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MG T Type VS Morgan Fours

For old times’ sake Published: 3rd Dec 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What The Experts Say...

Andy King has to rank as one of the most well-liked and respected experts on T-Types and he says their popularity is again on the rise, especially in Europe where they are hugely welcomed. Andy says a TD or TF makes the best all round car although be prepared to spend £15-20K, and more for a top TF. Most Ts have been restored and he reckons most are done exceeding well – perhaps better than when they left the Abingdon site, although he advises against a basket case for restoration which you can lose money on “even if they gave it to you for nothing!”.

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Both the T Type and Plus Four were conceived in the roaring twenties when wealthy young things were searching out ways to enjoy themselves and small open-top sports cars were one good way. The T Types (from A-F with no E) continued a long line of small MG sports cars which started with the M in 1928. Despite being produced until 1955 they were always pre-war in appearance although the mechanics became more modern as time went on.

While highly collectable now, the T types were not originally appreciated by 30s enthusiasts as they were the fi rst MGs built after the company was sold to the Nuffi eld Group and used many Morris saloon parts.

The first, the TA was a disappointment to MG enthusiasts for while it looked familiar it now used a lot of ‘saloon’ underpinnings and the loss of the overhead camshaft engine in favour of the OHV lump from the Morris 10 was particularly mourned. In MG guise this engine was known as MPJG. The Morgan Plus 4 (and let’s include the 4/4 here as well) is a model that Morgan can’t kill off, as much as it has tried over the decades!

Launched in 1950, it succeeded the 4/4 but really harked back to threewheelers of the early twenties and wasn’t much more sophisticated, even using the same sliding pillar front suspension which Morgan still uses to this day. And while the style and character has remained, it’s to Morgan’s credit that it was able to successfully update it with a wide variety of four cylinder engines – from the TR sports to Ford Mondeo Duratec units, with a mix of Alfa and Rover engines in between. Some ‘Morganists’ even regard the ‘fours’ better cars than the Plus 8!

Which one to buy?

Not simply an age thing

At £880 back in 1950, The Morgan was a more expensive car than the TD at just £445 but such is the classic car market that now prices are very similar with the best TF 1500 and Plus 4 Drophead (TR engine) fetching £25-30,000. This is surprising considering that only 1250 Plus Fours were produced in the fi ve years against 40,000 TD-TFs.

The Moggie’s 68bhp, 2088 cc Standard Vanguard engine gave way to the much more powerful 95bhp, 1991cc TR2 engine from 1954. At the same time the car’s aerodynamics were improved by fairing in the upright radiator. By comparison, the MG TD offered just 54bhp, the TD MkII 57, the TF 1250 and TF 1500 a still measly 63bhp. While the MG and Morgan look similar with their pre-war styling, pronounced wings and running boards the MG is much more modern. Although based on the pre-war TA/C there were many improvements including a completely new chassis that now ran above the back axle allowing softer, more cambered rear springs which improved the ride. Box sectioned side rails increased stiffness and so handling and independent coil spring double wish- bone front suspension and rack and pinion steering were then state of the art.

The Morgan on the other hand was stuck in a time warp with its 30 year old sliding pillar front suspension design, sloppy steering box and floppy chassis all held together with an ash frame. But, be honest, isn’t that the way we like them? The MG was first launched before WW2 and early models are really for the hard core enthusiast; for the majority of us the TD with its rack and pinion steering and better suspension is the better starting point, with the last TF1500 range the best developed of the lot.

In many was, the Morgan has successfully replicated itself over and over again – meaning that while it remains vintage, it’s been modernised where it matters, such as disc brakes, five-speed transmissions and so on. If you’re so inclined, you can buy one brand new!

Let’s not ignore faithful modern MG replicas like the Naylor which follows in the Morgan tradition of uprating an existing model. Revamped in all the right areas, a number of respected MG experts rate it as the ‘best TF’ on the block!

What’s the best to drive?

Opinions are divided

Motor magazine tested an MG TD in 1952 and recorded a top speed of 77mph and 0–60mph in 18.2 seconds at 26.7mpg. The Later TF 1250 with the same engine recorded 82mph and 0-60 in 18.9 seconds and 28mpg. This was roughly on par with the four pot Morgans at the time although a TR-engined Plus 4 was considerably quicker with 100mph and 0-60 in 13.3 seconds with the 100bhp TR3 engine bringing 0-60 down to under 10 seconds.

Roll the decades on and the latest ‘Fours’ can hit 60 in virtually the same time as the iconic Plus 8!

What’s the best pick? Well the Ford powered models – fi rst Ford Kent, then XR3 – will be the easiest to maintain along with the Rover T16 of the 80s, and are lively enough but those-in-the-know rate the Fiat twin cam models the best with a beautifully rev happy 122bhp that suits the car’s character well.

It’s quite unfair to compare the Morgan against the MG in this respect. All T Types are sweet cars to drive with nippy performance, good nimble handling, a forgiving ride and reasonable brakes (although these are best uprated). The last TF with the XPEG 1466cc engine is the jewel in the crown thanks to the useful extra power and torque.

If you like a challenge then the Morgan is the one for you as it really has to be understood and ‘driven’. On wide smooth roads with open curves it is a joy but throw in bad cambers, pot holes and tight bends and it becomes something of a nightmare and positively exhausting if in a hurry. For many that’s the attraction, as is the fact that irrespective of age, Morgans retain a vintage feel. So if you’re expecting anything less from a newish model, think again!

Owning and running

There’s nothing in it…

There can be no better support for a 50 year old car than a complete original dealer network and that’s what you get with the Morgan as well as a huge parts stock at the Malvern factory. Mechanical repairs therefore are easy and not too expensive but when it comes to that ash frame and the steel or aluminium panels cladding it, is a different matter. Every Morgan is hand made and therefore different and while panels are available they have to be hand fettled to the individual vehicle which is extremely labour intensive.

The MG, while made in much larger numbers is still built on a steel chassis and timber outer frame making body repairs and restoration complicated although the mechanics, like the Morgan are straightforward and there are good owners clubs and lots of parts suppliers and specialists plus there’s fair scope for improving for modern road use.

As always, unless you are a professional mechanic, welder, joiner and panel beater it is much better to buy a fully restored car which will cost much less in the long run.

And The Winner Is...

This is a difficult choice for while the cars look quite similar their characters are very different. The Morgan is an out and out sports car and if tamed and understood can be very rewarding. The MG on the other hand is more modern, more benign and more responsive and would probably appeal to a wider range of classic enthusiasts. It is easy to be carried away by the nostalgia and glamour of a Morgan but it is not an easy car to own, drive and live with and it is vital to take a very long test drive before purchase – even going as far as hiring one for the week-end. The MG on the other hand will excite less but also offend less.

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