In Days Gone By
Octagon Newsletter … April 1986
Our brief look back at what was happening in the world of yester-year focuses its attention on the early days in the Twenties, the re-emergence of the marque after the dark war years and the launch of the MGB … the biggest selling MG ever.
Kimber's passion for competition was manifest over Easter 1925 when he drove his Morris 'special' in the Land's End Trial and won the first class award's gold medal.
Following his specification, the nimble car used a modified Morris Cowley chassis frame and specially-prepared Hotchkiss overhead-valve engine. The chassis rear was re-made using side members which arched over the rear axle allowing the out-rigged, semi-elliptic springs to carry the car nearer the ground, improving road holding. Larger, Oxford brake drums were fitted all round.
Having a two-seater Carbodies body and minimal mudguards, this purposeful car was registered FC 7900. It has been many things to many people … MG Number One to some. It was Kimber's first, outright sporting eventer, where he used his vision to temper Morris parts and forge his own racer … Old Number One. A one-off that won.
There were three more MGs in the Land's End Trial and two, driven by Chiesman and Saltmarsh, also gained gold.
The passing of the father of the MG, Cecil Kimber, in February 1945 was shortly followed by the company's re-birth as a car producer after six years of armament work during the Second World War.
Kimber was in love with the motorcar. A dreamer, a man of vision, with an instinct for what looked right and the mechanical aptitude to engineer a product that performed right. He was an enthusiast rather than a dealer … a man loath to compromise his cars. He was not the Nuffield Organisation's idea of a company man.
The dynamic Kimber died in transit, not in a car, but in a freak rail accident at King's Cross, London, when his Peterborough train wheelspun to a halt on a steep gradient, ran backwards and became derailed. He was 58. When the War ended in August, all except armaments were in short supply and demand was high. It was time to clear the line, which had been producing wing components for the Hawker Tempest II fighter-bomber (an aircraft which failed to fight owing to arguments over its engine fit) and start a new car line.
In 1962, the one hundred-thousandth MGA, meant MG had sold more units of one model of sports car than any other producer … but sales of the seven-year-old car were falling.
Consumer expectation exceeded MG provisions, particularly in the area of accommodation. The family saloon gave spacious comfort with acceptable performance.
The 1962 Motor Show was the debut for the marque's latest sports car models … the MGB, and for MG's second, so called, 'badge-engineered' model, the 1100 saloon. Both were innovative … especially the £812 1100, with its transverse engine, front-wheel drive and hydrolastic suspension. Within days, this car redeemed itself in winning its class in the Six Hours Race at Brands Hatch. The big beautiful MGB … the only modern, monocoque, pedigree MG was on sale for £950.
Sydney Enever's design team evolved the MGB shape from the EX 181 record breaker while allowing the incorporation of a substantial floorpan to form a unitary monocoque body.
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