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 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!
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.
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