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MG T Series

Your Cup of T? Published: 19th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG T Series

Fast Facts

  • Best model: TD or TF
  • Worst model: None really
  • Budget buy: TD
  • OK for unleaded?: No
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): (mm): L3680xW1480
  • Spares situation: Pretty good
  • DIY ease?: Old car simplicity...
  • Club support: As good as you will fi nd
  • Appreciating asset?: Interest is soaring...
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Best old sports car bet
XPAG engine is robust but can be dear to rebuild. Supercharging was popular pep up back then… and even now XPAG engine is robust but can be dear to rebuild. Supercharging was popular pep up back then… and even now
Proud rad grille ended with TF… Proud rad grille ended with TF…
Proud rad grille ended with TF… Proud rad grille ended with TF…
The lovely period cockpit is surprisingly civilised for its age The lovely period cockpit is surprisingly civilised for its age
Most of what you need to restore one is freely available as well Most of what you need to restore one is freely available as well
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Is the MG T Series the most enjoyable vintage car around? There’s only one way to fi nd out!

Pros & Cons

Style, character, ease of running and modifying
Acquired taste, pedestrian performance, heavy handling

Ranging from A to F (with no E for some strange reason!) T Series continued a long line of small sports cars, which started with the M back in 1928. Today these MGs are loved for their war-time image, style and driving experience.


Opinions rage on what’s the best model

The fi rst TA model surfaced back in 1936, but itwas a major disappointment to MG enthusiasts. While it looked familiar and raffi sh enough, now used a lot of saloon car components mainly borrowed from Morris. The loss of the famed and rather sophisticated overhead camshaft engine in favour of an old school ohv unit from the Morris 10 was particularly mourned. The chassis was traditional but its tubular cross members were replaced by channel sections and the front of the side rails were box sectioned for extra stiffness. The sportster body, that aped the earlier Magna and Magnette, comprised an ash frame clad in steel panels and front and rear leaf springs fi tted with Luvax shock absorbers. And for the fi rst time, hydraulic brakes were fi tted. Despite the initial discontent among enthusiasts, the TA was very successful and played a major role in MG’s competition CV, even though the Morris engine’s weak bottom end and valve timing had to be rectifi ed. Looking identical to the TA, the revised TB benefi ted from several major mechanical changes included the now famous 1250cc XPAG engine. The old cork clutch was ditched in favour of a conventional dry item and the synchromesh gearbox came stuffed with better ratios. WW2
meant that just 379 TBs in Sports and Tickford guises were produced before hostilities began. In November 1945 car production got underway again and MG wasted no time launching the TC, mainly to break into the lucrative US market. To the casual observer it was very similar to earlier cars but with a slightly wider body and smaller running boards fi tted with two protectivefoot board strips. Despite its now quite dated appearance and specifi cation, the TC was another success for MG – perhaps because there was little else available really plus and the car’s style harked back to the more carefree pre-war times. But time was moving on fast and while other manufacturers in the 1950s were influenced by styling trends from the USA, MG rigidly stuck to its guns and the TD remained strictly pre-war in its appearance. However, there were major changes under the vintage skin including a completely new chassis with rack and pinion steering, both adapted from the YA saloon but cleverly cut and shut by MG engineers. With its box-section side rails and cross members, it was much stiffer and this improved the ride and handling no end. The front endbecame fully independent with double wishbones and coil springs, the actual upper wishbones acting as the levers of the shock absorbers. This design would be used on MGs for many years. The TD 11 version was launched in August 1951 and should not be confused with the TD Mk 11 or Competition which had been built in limited numbers for racing and had a Special Tuning engine producing 60bhp, twin fuel pumps, and uprated dampers all round. The actual TD 11 gave 57bhp through bigger carburettors and higher compression. It also was fi tted with bucket seats instead of the conventional slide along bench items and had a stiffened suspension set up. revised with faired in headlights, lowered front wings and a steeply raked grille. Many reckon it’s the prettiest T of them all, but the car did nothing to halt the decline in sales (the TR Triumphs were big rivals) and it limped on until late 1954 when the 1464cc XPEG engine modern MGA.


These are real vintage spor ts cars, whichprogressively became better to drive over the years, the fi nal TF being pretty close to the MGA in its drivability and feel. What’s the capital T? Well, it depends what you’re after. Pre-TDs have a more vintage feel about them – the TA is a better handler than a TC due to the superior rear axle location (it was cheapened after the war using rubber not sliding bronze inserts) although the TC offers worthy compensations, such as 12 volt electrics. The TD, with its rack and pinion steering appeals to those after a sharper and easier driving experience, although purists say the earlier cars were the sportier. The TF is the softest option of them all and – with its wider cockpit – the most comfortable and civilised. We reckon the TD is the best because it has the most modern feel yet retains the MG’s pre-war looks, character and charm. None are exactly quick! Top speed is barely 80mph and acceleration is on par with a Mini… but the real thrill comes from that special driving experience that the T Series still provides. Performance of the XPAG and XPEG engines can be improved by the addition of a supercharger. Kits are freely available and they’re a popular and effective period mod. A popular swap in the 1950s and 60s was to slot in the 1.5-litreengine from the VA saloon – just like Tickford did with its special-bodied models to cope with the2cwt added weight. This engine was stretched to 1700cc by many racing teams, too. Want one? Well, if you think that the T Series is simply an antiquated MGB – or a lesser take on a Morgan – then you’re in for a shock. It’s best to test drive a few simply to see if you’d both like or indeed can cope with one. That’s not a criticism – just a fact.


Prices vary enormously and are dependant on originality and desirability. A quality rebuild costs around £30,000 – which is about the price for a top car from a specialist. Restoration projects hover around the £4000-6000 mark, although values seem more governed by condition and provenance than actual age or model. The good news is that if you sift through this magazine and check out the likes of Barrie Carter and Andy King, you can still buy an excellent example for under £20,000, but time is starting to run out for such bargains. According to leading pre ‘55 MG expert Andy King (01949 860519), the T Series has always been in demand. The difference now is that people are willing to spend proper money on one, so quality restorations are more realistic. He favours the TA because he likes that vintage feel but adds that the TD (the biggest seller when new) and the TF are the easier to live with.


There’s quite a bit you can do to this MG to make it your cup of T. Starting with the engine, numerous conventional head and carb tweaks are available, culminating in a supercharger which was a popular mod in its day. Today it’s a £2000 mod, but it’s said to up power by as much as 25 per cent – just make sure the engine is up to it! If the engine is past in and too dear for you to repair, then the 1500cc engine from the Y series can be fi tted to the later TD and TF as can later 1500 or 1622 B Series from the MGA or A55, although such Heath-Robinson swaps can seriously devalue the car. The vast majority of models can even be fi tted with the saviour of all old MGs – a fi ve-speed Ford Sierra gearbox, which transforms the T Series and makes it far more relaxing for top gear cruises for around £1300-£1500. It’s a well accepted mod in MG circles that doesn’t detract from the characteristics or value of the car. Suspensions can be converted to modern telescopic items just like an MGB, while the brakes can be beefed-up with alloy Alfi n drums to cut fade (around £500 all-in). Early cars can be retro-fi tted with the better TD/TF anchors while with a bit of ingenuity, later MGA/MGB discs can be grafted on as well as servo assistance – but it’s not an easy job – or necessary says leading T specialist Andy King. There’s a fair bit of scope to improve the slack, heavy steering on TDs. Consider a modern upgrade like a VW Beetle steering box or a conversion from Tomkins to dial out the wear.

What To Look For

  • Remember, even the newest T will be 55 years old now, so it’s inevitable that some form of restoration will have been carried out – along with assorted dodges and bodges.
  • While there’s nothing complicated about theseMGs, they’re still specialist enough to warrant consulting an expert. As ever, there’s nothing like enlisting the help of a top dealer to help you get the right car for your needs and budget.
  • True, it’s not as popular and accessible as an MGB, but parts and spares support is as good as you can expect for such a vintage car and certainly restorations shouldn’t be stumped by the scarcity of critical components.
  • Essentially, the MG T Series is a toughie that has survived the years rather well. The chassis, for instance, is made of steel up to 1/8in thick and, if preserved, can last for another 60 years, although you still need to scrutinise any car carefully for past poor repairs.
  • Look for signs of repairs from both rust and accidents. It’s essential that you crawl underneath to inspect it thoroughly. Essentially, the early pre TD chassis is the toughest as it featured a channelled design, but it stil can crack under the front seats.
  • The Y saloon chassis used from the TD onwards is stiffer but the box section design can harbour rot easier – plus it’s significantly harder to repair. Also, later cars used slightly thinner steel in the construction.
  • The scuttle under the windscreen supports on both sides rust, while the battery compartment in the TAs can corrode badly due to the electrolytic action from spilt battery acid.
  • The timber outer frame is basically the same across the board. Chief worry points are the under the running boards and the dash, which is a good indicator to the rest of the frame as most of it is well hidden.
  • The timber door hinge posts are inherently weak and if the doors drop when opening, replacement is necessary. Actually, as with a Morgan, it’s another good indicator of the car’s overall condition.
  • While the chassis may be long lasting the panel work isn’t, so check for rust and fi ller work. Draw an imaginary line, six-to-seven inches up from the fl oor level and expect to fi nd rot if past restoration work is getting old.
  • Look at the wings and the car’s bulkheads. The rear one is a known rot spot due to the water absorbent pads used to hold the fuel tank.
  • For originality on TAs, look for the MG badge stamped on the engine block – the otherwise identical Morris/Wolseley 10 item is often fi tted. There’s nothing wrong with this really, as the unit can be brought up to MG tune easily enough.
  • However, bear in mind that the TA has a weak bottom end with white metal bearings and breaking cranks. If properly maintained and sympathetically driven, it will still last well, although the con rods will need regular re-metalling. TA blocks and heads are subject to cracking.  Check for an oil/water mix. High oil pressure of over 100lb is common and okay.
  • The XPAG and XPEG engines are what it’s all about. They’re pretty bomb-proof but can cost between £3000-5000 to properly overhaul by an expert. Oil pressure should be 40lb at least when on the move and the engines are known to leak lube at the crank seals, side plates and the rocker cover.
  • The XPAG’s other foible is a pretty weak valve train where the camshaft followers can wear – over high revs and too strong valve springs can highlight this problem, but it’s easily sorted now by MG experts.
  • Gearboxes are extremely robust and reliable. Spare parts are not freely available and a rebuilt can swell to £1000. A Riley 1.5-litre gearbox can be used if needs be. Look for the usual wear points such as worn synchro, jumping out of gear etc. If anything, it’s the TD/TF ‘boxes that are the weaker units.
  • Final drive ratios can be an issue as they were frequently changed throughout the life of the design to improve gearing – is the right one still fi tted? They can be noisy units, but they soldier on well. Incidentally, on the TD/ TF a Wolseley 4/44 or ZA Magnette unit can be used instead.
  • Hydraulic brakes are pretty sound – they create few problems as long as they’re serviced (many aren’t) plus certain parts were also used in the Y Series saloon, especially on the later TD and TFs to make sourcing easier.
  • Pre TDs used pressed steel drum brakes and hard use can lead to overheating and subsequent damage. New drums cost around £100 a corner.
  • Later cars used a more conventional cast iron set up although the drums were now integral with the drum and prone to seizing on, leading to neglect.
  • Steering tends to be the Achilles heel on these cars. It’s heavy, with poor geometry and play at the wheel on the worm and peg set up even after adjustment. This is typical for a vintage car but the rack and pinion set-up on the TD/ TF should be much sharper unless it’s worn.
  • The front suspension on the TD was good enough to be carried over right up to the MGB. Check for the usual king pin and damper wear here as well as checking the spring pans on TD/TFs. Phosphor bronze inserts were used in the trunnions initially but more likely low cost steel types from the MGA have been substituted by now. Cart springs were fi ttedto earlier cars and although they’re very basic, they wear well.
  • From the TC onwards, 12 volt electrics were used and naturally it’s an easier system to service as well as to source bits such as bulbs and the like. As you’d expect, the wiring on such an old car could be aged, and bodged.
  • Remember that the rear suspension differed on pre TDs with the TA/TBs using sliding bronze inserts for axle location. On the TC these were changed to plain rubber, which are easier and cheaper to renew. They are said to provide less location but are not as dangerous when clapped out (repair kits cost some £40 per side). Check for locating bolts pulling through the body.

Three Of A Kind

Triumph TR2/3
Triumph TR2/3
Chief rival to the MG came from this range of Triumph sportsters, which really carried on where the TF and MGA signed off, remaining fundamentally the same in terms of design up until the strain was pensioned off in 1976. A far more modern and civilised alternative to any T, and much faster too, the TR is a sort of cut price junior Healey with the TR3 boasting front disc brakes after 1956. Tons of spares, support and mods around make this Triumph an excellent buy.
Morgan Four
Morgan Four
In terms of style and character, the four-pot Morgan is the closest thing going to an MG, but thanks to its eternal design you can buy virtually new examples yet still own a genuine classic car but without the hang-ups! Earlier models used Triumph TR power before switching to Ford horses, which still remain although there was a brief fl irtation with Fiat and Rover propulsion. Charming vintage feel, illustrious badge and good residuals make Morgans great buys whatever the era.
Such is the popularity of the MG T Series that two noteworthy replicas have stood the test of time. Naylor was a faithful reproduction of the TF but using latter day MG hardware. The TD Silverstone is still made in Malaysia, and sold as a brand new car using Toyota running gear. Its mix of old and new technology may outrage purists, but it works well. Imported to Europe by Lifestyle Automotive (


The MG T Series remains the best every day vintage sports car for the money. Good ones can only soar in value and the car’s popularity has rarely been greater. Full of style and charm, they are easy to maintain, come with brilliant club and social support and they’re deeply satisfying to drive – if vintage sportsters are your thing, that is. Why not try a spot of T tasting fi rst before deciding?

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