Background of the T-Series
the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, production of cars at MG in
Abingdon had given way to production and maintenance of machines of war, as it
had at most other engineering plants over the whole country. A very wide variety
of jobs were undertaken, ranging from servicing guns and production of aircraft
parts to overhauling tanks. No job was too large, too small, or too difficult
for the workers at MG.
a return to peacetime in 1945, thoughts at MG turned once again to building
cars, but things were never to be the same again. A socialist government was in
power, the country's industry had been ravaged by bombing, and wartime shortages
had led to rationing of just about everything. Although there was a considerable
demand on the home market for any form of personal transport, raw materials were
in short supply which was controlled by the government.
the urgent need for the country to earn foreign income to aid reconstruction,
priority was given to supplying raw materials to those companies who
concentrated on exporting their products. The phrase "export or die"
had a very real meaning.
little development work was carried out during the war on the post-war
generation of cars, so most manufacturers simply dusted off their pre-war
models, tidied them up and wheeled them out. MG was no exception to this, but in
the pervading atmosphere it was clear that the big luxury saloons of the pre-war
era would not be looked upon with favour. Consequently, it was decided to
concentrate initially on the car which had been the mainstay of MG's reputation
as a manufacturer of sports cars - the Midget.
MG TA Midget
was before the war, in the Spring of 1936, when the replacement for the MG PB
appeared. The Cowley- inspired TA Midget used many components of Morris origin
and , at first, was not popular with the "hardy" MG enthusiasts.
However, this resistance was soon overcome and the car widened the appeal of
sports cars which had previously been looked upon as being temperamental and
difficult to drive.
TA's chassis was of traditional MG design, but the tubular crossmembers seen in
previous models had been replaced by less stiff channel sections. Also, the
forward portions of the side rails had been made as box sections to stiffen
them, which was needed as the engine mountings were of rubber. Suspension was by
the now familiar leaf springs front and rear, but the brakes were hydraulically
operated for the first time on an MG.
engine had been changed too. Gone was the neat, but demanding, ohc unit and in
its place was a 1292cc, pushrod, overhead-valve, four-cylinder engine. This was
essentially the same as that used in the Morris 10, but the MG was equipped with
twin SU carburettors and produced around 50bhp, which was a significant increase
compared to the PB. This was mated to four-speed transmission which had another
first for MG - synchromesh. The mechanical specification of the TA made it a
much easier car to drive, whilst still maintaining the reputation of its
predecessors. This opened up a whole new appeal of sports cars to a much wider
market than before.
first, two-seater open and closed (Airline Coupe) were offered, but the Airline
Coupe was shortly dropped with the advent of the Tickford Coupe. This had a
drophead body style with a three position folding soft-top that provided the
protection of a closed car in bad weather, but allowed open air motoring when it
TA became very popular and, inevitably, found its way into competition where it
acquitted itself well. However, the engine was not happy being run at high revs
because of its unsuitable valve timing and weak bottom-end. To overcome this,
the factory developed methods of tuning the unit and supplied the information to
those who wanted their TA's to go faster.
MG TB Midget
the summer of 1939, as the war clouds were gathering, MG announced the TB
Midget. In terms of chassis and body options it was essentially the same as the
TA, but the TB had a new engine which was a 1250cc, ohv, four-cylinder unit.
Taken from the new Morris 10, and known as the XPAG engine, it had a much
stronger bottom-end than the previous unit, better valve timing and a better
designed cylinder head. These design features combined to give a power output of
engine was backed up by a dry clutch and a better set of ratios than before with
an improved synchromesh. All of this meant that the little car looked very
promising indeed, but the onset of war stopped production as MG had other, more
important, tasks to carry out.
MG TC Midget
the eve of the war, MG had offered the TB model which, with a few modifications
was to become the first post-war MG, the TC Midget. The chassis of the new car
was essentially the same as before, but the sliding trunnion spring mountings
had been dispensed with in favour of more conventional rubber bush shackles.
This had been forced on MG, as it was unable to obtain the raw materials
necessary for the original mounts, this helped to simplify the maintenance
procedure, but made little difference to the handling of the car.
engine was the now familiar twin-carburettor, 1250cc, pushrod, ohv XPAG unit.
The transmission was also the single-plate dry clutch and four-speed synchromesh
unit as had been seen in the TB. The brakes were 9 inch hydraulic units and the
wheels the usual centre-locking wires. The TC was offered in one body style only
- an open two-seater which was very similar in appearance to the TB model. All
the old features were there : the humped scuttle with folding windshield,
cutaway doors, swept front and rear wings, a slab-type fuel tank and
rear-mounted spare wheel. It was almost as if the intervening 5 years had never
the fact that the car was so obviously dated, in terms of both mechanical
specification and appearance, the MG TC Midget found a ready market. There were
a number of reasons suggested for this a lack of other post-war cars, or the
familiar design reminding people of the pre-war days, whatever the reason the
Midgets success took MG somewhat by surprise.
that the more cars they could export, the greater would be their allocation of
raw materials, MG sought sales around the world and succeeded in generating a
substantial demand for the car. So successful were they that, in the cars
four-year production run (until 1949), some 10,000 TC's were built, a
substantial number of which were shipped to the USA where they were to generate
new enthusiasm for sports cars and motor sport. It is quite remarkable how a car
which was basically a "stop-gap" should have enjoyed so much success,
generating sales figures far beyond those experienced before the war.
MG TD Midget
1949, a replacement for the TC was announced. It was not, as one might have
expected, a car with a totally different, modern appearance, but yet another
Midget in the familiar mould. The TD Midget, while it certainly had the
appearance of a Midget, had much which was different under the skin.
TD had a completely new chassis, which had been developed from that used in the
Y-Type saloon. It was a much sturdier and stiffer frame than the old Midget
chassis, as it had box-section side rails and crossmembers and it was of
all-welded construction. Unlike the previous Midgets, the chassis was kicked up
over the rear axle. Consequently, the rear leaf springs had a greater camber
than before, and they were softer too being controlled by lever-arm shock
absorbers. At the front, the old beam axle and leaf springs had been dispensed
with in favour of an independent system comprising double wishbones and coil
springs. The upper wishbones were actually formed by the levers of the shock
absorbers. The complete front end design was common to the Y-type saloon and was
to form the basis for the front suspension for many future MG's.
departure from the old Midget which raised the hackles of the "hardy"
MG enthusiasts, was the use of 15 inch pressed steel wheels rather than the old
spindly 19 inch wire wheels. These looked slightly out of place on a car with
such old-fashioned bodywork, especially at the rear where they didn't quite fill
the wheel arches.
engine and transmission were again the same as the TC, as was the body style,
although the latter was a little wider and the wings were more enveloping
because of the wheels. For the first time, an MG was equipped with bumpers fore
and aft which, it was suggested, took away the slightly "cheeky" air
of the earlier cars and gave the TD a more "civilised" look. And in a
way this was true, as the TD was certainly more comfortable to drive than any of
a result of this, the TD found an even larger market than the TC, selling almost
three times as many in a similar four-year production run. Again, a substantial
number of the cars produced went abroad, particularly to the USA.
Mark II version of the TD was introduced during its production run, having a
slightly more powerful version of the XPAG engine (57bhp) with a higher
compression ratio and bigger carburetors. There were also improvements made to
the suspension, while the one-piece seat back and individual seat cushions gave
way to a pair of bucket seats. In 1952, centre-lock wire wheels were offered as
this time, sales of the TD were beginning to falter, but MG had the prototype of
its replacement ready to go into production. The car, code named EX175, was
based on a modified TD chassis and mechanicals but with a beautiful streamlined
bodyshell which was right up-to-date. Sadly, it was to be turned down flatly by
the boss of the now British Motor Corporation as a deal had already been signed
to build a similar car - the Austin-Healey 100.
MG TF Midget
had to be done about the flagging sales of the TD, but all that could be done at
the time was to give it a facelift. Hence, the MG TF Midget was introduced in
1953. Essentially this car was the same as the TD, having the same form of
chassis, suspension, brakes, steering, engine, and transmission.
bodywork displayed the most changes, although it still had that un-mistakable
and by now old- fashioned MG style. The most obvious changes were to the front
end where the radiator grille had been lowered and raked to give a lower hood
line. The front wings were shaped so that the headlights could be faired into
them rather than being separately mounted. At the rear there was little
difference compared to the TD, although a valance was provided to fill the gap
between the bottom of the fuel tank and the bumper.
terms of performance, there was no change in comparison with the TD, and despite
the new body style, MG were kidding no-one but themselves. The sales figures for
the car reflected this. By 1955, the TF was seen even at Longbridge to be a
flop, but all that could be done in the short-term was to increase the engine to
1466cc, and the car was called the TF 1500.
The End of the T-types
even the upgrade to the XPEG 1500 engine was not enough to give the car a new
lease of life. The old traditional style of Midget had come to the end of the
road. It had served the company well since its inception in 1929 in the guise of
the M-Type Midget.
1955, however, MG needed something completely different, something which was
completely up-to-date in terms of performance, handling, and appearance.
Fortunately changes were afoot at MG, and most importantly of these was the
reinstatement of a separate design department at MG.
the benefit of hindsight, many more people have an affection for these models
than for any other MG, and there are few MG enthusiasts who do not regard a
T-type as a "real" MG. Furthermore, no range of cars did more for the
reputation of MG, or indeed of Great Britain, in the post-war period. The
importance of the T-type cars within MG history can never be overstated.