Defender of the Faithful at Abingdon

Octagon Newsletter December 1988

By Henry Stone

This article was written as a retort to a derogatory article in the MG Enthusiast by an Ex Pressed Steel Co., Cowley apprentice.

I don't wish to be drawn into any discussion as to whether or not MG Badges should be displayed on the triple 'M' of Montego, Maestro or Metro, as these cars are good enough in their own right, whatever configuration of badge they sport.

In my opinion after driving one, I am sure Cecil Kimber (CK) would have been well pleased with the Metro. It is a tight and tidy little car which goes where one is looking. So much for that! But referring to an article on Page 16 of the February/March issue of the MG Enthusiast, I would like to take up the cudgels on behalf of the loyal employees of MG Car Company Ltd., as we prefer to be called. The writer of the article in question refers, as have many others, maybe tongue in cheek, to Abingdon as a place which did some final assembly. Surreptitiously conveying that we hung parts of existing cars on to someone else's bodies and called them MGs. This would seem to infer that the MGB, in particular, was a conglomeration of other cars spare parts. Let me endeavour to clarify the facts to the readers of the 'MG Enthusiast'.

Of course we purchased some parts from within the group where possible. This was the most sensible and cheapest way to produce a car. We never had the floor space or the financing to do otherwise (Oh for some of the DeLorean allocation!!). Our designers drew up the MGB body which, yes, was built by the Press Steel Company, body building specialists, over at Cowley, prior to the panels being assembled at Swindon. We at Abingdon never did get round to building bodies. Our suppliers at one time or another were Mulliners, Charlesworth, Tickford, Carbodies to name a few. I wonder who would have built our moulded bodies on a chassis to meet the 30 m.p.h. impact requirements, with a much reduced output of course this was pie in the sky. However, I digress. Referring to the statement that engines, gearboxes, and axles were delivered assembled from Longbridge, so they were, but they were built to MG specifications. Camshafts, pistons and ring set-ups, valves and springs, compression ratios, distributor advance curves, all decided by MG designers (lately, a certain Ralph Nader made it necessary to change a few things). Then the gearbox ratios were to our requirement as were axle ratios.

Axles incidentally were supplied by Tractor and Transmissions. The track dimensions, brake set-up and gear ratios were peculiar to us. While I think of it, that lone wolf Morgan uses Rover V8 and Ford power units. Then of course, as with other car manufactures, road wheels were supplied by Dunlop or Rubery Owan. Prop shafts, where used for the whole group were made by Hardy Spicer. At one stage we re-balanced these at MG to a higher number of r.p.m. for our production cars. Among the many other parts peculiar to the MG were such things as road springs and shock absorbers, all designed by MG.

All the foregoing preamble is to point to the fact that all parts made and purchased for MG Cars, were made specially for us to our requirements. Having looked at just the tip of the iceberg as it were, it does not require a great deal of imagination to realize MGs were specialized cars. In passing I should mention some of Abingdon's achievements.

Our record breaking racing programmes have never been surpassed by any one company. In fact up to the end of 1986 Phil Hill still held the 1507 c.c. record of 254 m.p.h. set in 1959 with the MG 'Roaring Raindrop' (our terminology) despite efforts that year by a firm with more modern techniques. There were also the Herculean efforts of the Competitions Department, who re-worked many Leyland cars with undisputed success. MG also had the Air Pollution Control Centre and the Barrier Collision test track. Remember also Hubert Noel Chartes and the R-Type. Then again Albert Sidney Enever with the MGA. We also did engine testing for the Longbridge Engine Testing Department. Many parts for other cars were improved by MG testing. Not bad for an Assembly Shed! But why go on, the Cognescenti already know.

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