MG TC (1945-1949)
Octagon Newsletter … November 1998
By Alan Fraser
In 1936, the MG Car Company shocked the sportscar world by commencing production of the TA, the first sports model to lack the well-known overhead camshaft engine that had powered MGs almost from their inception. The new pushrod engine of 1292 c.c. was almost agricultural and the new body was seen by some purists as quite bloated alongside the earlier PB model.
By 1939 the TA evolved into the TB with a new engine and gearbox, the engine being a bored-out version of the Morris Series M Ten XPJM unit rated at 1250 c.c. and designated XPAG. Only 379 examples of the TB were produced before Herr Schickelgruber intervened with six years of unpleasantness.
During World War II, between reconditioning tanks and machine guns, making radiator caps and ammunition boxes and perfecting the construction and testing of the forward section of the Abermarle bomber, the little factory at Abingdon looked forward to post-war car production. Therefore, by October, 1945, a new roadster, designated 'TC' was beginning to roll off the lines, making MG one of the earliest British carmakers to return to civilian production.
The new model appeared, at first glance, to be only a continuation of the pre-war TB with detail differences. In fact, the factory had responded to suggestions of owners and the TC was 4 inches wider than its predecessors and the traditional sliding trunnion rear suspension was replaced by a more modern rubber bushed shackle arrangement. A distinguishing feature of the TC is that the running board has two rubber strips while the slimmer TB has three.
The TC remained in production until September, 1949, at which time exactly 10,000 were built, all right hand drive. Sixty-five hundred were exported, 1820 to the U.S.A. and 370 to Canada. The cars were popular with returning veterans who had been introduced to sportscars during their time overseas and with those who sought a more challenging alternative to the ordinary North American production car. The TC is credited with creating sportscar popularity in the U.S.A. and Canada where they were soon seen in rallies and on race tracks. Such drivers as Phil Hill did their earliest driving in the TC. At the first Watkins Glen race, TCs took 4th, 5th and 6th place. Various sports car clubs came into existence with British cars, particularly the MG, as their mainstay. The MG TC paved the way for Triumph, Austin Healey, Sunbeam and other makes with sporting pretensions. By 1948 a niche market was identified for sportscars in North America and the next year the TC was supplanted with the more modern TD (but that is another tale).
The TC was a simple car, built with pre-war techniques of flexible rail chassis, solid axles fore and aft, steel-panelled wooden body, spindly 19” wheels, a large tachometer in front of the driver and the necessary controls falling 'readily to hand' in traditional MG fashion. The hardy XPAG engine remained and would go on to power the MG TD, MG TF, MGY, Wolesley 444, Morris 10 car and truck and many land speed record breakers.
The driver quickly learned to appreciate the huge steering wheel and the car’s uncanny ability to take almost any corner at seemingly suicidal speed on its skinny tires with completely controllable oversteer once the initial understeer was overcome.
Looking over the long bonnet and outsized headlights surrounded by high fenders the driver quickly felt he was part of the car while his proximity to the road gave him the impression of speed far above what the little car could actually attain. In simplest terms, the MG TC was fun to drive and seemed to thrive on answering the challenge of each approaching corner
For years the TC was a familiar sight at local events and on the road, generally in somewhat tatty condition compared to their descendants but still capable of comparable performance. In the past 10 years the TCs have become less evident as they are restored to concours condition and generally seen only at shows and displays. This is a pity; the TC tends to sulk if it is not regularly exercised.
A few years ago Road and Track rated the MG TC as one of the ten most significant cars of this century. For all its apparent shortcomings compared to its more up-to-date brethren, the TC is probably the last sportscar to offer classic style, uncompromising handling and traditional sporting appeal. In short, it is still just plain fun to drive.
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