Grand Tourer (The MGY)

Octagon Newsletter May 1996

By Alan Fraser

A "Grand Tourisimo" designation for a car in its simplest form denotes a vehicle that has the performance required of a sports car, the ability to tour over great distances in comfort and the room to carry all the required luggage. At times the term "GT" has been applied carelessly to vehicles with little regard for the required qualities of a GT, while firms such as Ferrari, Aston Martin and Jaguar, boast Grand Tourers of a grand style.

Throughout its history, the MG Car Company was known for its sports cars but not everyone knows that the firm was also involved in the production of more luxurious models that provided "space, grace and pace" for the discerning owner who wished to combine an appreciation of a sporting pedigree with the necessity of owning a more roomy car for wives, children and other non-essentials. Many early MG models such as the 14/4 and 18/8 were simply "worked over" Morris Cowleys with ample room for four while some of the better known roadsters also came in four-seat configuration, such as the K-1 Magnette and the NA Tourer. Before World War II, the firm produced the huge SA and WA models in saloon, tourer and drop-head coupe forms, 3300 pound cars that could cruise all day at high speed and provide luxury to equal more expensive competitors. A slightly smaller VA followed the pattern before the outbreak of war.

Following World War II, MG once more entered the sports saloon field with the Y-Series. Based on the pressed steel bodies of Morris 8 and 10 but with a strong chassis, independent front suspension, rack and pinion steering and the XPAG engine, the Y-type again gave the buyer the opportunity to purchase a sensible car while enjoying its sporting pedigree. As the ad stated, it was "A family car with a sporting heart"! Though designated a "Sports Saloon" in the S-W-V tradition rather than a GT sports model, its sporting attributes were such that the chassis went on to form the basis of the TD, TF and MGA and the Issigonis-designed independent front suspension was in use until the end of the MGB era. The model also appeared in touring form as the YT (uncharitably described by one writer as resembling "a Victorian bathtub on wheels"). Once again the Y-type epitomised the requirement for sporting performance, comfort and carrying capacity.

From the mid-Fifties, the modern unibody ZA and ZB Magnette saloons replaced the anachronistic Y Series and actually exceeded the performance of the concurrent TF roadster. The mechanicals of the Magnette were soon found in the next roadster, the Series MGA. The sports saloons were discontinued after 1958, being replaced by a number of "badge engineered" BMC saloons with limited sporting appeal.

Roadsters again held sway at MG through the MGA era as the Coupe could hardly be considered a Grand Tourisimo vehicle and it was not until 1965, when the firm again introduced such a vehicle - a four seat GT model, the striking Italian designed hardtop version of the MGB roadster.

The following is a specification comparison of two MG Grand Tourisimos thirty years apart in age:

MG Y (1947-53) 1250 cc, 46 BHP, 5 Passenger, Top Speed 70 mph, comfortable ride

MGB GT (1965-80) 1798 cc, 98 BHP, 4 Passenger, Top Speed 100 mph, sporting ride

Not all MG sports saloons were true GT sports cars but they exhibited the best features of space and comfort while maintaining the pedigree in the form of robust construction and dependable handling characteristics and, like all MGs, they are fun to drive!

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