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If there was any justice in the world, then the MG name would still be rivalling the likes of BMW and Mercedes as the brand to drive. Come to think of it, MG was more Audi in its history and outlook – and surely would have similarly prospered if British Leyland management hadn’t starved this famous, and much loved outfit, of proper encouragement and cash.
The origins of MG date back to the very roots of motoring. Cecil Kimber joined Morris Garages in 1921 (William Morris had set up the Oxford-based business in 1913, and started building the first Morris Oxford), and during the early 1920s Kimber experimented with various special bodies based on plain Morris chassis. Successes in motorsport raised the profile of MG. However, by the mid-1950s buyers were looking for more modern designs, which the MGA duly provided, even though it was essentially an updated and rebodied TF.
The MGB ran for almost 20 years but the rot was setting in for MG because, despite having some of the finest engineers within BMC, the company was continually neglected and under funded for no other reason than because British Leyland now saw MG’s once arch rival Triumph as the corporation’s blue-eyed boy and its saviour.
BMW quickly extricated itself from the business it took over in 1994. In 2000 ‘MG Rover’ was acquired, shaken up and revived by the Phoenix Consortium who appeared to be the company’s saviour at long last. Sadly, it was a false dawn and the company went out of business in 2005, to be bought and revived by the Chinese where new MG models, produced by Nanjing MG, are marketed as the MG3 and MG6 (tests elsewhere in this issue). Rest assured, whoever owns the badge, the famous Octagon talisman will be around for many more years yet!
UNIQUE MG MARQUE GUIDE FROM POST WAR TO CURRENT
PAST: The YA of 1947 featured bodywork based on the Morris Eight Series E and Wolseley Eight, but with a vertical grille and a longer bonnet to give it a sporting look. Power was from an overhead valve XPAG four-cylinder, 1250cc engine (Morris Ten derived). Rack and pinion steering plus independent front suspension ensured sports car-like handling for its time. Variations included the updated YB saloon of 1951 and YT Tourer but the later Magnette ZA and ZB surpassed them all.
PRESENT: Respected for their elegance, practicality and comparative rarity, the Y series MGs remain enjoyable to drive (but in truth are not fast cars) and still good value for money.
FUTURE: Interest and prices are sure to rise as supply is outstripped by demand for good pre-war classics. The solid reputation of these models is set to continue and they make interesting prestigious sporty saloons.
PRODUCED: YA 1947-51; YB1951-53; YT 1948-50
BODYWORK: YA/YB four-door saloon YT two-door open tourer
ENGINE: Overhead-valve in-line four-cylinder 1250cc 46-54bhp
ON THE ROAD: Stately performance but lops along okay with adequate road manners for its era – YB has better brakes – fair comfort levels, too.
YES: Pre-war style, heritage, TD running gear.
NO: Can struggle on faster roads a bit cramped.
VERDICT Charming gent’s carriage that has potential to be made into a T-type for all the family to enjoy.
PAST: When TA Midget was introduced in 1936, it was everything a sports car should be, with flowing, open bodywork and good performance. The pre-War TB and mildly amended post-War TC evolved from the original design.The 1950 TD benefited from independent front suspension plus rack and pinion steering, and the 1953 TF possessed, sleeker bodywork. However, by then the cars appeared terribly dated.
PRESENT: T-Types are highly sought-after due to their old-fashioned charm and ease of ownership resulting in prices remaining high. Not fast of course, but are splendid to drive and (Morgans excepted) are the most sensible ‘vintage’ sports.
FUTURE: Specialists report that they simply can’t get enough good ones to satisfy a growing market. Spares should be available long into the future too, and there’s excellent club support into the bargain.
PRODUCED: TC 1945-49 TD 1949-53 TF 1953-55
BODYWORK: Two-door open sports
ENGINE: Overhead valve in-line four-cylinder 1250cc 54-57bhp TF 1500 1466cc 63bhp
ON THE ROAD: Crisp performance for its time plus agile handling. TD has benefi t of rack and pinion steering. TF has best cockpit of the lot and more pep.
YES: Style, image, splendid specialist support, ever rising values twinned with afford-ability.
NO: Needs upgrading for faster roads, ideally.
VERDICT: All time great that’s always in demand.
PAST: Back in 1953 the ZA was regarded as a modern sporting saloon, featuring clean styling and BMC’s torquey, B-Series engine, sprouting twin SU carbs. Rack and pinion steering plus independent front suspension meant trim handling, and the cars were well liked as a poor man’s Jag. Higher compression ZB Magnette of 1956 was the fastest 1.5-litre saloon of its time. Revise with upmarket Varitone model featured that year.
PRESENT: Still highly regarded, not least because the ZB’s successors were nothing like as good to look at or drive! The Z series models remain eminently practical for a family – a beginners’ Jaguar Mk1/Mk2? Bit sedate but MGA tune or later MGB engine are popular retro fits.
FUTURE: After sad periods where they were popular for banger racing or just cheap and cheerful bangers, Z cars have taken off and prices are steadily rising for top ones.
ZA 1953-56; ZB 1956-59
BODYWORK: Four-door saloon
ENGINE: Overhead valve in-line four-cylinder 1489cc B-Series ZA 60bhp ZB 68.5bhp
ON THE ROAD: Lively performance and handling (can be easily and cheaply enhanced, too) make it best Magnette of the lot. Jaguar-like interior and aura without the car’s cost and complication.
YES: Looks, driving, family-sized, image, value for money, club and specialist support.
NO: Surprisingly little considering its age.
VERDICT: Pleasing sports saloon. ZB best of all.
PAST: A rebodied and refined TF it may simply be but the MGA ranks as one of the best MGs ever! Sleek, attractive and, for its time, fast, courtesy of a tuned 1.5-litre B-Series engine – enlarged to 1.6-litres in 1959, it eclipses the B. The 108bhp Twin Cam versions were ahead of their time, but these complex units tended to be troublesome although that’s all sorted now. Conventional-powered TCs until MGB arrived in 1962.
PRESENT: Almost 60 years since their introduction, the MGAs still impress and many prefer it to the softer driving MGB. Twin Cams are hot stuff now their foibles have been sorted but last of the line ‘ordinary’ models based on TC bodies are the best bets.
FUTURE: Quite simply, the MGA has always been seen as one of the finest British sports cars ever and popularity will continue, as will the inexorable rise in asking prices, especially for the Twin Cam
BODYWORK: Two-door open sports/fi xedhead coupé
ENGINE: All except Twin Cam units overhead valve in-line four-cylinder B-Series 1500 1489cc 68bhp, 1600 Mark I 1588cc 80bhp Mark II 1622cc 93bhp, Twin Cam: Twin overhead camshaft 1588cc 108bhp
ON THE ROAD: Last ‘chassied’ MG, many prefer its handling to the soggier MGB. Performance only fair but
can easily be upgraded. Looks fast even standing still.
YES: Style, character, parts supply, owner clubs, tuning potential, appreciating asset, especially Twin Cam.
NO: Very little, apart from over-priced bodged cars.
VERDICT: Simply lovely; some prefer it to the MGB.
PAST: Replacing the MGA, the new, unitary construction 1.8-litre MGB Roadster was equally well-received if hardly cutting edge, even for 1962. Fastback GT arrived in 1965, and Mark 2 revisions surfaced in ‘68. The strange rubber bumpers and increased ride height for 1974 was due to catering for vital USA market. Further detail changes made until the model’s demise in 1980 and Heritage shells being made available in 1988.
PRESENT: The ‘B’ is still widely regarded as the most practical classic sports car you can buy. Handling is a little ‘soft’ and Bs are not quick but lots of upgrades are available. Rubber bumper cars ride better and can be made to handle as well.
FUTURE: Half a century on the MGB will always be loved, but with so many around prices only increase for genuinely top cars. Resto-friendly if hardly cost effective with so many on sale. Rubber bumper cars remain great value.
BODYWORK: Two-door open sports unitary chassis Fixedhead coupé (GT)
ENGINE: Overhead valve in-line four-cylinder 1798cc 98bhp
ON THE ROAD: As appealing as ever. Good lusty performance and predictable handling although rubber bumper cars spoiled it even they ride that bit better.
GT is highly practical and versatile 2+2.
YES: Looks, ease of running, GT practicality, value.
NO: Not that much that can’t be improved these days.
VERDICT: Common sense classic with real character, that we should all own once in our lives…
PAST: An upgrade of the Austin-Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite, in turn derived from the Austin A35; Midgets provide sports car motoring on a budget, and are liked by buyers for their affordability and willing nature. Engine capacities grew from 948cc to 1098cc then 1275cc and finally to 1493cc (Triumph unit). Mk3s 1275s regarded best; raised height, Triumph-engined 1500s least liked.
PRESENT: More fun to punt around than the not so agile MGB, these compact classics are still available at sensible prices and provide more smiles per mile than their size and pace suggests. Not fast but crisp handling compensates although cabin is too tight and Spartan for some. As a starter sports classic they are ideal plus are excellent for classic club motorsport.
FUTURE: The future is rosy for Midgets, since virtually all components, including full bodyshells, are available. The worry is spending too much on one as values level off.
PRODUCED: Mark I 948cc 1961-62 1098cc 1962-64, Mark II 1098cc 1964-66 Mark III 1966-74 1500 1974-79
BODYWORK: Two-door open sports
ENGINE: All are overhead valve in-line four-cylinder BMC A-Series 46bhp 948cc 57bhp 1098cc 65bhp 1275cc, 1493cc (Midget 1500) 66bhp
ON THE ROAD: Great fun despite only fair poke thanks to Kart-like handling and willing engines.
YES: Style, character, driving appeal, affordable values, ease of repair/restoration, superb owner, club support.
NO: Cramped cockpit with minimal refi nement.
VERDICT: Sort of cut-price Caterham in many ways!
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