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MG 1100/1300 Vs Triumph 1300/TC

Genteel GTS For Gentlemen Published: 4th May 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

MG 1100/1300 Vs Triumph 1300/TC

What The Experts Say...

When we spoke to Quiller Triumph of South London for help with this feature, the outfit had two 1300s in the workshops. That said, Quiller says it was never, and isn’t, a particularly popular Triumph (the cost when new saw to this) and naturally this has led to very few surviving - there’s more Toledos around. Front wings and petrol tanks are extremely difficult to obtain and the FWD transmissions are all but obsolete. But it does admit that the 1300 was a rather nice car of its era.

Roy Shields owned an MG 1300 after a Sunbeam Stilleto and remembers having his on two wheels round corners. “It really was a big Mini!”.

MG 1100/1300 Vs Triumph 1300/TC
MG 1100/1300 Vs Triumph 1300/TC
MG 1100/1300 Vs Triumph 1300/TC
MG 1100/1300 Vs Triumph 1300/TC
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Before affordable, prestigious saloons became the domain of the Germans, us Brits were quite good at making these ourselves. Two of the best brands were MG and Triumph. While the MGB has the bragging rights to being 50 this year, it’s often forgotten that MG also launched the classy 1100 saloon back in 1962 - ideal for those who wanted a Mini Cooper with more space and refinement.

After Triumph launched the 2000 back in ‘63 it quickly decided to downsize the design into the more affordable, front-wheel drive 1300; we say affordable, but in fact production costs meant it could never replace the Herald, as intended.

Launched in 1965, the 1300 boasted a stretched Herald engine that, two years later, was offered in optional TC (twin carb) tune - in effect the Spitfire engine, plus servo assisted brakes.

We bet that you’ve never given either of these quality saloons a second’s thought? Yet, this prestigious pair make great left-field classics that are different and great value for money.

Which model to buy?

It has to be said that both these cars live in the shadows of their more illustrious relations, and always will. But does that matter? Both lack the trendiness of say a Mini Cooper, but all are smartly styled in a restrained way.

The MG 1300 is mostly a two-door, but the earlier 1100 was a four-door, while the Triumph was always four-door (until the Toledo came out). In terms of space, the smaller MG is roomier, but in terms of luxury the 1300 is easily the better - it really feels like the down-sized 2000/2.5PI that it is. The MG is more a tarted up 1100, but quite nicely done, unlike the boy racer Austin/Morris 1300 GT that was launched in 1969. Don’t forget the more staid Wolseley and Riley offshoots and let’s not ignore the Vanden Plas; a mini Roller that the Japanese went mad over back in the 1990s!

If you need an automatic then only the 1100/1300 provides it - ditto estates, although only as an Austin or Morris.

There’s a real mish-mash of models, so buy with care. The 1100 was always a four-door (usually with a two-tone body) but the 1300 could also be had in the 1100 with a single carb! Autos were always single carb, as BLMC could never get the combo to work right on twins. Also, only the post October ‘68 cars gained the 70bhp tune, which was almost to Cooper S specification save for the less exotic bottom end, along with Cooper S gear ratios. What’s under the lid now though? What’s the best to drive?

What's the best to drive?

On paper the Triumph boasts five horses more, but the MG 1300 is the sportier car and you’ll discover this way before you change into top. This is partly due to added size and weight of the 1300, but their character is completely different as well.

The Triumph engine is smooth but always sedate, whereas the A-Series in the MG feels as keen as mustard, with vigorous low-down pull to make it feel faster than it really is. That said, road tests at the time saw the MG trail the super Cooper only by a second or so to 60mph.

The differences in character extend to the handling; the Triumph feels more refined with less fwd ‘fight’ plus the TR4-sourced IRS works well - it always feels safe but it is perhaps a rather staid under-steering car. In contrast, the MG feels like the big Mini it really is and just as ‘chuckable’ and as easy to slide around, although the Hydrolastic ‘wet’ suspension gives the car a rather bouncy ride you either tolerate or hate.

If prefer to quietly cruise along then the Triumph is the far better proposition. Road tests picked up on the reduced refinement caused by the TC engine, spoiling the 1300’s best quality many felt, but it’s still miles better than a Viva, Escort, Avenger or almost anything else of the same era.

Also, the driving position, with its adjustable steering column and superb seats, remains excellent, unlike the MG which suffers from the ‘bus-like’ Mini stance.

Even if you don’t want to give Lewis or Jenson a run for their money, the TC is a more agreeable car than the ordinary 1300, which, though pleasant, is a real slow-coach. Motor in ‘68 saw the TC lop almost four seconds off the sprint to 60mph, with better overtaking pace. Another alternative is to simply fit the larger 1500 and enjoy practically the same power as a TC but with usefully more torque for an easier, less boy-racer drive.

Owning and running

It’s here that the MG is the better bet, simply because of its big Mini make up. Mechanically all you want is available from other BL cars, although body panels are harder to source - but they are around if you look hard enough.

The Triumph 1300 suffers from the same problem its bigger brother 1500 did, and still does - that of them being sacrificed to keep the more popular Dolomites roadworthy! Trim is hard to find too but, mechanically, things are reasonably okay.

In terms of value this pair offer a lot for little; £3000 is ample to pick up the best and let’s talk half this for a very sound example needing a bit of TLC. Projects start from well under a grand but given the cost and aggro with parts it’s best to buy top dollar from the outset.

And The Winner Is...

It would be a dull world if ever ybody owned the same classic cars and, if nothing else, this backwater duo are at least refreshingly different.

We’d be happy to have the keys to either the MG or the Triumph but if push came to shave then we’d have for former, chiefly because it scores better with the fun factor. It really is a big Mini, albeit with more space and refinement and which, with a spot of crafty tuning, could easily embarrass a Cooper! The Triumph has many qualities and it really was the British BMW 3 Series in its day. If you find a good one, we wouldn’t blame you for buying it one bit.

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