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Period Reports

1952 TD On Trial

A road test and overview of the 1952 MGTD that appeared in Speed Age, January, 1953.


TD On Trial 1
The TD above is styled in more smoothly flowing lines than its predecessor, the TC, much to the sorrow of the old guard.

For competition or safe, economical transportation, John Bull's version of the Model A has no peer in the sports car field.
TD On Trial 2

WEBSTER defines "ubiquitous" as "Existing everywhere" but I say that the word really means "MG". There never has been a race, rally, or concourse that didn't see hundreds of these endearing little carts in all stages of tune and ornamentation. Rugged enough to withstand all but the most serious attempts to blow them up, economical to buy ($2,115) and operate, and making up in maneuverability what it lacks in performance, John Bull's version of the Model A has been responsible for many an American dollar's trans- Atlantic journey--eastward, that is.

TD On Trial 3
The saucy installation of the spare, a crowning styling touch by the designer.

MGs flow from the Abington-on-the- Thames Nuffield factory in a never ending, multi-colored stream and the demand for new models is exceeded only by that for used ones.
The urge to own an MG isn't based on performance, as several cars in its class will outperform it; there are roomier, more comfortable sports cars available but none capture the spirit of the thing as does the MG.
Here, for a price roughly equivalent to that of a Ford, is transportation and the opportunity to be grouped by the populace as a whole in that category of the most heroic of 'hero drivers.' Here is the answer for couples whose budget has restricted them to the same type car as the man next door. Doors, that would be slammed in the face of anyone driving a Chevy, swing wide to the MG owner. A rather pleasant form of snobbery, combined with easy parking, and all for $2115? Speed up the production line,


TD On Trial 4
Simplicity itself marks the radiator, flanked by good and honest fenders.
TD On Trial 5

The rugged front suspension consists of A-frames and coil springs. The steering linkage is ahead of the kingpins. Rear of this car uses semi-elliptic springs.
Reggie, we've got something here!
Inspected with a critical eye, the appearance is similar to many American roadsters of the early '30s-it has fenders, good honest fenders that don't play at being a jet plane--the headlights sit out in the open between the fenders and the bonnet (hood to you, Bud) and the spare tire reclines at a sassy angle in full view at the rear.
The spare tire was the final touch of genius applied by the styling department -my introduction to sports cars was the spare tire of a TD disappearing in the distance. There's nothing more irritating
than to command three times the power, purchased at half again the price, and then have one of these spare tires thumb its nose at you as it disappears around a turn.
It's a matter of record that when I could stand it no longer I bought one, drove it home, and in the privacy of the garage proceeded to kick that tire black and blue. Then I went out on the highway and blew off everything American that I could goad into chasing me--it was so much fun that I became a real sports car bug and now the only people who speak to me are other sports car bugs.

But this is a test report, not, a biography. So let's lift the hood and see what supplies the 'urge.' There are four cylinders and they'll push out 54 horses at 5200 RPM. With a bore and stroke of 2.62 x 3.54 inches, piston speeds are quite high-particularly when compared with the more modern square or oversquare engines such as the Porsche. The generally accepted 2,500 feet per minute piston speed for cruising is reached at slightly over 4000 RPM, giving a road speed of 61 MPH. Beyond this the car tends to get too noisy for my comfort.
Valves are pushrod operated overhead and the chances are that the painted sheet metal top and side covers have been replaced with the polished aluminum ones made in this country. The manufacture of MG accessories is big business and production of valve covers, side plates, and plastic wind-wings is big enough to justify
using the most modem tooling methods.
Carburetion is supplied, as on the majority of English cars, by the S.U. sidedraft units. For some unknown reason, there is but one air cleaner, perched atop a pipe which branches to each carburetor. This abomination is generally removed as soon as the new owner can purchase a pair of chrome-plated Hellings cleaners. The difference in the amount of air received at the carburetors is great enough to make readjustment mandatory.
Differing from some of its hotter (literally) brethren, the MG possesses a thoroughly adequate cooling system. I never have heard of an MG that overheated. Late models are fitted With a water temperature gauge--favored accessory for the earlier models is the old, small diameter Moto-Meter but they are hard to find. The chassis layout is conventional with
an independent front end (coil springs) and a solid rear axle with semi-elliptic springs. The secrets of this wagon's roadholding aren't secrets at all-they're just good basic design, practically even weight distribution fore and aft, husky shock absorbers combined with soft enough springs to let it hold on the bumpy as well as the smooth courses, low center of gravity, 94 inch wheelbase, and light, fast rack and pinion steering. Anent the latter, (technical inspectors please note) the grease retaining ball in the fitting that lubricates the rack has displayed an occasional tendency to drop between the rack and the pinion. This happened to my good friend Irv Roth not so long ago and he found himself with a car suitable for a course 75 feet in diameter--no more, no less. Change to an American fitting if you already own a TD and save some embarrassment and possibly your life.
TD On Trial 6
New instruments, with variable intensity lighting, are easy to read. Later models also have water temperature gauge. The large dial, seen through the steering wheel, is the PerfOmeter. The steering wheel has an in-and-out adjustment. Note hand grip at the extreme left.

TD On Trial 7
The aluminum valve cover and side plate are generally added by MG owners. However the Mallory ignition and Hellings air cleaners would place this car in the modified class but are typical of those done by the many MG enthusiasts.
As a competition car, the MG has no peer. I don't mean to infer that there aren't hotter cars, for there are many, but have you ever seen a stock MG race? Better yet, have you ever raced one? My first was a stock MG event and there's nothing to equal the thrill that comes from being in the middle of a pack of identical automobiles and knowing that you've nothing but tuning and driving skill to get you out front. Some of the best duels ever seen have been in the stock races--those of Cunningham and Plaisted, Bird and Said, and Newcombe and Mauren at Allentown and Thompson stand out in my mind and there are others--the Allards, Cunninghams, and Ferraris may turn in higher speeds but they don't have any more fun.
If you want to race your MG, leave it strictly stock. Modify and you'll be running against the OSCA, the Porsche, and other equipment that will leave you flat. All the effort in the world won't make your true sports car into something that can race on equal terms with cars designed specifically for competition.
Knowing I'd get a properly tuned car for performance tests from Al Hanusocky of Havell Motors, I called him and was rewarded when he volunteered his own MG. Although not strictly stock--having Hellings air cleaners and Mallory ignition--the modifications are typical of those done by many enthusiasts and the performance can therefore be judged as representative of the average MG you are likely to encounter on the road.
Using my newly acquired PerfoMeter to determine the optimum shifting points, I clocked 0 to 60 MPH in 12.3 seconds, the standing quarter mile in 20 seconds flat, and showed a two-way average of 84.7 MPH on a better than two mile straight.
This was done with the windscreen lowered and the tonneau cover over the passenger's seat. This was the first I'd driven an MG in several months and, as always, I was amazed at the handling ease--two and three quarter turns will take the wheel from lock to lock (exactly twice as fast as my '49 Lincoln), the pedals are close enough together that it's easy for even my small feet to hit the brake, gas, and clutch simultaneously as in hard cornering. The brakes are all anyone could ask --exactly 141 feet to a dead stop from 60 MPH-short of using an anchor: I don't see how that could be improved upon for it represents a stopping force equal to about .8G, generally referred to as 80% braking efficiency, and is close to the coefficient of friction of rubber on smooth asphalt. Beyond that point you slide, the coefficient of friction decreases, and your stopping distances increases.
Brake fade is practically non-existent although I did notice a slight trace after the aforementioned stock MG race--20 laps and 80 severe, applications on a hot day.
Although I can recall an occasion when we jammed four into an MG, the factory's designation of "two-seater" is correct. The emergency brake and the short
 

  gearshift lever effectively divide the seat. I have, however, seen several of these cars rigged up with an extra windscreen to provide protection for children riding in the luggage locker behind the seat. Judging by what I've been able to cram into that locker I'll take an oath that it stretches.
It will hold three small suitcases and an incredible amount of odds and ends stuffed into the nooks and crannies. The cubby locker (that's the dash compartment, Son) is larger than those on most of the cars produced here.
Upholstery is genuine leather and, in the usual forward and back slide, there is provision for changing the angle of the back of the seat. The wheel, as on the Jaguar, has an in-and-out adjustment. The usual, complete tool kit is furnished along with an instruction book that's a marvel of completeness and clarity. The top material may be extremely durable but it's a masterpiece of ugliness, nonetheless. The side curtains, as on any sports car, provide token protection against the rain. While the factory provides no heater, the MG heater made in this country is of such capacity that it is rarely used to its full capabilities. Buy one, and you'll never have a frigid Midget.
With one exception, I think the MG is one of the safest cars on the road today. Contrary to the current American practice, its roadability exceeds its performance potential. Its sturdiness has turned many a potentially dangerous roadracing accident into a mere incident. Most important of all, these cars are very dear to the hearts of their owners and a loving owner will go far out of his
way to avoid an accident.
The exception I mentioned is the unfortunate placing of the windshield wiper motor and its switch in line with the passenger's forehead. With such powerful brakes, a panic stop could well be fatal to an unsuspecting companion.
Last year the factory announced the Mark II, a hotted up version of the standard job. Eight shocks, instead of the usual four, improved cornering, while larger carburetors, oversize valves, heavier valve springs and two fuel pumps, added some 10 HP. The factory then proceeded to nullify these advantages by fitting a higher rear end ratio (4.875 instead of the standard 5.125), resulting in less acceleration than the standard model albeit producing a few more miles per hour at the top of the scale. I was not impressed except with the one owned by a friend who managed to get delivery prior to the time he actually turned his trade-in, a standard job, over to the dealer. It was only a few hours work to swap the rear ends and the result was wonderful to behold. I often wonder, though, about the poor chap who bought the trade-in.
The Arnolt Corporation, which up to now has made a good thing of MG accessories, has recently announced an MG coupe and a convertible. These cars carry Italian coachwork of a high order and retail for about $3500. A few years ago the Arnolt would have been as popular as a blonde on a desert island but, at this stage, I can't help thinking of the Porsche in the same price range and possessing near-Jaguar performance. We'll see about that, but in the meantime it's safe to forecast a happy future for the less expensive versions.

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