An MG 'Y' Special
idea of building a special has been with me for many years;. My first effort
was eventually thrown away by my grandmother when she got fed up with having a
pile of junk outside her back door, mind you that was in 1957, I’m almost over
So when a good friend offered me a 1948 MG ‘Y’
chassis then threw in a radiator shell to seal the deal I couldn’t refuse. That
was a good ten years ago, since then I have been collecting parts to build a
complete car. One of the most often asked questions of me is ‘Why did you build
a car that looks so old?’ The answer is
simple, I love cars from the late 20’s to the late 30’s. Particularly the
narrow bodied sports cars with cycle wings, to my eye they have an elegance and
simplicity that few all enveloping streamliners can match. I was taught to
drive in my uncles Singer Le Mans and my first MG was a ‘P’ type. At present I
own an MG ‘A’ but I do miss these old cars. This is why my Y special finished
this year looks like a mid thirties car.
The Y chassis is a box section frame with a
heavy front cross member to carry the independent front suspension followed by
three lighter tubular cross members. The last one continuing through the sides
of the frame to carry the rear spring shackles.
So the first task was to assemble the front suspension, and then decide
what engine and transmission I was going to use and where it was going to be
placed in the frame.
I had a complete MG B front suspension, the
inner lower ‘A’ arms bolted in to place using the original mounting holes from
1948. The suspension was virtually unchanged on MG until it ceased production.
The Shock absorbers used a different stud pattern, so filling in and re
drilling was required. The ‘Y’ steering rack had narrower mounting points so
they were removed and widened to accommodate an MG B rack.
The original ‘Y’ was
powered by a 1250cc xpag engine mounted right on top of the front cross member,
this meant the radiator was very much forward of the front wheels. This was not
the image I wanted for the special, for aesthetic reasons I wanted the radiator
to be on wheel centers, which meant mounting the engine much further back in
the frame. At the same time I was demanding a different balance for the car, a
four seat body would not be counter balancing a forward mounted engine. So the
radiator was mounted at wheel centers, then an 1800cc MG B engine and gearbox
suspended in the frame with enough clearance for the cooling fan. I used the MG
B gearbox cross member bolted to new brackets welded on to the chassis. This
meant one of the original cross members had to be re configured to pass
underneath the gearbox. I could have left it off but I didn’t want to risk any
chassis distortion, the B engine was going to produce more power than the XPAG
unit ever could and there was no body mounted on the top to assist rigidity.
The B rear axle needed
the spring saddles re positioning to suit the spring centers, although because
of the Y having narrow leaf springs a Panhard rod was originally fitted. With
the under slung chassis came the problem of me wanting tubular shock absorbers,
I gladly retained the Panhard rod for the advantage of keeping things well
aligned. With new shock towers fabricated they were welded onto the chassis to
triangulate and stiffen the roll bar extending out of the body. I shortened the
drive shaft by about eight inches.
Because the chassis was
rigid and not subjected to the twisting of a channel section unit such as a
Morgan or MG TC, I took advantage of being able to make a rigid body as apposed
to an Ash framed one that needs to flex. A frame of ¾ square section tube was
welded up with one inch flat over the wheel arches. The door frames were made
with tube and 18 gauge sheet for hinge points. At this time I opted for a
little more safety and welded in a 2inch tubular hoop to the chassis that would
stop the body de forming in case of a roll, the cowl would also bolt to it and
help rigidity. Using 22 gauge satin coat
sheet steel I then formed the body tub panels and welded them on.
Many of the pre-war MG’s
had a free standing firewall between the driver and engine compartment, this
was a feature I wanted to retain, it would make maintenance on the finished
vehicle easier as all the plumbing and wiring was very accessible. The only
snag was using of an MG B pedal box, positioned in the required place it
virtually hung in mid air, brackets between the cowl and firewall solved the
problem and one more strut between the firewall and the chassis further forward
triangulated the whole item. The B brake master cylinder was a split front/rear
system that was quite desirable, not to mention the clutch and accelerator
pedal were also contained in one unit.
I wanted the bonnet in aluminum
in an attempt to save some weight, but to continue with the ‘old’ theme I
thought a double line of rivets securing the centre hinge would look good, a
good friend with experience in aircraft construction helped me there. Another
good friend helped me with the louvers on the bonnet sides. After a morning on
our knees using the end of his bench as a press, devout was not a word we used.
The curve on the bonnet tops was eventually achieved using a fence post and a
length of plastic sewer pipe, some very basic engineering won out over any
Tubes and brackets were made
up to carry the front wings and headlamps. The rear wings were trailer fenders,
but narrowed and boxed at the rear along with an aesthetic ‘flair’ to continue
the theme. The baffled fuel tank with a two gallon reserve was built with
‘stone guards’ on each side, again, for that old look.
Finally I have to say that one of the reasons for
building a special is to drive it as well as look at it. The power to weight
ratio is very good, even if the MG B unit is low in power by today’s standards,
the torque is great. Handling is good but an ongoing challenge, I deliberately
left off the front sway bar until I experienced the handling, now I know it
needs one. That makes just one more item to add to the list of winter projects.