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Period Reports

Testing the MG Sportster

© December 1951 Science and Mechanics magazine

Andy White taking the MG around a sharp turn near the top of Mt. Washington.

KNOWN as "the world's fastest small car"-and part of a family boasting a long string of speed records to support that claim, the MG T.D., a 2-passenger sportster that has found wide acceptance in American circles, lived up to its reputation for high performance in the Motor Vehicle Research trial run. It is in no way comparable to the two family-type cars tested at the same time. Its engine's high-pitched whine serves notice of the MG's ability to show its heels to almost anything-of the same power-on the road.
  Checking location of oil filler cap in M.G.
Designed strictly, therefore, as a sports automobile with a rakish appearance appealing to the youthful spirit in all men, the MG lacks the comfort of a family sedan of the type most American owners are accustomed to. Andy White, who drove it "like a mountain goat" up Mt. Washington's tedious twists and steep inclines, reported that it answered the steering wheel like a racer-an immediate response that sometimes had him clinging to the wheel on curves. The driver, once he has folded his legs and gotten inside, finds he has plenty of operating room, in spite of the fact that he is sitting almost against the 54.4 hp engine. This power plant is standard for the T.D. model and it is not especially fitted for racing events.
This particular car had been driven slightly more than 14,000 miles before the test, therefore conceivably might have been beyond the point of peak performance, especially if it had been used in competition.
  Nevertheless, it performed beautifully, plunging up Mt. Washington at an average speed of 39.5 mph, with top speed of 47 mph. Two-thirds of the climb was accomplished in second gear and one third in third gear. Low and high gears were not used. Driver White calls it the best car-in its size and horsepower-for mountain driving that he has ever seen.
As for fuel economy, the MG averaged 35 at 30 mph, 33.25 mpg at 40 and 29.5 mpg at 50. Its light weight -.2,016 pounds, ready for the road - probably is an important factor here. In the acceleration tests, the car went from 0 to 50 mph in the exceptionally fast time of 14.9 seconds - there's no doubt this car was built for sparkling performance. Its pickup from 0 to 60 mph is measured at 23 seconds. And its best cruising speed or harmonic balance point - is around 67 mph.
One feature that caught Andy White's eye was the complete tool kit housed in a neat compartment under the hood. A sturdy jack and lug

MG Sportster Performance

DATE OF TEST:- July 19, 1951
MAKE OF CAR: MG T.D. 2-passenger sportster
DRIVER: Andy White
WEATHER CONDITIONS: Temperature 71° F., humidity 63%, wind 13 mph


FUEL ECONOMY (in mpg): (checked with velocity flow meter, gas volume meter and Mile-O-Meter, a vacuum gage; level road)
North Run ..............................
South Run .............................
Average .................................
(timed electrically)
zero to 50 mph .......................
zero to 60 mph .......................
HARMONIC POINT (or Optimum Cruising Speed): .......
speedometer ..........................
actual ....................................
SPEEDOMETER ERROR (at Top Speed:) ............................
Hill Climbing:
(on 8-mile incline with grades of 12% to 29% up Mt. Washington)
(a) Top speed and gear ............
(b) Pct. of time in gear .............

(checked with standard brake efficiency meter)

AIR-FUEL RATIO: ..................

Miles Per Hour
20 30 40 50
36 35 32.5 28
36.25 35 34 31
36.12 35 33.23 29.5

14.9 seconds
23 seconds

67 mph

83 mph
79 mph

4 mph

47 mph in third
66% in third, 34% in second, none in first or fourth
60% (at 30 mph stopping distance is 50.2 ft.)

1 ½-to-1 at idle, 14-to-1 at inter- mediate speed, 14¾t-to-1 to 15- to-1 at top top speed (lean mixture)
20,000 to 23,000 volts (American cars have 12,000 to 18,000)
ROADABILITY: Excellent, virtually no wander, steering wheel response is fast, due to this being a racing-type vehicle, clings to curves.
RIDING COMFORT: Fair, this is not a family-type car, therefore comfort is not stressed.
INSTRUMENTS: Fairly easy to read in day operation, difficult at night because of poor lighting; panel light dimmer helps to improve vision.
ACCESSORIES: Steering column is adjustable; tool kit in own box under hood, glove compartment can house radio; celluloid side windscreens are detachable; spare tire mounting is easily accessible-outside car at rear; both of individual seats are adjustable for angle of back and forward or backward.
(a) ENGINE: 4-cylinder, overhead valves Bore: 2.56" Stroke: 3.541 Brake hp: 54.4 at 5,200 rpm Compression ratio: 7.25-to-1
(b) TRANSMISSION: 4 forward, 1 reverse, gear shift.
Rear axle: ratio 5.125-to1 (top gear)
(c) EXTERIOR (see drawing):
Wheelbase: 94"
Weight: 2,016 (ready for road)
Headroom: 35"
Hiproom: 44½" (full width of interior)
Legroom: limited (distance from seat cushion to floor, 52")
Lock to lock: 2½ turns of steering wheel
Turning circle: 31' 3"
Adjustable steering column
(For 5' 8" driver)
Driver's eye to road between left headlight and hood: 18'
Driver's eye to road over center of hood: 30' (approx.)
Driver's eye to road between right headlight and hood: ; 20' 10½"
Battery: 12 volts (electric fuel system)
Tires: 5.50 x 15
Springing: front, independent; rear, semi-elliptic
Parking brake located to driver's right between the seats
Electric windshield wiper
Spare tire mounted on rear

PROF. DEAN FALES, chassis construction authority, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Mass.
DR. JOHN M. COLONAS, chief engineer, Commercial Filters Corp., South Boston, Mass.
LEONARD BELL, Ignition authority, "Mallory Electric Co., Detroit, Mich.
HENRY PRATT, authority on automotive fuels, American Oil Co., Baltimore, Md.
FRANK THILOW, service and lubricating engineer, American Oil Co., Baltimore, Md.

  MOTOR VEHICLE RESEARCH herewith certifies that these are the true and accurate findings in tests conducted on the automobile named under the conditions specified.

A.J. White
Motor Vehicle Research
Gale-Hall Engineering, Inc.

wrench that really work were among the comprehensive array of tools-something of a novelty to the American driver. In addition, the MG's. driver reported, "at last we have a real adjustable seat, one that can be adjusted both for the angle of the back and forward or back for leg space. That's important in any car."
One drawback in the MG is the lack of adequate vision, from the driver's position to the road in front of the car. The driver sits so low that an object less than 26 ft. 8 in. ahead of the bumper cannot be seen over the center of the hood. Looking between the left headlamp and the radiator cap, the driver can see the road at a distance of only 18 ft. while the distance on the right side, between headlamp and radiator cap, is 20 ft. 10½ in. from driver's eye to the road.
Members of the New Hampshire state highway patrol participated in the speed tests, achieving a top of 83 mph on the MG's speedometer. The runs, made over a 1½-mile stretch of the New Hampshire turnpike, revealed a speedometer error of 4 mph in this particular car-about the degree of accuracy found in most American speedometers. Incidentally, the New Hampshire turnpike has a surface that is almost ideal for many types of open road testing and the mileage measurements between bridges are accurate within 1/10th of a foot.
One instrument that is not common on U.S. built cars is the 5 in. tachometer mounted on the MG's easy-to-read dash. This counts engine revolutions, of course, enabling the driver to keep an eye on power plant operation. The MG's 4-cylinder, overhead valve engine turns up its peak horsepower at 5,200 rpm, which puts it in the high speed class. Coupled with that is a rear axle ratio of 5.125-to-1 in top or fourth forward speed. The engine's compression ratio of 7.25-to-1 compares favorably with that of American automobiles, most of which are below that figure.
The MG's engine is easily accessible for repairs and

Lon Bell holding on the racing type of emergency brake in the MG located at the driver's right.

Checking the MG seat change mechanism, which permits you to adjust either the back or the actual seat.

bad feature, in the test crew's opinion, was the arrangement of brake, clutch and accelerator pedals. The pedals, they agreed, should be further apart to prevent overlapping of the 2 pedals by the sole of the foot.
One impressive thing about the tough Mt. Washington run was that the MG, as well as the other two cars, came through the 8-mile grind without a single mechanical failure. Wheel-slippage was practically non-existent on all three-and in this case of the MG, which had some pretty "bald" rear tires on it during the test, this reflected particular credit to the road hungry feel of perky and powerful little sportster.
servicing, but the test crew found the sharp little hood latches hard on the hands. And, they also found the hood must be brought down absolutely straight to prevent banging into the chrome headlamps. The electric windshield wiper on this '51 T.D. had a small follow rod that pinched fingers unless the driver was careful in turning it on and off. Another
  Lon Bell and Andy White with the two performance motors and broke- motors mounted in the MG just prior to running the tests.

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