University Motors

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Extract from February's MGCC publication - Safety Fast

University Motors

The aim of this article is shed some more light on the subject of M.G. cars sold by University Motors (UM) in the period 1930 - 1949 with MG and UMG registrations.

Reg No Model Chassis No Original Reg
MG 15 WA WA606
MG 23 M Type 2M3341
MG 47 L Type L2054 ACD 134
MG 112 TD Midget
MG 113 Fraser Nash 1204 PK 1687
MG 251 J2 Midget J3313
MG 260 L2 Magna

The MG prefixed registration plates seem to have been issued by Middlesex County Council over a period extending from 1930 to 1958. Research shows that the numbers from MG 1 - MG 399 were probably issued in the ordinary way and that there was certainly no special bias to M.G. cars or University Motors. Indeed there is no record of any M.G. car with a plate below MG 400 which was so registered from new. I know of 8 cars with MG plates in this series, as in the chart.

Every M.G. listed above was built after the plates they now carry should have been issued. The only car in existence when the plates were issued was the Fraser Nash. This car, built in 1928 as a Super Sports was later rebuilt as a Compton TT and reregistered MG 113, probably at the same time (early 1930).

In contrast there are records of 12 M.G. cars in the MG 400 - MG 499 series alone, of which 2 are known to exist, both 18/80 Mk IIs. Study of the chassis files held by the Club has shown that there are no recorded M.G. cars, either 18/80 or M Type Midget having a MG plate below MG 400. Although University Motors were selling both models of car during the period 1929 to early 1930. It seems therefore that there was no tie up between University Motors and the MG series of plates before MG 400.

The Club and other sources have revealed records of some 950 or so MG registrations. The vast majority of this list is of M.G. cars, but by no means all. Indeed it is not possible for all MG plates to have been originally fitted to M.G. cars. It is obvious that many, indeed the majority, of MG plates must have been originally fitted to non M.G. cars (They would have had to have sold about 1 in 4 of all the M.G.s built during the period concerned!). In addition the anecdotal evidence of other makes of vehicle so fitted is too strong to ignore. Turning now to the other end of the series. The Club has records of cars with plates from MG 400 upwards and, through the T and Y Registers, knows of 14 cars which have carried MG plates in the series MG 7300 - MG 7399 of which 11 had them issued from new. Next are 4 cars in the MG 7400 - MG 7449 series of which 3 are original.
After this we have:

Reg No Model Chassis No
MG 7484 MGB -
MG 7501 MG TC ?
MG 7612 MG TC TC2794
MG 7999 MG SA SA0719

The MGB and the SA (this car is apparently now in Hawaii) are obvious reregistrations. TC2794 is too early a car to have carried MG 7612 originally, if MG plated it would have been around the MG 7200 - MG 7230 mark (and perhaps it does, it would not be the first transcription error discovered during this research, MG 7212 possibly?). This leaves MG 7501 on a TC. Information on this car was gained from a listing published in MG Enthusiast some time ago and there is no record of it within the Club. Therefore I believe it at best to be a reregistration and that the last MG registration issued on a private car by UM was most probably MG 7449 or possibly MG 7499.

So we now have evidence of MG plates issued from MG 1 to MG 7499, of which MG 400 - MG 7449 were associated with UM and M.G. cars, some 7,050 number plates. The time scale being Apr 1930 (MG 400) to Apr? 1948 (MG 7449).

There is a gap between the last MG xxxx series registration and the first UMG xxx series registration of just under a year. This is supported by the evidence of the chassis numbers of the cars involved. So finally we have an outline of the time scale and registrations which UM were able to put on cars they sold:

Apr 1930 MG 400 First UM MG plate
World War II MG 6812
Last pre war
record known
MG 6931 First post war
record known
Apr? 1948 MG 7449 Last UM MG plate
Apr? 1949 UMG 1 First UMG plate

The MG plates were issued at a fairly steady rate throughout the 1930s, varying year by year but being between 50 to 70 a month. After the war the issue rate was significantly reduced, probably associated with the relative lack of new cars, to some 20 a month until they ran out. The issue rate of the UMG (and later YMG) plates was faster than this as cars became more freely available but did not reach the pre war rate of issues. Therefore, as far as time goes and the relative quantity of cars produced, the post war MG xxxx series are rarer than the prewar ones. UM was a large concern, based in central London and, according to their letter head of 22 April 1932 had showrooms at:
83 Piccadilly W 1
1 & 4 Brick St, Park Lane W 1
46 Knightsbridge
27 High Street, Notting Hill Gate W 11
By 8 September 1932 their showrooms were stated to be at:
Stratton House
80 Piccadilly W 1

Which is the address given on the metal and enamel dashboard plaque, fitted to many cars they sold, from about this time until at least 1950. They also had showrooms in Brighton, both Bedford Place and Portland Place being mentioned in the chassis records.

UM were main dealers for M.G. and cars which were to be sold by garages all over the South East were first delivered from the factory to UM. Indeed the only other such main dealer in the area was Jarvis of Wimbledon, albeit on a much smaller scale. Therefore the fact that a car was originally delivered to UM does not mean that it would have carried a MG registration plate. On the other hand the fact that the car was sold by UM did not guarantee that it would have received a MG plate either. I understand that these plates carried a premium and some cars which were both delivered to as well as sold by UM during the MMM period did receive plates with other Middlesex registrations such as GT, GW, GX, GY and YY. Presumably when the buyer balked at the idea of having to pay for a special number plate as well as the car. Cars sold from the Brighton showrooms in the MMM era did not receive MG plates.

MG plates were issued on cars sold by garages other than UM. There are many MMM records of cars which were sold by garages other than UM yet carried MG registration plates. Many of these were delivered to UM as the main dealer and perhaps UM registered them prior to their being sold by another garage. However there were cars, neither delivered to nor sold by UM which had MG plates from new. This is a topic that we will return to later.

So what else can we extract from the study of these records? First of all we can get a fairly accurate view of how well and how fast each model of car sold. For instance the well known instance of UM buying up the last MGCs was not the first time they had done this. It was done over 30 years earlier when they bought the last 20 or so 18/80 Mk Is, the majority of them having Speed bodies.

The effect of the body type is interesting too.

So, for example, if we look at the TCs, there is an excellent correlation between the chassis number and the registration number. They normally took between 14 and 30 days to be registered from the day that they were laid down. It is clear from this that TCs were recognised then as wonderful cars and were as much sought after in their day as they are now. There is however a gap between the MG and UMG series, from chassis TC4555/MG 7404 to TC8481/UMG 4. This corresponds to the period April 1948 to March 1949 mentioned earlier.

The effect of the body type is interesting too. Study of L1 sales show what can happen when a saloon body is fitted to an M.G. Although 9 cars with saloon bodies were sold quite quickly by UM early in the production run, they were much harder to sell later on. For example LO678/MG 3578 took 9 months after it had been built before it was registered, most probably due to the saloon body it carried. The 4 seaters built at the same time sold perfectly well. As an aside, it seems that the L2 was built with a weak steering drop arm which had a tendency to break! One such car, LO536/MG 3279 was sold to a certain Air Vice Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding on 7 May 1934. We should be grateful it did not kill or maim him as he was later the architect of the RAF's victory in the Battle of Britain! The J1s also show the effect of putting a coupe body on an M.G., death on the forecourt!

To illustrate the point about other garages selling MG plated M.G.s, of the 36 J1s with MG plates of which I have details, 5 were NOT sold by UM. There are examples of such cars of nearly every model throughout the MMM era. In most cases there is only one such occurrence for each garage. Maybe UM made it so difficult on the first occasion that the garages never tried it again. Ideal Motors of Middlesex being the exception, they sold at least 5 P Types with MG plates in late 1935, 3 of which are now known to the Club.

The assistance I received in compiling the listing which enabled me to draw the conclusions given above varied enormously, but I would like to thank, David Washbourne of the SVW Register, Dennis Doubtfire of the Y Register, Chris Alderson of the T Register, John Joynes of the MMM register, Phil Jennings late of the Vintage Register but most of all the staff of the Club Office who put up with me for days on end.

Should anyone be interested in more complete details of the UM series of MG and UMG plates I can be contacted via Paddy Willmer. But be warned, it runs to 1080 records.

See appendix for more registrations

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