Essence of the MG Sports Car

Octagon Newsletter September 1992

By Al Fraser

Many MG owners drive their cars as enjoyable summer cars for shows, picnics and concours events, others put their MGs into driving events such as slaloms, funkanas or even vintage racing. Some drive their MGs as everyday transportation. All these owners are using the car as it was first envisaged by Cecil Kimber, when, in the 1920's, he saw a need for an inexpensive, reliable, yet sporting vehicle which could be enjoyed for its visual appeal and dependability, be driven to the track, raced competitively and driven home safely to resume life as a family car.

In an age when specialized coachbuilders created sporting "specials" for wealthy enthusiasts, Kimber saw the need for a less expensive but equally dependable, well-designed and constructed sports car that could be within the financial reach of less-wealthy enthusiasts. He developed his specials with performance and reliability as the main criteria because he intended that these Morris Garage Specials prove themselves on the great tracks of Europe which were the paramount test beds of the day.

The first MG victory came in a race in Buenos Aires in 1927, the first recorded entry by the marque in competition. MGs began appearing as private entries at race events, as owners realized that these were high-endurance cars with amazing road-holding abilities, which could squeeze utmost performance out of diminutive engines to gain high scores in handicap races at such venues as Brooklands and Le Mans. Kimber's philosophy was to give full factory support and advice to the private owner, including race tuning, delivery to the pits and pit assistance, but he would not enter official "works teams" as did other firms, feeling that this would be unfair to the private drivers of the MG marque. By 1935, the name MG was a giant on European racing circuits where the diminutive but meticulously prepared BRG cars placed well in every event and Abingdon used the knowledge gained from these racers to continuously improve the product (gas tanks were rubber mounted with straps rather than bolts to the tanks since it was found in 1929 that constant pounding on the tracks cracked bolts and ruptured tanks). The next time you look at the mounting of any T-Type gas tank you will see the result of racing experience on production cars. In the past 40 years, MG was seldom absent from any road racing event and factory prepared MGAs and MGBs were familiar sights at LeMans, Sebring and Mille Miglia events in the sixties where they were remarkable for their endurance if not outright speed.

In land speed successes, with a derivative of the MGA chassis and engine, MG collected every available class F, G and H record, some of which still stand to this day.

Cecil Kimber's philosophy was borne out by his cars. They were not merely cobbled together collections of Morris parts but were engineered and constructed to epitomize the company motto of "Safety Fast" and every improvement came as a result of racing experience, not at the whim of a design department.

As you drive your MG or admire other models, always keep in mind that these "cute little cars" have a race-bred pedigree and represent small car performance and race engineering of a high calibre. Whether you drive your MG for fun or performance, and even when you complain about the occasional foibles inherent in British production cars, always be aware of the fact that every MG from the '20s to the '80s is a race-bred car.

MG 14-40  (front)

MG 14-40 (side)

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