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BY NEIL CAIRNS
All M.G. enthusiasts know that the first cars were based on the Morris saloon, with the Morris Oxford radiator badge, flattened springs and pretty Kimber designed bodies. Old No.1 itself is a Morris chassis, modified, with a tuned Hotchkiss engine.
The first M.G. to show the enamel octagonal radiator badge was a saloon car, the 14/40 of 1927. The now world famous M.G. radiator shape was first seen on a saloon car, the 1928 18/80, itself based on a humble Morris Touring car.
In 1928 M.G. took the little OHC Morris Minor light car and rebodied it as a two seater sports. This lively little car made an ideal basis for such an M.G. and stole many hearts. The first Midgets were just that, a lot of fun. This two seater tiny Morris Minor chassis and engine developed as time passed into a racing/trials/sports car.
The first M.G. Magnettes arrived, using an OHC Wolseley Hornet saloon car engine. The Magnette was a foot into the sports-saloon market dominated by marques such as Riley. Like the ‘M’ type Midgets, the Magnettes were developed into specialist M.G. cars for racing. The P, J and Q type Midgets with their Wolseley-Based Morris Minor engine, and the Magnas and Magnettes came to an end with the sale of M.G. to the Nuffield Organisation in 1936. Perhaps M.G. were getting too specialised for the parent company.
1936 saw the launch of the ‘T’ series Midget, which used the Morris 10hp and Wolseley 10/40 engine and running gear. The TA M.G. Midget was based on humble saloon car foundations. 1939 brought the TB Midget which used an improved Morris 10HP Series 3 and Wolseley New 10 engine, called the XPAG when fitted to the M.G. (XPJM in the Morris, XPAW in the Wolseley).
WW2 arrived and car production ceased. The TB became the TC post war, with rubber silentbloc bushes to its leaf spring suspension from the Morris 8hp/10hp cars; now termed Silentbloc bushing. Just prior to the war, M.G. had been developing a new saloon car in the 10hp range, using the TB/TC engine with a single carb. It was introduced in 1948 as the M.G. 1.5 litre ‘Y’ Type. It used a Morris 10 engine and gearbox, with the smaller Morris 8 series ‘E’ body, on a brand new M.G. chassis. Under its 1930’s styling was rack and pinion steering, independent front suspension, hydraulic brakes, and pressed steel disc wheels. The chassis, modified at the rear, was the basis of the most popular square rigged M.G. of them all, the TD. The M.G. TD of 1949 shared all its parts with the YA saloon, with two carbs on its engine to boost power. The IFS was to last on M.G. cars until the end of the MGB.
By 1953, BMC had had its effects on M.G. A saloon car, the chassis-less M.G. ZA, was introduced with an Austin 1489cc ‘B’ series engine, gearbox and axle. It shared a common shell with the Nuffield family car, the Wolseley 4/44. This had the YA engine, improved to the 1952 YB standard. The running gear of the ZA was common to other BMC cars, e.g. the Austin A50/55, Wolseley 15/50 and Morris Oxford.
In 1955 the super-sleek MGA found itself sharing parts with the ZA family saloon. It had its engine, gearbox, rear axle, as well as the YA/YB rack and pinion steering and IFS. The Z’s IFS was only ever used on the ZA, ZB, Varitone, 4/44 and 15/50, NOT as many writers say, on the MGA/MGB. The all new MGA also used many BMC components from family saloon cars. By 1961 the MGA had grown to 1622cc and shared its engine, gearbox and rear axle with the M.G. Magnette MK4 - and, incidentally, the Riley 4/72, which even had the same tacho arrangement. This MGA was the 1600 Mk2, not the 1600 with the ex-twin cam bores and stroke giving 1588cc.
The MGB turned the scales a little; whilst it had a nice new tough shell’ it did not adopt the MGA 1600 Mk2 running gear, but the 3 bearing 1798cc BMC ‘B’ series engine was specific to the MGB. It shared quite a lot with the Farina Magnette in its rear axle and gearbox, but still had a development of that 1948 M.G. Y series saloon car’s IFS and steering. The engine grew an extra two main bearings within a few years, and the MGB unit went into the Morris Marina 1800 saloon car, a reversal of the former trend. BMC then turned the unit sideways and put it into the 1800 FWD cars.
A liaison between the Austin company and the Healey family had led to Austin having their own sports cars, the Austin Healeys. This led to the little Austin A30 giving its engine, gearbox, front and rear axles, with Morris Minor steering, to an all new monocoque shell, called the Austin Healey Sprite. M.G. took his car over in 1961 and made it into an M.G. Midget with a bit of re-styling. History repeated itself from the first Midget. The little 1952 A30 saloon car was now most of a 1961 M.G.
That was not the end of it all. As BMC, then BL, then BLMC and so on, tried to keep up with the USA in its pollution control, the Triumph Herald (ex-Standard 8hp/10hp) engine found its way into the M.G. Midget, along with the Morris Marina 1300/1800 gearbox (also Triumph based). The Midget had used Morris Minor 1000 drum brakes at first, but gained disc brakes early on, not dissimilar to the 1100/1300 FWD cars. The last rubber bumper Midgets even had the Triumph Spitfire dash fitted and the 1500cc Herald based engine.
The big MGB based cars did not escape either. The MGC used the redesigned BMC ‘C’ series 6 cylinder engine destined for the ‘new’ Austin 3 litre clone of the 1800 FWD cars (a total failure as a saloon that had REAR wheel drive but looked like it was FWD). The MGB V8 used the Range Rover low compression V8 engine that began life as an American Buick saloon car engine, was then fitted to the Rover P6B saloon, then the Rover 3.5 limousine.
The contribution made to M.G. by numerous humble saloon cars just cannot be ignored. It is one of the main reasons M.G. cars were such good value, had excellent spares back up, and were reliable. Today the MGB water pump, for instance, will also service the Wolseley 15/50, 1500, 15/60, 16/60; the Austin A55, A55 Mk2, A60 van, Sherpa van; MGA, MGB, ZA, ZB, Varitone, Mk3 & Mk4, Magnette; Riley 1.5, 4/68, 4/72; Morris Oxford s5 & s6; Austin 1800, plus numerous others I have forgotten. The impeller size may vary, but M.G. spares back-up TODAY helps keep many other humble saloons on the road.
It is very important to know that a lot of the parts are from such vehicles. It means they will be tried and tested, AND as easily available now as they were then. Today this common use actually helps the Classic Car world, by the parts; interchangeability ... such as an M.G. Midget ‘A’ series engine sharing much with the popular Morris 1000, Austin A30, A40, 1300 Marina, 1100/1300 FWD cars, and Austin Healey Sprite.
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