MG 18/80 Discovered

Octagon Newsletter … July 2000

By Doug Ingram

We’ve all heard the tales of the person who found an old, rare and potentially valuable car hidden away for decades, full of cobwebs, dust, and rodent droppings, in a dilapidated and musty barn. Invariably the story includes an old farmer who remembers his father storing the car, with vague promises to get it on the road again someday. Then the years rolled by.

Just legends, right? Doesn’t really happen anymore. Well, not quite. A couple of years ago, a very rare lightweight Jaguar E-Type was found in a shed in Los Angeles after 35 years of storage. It was later sold at auction for nearly U.S. $900,000 and has found new life on the vintage race circuit. A few months ago, one of the members of my Internet group found a Jensen-Healey in a barn in Colorado, bought it, took it home and now plans a restoration. It happened too, to Derek Durst, who is the fortunate fellow, who found a little known MG, the 18/80.

Before continuing with Derek’s story, a little history. Back in the 1920s, when Owen Kimber was making sporting cars as the manager of Morris Garages, William Morris was relentlessly building his empire by acquiring suppliers and competitors, including Hotchkiss, the engine makers.

This company had developed an 18 bhp overhead camshaft 6 cylinder engine that was destined for a new Morris saloon. The resulting model, the Isis, was heavy and uninspiring, but Kimber saw it as the basis for his ambition to produce a big sports car, to compete with the best of the time, the Bentley. He designed a new chassis, added twin carburetors, and created what was really a completely new car, the MG 18/80 Six. This magnificent beast also bore a new radiator, which was so elegant that its shape survived on MGs for more than 25 years. The 18/80 proved quite popular, making up one third of MG sales in 1930 (remember, though, that total output was only around a thousand cars per year!). The 18/80 was re-designed in heavier form as the Mark II, and was eventually superseded by the Magnette in 1932.

In the July 1931 issue, the authoritative magazine, The Motor reported on its test of a 1930 MG 18/80 Mark II, a roadster complete with dickie seat. This very car somehow made its way to the United States and ultimately vanished from the scene in the late 1960s.

The story jumps forward now to 1999, when old car enthusiast, Derek Durst, found it quite literally in a barn near his home in Newport, Rhode Island. For 30 years, the car had rested and was discovered in remarkably original and sound condition. Derek and his friends actually had to open a wall of the barn to give the venerable old MG its first sunlight in decades. After some careful preparation, they managed to start the engine, and found it ran smoothly and quietly with good oil pressure. As the photo shows, the paint was flaking off badly, but the body work was very sound and solid. The tool kit was with the car and the both the hood and side curtains appeared to be original.

Eventually, Derek decided that the 18/80 was not for him, and determined to offer it for sale, initially on 'e-bay', the internet auction. The top bid of U.S. $18,600, from Britain, did not meet Derek’s reserve, but he did ultimately sell the car for an undisclosed sum to a buyer in the U.S. The car will be restored, and hopefully we’ll see it again.

Of course, the moral of this story is to never stop looking. If you see a glimpse of faded paintwork or rusty chrome, have a look, because you never know…

MG 18/80

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