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MG Car Club

Broadcast dates : 6th June 2004/10th June 2004

The MG Car Club is one of the strongest motoring clubs in South Africa and its Johannesburg branch is full of interesting ideas to keep its members motivated.

One of the recent ideas is a monthly mid-week brunch 'n' lunch run, for those members who have time on their hands or can sneak a couple of hours off work.

At this particular brunch-and-lunch members gathered at a coffee shop in Bryanston before heading off for a couple of laps at the nearby Kyalami race circuit.

Well-known MG rallyist and racer Roger Pearce was the organiser, turning up in his TD hot-rod, a particularly beautiful recreation of an MG TD with a six cylinder Morris engine. Something the factory never quite got around to building themselves. But the way this car goes and looks, maybe MG should have done a TD Six.

Once at the track, Roger Pearce instructed members on the ideal lines around the famous Kyalami Grand Prix circuit. Roger has been racing and rallying for over three decades and in a fe days time is setting off on a cross Africa juant in his rally MGB.

The MG story goes all the back to 1924 when Cecil Kimber decided to built a lightweight special based on a Morris chassis and mechanicals. Kimber was the general manager of Morris Garages, a retail outlet affiliated to Morris Motors, and thus the MG legend, standing for Morris garages, was born, officially in 1925.

MGs were in serious production before World War Two, but ironically it was the global conflict in 1939 to 1945 that really set MG on its way as one of the most succesful sports car companies in the world.

American GIs stationed in Britain during and after the war were exposed to the fantastic fun to be had in an MG, and when they returned home to America in the late 1940s many were intent on bringing home an MG as a momento.

The MG TC was introduced straight after the war in 1945. It was very much vintage 1930s in style and in terms of its mechanicals, using beam axles and leaf springs front and rear. But the engine was modern, a lively four cylinder overhead valve unit, displacing twelve fifty ccs. It developed 52 horsepower at five thousand two hundred rpm.

The bodywork on the TC is really vintage. It runs wire wheels with rims just 2,5 inches in width but 19 inches in diameter and the cross-ply tyres have a tread pattern narrower than a modern motorcycle.

The TD, a replacement for the TC, was much more modern, but still lagging behind in style when compared to European and even American sports cars of the 1950s

The TD was put into production late in 1949 and featured the same engine as the TC, but a much-revised body and chassis.

Notable was the wishbone front suspension system with coil springs and the rear axle located beneath the upswept chassis rails instead of above them as in the TC.

The wishbone design saw the use of a strange lever-arm sock absorber forming the upper wishbone and this was a feature carried all the way through to MGB production in the early 1980s!

Like the TC, the TD featured a frame made in ash wood and covered in steel panelling, this being standard sports car practise at the time.

A big change was that the TD used 15-inch steel disc wheels. The first models had plan rims, while later models featured perforated wheel centres to aid brake cooling. The TD became amazingly successful in America, with over 23 000 being exported there. Just under 30 000 were produced in total between late 1949 and 1953.

Just to keep the chronology correct, the TF that followed the TD was a model that never made an appearance at the brunch-luch. Very similar to the TD, it was a more elegant car, with fared-in head lamps and optional wire wheels, as well as a slightly more powerful engine.

The car that brought the MG marque into the modern era was the sleek, beautiful MGA. Launched in 1955 it had a shape that remained very contemporary through to the 1960s and today it looks quite modern, thanks to many cars once again adapting distinctive radiator grilles.

It came standard with disc steel wheels but knock-off wire wheels were an option.

The engine was a fifteen hundred cc B-Series four cylinder unit with twin SU carbs and a very free-breathing exhaust crackle.

The engine size would rise to 1600 cc in later models, and be topped off by the wonderful Twin Cam unit.

The owner of the red example on the run, Nick Parrot, raced his Twin Cam in England before bringing the car to South Africa. He also refutes the Twin Cam's reputation for unreliability, saying it is completely unfounded as long as the engines are properly maintained.

By 1962 the MGB would make its first appearance, those first cars characterised by their disc steel wheels, rather than the very popular wires.

The MGB had a unique wedge shape that would carry the model all the way through to the 1980s.

The B-Series engine had grown to 1800 cc in the "B" and would remain at this sizing throughout the car's life. Breathing once again through twin SU carburettors it was good for about seventy kilowatts.

Fitted with a four-speed gearbox,, and sometimes an overdrive unit which gave it an effective close-ratio six-speed gearbox, it did 0-100 km/h in about 12 seconds and a top speed of 170 km/h - swift for the 1960s and just fine for the twenty first century.

The MGB came in many guises - a convertible, a GT which had a fast back and a small rear seat, and a hard top version.

Over half a million MGBs were built between 1962 and 1980.

The MGB is perfectly useable as an everyday classic, which is what many people do.

Spares are not too pricey, the engines are simple and easy to work on and anyone who has not worked on one will be amazed at how much fun they are to drive.

With the recent introduction of the MGF open sports car and certain closed examples such as the ZR and ZT models, MG has made it back to the modern era in South Africa.

The new TF has just as much classic sports car feel as any of the previous models, unlike many other modern sports cars which are sporty in looks but not driver feedback.

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