MG N-type was powered by a further development of the 1271cc six-cylinder, overhead-camshaft engine. With twin SU carburettors it produced 56hp at 5500rpm – a near 25-percent improvement – and the chassis featured outrigger extensions with rubber-bushed body mounts.
The MG P-type was produced from 1934 to 1936. This small sports car used an updated version of the 847cc four previously fitted to the J-type Midget of 1932 to 1934. The chassis was a strengthened and slightly longer version of that used in the J-type.
MG Q-type – Ellstro88
The MG Q-type was a racing car produced in 1934. The chassis was based on the K3, but was narrower and used N-type axles. The engine was the P-type’s but with a short-stroke crank to bring the capacity down to 746cc.
A high-pressure Zoller supercharger boosted the engine to produce 113hp at 7200rpm and the sprint version boasted 146hp – the highest specific output of any engine in the world at the time. Fewer than 10 Q-types were made.
The MG R-type was a single-seat racing car that boasted a revolutionary Y-shaped steel chassis and all-independent suspension with wishbones and longitudinal torsion bars. This design allowed a large amount of wheel travel to handle the poor surfaces on many of the contemporary racing circuits, especially Brooklands.
William Morris owned MG personally and in a re-arrangement of his various personal holdings, he sold MG in 1935 to Morris Motors, which was the holding company of his Morris organisation that was later called the Nuffield Organization.
This change had serious consequences for MG, particularly to its motor-sport activities that were cancelled. The beloved overhead-camshaft engines were also casualties, replaced by Morris pushrod designs.
Cecil Kimber stayed with the company until 1941 and subsequently died in 1945 in a railway accident.
1937 MG VA – Charles 01
MG SA or MG 2-litre was a sporting saloon produced from 1936 to 1939 and was originally intended to challenge SS Cars and even Bentley. It was designed around road going version of the R-type’s independent suspension.
Launched as the 2-litre, it became known as the SA, but was a much more conventional production vehicle than its original pre-Morris concept. The conservative production car appeared with conventional live rear and beam front axles and was powered by a tuned version of the Wolseley Super Six’s, two-litre Morris QPHG engine, but enlarged to 2.3 litres.
1939 MG WA – Charles 01
The MG WA was a wider-track sporting saloon produced between 1938 and 1939, with the engine further enlarged to 2.6 litres. Drive was to a live rear axle via a four-speed manual gearbox with synchromesh on the top three ratios. Wire wheels were fitted and the 14-inch drum brakes were hydraulically operated using a Lockheed system.
1939 MG WA Tickford Cabriolet – Martin Pettit
Beginning before and continuing after World War II, MG produced a line of cars known as the T-Series Midgets, which, post-war, were exported worldwide, achieving great success. The MG T-Types were body-on-frame, two-seater sports cars produced from 1936 to 1955. The series included the TA, TB, TC, TD and TF Midget models.
MG TA – Rudolph Stricker
Initial response to the TA was muted, because MG enthusiasts didn’t like the Morris 10 derived, overhead-valve powerplant. However, the new car proved to be more driveable and roomier, with powerful hydraulic brakes, so objections gradually faded away.
1939 MG TB – Emergency
The TB replaced the TA in May 1939, powered by the newer 1250cc XPAG engine, with twin SUs. Few TBs were produced before the outbreak of Word War II.
The TC Midget was the first postwar MG and was launched in 1945. The TC caused the British Sports Car Craze in America. It was quite similar to the pre-war TB, sharing the same pushrod-OHV engine with a slightly higher compression ratio of 7.4:1 giving 54.5hp at 5200rpm.
1947 MG TC
It was exported in great numbers to the United States – still in right-hand drive layout – and 10,001 TCs were produced, from September 1945 to November 1949.
The MG Y-Type was produced from 1947 to 1953. It was offered in four-door saloon and limited production open four-seat tourer versions.
MG TD – Jim Gibson
The MG TD was released in 1950, employing the Y-type’s chassis and independent front suspension with coil springs.
MG underwent many changes in ownership over the years. Morris’s Nuffield Organization merged with Austin to create the British Motor Corporation Limited (BMC) in 1952.
MG ZA Magnette
The MG Magnette was produced between 1953 and 1968. The Magnette was manufactured in two build series, the ZA and ZB of 1953 through to 1958 and the Mark III and Mark IV of 1959 through to 1968, both using a modified Wolseley body and an Austin engine.
The TF, launched in October 1953, was a face-lifted TD, fitted with the TD Mark II engine, headlights faired into the wings, a sloping radiator grille concealing a separate radiator and a new pressurised cooling system.
1954 MG TF – Ligabo
The XPAG engine’s compression ratio was increased to 8.1:1 and extra-large valves with stronger valve springs and larger carburettors increased output to 57.5hp at 5500rpm.
In mid-1954 the engine capacity was increased to 1466cc and designated XPEG. The compression ratio was raised to 8.3:1 giving 63hp at 5000rpm.
Production ended at chassis number TF10100 in April 1955, after 9602 TFs had been manufactured, including two prototypes and 3400 TF1500s.
MGA 1600 Coupe – Malcolm A
The MGA was produced from 1955 until 1962. A total of 101,081 units were sold and the vast majority were exported.
The MGA was a body-on-frame design powered by the in-line, four-cylinder, overhead-valve BMC ‘B-Series’ engine from the MG Magnette saloon, driving the rear wheels through a four-speed gearbox.
Suspension was independent with coil springs and wishbones at the front and a rigid axle with semi-elliptic springs at the rear. Steering was by rack and pinion. The car was available with either wire-spoked or steel-disc road wheels.
1961 MGA Twin Cam – Mr Choppers
A Twin-Cam model was added in 1958, powered by a high-compression (9.9:1) DOHC aluminium cylinder head version of the B-Series engine producing 108hp. Due to detonation problems, a 100hp low-compression version (8.3:1) was introduced later.
Four-wheel disc brakes by Dunlop were fitted, along with Dunlop peg-drive, knock-off steel wheels similar to wheels used on racing Jaguars, unique to the Twin-Cam and DeLuxe MGA 1600 and 1600 MkII roadsters.
The early engines suffered from lack of development and were infamous for detonation and excessive oil consumption. By the time the low-compression version was introduced it was too late and only around 2200 units had been sold.
MG began producing the MG Midget in 1961. The Midget was a re-badged and slightly restyled, second-generation Austin-Healey Sprite. The Midget design was frequently modified until the Abingdon factory closed in October 1980 and the last of the range was made.
1970 MGB MkII Roadster – Sicnag
The MGB was released in 1962 to satisfy demand for a more modern and more comfortable sports car. In 1965 the fixed head MGB GT coupé followed.
With continual updates, mostly to comply with increasingly stringent United States emissions and safety standards, the MGB was produced until 1980.
Between 1967 and 1969 the mercifully short-lived MGC was produced. The MGC was based on the MGB body, but with a larger and heavier six-cylinder engine and worse handling.
In 1973, the MGB GT V8 was launched with the ex-Buick Rover V8 engine and was built until 1976.
By the early 1970s MG was just another marque in the over-stocked BLMC stable and the name ‘MG Car Company Limited’ ceased to be used. Following partial nationalisation in 1975, BLMC became British Leyland, with its famously dead-hand, parochial management style.
BL closed MG’s Abingdon factory in October 1980 and the MG marque was temporarily abandoned, with no successors to the MGB or Midget.
The marque lived on after 1980 under BL, being used, insultingly, on a number of Austin saloons including the Metro, Maestro and Montego.
The Rover Group revived the two-seater with the MG RV8 in 1992. (Allan Whiting remembers driving one of these ill-handling V8 things on a wet Bells Line of Road in NSW and being overtaken by a bog-standard Toyota HiLux 4×2 ute.)
1999 MGF 1.8 – Vauxford
The all-new MGF went on sale in 1995, becoming the first mass-produced MG sports car since the MGB ceased production in 1980.
The MG F was powered by a 1.8-litre, Rover K-Series 16-valve engine, with 118hp or 143hp. In front-engined applications this engine was relatively reliable, but in the MGF’s mid-engined location it was difficult to keep cool and Rover MG’s infamous after-sales support was totally lacking.
A revised engine setup cured the issue, but the MGF remained popular mainly in Britain and that continued with the later TF model.
In the 2020s the MG name lives on, under Chinese ownership, but very few MG enthusiasts care.