Since its creation in the early 1920’s, MG cars have been a favorite of sports car enthusiasts. The past one hundred years have seen a history filled with styles of MGs from touring to single-seater racing types.
Although the MG brand was shelved by British Leyland in 1980 when MGB production came to an end and the MGB was no longer imported to the US, the famous octagonal badge still exists in the England, and there is even a very well received electric version that is in great demand.
Morris Garages/MG Car Co. (1923 to 1935)
William Morris started building bicycles in Longwall Street, Birmingham. By 1911, Morris had turned his attention to motor cars and was selling and repairing various makes from the rebuilt premises, now renamed Morris Garages. In 1922 William Morris appointed his head salesman, a young Cecil Kimber, as general manager. The MG name, based on the initials of the garage, first appeared in 1923 on a Kimber bodied bull nosed Morris Cowley special in which Kimber won gold in the Land’s End Trial. Although this winning car is claimed to be the prototype MG, the model recognized today as the first ever MG, or Old Number One, is a preserved pointed-tail two-seater.
In 1930, the year MG went racing, the MG Car Company Ltd was incorporated. Although William Morris personally owned the company, he eventually sold his holdings in MG to Morris Motors in 1935, the lead company in the Morris Organization.
Morris Motors Ltd (1935 to 1952)
The MG Car Company had produced a string of successful models that included several Midgets, K-Type Magnette plus the L and M-Type Magna. One of the first models to be built after MG came under the control of Morris Motors was the 1936 TA Midget, the first of the company’s T-Series sports cars. The saloons, as the British called the family cars were produced included the SA, VA and WA models.
During WWII, MG auto production was shifted to tanks and airplane wings. At the end of the war, the now famous MG TC started production. The returning GIs brought back this model and it started a revolution and is many times accredited as “The Sports Car America First Loved”. In 1950 the MG TD and the four passenger YA and YT were imported, and a US dealership organization was formed.
British Motor Corporation (1952 to 1968)
In 1953 the TF and TF 1500 were introduced and in 1956 the streamlined MGA, with a new 1500 cc engine, was produced. The MGA sold over 100,0000 cars until it was replaced by the MGB in 1962. The MGB GT was added to the model line in 1965. During the period from 1954 to 1958, the ZA/ZB Magnette, the first model constructed with an all welded unit body, became the vanguard of a stream of post war MG saloons. Some shared body styles with other marques.
British Leyland (1968 to 1986)
Consolidation of the British motor industry resulted in the merger of Leyland Motors and BMC under the British Leyland banner. The MGB soldiered on and saw a brief burst of rejuvenation when the MGB GT V8 was produced from 1973 to 1976. Sadly, this high-performance model was never exported and its introduction coincided with an energy crises. On October 22, 1980, now known as Black Friday, British Leyland closed the famed Abingdon MG plant, a move that would result with the MG Car Company name as we knew it finally being consigned to the history books.
After the closing of the factory at Abingdon, there have been several successors to the MG name. Rover for several years tried to revive the marque with the MG RV8 in the 1990s and the mid-engine MG TF at the end of the decade. More recently, the MG is being produced in England but unfortunately not for the US market. The MG brand today is Chinese owned, but is alive, selling well, bringing out an electric sports car, and has a fantastic following throughout the world.
- contributed by Ray Holtzapple