Car Restoration Projects
A very special TC Special
Stewart Kendell recreated the Golden Era of motor racing with this meticulous restoration and construction of a MG TC Special that is a unique legacy to his commitment and skill.
The clean and simple lines of the MG TC epitomised the evolution of design of the immediate pre- and post-War British affordable sports car. It was eminently suitable for its intended purpose, having absolutely no frills – a great example of simplicity being the essence of function and beauty.
The late Stewart Kendell was the restorer/constructor of this MG TC Special. After two successful careers and two 10-year TC restorations he decided, at age 75, he would take on this project. Six years later, the little racer was finished and at its first two outings it won three trophies.
Although this project was based on a 1948 TC, Stewart wanted to recreate the glory days of the 1930s, when MGs like the K3 Magnette racer ruled the racing circuits.
Photo credit – Mark McCreary – Belfast Live
In 1933, a K3 won the 1100cc class in the Mille Miglia, driven by Captain George Eyston and Count Lurani. The K3 also scored an outright victory in the Ulster RAC Tourist Trophy (TT) race, where the car was driven by the legendary Tazio Nuvolari, at an average speed of 78.65mph.
The K3 attracted many other great names in the racing world, including Sir Tim Birkin of Bentley fame, Whitney Straight and ‘Hammy’ Hamilton.
The TC Special
In replicating the MG glory days Stewart’s two guiding principles were that workmanship be of a high quality and the final overall visual impression, from any angle, fit comfortably into the period of the TB/TC. Sounds simple enough, but the execution was another matter entirely.
“The pitfalls of deviating from the factory original specs can be many and unforeseen,” Stewart Kendall told Jim Gibson, back in 2012.
“Changes can be costly, time consuming and frustrating, and in themselves can lead to later problems.”
So what made an apparently sane man, with no formal qualifications in design, engineering or metallurgy, believe he could produce something as good as, or even nearly as good as, the product of a famous automobile manufacturer?
“The first answer is delusions and the second is no he can’t,” quipped Stewart.
Stewart had been through a bout of illness and, after his recuperation, told his wife Helen that he needed some therapy in the form of an enhanced car restoration: something he could create with his own hands. So, after a nod from Helen, the search began.
He’d owned many MGs from the square-rigger ’T’ types to streamlined MGA and B models, but he was particularly fond of the iconic TC.
He found one in Sydney that someone had partly re-assembled. It was for sale, together with parts collected over a 20-year period.
The rolling chassis and associated parts arrived on a trailer at Stewart’s house at Surf Beach on the NSW South Coast. Thus began a 5½-year journey in bringing this unique little sports car to life.
The design and construction of a Special required many changes to the original construction. In conjunction with specialist stainless steel welding and high-quality machine-shop fitting and turning locals, Stewart painstakingly produced the many additional special components needed, striving for accuracy. He used outside specialists for the body painting and seat re-upholstering.
A steel frame was constructed and fitted to the TC’s chassis that was shortened at the rear. The boat-tail fibreglass body was one of nine manufactured years before, by Graham Paine in Melbourne. It was fitted in lieu of the standard TC wood and steel aft bodywork.
The detail in the fibreglass moulding is superb – what would have been rivets on an original steel body have been replicated to look authentic.
On several occasions Stewart found that had he been a couple of steps ahead of himself. With the great gift of hindsight he would have fitted some componentry in slightly different positions, because several parts had to be repositioned later.
After the engine sludge was removed, the engine was reconditioned. It had a standard bore and stroke, and Stewart fitted a pristine Wolseley crankshaft that was in the spare parts haul, using standard bearings. (There’s a lot of commonality between the MG’s XPAG and Wolseley’s XPAW engines.)
Stewart also had another XPAG engine that could be modified as a racing engine, should more power be needed.
The gearbox is standard TC, but the differential’s crown wheel and pinion are Morris Minor’s 4.55:1 taller ratio. (The TC box was hard to kill and was fitted to many racing grey-motor Holdens, back in the 1950s.)
Despite its abbreviated bodywork the finished Special car is only 20kg lighter than a standard TC. The fibreglass bodywork, from the bonnet back, is much lighter than the original, but the internal steel frame, fully braced sub frame and roll-over-protection bar negate much of this weight saving.
Also, the bonnet, lower panels and cycle guards are steel. The front mudguards and stays were a challenge, Stewart said: “It took me several attempts to position them correctly, to allow clearance for front wheel cut.”
The TC’s 19-inch spoke wheels had rusted and the brake drums were unserviceable, so with attention to detail being the criteria, brand new ones were ordered – very expensive, but necessary – as the finished product had to be perfect.
Stewart’s meticulousness attention to detail is demonstrated in its first-class presentation – this was no ordinary restoration. He painstakingly cut holes in the dash to house the instruments and controls and then covered it with green vinyl to match the leather seats.
To see this little sports car in the flesh is a delight for anyone with an eye for early 20th Century, red-blooded sports/racing cars.