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
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.
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