1955 MG TF 1500. Click image to enlarge
Article and photo by Bill Vance
Although a tiny number of MG sports cars were imported into North America in the 1930s, the make was virtually unknown there until England began exporting them after the Second World War. A few returning servicemen had ignited interest in the little sportsters when they brought TC models home with them, and by 1947 a North American distributorship was being set up.
While the spider-wheeled little MG TC roadster launched the North American sports car movement, it had limitations. It was, after all, 1930s technology and its solid front axle and stiff semi-elliptic springs gave a bone-jarring ride and skittish handling. But those huge 19-inch wire wheels, knock-off-hubs, long hood, folding windshield and cut-down doors were, as Mechanix Illustrated’s colourful car tester Tom McCahill said, “as intriguing as a night on the Orient Express.”
In spite of its rugged charm, MG management knew the TC had to be replaced with something more modern, especially for the North American market. The result was the 1950 TD, which had 16-inch disc wheels, independent coil spring front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, making it an easier and more comfortable car to drive.
Although the TD was very popular, by 1953 it was losing ground. Its new competitor, the Triumph TR2, offered not only modern styling, but also much higher performance for just a couple of hundred dollars more. And, the sensational Austin-Healey 100 was about to make its debut.
To remain competitive, MG needed a modern post-war design, and in fact had developed one earlier: a special bodied TD-based prototype that had raced in France’s 1951 LeMans 24-hour race.
But conditions had changed considerably in the boardroom since the TD’s arrival. In 1952, the Nuffield Group (Morris, MG, et al), had joined with the Austin Motor Co. to form British Motor Corp. Austin’s Leonard Lord became BMC’s new chairman and he was reluctant to allow the development of an MG that might jeopardize sales of his beloved Austin-Healey. It was, after all, to one-up the MG that he had promoted the development of the Austin-Healey when he was at Austin.