MG revived a pre-war design for its highly successful post-war TC, but the modernised TD broke all sales records for the company.

November this year will be the 65th anniversary of the MG TD, a model that set production records for the company.

By far the biggest selling T-type, 29,664 units left the Abingdon works between November 1949 and 1953. The TC and TF models had a combined build tally of only two-thirds that of the TD, with 19,600 (10,000 TC and 9,600 TF).

The TC had been launched almost as the smoke was clearing from the battlefields of WW2, in October 1945. It was basically the same as the pre-War TB, with the only major changes being the body was 4” (100mm) wider (with the running boards narrower to keep overall width the same), and the sliding-trunnions on the leaf spring suspension were replaced with conventional (and cheaper) shackles, with different shock absorbers.

According to the T-register of the MG Car Club (UK), the previous sliding trunnions had been; “the cause of more complaints to the Service Department than any other”.

Another important change was the replacement of the twin 6v batteries, located under the rear floor, by a single 12v battery located in a covered tray under the bonnet.

There were also a handful of minor cosmetic changes to the 1250cc XPAG engine.

The TC was the biggest-selling MG up to that time, with nearly two thirds being exported as part of the British Government’s massive export drive. While the TC was only ever available in right-hand-drive, some 1,820 made their way to the US (although Anders Clausager points out, in Original MG T-Series, that 168 were quoted by Abingdon as being supplied LHD: which he says was probably a mistake, but may have been made to a special order).

Much of the success of the TC for the US came from a lucrative market among American military personnel based in the UK, who bought the cars tax-free and shipped them home on their return, thus introducing the Midget sports car to the American market.

Australia was the second-largest export market for the MG TC, with 1,774 (18% of production) coming here according to Clausager. The TC was sold locally for £641, plus tax.

The TD was announced in November 1949 as the TC’s replacement. Although taking its DNA from the TC, and first impressions reveal a similar appearance, on direct comparison the many changes on the TD become apparent.

The TD’s chassis, developed from that used in the Y-type saloon and tourer, was wider, sturdier and stiffer than that on the TC. It was made of box-section side rails with cross-members, and was fully-welded.

Where the chassis of the previous Midgets, and the Y-type, were slung under the rear axle, the chassis on the TD was kicked up and over it. As a result, the rear leaf springs were considerably redesigned.

Mounted under the shackles instead of on top, they were softer and dampened by lever-arm hydraulic shock absorbers. This provided a softer ride, without any adverse effect on the handling.

The front end design was the first joint collaboration between Alec Issigonis and Jack Daniels, and actually dated back to before the war. It was common to the Y-type (see BMCE Issue 7) and would be the basis of the front suspension on MG sports cars, right up to the end of MGB production.

The two main factors of the front end were an independent suspension, using double wishbones and coil springs with hydraulic shock absorbers instead of the traditional leaf springs, and rack-and-pinion steering – replacing the previous T-types’ worm and peg steering box. One immediate advantage of the rack-and-pinion steering was its easy adaptability for left-hand-drive.

The ‘purists’ were horrified at the use of 15” pressed steel disc wheels, attached with five studs, rather than the old 19” wire centre-lock ‘knock-on’ wheels. This change was in part due to the new front suspension – although wire wheels were later offered as an option – but mostly due to feedback from the US market and cost-cutting.

The disc wheels on the early TDs were not ventilated, but in early 1950 pressed ventilation holes were added to provide cooling for the brakes.

The disc wheels looked slightly out of place on a car with such old-fashioned and traditional bodywork, but gave the car a lower and wider stance – aided by the increase in track width, due to the new chassis.

All of the T-series MGs had four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes, but those on the TD were greatly improved by giving the front wheels twin-leading shoes.

The handbrake on the TD was still the familiar MG fly-off type, but where earlier Midgets had the handbrake lever mounted vertically on the transmission tunnel beside the gear lever, the TD had a horizontally mounted handbrake between the seats.

The body style was similar to that on the TC, but as F. Wilson McComb said in his book, MG by McComb; “The body, while retaining the two-seater layout exactly, somehow looked entirely different.”

It was a further 4” (100mm) wider than the TC, which gave slightly more interior room. Because of the smaller wheels, the front guards were lower on the body and more enveloping, sweeping further over the front wheels.

For the first time, full-width chrome bumper bars, with over-riders, were fitted front and rear – although North American-spec TCs also had bumpers.

The rear-mounted fuel tank on the TD was wider at the bottom, meaning the spare tyre (on a more substantial support bracket) had a more pronounced forward lean than that on the TC. The TD also had twin horns under the bonnet, instead of the single unit at the front of the TC.

Rear lighting was also improved, with two tail/brake lights instead of the single combination brake/tail/number plate light on the earlier models.

The overall effect appeared quite a bit lower, wider and slightly sleeker than the TC, despite the overall roof-up height being about the same.

Although the dashboard was the same overall shape as earlier models (TA to TC), the layout of the Jaeger instruments was completely redesigned. Where the earlier cars had the tachometer on the right side, in front of the driver, and the speedo on the left, the TD had both directly in front of the driver, with a glovebox for the passenger.

The TD also had both the smaller amps and oil pressure/water temp gauges on the driver’s side of the central panel, while the earlier cars had them on each side of the combination ignition/lights and horn/dipper switches.

However, as Clausager points out, for the TD; “The dashboards on RHD and LHD cars were complete mirror images. Thus the speedometer was always towards the out-side of the car and the rev counter toward the centre, and similarly the positions of the minor gauges and switches in the centre panel were reversed on LHD cars.”

On early TCs the dashboard was timber, while on later TC and all TD models, the main part of the dashboard was covered in leather-look Rexine material, matched to the interior trim. The centre panel was painted black on the TC and bronze on the TD.

While the Brooklands steering wheel of the TC was similar to that on the earlier models, the TD had an all-new steering wheel: brown with three spokes and the centre hub painted the same bronze as the dash centre panel.

The engine and gearbox package was similar to that in the TC, but with some features inherited from the Y-type, including the differential and rear axle, in the interest of parts commonality.

The XPAG engine still bore the same twin carburettor set-up and camshaft as the TC, with identical 54.4bhp. Although weighing around 170lb (78kg) more than the TC, this was compensated for to a fair degree by the lower overall final gearing, so acceleration remained much the same.

MG ‘purists’ decried the TD as too different from the TC and “soft”, while owners of the TD found a car that was far more comfortable to drive than the old “bone shaker” TC, though with improved handling characteristics.

McComb summarised the car, saying; “The new TD Midget was an excellent compromise between old and new, a knockabout two-seater that handled well and cruised at high speed without the discomfort experienced in its predecessor.”

If you would like to read the rest of this story, grab a copy of the magazine from your local newsagent (in Australia) or subscribe today – or download the digital version.

The BMC Experience Issue 11. Oct-Dec 2014 Magazine


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