Category Archives: General

History of the MG Marque – The MG 14/40 and 14/80 Models

by Karen Border, TRF Publications

I have promised our MGB customers some stories about the origins of the MG marque and so I began researching them. But here is my effort to explain how the MG was developed. Because it is such a complicated story, I am going to have to do it in installments. I have also included a list of books and web links that I used for research, so you can read more about the subject.  All of the installments can be found at https://the-roadster-factory.com/Images/POTW/MG-Origins/MG-history.html .

Karen Border, TRF Publications

The Roadster Factory
www.the-roadster-factory.com

Sales Dept. Phone: 800-234-1104 INSTALLMENT 6. THE MG EX120 and EX127 Speed Trials

I am continuing the History of the MG Marque with Installment 6, the EX120 and EX127. The last installment included the MG C-type and MG D-type cars and I mentioned that the C-type was derived from the record speed-breaking prototype EX 120. Following the success of five MG M-type cars at the 1929 Double-12 Hour event at Brooklands, The MG Car Company wanted to gain some publicity by making a car that would reach or exceed 100 mph before one of their competitors, Austin, did.

In 1929, J. A. Palmes, the director of Jarvis & Co. (MG sales agents at Wimbledon) and Captain George Eyston, a record-setting driver, went to see Cecil Kimber to see if he would be interested in creating a record-breaking speed trial car. Kimber was already working on a record-breaking car, which was designated as the MG EX120. Eyston liked what he saw, and felt that they could set the record for the class H for cars up to 750 cc. To achieve this, they reduced the capacity of the M-type engine from 847 to 750 cc. They gave the car a modified chassis and gave the car a streamlined, boat-tailed body. Hubert Charles had modified the rear suspension by mounting the rear axle leaf springs using pivots at the front end and mounted the back into sliding trunnions rather than the more common shackles. This improved the axle location and helped the car handle better. The EX120 was also fitted with larger brakes and a four-speed gearbox. Hubert also experimented with valve timing to give the engine more power.

Eyston and his engineer Ernest Eldridge took the EX120 prototype car to Newmarket for road tests because Brooklands was closed for the winter. Eyston tested the car on a straight road and the EX120 achieved 97 mph. Eldridge took the car back to the MG factory Abingdon and the compression ratio was raised. On December 30, 1930, Eyston drove the car at the Montlhéry track near Paris and captured three Class H records. The car achieved speeds of over 87 mph for 100 km before a valve broke. An Austin 7 with a supercharger had achieved 97 mph. Eyston and Kimber still wanted to achieve 100 mph, so they decided to fit a supercharger to the car. They fitted a Powerplus supercharger which was designed by Eyston.

On February 16, 1931, the EX120 reached a speed of 103.13 mph for 5 kilometres and 101.87 at 10 miles and became the first 750 cc car to exceed 100 mph at Montlhéry. To celebrate this success, Kimber created a racing replica of the EX120 and called it the C-type Midget, or as it better known the Montlhéry Midget. It was available with or without a supercharger. You can read about the C-type MG in Installment 4.

In addition to the speed records above, Eyston wanted to see if he could hold a speed of 100 mph for an hour. In December 1931 he took the EX120 back to Montlhéry and ran 100 miles at an average speed of 101.01 mph, but soon had a problem! When taking just one extra lap the engine caught fire. Eyston steered it into the infield all the while sitting on the tail of the car. The speed slowed to around 60 mph and then before the car hit an embankment, Eyston jumped off the back. He rolled as he fell, a technique he learned while riding horses for fox hunting, and made a landing without getting seriously hurt! (Some sources say he jumped from the cockpit and not the tail of the car.) However, he did suffer burns. A French test driver in a Citroen saw the wreck and carried Eyston to his car and took him to a hospital. In the meantime, the MG mechanics came to the wrecked car and were confounded when they could not find Eyston. Wikipedia then says that Eyston filed a patent for fireproof asbestos overalls. If you click on this link, you can see a photo of Eyston in EX127 wearing his asbestos suit. William Morris, Viscount Nuffield is standing second from right behind the car. https://www.mgcc.co.uk/on-this-day-in-1931/.

EX120 was set aside and the EX127 was built by Reg Jackson with Eldridge supervising. It had a low drag and the transmission was offset seven degrees to the left and the driver sat beside the driveshaft. The driver’s seat was only 6-inches off the ground. The streamlined body of the car was very narrow, only wide enough for Eyston to get into. They gave the car a specially tuned C-type engine. In September 1931, Eldridge drove the car at Montlhéry, as Eyston was still recovering.. Eldridge did 5 kilometers at 110..28 mph. To see a photo of the EX127, please use this link: https://www.mgcc.co.uk/articles/those-ex-numbers/ .

When Eyston was fit again, he oversaw the installation of a Powerplus supercharger that was driven by pinion instead of a chain into the EX127. He went on to drive it at Montlhéry on December 22, 1931 and the car achieved 114.77 mph and took four records. Eyston wore his asbestos overalls. The EX127 was called the Magic Midget.

The car went on to more speed trials at Pendine Sands, and achieved 122 mph but that timing was not official. The official mph was only 118.39 mph. The cockpit was enclosed and they set out to break some more records at Montlhéry. In 1933, with Bert Denly to help Eyston with the first 12 hours of driving they finally made the 120 mph goal that Kimber had asked for. They also raced a Sports J3 with Tommy Widsom co-driving, and they took all Class H records up to 24 hours. These records were unbroken for several years. Eyston broke some sprint records as well, with a speed of 120.56 mph.

In 1935, EX127 was sold to Bobby Kohlrausch and he went on to get a 140.6 mph on a flying start mile on an autobahn.

https://www.mgcc.co.uk/articles/those-ex-numbers/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Midget
https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/december-2001/76/midget-gems
Use this link to see a photo of Captain Eyston at the wheel of the MG EX127. William Morris, Viscount Nuffield is standing second from right behind the car. https://www.mgcc.co.uk/on-this-day-in-1931/
Great Marques M.G., by Chris Harvey, 1983
MG Past & Present, by Rivers Fletcher, 1985
MG by McComb, by F. Wilson McComb, Revised Edition by Jonathan Wood, 2004

Getting Old Together – My MGB

by Kevin Rooney

According to the door-plate, my blue MGB convertible rolled off the production line in the fall 1977, coincidentally within a few months of my wife and I being married, just over 80 miles away from the factory. I’ve actually owned the vehicle since 1984, bought used, so the three of us have actually been together now for 36 years. The three of us also immigrated to the same state, California; I was living in Los Angeles, while the MG started out its life of service in Palm Springs. This would explain its total lack of any rust, but why also it required a respray in about 1986, having been baked and sandblasted for the first 6 years of its life! Fortunes and the fates have conspired to find us collocated in the Nevada desert, now 43 years after the two simultaneous events of marriage and manufacture. I’ve tarted the car up with a couple of headlight stone guards, and a lovely rosewood dash, but apart from wear and tear items, she is basically “OEM”.

As with all British cars (and wives, I’ve discovered), personality and some stubbornness are in-built features, requiring extensive maintenance to preserve the relationship – Hurrah for Victoria British, with whom I am on first-name terms! (Note to self: should have taken shares out in that company 25 years ago!) Take for example the electrics (the car, not wife). The original Palm Springs owner, being apparently overly paranoid, had installed a sophisticated security system involving seat pressure-sensors, battery current monitoring, and lights-on detection, etc. The problem was that prior to sale, this system was completely ripped out (literally), leaving trailing wires, loose connectors, and bypassed boxes in several impossible-to-reach nooks and crannies. Hence the first 10 years of ownership were fraught with persistent short circuits and fuse-frying; none of which could legitimately be assigned to the fault of Mr. Joseph Lucas! (Yes, him of much anti-British-car humor!)

For many years, the lovely blue MGB was the daily commuter car for my wife, with the number plate surround proudly claiming “Wench Mobile”, but these days, with on setting retirement, the MG is just our weekend zoomer-about-town. And of course she is our primary contribution to rallies out with our friends in the British Auto Club of Las Vegas, where several MGs of various ilks can get together and doubtlessly chat about their varied life experiences. A big advantage of living in Nevada compared to California is the ability to register the car as a “Classic Vehicle”, thereby avoiding the arduous and nail-biting biannually enforced smog-testing ritual, whose stipulations had gotten more much stringent over the years. Even so, after a mid-90s catalytic converter replacement, she managed to squeak through every time (except once due to a technicality when I hadn’t noticed that the vacuum advance tube had fallen away from the distributor!)

One feature my MGB and I have in common is to note the changes in our chassis over time: one of us has become a lot stiffer and less flexible over the 36 years of ownership, while the other has become a little more pliant. Hence my transition from avid self-repair enthusiast (perpetually-scraped knuckles and concrete-scraped bald patches due to under-car experiences to evidence) to employer of necessary garage services for most discovered foibles.

For the period of time in Los Angeles, I was supported in my maintenance of the vehicle by an expert but dour ex-RAF master mechanic who offers at-home mobile service, and without whom the MGB and I may well have parted company a few years back. These days in Nevada, I am still searching for the ideal compatriot in “keeping her on the road”.

But overall, the 36 years of MGB Roadster ownership (more like “partnership”) has been fun, exciting and rewarding. She costs virtually nothing to keep right now, we do about 1,000 miles a year, I keep her on trickle charge at all times, and when she is not garaged, I have a nice protective heavy-duty waterproof/sun proof cover for her. And despite numerous gasket-replacements, she still insists on marking her territory with a current mix of hypoid, DOT-4 and 5W30. Would I part with her? Never. At least not till she decides to embarrass me by letting me down far from home on an upcoming rally!

'77 B of Kevin Rooney from Las Vegas, Nevada
'77 B of Kevin Rooney from Las Vegas, Nevada

History of the MG Marque – the 14/40 and 14/80 Models

by Karen Border, TRF Publications

I have promised our MGB customers some stories about the origins of the MG marque and so I began researching them. But here is my effort to explain how the MG was developed. Because it is such a complicated story, I am going to have to do it in installments. I have also included a list of books and web links that I used for research, so you can read more about the subject. All of the installments can be found at https://the-roadster-factory.com/Images/POTW/MG-Origins/MG-history.html .

Karen Border, TRF Publications

The Roadster Factory
www.the-roadster-factory.com

Sales Dept. Phone: 800-234-1104

INSTALLMENT 5. THE M-TYPE MG MIDGET, THE C-TYPE and D-TYPE

This installment continues the History of the MG today with the MG M-type, which was also known as the MG Midget. Midgets were manufactured from 1929 to 1932, and over 3,235 models were produced. The M-type shared factory production with the MG 14/40 and 18/80. In 1927, William Morris had purchased the Wolseley car manufacturer when they went bankrupt. Wolseley had developed an 847 cc engine and Kimber realized that it could be used to make a smaller sports car. The Midget was displayed at the 1928 London Motor Show and it was a success because at a cost of £175, it was one of the first sports cars to be affordable. The Midget was half the price of the 14/40 and the 18/80 was more expensive than the 14/40. At least fifty percent of MG sales were Midgets. The 18/80 made up one third of the sales, and it was decided to discontinue the 14/40.

The Midget was first manufactured at the Edmund Road works in Cowley, Oxford, and after January, 1930 production was moved to a factory in Abingdon. It was at Abingdon that the “Safety Fast” motto was adopted. The staff included Hubert Charles for design, Cecil Cousins and Reg Jackson, and with Gordon Phillips and Syd Enever in development. John Thornley, their accountant, began the M.G. Car Club, which is still a club today.

The Midget was a 2-door car with the updated four-cylinder, overhead camshaft Wolseley engine. It had a single SU carburettor and was rated at 20 bph and had a three-speed non-synchromesh gearbox. Kimber started with the 1928 Morris Minor chassis and modified it with a lowered suspension that included half-elliptic springs and Hartford friction disk shock absorbers. The car was a rear wheel drive, and had rigid front and rear axles. Bolt-on wire wheels completed the drive train.

The brake system was updated in 1930 by using a cable system for the handbrake, which replaced the rod brake system. A modified camshaft gave the engine 27 bph. A four-speed gearbox was an option. In 1932, a longer wheelbase enabled the car to have two additional seats, and a supercharged version was available which could reach a top speed of 80 mph.

The first Midgets had fabric covered plywood bodies on an ash frame with a boat shaped stern. The hood and the cowl were steel, and it featured the distinctive MG radiator. By 1931, the cars had metal bodies which were mostly manufactured by Carbodies, although a few were manufactured by Jarvis. The Midget was available in open two-seat or closed two-door “Sportsmans” coupés. A commercial van was also available.

In addition to building cars, Kimber created a small competition department to offer tuning services to race customers. Kimber modified the M-type to compete in races and it proved to be a successful race car. Private and factory-backed race teams drove the Midget in races. A Midget won a gold medal in the 1929 Land’s End Trial, and in 1930, five cars entered in the Brooklands “Double Twelve” endurance race took the team prize. Two Midgets were entered in the 1930 LeMans but they did not finish.

The success of the Brooklands race allowed Kimber to build a limited run of Double-Twelve race cars which were bought by race drivers. The win also enabled Kimber to develop the C-type Midget. The C-type was derived from the record speed-breaking prototype EX 120. From 1931 to 1932, MG produced 44 C-type Midgets. In 1931, the C-type won both the race and the team prize in the Brooklands Double Twelve race. A supercharged C-type won the Tourist Trophy race also in 1931.

MG also produced 250 four-seater, MG D-type Midgets from 1931-32. It had the same engine as the M-type and the chassis of the C-type. The D-type was only capable of a top speed of 60 mph as the body was too heavy for the small 847cc Wolseley engine. The D-type was sometimes referred to as the 8/33 but that designation was not accurate as the car did not achieve 8 hp or 33 power output. The design changes included rear springs which were mounted in sliding trunnions instead of shackles, the radiator was mounted on the front engine mounts rather than the chassis, and it had 8-inch brake drums which were cable operated.

—Editor’s Note: Neville Wardle gave me some more information about the horsepower rating on the D-type. Thank you Neville for your wonderful edit!

Regarding the remark about the horsepower rating for the D type MG. The 8 horsepower rating was for tax purposes and is established by using a formula devised by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC). The RAC formula simply takes the cylinder bore (in inches), square, times the number of cylinders and then divided by a constant, 2.5

The constant reflected common engine characteristics of the day such as the maximum piston speed that engines achieved.

The D type rating is (2.244 x 2.244) x 4/2.5 which comes out to 8.056, so 8hp for tax purposes.

McComb lists the actual horsepower as 27.5 bhp at 4,500 rpm. A bit shy of 33, but it wouldn’t have been the first or last time that horsepower ratings were embellished a bit.

So the 8/33 designation was at least half-right!

Neville Wardle
Branford, CT

At the same time, MG offered a 6-cylinder 1271 cc F-type model, the Magna, that was identical outwardly to the D-type, but it outsold the D-type because it had more power.

For the next installment, I will write about the “Magic Midget”, EX120 and EX127 and the speed trials. To see a couple of photos of the M-type Midget, please visit our History of the MG Marque page on our website. This page includes the full story from the beginning and will be continued as time permits. In addition, if you want more in-depth reading, please use the links I have included as my sources for information. They are all great to read and feature many photographs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_M-type
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_D-type
https://www.mgownersclub.co.uk/mg-guides/pre-war/mg-ctype-midget
https://www.mgownersclub.co.uk/mg-guides/pre-war/mg-dtype-midget
Great Marques M.G., by Chris Harvey, 1983
MG Past & Present, by Rivers Fletcher, 1985
MG by McComb, by F. Wilson McComb, Revised Edition by Jonathan Wood, 2004
https://www.hemmings.com/blog/article/the-car-with-the-racing-pedigree-mg-midget/

Origins of the MG – THE MG 14/40 and 14/80 MODELS, Part 4

The MG 14/40 or MG 14/40 Mark IV was launched in 1927 and was produced until 1929 with approximately 700 cars manufactured. It had its origins in the MG 14/28 and was similar to the Morris Oxford flatnose. The flatnose term was used to describe the new radiator/grille fronts of the cars. Morris had redesigned his cars to incorporate the flat radiator design of American cars. If you recall, the MG 14/28 and earlier cars all had the rounded bullnose radiators which gave them a tractor-like appearance at the grille. In 1926 the bullnose was dropped and the flat radiators were used, and the radiator cooling surface was increased. The 14/40 was manufactured at the Edmund Road works in Cowley, Oxford where MG manufacturing had moved in September of 1927. It was the first model to feature the MG Octagon badge on the radiator. Apart from the flatnose, the 14/40 did not look very different from the 14/28. The chassis of the 14/40 was heavier and wider to allow more room in the body. The chassis was also stiffer which made the car easier to handle. The engine was updated to 35 bph (brake horsepower) and the brakes were changed to eliminate the servo. The name 14/40 promoted the additional horsepower, which while improved, was 37 bph and not 40 bph. The designation of Mark IV is not clear, and some think that it was named for the fourth year of production of the 14/40.

The car bodies offered included a Featherweight Fabric Saloon and a fixed head (hardtop) and drophead (convertible top) coupé. The MG works continued to distinguish themselves from the Morris Motors brand, and led to the creation of the M.G. Car Company in 1928. The new M.G. Car Company and Morris Motors were owned personally by William Morris.

A new 18 hp overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine had been developed by Hochkiss and Kimber realized that this engine could be used to build a bigger sports car to compete with the Bentley. To design the 14/80 M.G. Six, Kimber modified a Morris Six, and designed a new chassis and a cylinder block that took twin carburettors and incorporated them into his new car. The car was powered with a six-cylinder, inline engine with chain-driven overhead camshafts. They produced about 60 bph and could achieve a top speed of 80 mph—which is where the 80 in the name originated. He also designed a beautiful new radiator grille for the 14/80, and this grille design was so popular that it was used on M.G. cars for more than 25 years. The grille featured vertical standing slats and a vertical center bar and the headlights were set higher.

The 14/80 Mark I and Mark II models were available in a variety of styles such as two- and four-door models, two- and four-seater cars, and both closed and touring cars. The Mark I was built from 1928 to 1931 and about 501 were built. The Mark II was built from 1929 and about 236 were built. Kimber also built a racing version in 1930 which was referred to as the Mark III, the 18/80 Tigress, or the 18/100. The engine was rated at 80 hp and only five were produced.

In case you were wondering what bph stands for, it is a measure of horsepower and here is a link to explain the difference between hp and bph. http://www.differencebetween.net/technology/difference-between-hp-and-bhp/

Article sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_Cars

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_14/40

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_18/80

Great Marques M.G., by Chris Harvey, 1983

MG Past & Present, by Rivers Fletcher, 1985

MG by McComb, by F. Wilson McComb, Revised Edition by Jonathan Wood, 2004

Great videos about the MG cars and history on the MG Cars Channel by Shelburne Films https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFApx5pUaAkNam6U1pn_ZEQ

Origins of the MG – All About William R. Morris, Viscount Nuffield, Part 3


by Karen Border, TRF Publications

I have promised our MGB customers some stories about the origins of the MG marque and so I began researching them. But here is my effort to explain how the MG was developed. Because it is such a complicated story, I am going to have to do it in installments. I have also included a list of books and web links that I used for research, so you can read more about the subject. This is the second installment. All of the installments can be found at https://the-roadster-factory.com/Images/POTW/MG-Origins/MG-history.html .

Karen Border, TRF Publications

The Roadster Factory
www.the-roadster-factory.com

Sales Dept. Phone: 800-234-1104

INSTALLMENT 3. ALL ABOUT WILLIAM R. MORRIS, VISCOUNT NUFFIELD

William Richard Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield, GBE, CH, FRS was born on October 10, 1877 in Worcester, and he was the founder of Morris Motors Limited. He was also a philanthropist and founded the charitable institutions of the Nuffield Foundation, the Nuffield Trust, and Nuffield College, Oxford. Morris married Elizabeth Anstey on April 9, 1903, and they did not have any children.

In his teens, Morris worked as an apprentice to a local bicycle dealer who sold and repaired bicycles. When he turned 16, he began his own repair business in a shed behind his parents’ house in Oxford. He was successful and opened a shop to assemble and repair bicycles at 48 High Street, Oxford. He had his own badge, a gold cycle wheel with “The Morris” words. He was a bicycle racer, and raced his own bicycles in races that varied in distance between one and fifty miles.

He began to build motorcycles in 1901 in a partnership as Morris-Cooper which produced the Morris Motor Cycle. In 1902, after dissolving the partnership, he bought a disused horse stable in Longwall Street, Oxford where he operated several businesses under the name of The Oxford Garage. He still repaired bicycles and sold, repaired, and hired cars, and operated a taxi service there. He demolished the stables in 1909, and built a new building with a Neo-Georgian facade. It was so fancy it was called “Oxford’s New Motor Palace.” The car dealership sold several different makes of cars including Arrol-Johnston, Belsize, Humber, Hupmobile, Singer, Standard, and Wolseley cars. By 1910 he found that he needed more room, so he built new buildings on Longwall Street and acquired more space on Queen Street. He officially changed the name of his business to Morris Garages.

In 1912, Morris designed the Morris “Bullnose” Oxford car and built them in a factory in Cowley, Oxford. To read more about the cars he designed and built, please scroll to the top of this article and read, “Background to the MG”.

During World War I the factory stopped producing cars and produced munitions, which included over 50,000 mines for the North Sea Minefields and hand grenades. Automobile production began again in 1919 after the war. Morris brought the mass production techniques of Henry Ford from America to England and production soared from 400 cars in 1919 to 56,000 by 1925. Morris expanded by buying competitors and suppliers. He purchased Wolseley Motors Limited, Hotchkiss Engines, E. G. Wrigley and Company who made rear axles, and the bankrupt Riley (Coventry) and Autovia car companies.

Problems set in during World War II. Morris offered to build a large factory in Castle Bromwich to build the Supermarine Spitfire aircraft. He claimed that this custom-designed, modern factory would be able to build four times as many planes as any other existing factory in Great Britain. This project, The Nuffield Project, was approved, although with misgivings by the Treasury Department, and construction of the factory began in 1939. However one year later, construction was still not finished because the design and site layout of the factory kept changing, and this put it over budget. The factory building also began to have structural problems that caused cracks in the brick walls because different kinds of bricks had been used in the construction. By May 1940, no aircraft had been completed. All of this was happening while the British government was going through a crisis with the fall of the government of Neville Chamberlain and the rise of the new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Churchill appointed press tycoon Lord Beaverbrook as the Minister of Aircraft Production, and Beaverbrook promptly fired William Morris. The contract was awarded to Vickers-Armstrong, the Supermarine aircraft’s parent company. After Vickers took over, production began and by June 1940, ten Spitfire Mk IIs were made. Castle Bromwich became the largest and most successful plant, and by the time production ended in June 1945, it had built over 23,000 Spitfire airplanes.

Morris Motors merged with the Austin Motor Company in 1952 and formed a new holding company named the British Motor Corporation (BMC). Morris was the chairman for a short while and retired on December 17, 1952 at the age of 75. He was named an Honorary President and he continued to be involved in the company’s progress. After British Motor Corporation, the company changed names several times to British Leyland and Austin Rover. The factory at Cowley is now owned by BMW, and they make the new Mini there.

We know about famous industrialists in America such as Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, but we may not realize that Morris was considered the most famous industrialist in England. He was awarded several titles and honors over the years. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1918. In 1929, he was created a Baronet of Nuffield in the County of Oxford. He took his title from the village of Nuffield in Oxfordshire, where he lived. He was raised to the peerage as Baron Nuffield in 1934 and made Viscount Nuffield, of Nuffield in 1938.

In case you were wondering what all the acronyms after his name were in the opening paragraph, they are honors that he was awarded over the years. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1939, a Knight Grand Cross (GBE) of the Order of the British Empire in 1941, and a Companion of Honour (CH) in 1958. He was appointed Honorary Colonel of 52nd (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery on June 4, 1937 and continued that role with its postwar successor, 452 HAA Regiment.

As a philanthropist, Morris donated to the Sea Cadet Corps, and he built a building at Birmingham University to house a cyclotron, which was an early type of particle accelerator invented in 1929-1930. He also founded the Nuffield Foundation in 1943 and founded Nuffield College in Oxford. The donation that most impressed me the most was that Morris offered to give an iron lung made in his factory to any hospital in England and the British Empire that requested one. Over 1,700 were made and distributed. Morris died on August 22, 1963. He lived through both World Wars and it is amazing to dwell on the things he saw changing in the world around him and the contributions he made to those very changes.

I hope you take the time to click on the links for the sources I used in creating this installment. There is a video at the top of the list that is interesting and which I had never seen before.

Sources:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-british-motor-car-aka-william-morris . This is a interesting video about the Morris car production and it is worth watching in spite of the music in the background .
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris,_1st_Viscount_Nuffield
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire#Manufacturing_at_Castle_Bromwich,_Birmingham
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Bromwich_Assembly
http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/oxford/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8354000/8354459.stm

Origins of the MG – The Evolution of the MG and Old Number One, Part 2

by Karen Border, TRF Publications

I have promised our MGB customers some stories about the origins of the MG marque and so I began researching them. But here is my effort to explain how the MG was developed. Because it is such a complicated story, I am going to have to do it in installments. I have also included a list of books and web links that I used for research, so you can read more about the subject. This is the second installment. All of the installments can be found at https://the-roadster-factory.com/Images/POTW/MG-Origins/MG-history.html .

Karen Border

INSTALLMENT 2. THE EVOLUTION OF THE MG AND OLD NUMBER ONE

Cecil Kimber (1888 – 1945) was born in Dulwich, South London, and he is credited with being the driving force behind the creation of the MG sports car. In 1921, he became the Sales Manager for Morris Garages in Queen Street in Oxford. Morris Garages was a sales and service center for Morris Motors, Limited, and included the main sales facility in Queen Street, a repair garage at Longwall Street and Holywell, and workshops in Cornmarket Street. William Morris also owned a manufacturing facility in Cowley where the Morris Oxford and Cowley cars were made. In 1922, Kimber became the general manager of Morris Motors after the resignation of Edward Armstead, and was then responsible for managing the sales office, the repair garage, and the workshops.

Kimber was aware that many people wanted cars that looked and performed more like sports cars than the cars that Morris offered, and he knew that people would pay a premium for them, thus increasing the profit for the business. He began promoting sales by producing his own special versions of Morris cars to appeal to people who wanted a custom or sporting car. In addition to being a sales manager and general manager, Kimber was also a visionary, and he and his wife, Irene, drew and designed custom body coaches. To build the cars that would eventually become the MG, Kimber first used the Morris Bullnose Cowley chassis and running gear from the Morris factory, and then he added his custom coachwork which he had produced by Carbodies of Coventry. The suspension was lowered and the high steering components were modified and lowered (raked). The car colours were pastel and they were two-seaters with leather seats and with the “Dicky Seat” (occasional seat) behind. The hood was unique because it covered the front seats as well as the occasional seat at the back. The car was nicknamed a “Chummy” which might have been because the hood covered all of the passengers and not just the two in front. One source called these cars “Kimber Specials”.

The cars were originally assembled at the Longwall Street repair garage, but in 1923, they needed more room. They moved to an old stabling yard in Alfred Lane which Morris had used to store used vehicles. The assembly staff consisted of Cecil Cousins and his assistant, Stan Saunders, Jack Lowndes and George Morris.

Eager to prove that his cars were true sport cars, Kimber entered a Chummy with a race-tuned engine in a road race. In March 1923, Kimber won a gold medal in the London-to-Land’s End-Trial. He celebrated his win by designing and ordering six two-seater coaches from Raworth of Oxford. These bodies featured yacht-like scuttle ventilators and rakishly slanted windscreens braced on the sides by triangular glass supports. These 11.9 hp Raworth Chummies were probably the first cars to be referred to as an M.G. However, sales were slow because the cars were twice as expensive as a Morris Cowley.

William Morris, seeing an opportunity for profit, created his own version of a “Chummy,” called the “Occasional Four”, and priced it lower than Kimber’s Chummies. Knowing that he had to make a distinction between his Chummies and the Occasional Four, Kimber next tried the Chummy coach on the Morris Oxford chassis and added a more powerful 14 hp engine later in 1923. Sales of this car were not too successful, so in 1924, Kimber tried a more elegant saloon body, designed by G.S. (Jack) Gardiner who was one of Kimber’s sales team, on the Morris 14/28 Bullnose radiator, Oxford chassis. This car body was of polished aluminum and may have been fabricated by Clary Hughes of Birmingham. Gardiner’s car was so distinctive that Kimber created a similar one with a coach from Carbodies for Billy Cooper who was a timekeeper at the Brooklands track. His car attracted a lot of attention when drivers and spectators saw it parked at the track entrance.

Morris Motors made some changes to the Oxford chassis in September 1924, which included a nine-foot long wheelbase. Kimber took the longer chassis and designed an all aluminum, four-seater open tourer with optional two colour paint on the bonnet, boot, and wings to go with the polished aluminium side panels. He dropped the Morris Motor name and advertised them as the M.G. 14/28 Super Sports, “our popular M.G. Saloon”. At least four different versions of the 14/28 Super Sport were offered at the 1924 Motor Show, including an open two-seater, open 4-seater tourer, and a vee-front saloon. The car badge was still the Morris Oxford badge that was used on all of the Morris cars, but a separate MG octagon badge, “MG Super Sports”, was added to the last of the 14/28 cars built. The cars featured artillery-style wheels in 1924-1925, and then in 1925-1926 they had bolt on wire wheels. Some experts feel that the 1924 Morris 14/28 was the first car to be called the M.G. instead of the 11.9 hp Raworth Chummy. Here is a YouTube video link about the 14/28 Super Sports: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8TCxKrr-gw

In 1925, Morris Garages moved from Alfred Lane, Oxford to a larger place on Bainton Road, which shared space with the Morris radiator works. Also in 1925, Hubert Charles, a Morris engineer, began working in his spare time fitting the MG bodies to the new Bullnose Morris Oxford chassis, and he also worked with Kimber on engine tuning and experimental work. He officially joined MG in 1928 as Chief Draughtsman. Continuing expansion meant another move in 1927 to a separate factory in Edmund Road, Cowley, Oxford, near the main Morris factory and for the first time it was possible to include a production line.

There are several points of view about the MG octagon badge and the official registration date of the M.G. Car Company. The logo appeared in Oxford newspaper ads as early as November 1923, and some sources say it was registered as a Morris Garages trademark on May 1, 1924. Other sources say that it was not a registered trademark until 1925. The exact date when the M.G. Car Company was officially formed also varies between sources. Most sources say it formed in March 1928, and they had their very own stand at the London Motor Show in October 1928. Old Number One.

Kimber was still interested in garnering racing credentials for his cars. In 1924, he had a special racing car built on a modified Bullnose Cowley chassis and fitted with the Hotchkiss (now owned by Morris) 11.9 hp, 1548cc overhead valve engine. The lightweight, two-seater body was built by Carbodies of Coventry, and had a boat-shaped tail. The rear was modified by cutting the chassis frame and welding new rails which curved up and over the rear axle to secure the rear springs. The engine was tuned and it had a standard Morris 3-speed gearbox. As with all the Kimber Chummies, the high Cowley steering column was lowered. The dash was fitted with a tachometer, fuel and oil gauges, in addition to the standard speedometer and ammeter. Lighting was provided by two small sidelights on each side of the scuttle and a single headlight. The headlight was removed at some unspecified time and is not on the car at the present time. The car was originally painted in plain grey primer, but its current color is red. It was originally registered FC 7900 on March 27, 1925. In March 1950, it was registered under a new number—FMO 842 after a restoration, however in 1959 the car was given back its original registration number.

Kimber drove this car and won a gold medal in the Light Car Class in the 1925 London-to-Land’s End-Trial. The car was then sold to one of Cecil Kimber’s friends. It was offered back to Kimber but he did not purchase it at the time. It was used to haul food for pigs for a while, and then it was purchased in 1932 by a MG employee after he recognized it in a scrap yard in Manchester. He bought the car for £15. The car was restored in the Abingdon factory in 1933 and was used for sales promotions. The Nuffield Organization (formerly Morris Motors) officially christened the car “Old Number One”. It was described as being, “The First M.G., Built in 1923,” even though it was built in 1924. Many people feel it was not the very first MG car as that honor should go to either one of the 11.9 hp Raworth Chummies or one of the 1924 Morris 14/28 cars. It has been exhibited at many events and shows in England and it was sent to the United States for the 50th anniversary celebration of the MG. Old Number One is currently on permanent display in the Historic Vehicle Collection at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon and is still kept drivable. Here is a link to the British Motor Museum: https://www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk/. You can view a video about Old Number One at this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfZKfbfMviw .

Sources Used: The websites listed here provide more in-depth information and are worth the time to read!
https://www.mgownersclub.co.uk/mg-guides/pre-war/old-number-one
https://www.namgar.com/articles/article/mga_history/mg_-_early_days/
https://www.mgownersclub.co.uk/mg-guides/pre-war/1440-tourer
https://www.namgar.com/articles/article/mga_history/mg_-_early_days/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Oxford_bullnose
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Cowley
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris,_1st_Viscount_Nuffield
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_Cars
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_14/28
http://www.bullnose.org.uk/
Video about the Bullnose 14/28: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8TCxKrr-gw
Video about Old Number One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfZKfbfMviw
Great Marques M.G., by Chris Harvey, 1983
MG Past & Present, by Rivers Fletcher, 1985
MG by McComb, by F. Wilson McComb, Revised Edition by Jonathan Wood, 2004

Karen Border
TRF Publications (The Roadster Factory)
www.the-roadster-factory.com
Sales Department Phone: 800-234-1104

Origins of the MG – Background to the MG, Part 1

by Karen Border, TRF Publications

I have promised our MGB customers some stories about the origins of the MG marque and so I began researching them. The one thing I learned about the development of the MG was that it seemed to just sort of grow out of one man’s desire to make a better car than his employer made! Today it would be odd indeed if, for instance, Ford or GM would allow their Sales Manager at one of their car dealerships to purchase a factory-made chassis and then put a body that he or she had designed on the chassis, and then sell the remodeled car. I was not able to determine whether or not Morris got the profit from these cars, or if Cecil Kimber made the profit from them, or if they split the profit. Another thing I learned during my research was that there were some differences in versions of how the development of the MG marque came about, and there is no clear timeline. But here is my effort to explain how the MG was developed. Because it is such a complicated story, I am going to have to do it in installments. I have also included a list of books and web links that I used for research, so you can read more about the subject

Karen Border Installment 1. Background to the MG

The history of MG cars began in the early 1920s as a sideline sales promotion business of Morris Garages. William Richard Morris (later 1st Viscount Nuffield) started a garage in Oxford in the early 1900s and by 1910 the name was known as Morris Garages, Limited. At that time, Morris Garages began to produce the Morris Oxford, a series of models which included the 1913 Bullnose Oxford, and continued through 1935 with the Farina Oxfords V and VI.

The Oxford Bullnose was designed in 1912, and produced in March 1913. It was a small car with a White and Poppe 1018 cc four-cylinder, side-valve engine with fixed cylinder head. It had a distinctive radiator with a bullet-nose rounded top, sort of like the front of many farm tractors. It was an open-tourer, two-seat car, but they also made a van version. No four-seat versions were made as the chassis was too short and not strong enough. The Bullnose de luxe had a longer chassis with different body versions and it became available in November 1913. The body versions included limousines, sporting cars, and vans.

In 1915, Morris developed the Continental Cowley, and it included an engine from the United States made by the Continental Motor Manufacturing Company of Detroit. This 1495 cc engine was 50 percent larger than the 1018 cc engines previously used, and the car was also longer, wider and featured other components from the United States. Some of the other parts from America included the clutch and three-speed gearbox from Detroit Gear & Machine Co. The front and back axles and steering gear also came from America. The car design still had the Bullnose radiator, and because it had a larger and stronger chassis, it was available in a two-seater body with occasional seats at the rear, which I believe in America we might have called “Rumble Seats”, but in England they were called “Dickie Seats”. Dickie seats were sometimes called “mother-in-law seats” and they originated from horse-drawn carriages. Their purpose was as a place for servants or guards to ride. Or children would ride in the Dickie seat.

The Cowley was also the first Morris car that included electric lighting as a standard feature on the cars, but lighting was not provided as standard on Cowley delivery vans. Lucas was, of course, the lighting supplier. Production halted during WWI because it became difficult to get the parts from America, and the factory was used to make munitions. Several Continental engines were lost at sea during the war. The last Continental Cowley was made in 1920, and used the last of the American engines.

After the war, in 1919, the Morris Cowley was updated and called the Cowley Bullnose. The engine was switched to a Hotchkiss & Cie French engine, that was manufactured at the Hotchkiss branch factory in Coventry, England. Morris would end up buying the Hotchkiss works around May of 1923, and it became known as the Morris engine branch. From 1919 on, the Cowley was what we would call the “Economy Model”, and was only available in a two-seater model with smaller, lighter tires. You can read more about the Cowley on this wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Cowley. This article gives detailed specifications for the cars and the engines.

In addition to the Cowley Bullnose, Morris continued development of the Oxford Bullnose. It was modified to have a longer wheelbase and stronger construction, and could carry up to five passengers. It featured a self-starter and had a better electrical system than the Cowley. It was what we would call, the “Deluxe Model”. It featured the Hotchkiss 11.9 fiscal horsepower 1548 cc engine. The Oxford Bullnose was admired because the transmission and everything that revolved, except the fan belt, was fully enclosed in an oil bath.

One notable thing about William Morris was that he introduced the techniques of mass production to England by using the assembly line processes that Henry Ford had been successful with in America. Prior to this, most automobiles had been built one-at-a-time. The Cowley and the Oxford became mass produced cars. From 1919–1925 Morris expanded his production from Oxford into factories at Abingdon, Birmingham, and Swindon.

We will leave the development of the Morris Cowley and Oxford cars, and for the next installment, I hope to be able to cover the beginnings of the MG, Cecil Kimber, and Old Number One. In my research, I came across an English group of pre-1930 Morris car owners called the Morris Bullnose Club. Here is a link to their web page: http://www.bullnose.org.uk/. They have several photo galleries on the website which you might like to view. At the end of this letter is a list of the sources that I used and I am including this installment of the story and some photos on our Photos of the Week page. I welcome any comments or corrections to this series on the MG. Please send your comments and edits to trfpublications@aol.com.

Until next time,
Karen Border
TRF Publications (The Roadster Factory)
www.the-roadster-factory.com
Sales Department Phone: 800-234-1104

Visit to Johnson Press

by Frank Ochal

On our way back from Meet 2017 in Alabama we stopped in Pontiac, Illinois to visit out printer, Johnson Press.

This was our first opportunity to meet with the people we have been communicating by phone and email with and to see where our magazine has been printed since 2012.

Bruce Magers and I were led on an informative tour of the plant with our Customer Service Rep, Teresa Masching. It was interesting to see the care that they take in printing each magazine. It was amazing how technology has improved the printing process since the last time I took a tour of a printing plant. The reduced size of the machines is the first thing you notice.

The visit concluded with a light lunch with Teresa and plant manager, Steve “Buzz” Zeller.

Thanks again to everyone at Johnson Press of America for the welcome and the continued fine job done with our magazines!

Auto Insurance

The auto insurance industry is not easy to navigate. There are so many factors to consider when shopping for a provider that car owners often get lost in (or cheated by) the fine print.

On behalf of consumers, a team of researchers at Reviews.com set out to identify the auto insurance providers that rise to the top, “based on their ability to serve customers and actually pay out claims; not just on premium cost.” Take a look at their helpful guide here: https://www.reviews.com/auto-insurance/

They started with 41 of the nation’s top auto insurance companies. These are the factors they considered in their comprehensive review:

  1. Financial solvency
  2. Claims processing
  3. Coverage options
    1. New car replacement
    2. GAP insurance
    3. Uninsured motorist coverages
  4. Discounts
  5. Customer support

Their guide not only provides their overall favorite auto insurance providers based on the above considerations, but also offers recommendations tailored to your personal needs – whether you’re a pet owner, veteran, on a budget, or…a classic car owner! (They recommend Grundy) Find their research process, recommendations, and purchasing tips here.

The Value of an MG

by Art Isaacs

In case you have not noticed, the value of our MG cars has been increasing steadily. Many collector cars have, some to extremes we can never hope to have our cars aspire to, but that’s really a good thing. Why? Well, despite appraisals (and auction selling prices) going into the mid-30’s, the MGB has not reached the threshold where owners don’t drive them anymore for fear of damaging their investment. That’s important and I’ll get back to this point.

Now, $30,000 is not what it was in 1990 when I bought my ’73 MGB for $300. Inflation has taken some of the shine off that sort of increase in value, but at that time, a running big Healy or Jaguar E-Type could still be found in the $10-15,000 range and a well restored MGB for the same or even less. Paying $6,500 for a B you could drive home, clean-up and take to a local popular show in the next week to take 2nd or 3rd in class was not that unheard of.

All you need do is compare the cars pictured in older issues of the Octagon magazine to those in current ones or attend a local LBC show to see the level to which owners are now restoring their cars. Part of this is that the cars are older themselves, have been used and enjoyed, so now need the kind of complete tear-down, including rotisserie body restoration that was barely an option 20 or so years ago, both in finding shops qualified to do the work and the cost-vs-value thing.

Now, the cost of entry has risen as well, but not 100 fold. There are still any number of decent MGs to be found at under $5,000, but get too far below that and you get cars with more serious needs. Midgets can still be found for less, but not much for a rust-free, complete driver. Again, the value of the finished product is such that reasonable investment makes these a good option.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure what I have actually invested in my car. It started life over 25 years ago as a ‘pocket-change project’, as I had a house and 2 young children with no place in the budget for restoring a classic car. I used my ‘lunch money’, asked for parts as birthday presents, scrounged from what others discarded as they restored their cars, bought a lot used at swap meets and sorted through junk yards. Back then, unless the junkyard specialized in these types of cars (anyone in the NY/NJ area remember Stucker’s on Staten Island?) Midgets, MGBs and other sports cars were looked upon as more of a nuisance by the mainstream GM, Ford Chrysler or AMC based yards, as there was little call for pieces from them on a regular basis and they took-up valuable space. I would see a B in the pile and some of these yards would try to sell me the whole car for a bit more than I was willing to pay for the part I needed! Looking back, I’m sorry I didn’t buy some of those, but I just did not have the room (or the money) at the time.

As a result, I’ve had to do things more than once and often do more work to undo the modifications made to fit adapted parts. There have been any number of seat/upholstery changes, carburetors, distributors and suspension work to get where I am today. But if it was not the most direct and economical way to do things, it was fun.

And that brings me back to my point about these cars. They were meant to be fun. Not investments cowering in the corner of the garage for fear of getting wet, dirty or causing wear with use. They are meant to be driven and enjoyed. And the passion, not just for the look, but the feel and joy of what a British sports car was meant for needs to be passed on to our children and grandchildren. Otherwise, they become like dinosaur bones, to be looked at and not touched.

The sports car has had a rebirth and is currently coming around to something closer to what we enjoy. The fact that the Mazda MX-5 Miata has been sold over 28 years of continuous production (8 years longer than the original MGB series) speaks volumes to this. The current generation is now closer to its original roots, which were based in a fondness for the British Classics, like the Lotus and MGB. And we are seeing the return of affordable true sport sedans, like the Alfa Guilia, not to mention that Chrysler-Fiat now offers their own version of the Miata as a new incarnation of the Fiat 124.

We already know and have what they are looking for. Getting into your B is more like putting on your favorite jeans. It fits in all the right places and becomes part of you (and, as WE get older, sometimes presents the same challenges). You feel and experience it as much as drive it.

And just because it is now worth more should not diminish the love for flogging them around the turns of the back roads and running 50-60 miles each way, just to go to a favorite spot for lunch or dinner, oft times more because the ride is fun and interesting than the food so unique. That is the true value of our cars.

They belong on the road, as do we. Get a kid out in them, even if just for grocery run. Let them help you prepare for gathering or show and then come along.

Allow a child to sit in your car at a show. You have no idea the impression that makes on the next generation. Or the spark that kindles.

So whether you’ve put in your money, your sweat or both, get the most out of your investment. Whenever possible, shake the dust off your MG the easy way – Drive!

Safety Fast!

Art Isaacs