MG is a name that most car enthusiasts know well, because the brand has long since been synonymous with “British Sports Cars”. Sure there were other makes that built them but if you picture a British Sports Car (the formula is always the same: rear drive, two seats, open roof, low slung, smallish engine hotted up with twin carbs, a rorty exhaust, fairly basic suspension design but good agility and overall handling) chances are you will picture an MG product. Not surprising really, since they started making them in the 1930s and had a basically uninterrupted run all the way up to 1980 when the last MGBs finally rolled off into the sunset.
That said, it’s the car you see on these pages that should get the credit for setting it all up as it is the model that really established MG in their most important market, the USA and proceeded to get a generation hooked on the charms of quirky little two seaters, none other than the MG-TC.
The TC was a continuation of MG’s T Series Midget line, which debuted in the 1930s as an attempt to broaden the market for MG sports cars. Though they did fairly well, the outbreak of World War 2 naturally put a stop to proceedings while MG and all other carmakers focused on war production. After the end of hostilities, MG decided that an updated T series Midget would be the most efficient way to get things rolling again and so in October 1945 (just a few months after war production ended) they introduced the TC Midget.
When designing the TC the focus was clearly on evolution rather than revolution and as such the changes from the pre-war models were mostly in the details. The only majorly noticeable change was to the body, which was widened by 4 inches in the cockpit area without any changes to the Chassis, wings, running boards or dashboard. Other notable updates were the adoption of a single 12 Volt Battery, the fitment of hydraulic lever arm dampers and leaf springs mounted on shackles instead of sliding trunnions. The spring mounting change also allowed MG to use rubber suspension bushes, which made the TC significantly smoother than it’s pre-war predecessors. Rubber engine mounts also helped deal with vibrations better.
The drivetrain was basically carried over, with MG’s overhead valve “XPAG” 1,250 CC four cylinder sitting under the long bonnet, topped with twin SU carbs to help it put out 54.4 BHP to the rear through a four speed floor mounted gearbox. That isn’t a lot of course but a kerbweight of 890 KG meant that it didn’t have a lot of bulk to shift. Road tests at the time got the TC to a top speed of 78 MPH (125 KM/H) and recorded the 0-60 MPH run as 27.25 seconds which sounds like a yawning eternity today but was actually brisk for 1945. Anyway it wasn’t the sheer speed that was the main attraction but the sensations provided by the car, with the wind rushing by, the exhaust snorting away behind and a lively conversation conducted by the suspension and steering keeping the driver informed of the state of the road surface in real time. The tiny dimensions and low stance also meant that the car could be chucked around corners with abandon, the skinny tires telegraphing well in advance when they had run out of grip and the chassis setup easily allowing the driver to adjust his line with the throttle as well as the steering.
The TC’s formula proved intoxicating to the thousands of American servicemen who were stationed in the UK and had not really experienced “proper” sports cars in their own homeland. So when they went back, many of them ended up taking the little MGs with them, which of course led to MG sorting out their export operation to ensure cars flowed stateside. Overall 10,000 MG TCs were built from the end of 1945 up to 1949, when the TC was replaced by the even more civilized TD.
Though America was by far the largest market, TCs made their way to plenty of other countries in the British Commonwealth too and even our tiny island ended up receiving a significant number of them, including our featured example. This particular car can be considered unique among those here both because it has been in the same ownership for 48 years and also because it is completely original and unrestored. In fact, there is reason to believe that the car might even be wearing it’s original factory paintjob! (which is of course difficult to establish for certain one way or another).
The TC is owned by Architect and Classic Car enthusiast Mr Raymond Samaratunga, who has over the years had an amazing variety of machines pass through his hands due to a self confessed “addiction to cars and bikes” and The TC is the car that he has owned the longest. His son Priyanga, filled us in on their history with the car; “My father loved the MG-TC ever since he first set eyes on one as a child in the 50s. In fact when he was a schoolboy, he used to see a TC that was driven every day to work by a well-known doctor in our area. He liked the car so much that he made a pledge to himself and those around him that he would own that very car (or at least definitely an MGTC) some day.”
As it turned out, “some day” ended up being 1968 when as a young architect Mr Samaratunga found himself an example of what was then a fairly popular used sports car. Priyanga continues the story; “He picked up this car from a collector in Colombo, even then at 20 odd years old these were already being considered future collectibles. It was only after he brought the car home and cross checked the registration numbers that he realized that he had actually got hold of the very same car he used to ogle as a schoolboy!”
The TC naturally became part of the family fabric almost, used as regularly as possible, even on long distance runs when they felt like it. “It was always supremely reliable, very little exists on these things to go wrong anyway but even then, nothing major ever broke or left us stranded. Even today after the car has seen little use for so long, all we need to do is add fuel and connect a battery and it will fire right up and be ready to drive without any fuss at all.” Priyanga says.
Regular use and the necessary maintenance ensured that the car has stayed fundamentally solid, but the passage of time means that things like the wooden floors needed renewing while the paintwork is definitely showing signs of it’s more than half a century of service. And that really presents a problem for the owners. “We’re never able to decide which direction to go with this car, the temptation is there to go ahead and do a full restoration because a fair bit of work needs to be done anyway, but then we would lose the originality and the history, which is what makes this car stand out after all. The other option is of course to do a full mechanical rebuild and refresh the rest while leaving the cosmetics as they are, with maybe a clearcoat on top to keep the paint preserved as is” Priyanga further states.
“That being said, with other cars that also need restoring and other commitments that also need to be met, we do wonder if this might be a bit too much of an undertaking, which is why after all these years we are considering letting someone else take on the challenge and parting with the car.” He concludes
So there you have it, a unique TC that you just might be able to make your own. If you do end up getting your hands on it, we at T & T seriously hope that you will refresh it mechanically and keep the cosmetic aspects just as they are, wearing the years and the history with pride. After all, it’s only original once.
WORDS: Sajiv Weerakoon
IMAGES: R2 Studios
A BIG THANK YOU To: Mr Raymond Samaratunga