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The Original MG TD Midget

The TF in Detail

A guide for restorers and concours judges by Matthew Magilton.

Note: This document will be completed chapter by chapter on a periodic basis until it is finished. Check back often to see new sections.


Garage Drawing


In the opinion of myself and many other enthusiasts worldwide, the TF is one of the most hansome MG's ever produced. It has been my good fortune to have owned a very original example and this car has brought me a lot of enjoyment over many years. Since I became involved in concours judging, particuarly of the TF class, I have been on the lookout for published detailed information about TF 's especially with regard to originality. Such information has been difficult to come by as many MG books tend to only cover the basic facts and not always correctly!

Most TF's have undergone many changes over the years. Let me describe to you the life of a typical car: Bought new by a young middle class man for three reasons; (a) Daily transport, (b) Impress the ladies, (c) Indulge in the occasional weekend rally. Soon the car was fitted with aeroscreens, full tonneau, badge bar,spot lights and badges. Within three years the biscuit coloured hood had begun to perish from being parked out in the street, dirt and moisture had begun eating away at the carpets and wooden sils and the rear mudguards were pockmarked by the gravel from car rallies. The car was then traded in for a new MGA and the TF was given a spruce up by the car yard which included a new black vinyl hood and a red respray over the original dull grey or badly weathered almond green paint. By the late '60's the car had passed through several owners including university students who did not have the cash to afford a new hood or a decent respray and soon the car went into storage under a tarpaulin in the back yard. In the mid 170's the car was bought in a very sorry state by a young car club member who wanted a "project". He painted the car its "original" red colour (the grey paint underneath was thought to be undercoat) and he had a new black vinyl hood made to match the "original". Leather upholstery was beyond his budget,so the seats were done in trendy brown vinyl with matching brown carpet and the engine bay was 'improved' with the addition of a chrome rocker cover and chrome air cleaners.

The car was used for social rallies and the occasional motor-khana throughout the seventies and eighties and sometimes the kids would get a lift to school sitting on the sidescreen box. By the late nineties the owner had risen to the position of regional manager in his company and the children had moved out. Now he found himself in the fortunate position of having spare cash to play with. Although he also has an immaculate Austin Healey in his garage he still has a soft spot for the old Toofer, despite its faded vinyl, loose doors and a large crack in the chassis above the back axle. But now he has the where-with-all to do the sort of restoration he always wanted. This time it would be mostly done by professionals and he might even have a shot at the annual club concourse. But to do this the car would have to be correct even down to the minor details. There was just one problem: Where to find detailed information?

The Body Tub


As with the TD the TF bodies were assembled at the Morris Bodies Plant in Coventry. The fully skinned body tubs were fitted with the doors, firewall and the floor of the sidescreen box before spray painting, hence the original paint went over the mushroom headed firewall bolts and the door hinge screws, but is not found under the hinges. Usually the tool box lid was laid out on the black plywood floor of the sidescreen box for painting, which left behind a perfect silhouette of the lid. The underside of the lid was painted gloss black beforehand. This would have avoided the need to turn over the lid during painting. The body plate was fixed to the underside of the passenger side of the lid with four aluminium rivets after painting. The tool box itself was lined with off-white felt (a most impractical colour).The stamped body number ranged from 9,000 for an early car to 20,700 for a late car, but these were not in sequence with the chassis numbers. The body tubs would have been trucked from Coventry to Abingdon in colour batches which went down the assembly line in groups of about 20 to 40 cars.

Before commencing with the upholstery, the underside of the scuttle was painted to match the upholstery colour and the dash board colour. The scuttle underside near the top of the dashboard was sprayed without any masked edges and often a brush was used along the 'fold back' next to the padded rim. I have so far found thirteen TF's with evidence of this original paintwork and no cars with evidence of a body colour scuttle underside or a body colour dashboard.

Evidence of RED scuttle/dash/upholstery colour sets:

Chassis # 5147(Black car), 6021(Black), 6213(Red), 6438(Grey), 8878(Red), and 9097(Grey). Note: The bright red used on the dash and scuttle underside was distinctly lighter than the darker red used on the body of red cars.

Evidence of BISCUIT colour sets: # 5321(Black), 6016(Black), 6358(Red), 1774(Red). Biscuit was not a popular dash colour. These dashboards were often painted over in body colour when the car had a respray.

Evidence of GREEN colour sets: # 4463(Ivory), 5092(Green), 6142(Green). In all three cases the dash was a light apple or aqua green, very close to the upholstery colour.

After painting, the upholstery lining was glued, screwed, bolted and nailed into place. The sidescreen box surround was an assembly of four black metal pieces covered in the rexine- vinyl type material before being riveted together and attached to the body. The leading edge went over the carpet on the heel-board and was held down with four slotted countersunk screws and eyelets which were painted over in upholstery colour.

The floor of the sidescreen box was of black sprayed plywood and had a centre panel which was removable for access to the differential. Onto the floor was glued coarse black felt with a separate piece for the centre panel.

The plywood lid was covered in vinyl and the underside was glued with thin coarse black felt (thinner than on the floor of the box). The join where the vinyl met the felt was covered with a half inch wide ribbon of shiny black edge banding which was stapled in place with 21 staples on a 45 degree angle (seven staples across, by five staples down each side and an extra staple at the start/finish of the banding. My earliest reference for the use of staples is chassis # 1774. The lid was attached with a pair of one and a half inch long hinges held on with small bolts. These were painted upholstery colour as were the phillips dome headed bolts and washers securing the fuel tank straps. The vinyl lifting tag at the front was attached with two chrome countersunk phillips head screws with chrome eyelets and a chrome press stud.

The door panels and sills and side panels were usually three-ply plywood except for the footwell panel which was bituminized waterproof cardboard and shaped to cover the scuttle support hoop. The hidem binding was stitched onto these panels, the stitching passing right through the boards. In most cases the hidem binding ran continuously across the front, doorsill and rear panels. Apart from the seat faces and outer seat sides, tops and bottoms, the only place leather was used was along the top edge of the map pocket and the door piping which extended from the door lock to above the hinges. The black gearlever gaiter was also normally leather. This was stitched to the tunnel carpet and did not have a drawstring.

Whilst at Coventry the rear mudguards were bolted on using cad' plated bolts and washers. The piping was only long enough to stop below the hinges which is why a discreet piping joint can be seen here on unrestored cars. This is confirmed in the BMC Service Parts List. The windscreen stanchions were bolted on using chrome plated phillips head bolts as per late TD and the half-tonneau studs were screwed in at the rear and sides. Morris Bodies would also have been responsible for fitting the rear reflectors seen on later cars, since the nut that holds the reflector is inaccessible when the upholstery is in place. Reflectors were introduced to comply with new road regulations in England and possibly Australia and the United States but I am not sure exactly when. There is an interesting publicity shot showing a TF with reflectors but no "TF"-1500 badge on page 151 of 'The Magic of MG' by Mike Allison. But we must be careful about basing our conclusions on publicity shots.

The Engine


Not only were the bodies being built at Coventry, but also the engines, over at the nearby Morris Engines Plant. All of the main castings were sprayed a dark red after assembly. These included the block, sump, head, bellhousing, gearbox, timing chain cover, water pump, water outlet and crankshaft pulley. To this was attached: -The gearbox remote control in bare aluminium.

-The exhaust manifold and clamps which were sprayed with molten aluminium giving a matt white finish. This process dates back to the TA.

-The cylinder head cover which was painted a dull silver and carried a plated oil filler cap normally stamped with the names of eight oil companies and secured with an 'S' link chain which was riveted to either the right or left side of the cover. Also on the cover is a small brass plate bearing the inscription: "SET ROCKERS TO .012" VALVE CLEARENCE WHEN HOT". Sometimes the plate was attached before painting, and other times after painting.
-The fan which was painted gloss black as per TD. That black paint was used suggests that this item was made elsewhere, perhaps at Morris Pressed Steel.

-The Lucas starter motor in black. The aluminium end plate was unpainted except for some black overspray.

-The Lucas dynamo in black, including the brush cover. The dynamo pulley was in red as per TD dynamos. This suggests to me that the pulleys were cast at Morris Engines for this engine and not supplied by Lucas. Early dynamos had a cast iron pulley and fan in one piece. Later dynamos had a pressed metal fan attached to the pulley.

-The distributor with a bare aluminium body and black bakelite cap. The spark plug connectors featured the "Champion" brand name sometimes in a red band, but mostly in tiny raised letters with no red band.

-The 'Y' pipe which connects to the water pump and was painted engine red. According to the Service Parts List this pipe and the water outlet elbow were not fitted with brass plugs until engine number XPEG 1011 (XPEG engines commenced at 501). All of the radiator hoses were secured with the wire type hose clips.

-The breather pipe (next to the distributor) which was painted engine red including the top clamp and the bottom clamp which bolted to the bellhousing.

-The brass octagonal engine I.D. plate which was unpainted.

-The inlet manifold in engine red.

-The carburetors made by Skinners Union of Birmingham. These were left bare aluminium with hexagonal brass piston tops (dampers were not added until chassis number 3495). The plated steel overflow pipes ran down through a small hole in the front engine mount plate near the engine I.D. plate, presumably to keep excess fuel away from the exhaust pipe.

-The aircleaners by Vokes of Guildford. These were painted gloss black all over and secured with cad plated bolts, Of the four bolts on the carburetor side, two of these should have extra tall hexagonal heads cut with screw slots to ease the removal of the aircleaners from their awkward position. These two bolts

have their own part number.

-The steel breather pipe connecting the forward air cleaner to the rocker cover. This was secured with two pieces of rubber hose and four "Jubilee" brand flat hose clips similar to those used on the TD. The pipe itself had either one or two bends to accommodate the angle of the air cleaner and was most commonly painted engine red. This suggests to me that this simple item was made at the engines plant using their paint and not ordered from Voices. Unrestored cars that I have seen with this colour pipe include chassis numbers 5147, 6388 and 9097.

-The oil filter cover. Oil filter assemblies came from two different suppliers: "Purolator" and "Tecalemit". The Purolator filter is identified by a large cupped washer under the retaining bolt and was painted a light silvery-metallic green. When new these may have had a brand name sticker. The Tecalemit filter did not have the large cupped washer but it did have a small oval brand name plate held on the side with two rivets. I have only come across one unpainted example on chassis number 8878 and it was a warm tan colour. (This colour may have been affected by heat and oil).

The head on the XPAG (1250) engine should have the serial number "8842" in raised numbers followed by a "5" which is stamped on. This serial number is found on the top front-right corner of the cylinder head. This head is essentially the same casting as for the Wolseley 4/44, except the valve seats have been cut for larger valves. The XPEG (1500) engine is a slightly different casting to allow for the larger cylinder diameters and this one has the fully stamped serial number "AEF 118".

Here is a simplified explanation of the engine code:

M -Morris, X -Late Morris

P -Over Head Valves

A -Bore & Horse Power -66 5mm, 11 H.P. E -72mm. 13 H.P.

G -MG H -Morris W -Wolseley.

The Rolling Chassis


Coming soon

On with the Body


The Rear


Forwards of the Firewall


Weather Equipment




The Tool Kit


In Conclusion


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© 2001 - 2013 by Matthew Magilton Page last updated on March 31, 2003