Origins of the MG – The Evolution of the MG and Old Number One, Part 2

by Karen Border, TRF Publications

I have promised our MGB customers some stories about the origins of the MG marque and so I began researching them. But here is my effort to explain how the MG was developed. Because it is such a complicated story, I am going to have to do it in installments. I have also included a list of books and web links that I used for research, so you can read more about the subject. This is the second installment. All of the installments can be found at https://the-roadster-factory.com/Images/POTW/MG-Origins/MG-history.html .

Karen Border

INSTALLMENT 2. THE EVOLUTION OF THE MG AND OLD NUMBER ONE

Cecil Kimber (1888 – 1945) was born in Dulwich, South London, and he is credited with being the driving force behind the creation of the MG sports car. In 1921, he became the Sales Manager for Morris Garages in Queen Street in Oxford. Morris Garages was a sales and service center for Morris Motors, Limited, and included the main sales facility in Queen Street, a repair garage at Longwall Street and Holywell, and workshops in Cornmarket Street. William Morris also owned a manufacturing facility in Cowley where the Morris Oxford and Cowley cars were made. In 1922, Kimber became the general manager of Morris Motors after the resignation of Edward Armstead, and was then responsible for managing the sales office, the repair garage, and the workshops.

Kimber was aware that many people wanted cars that looked and performed more like sports cars than the cars that Morris offered, and he knew that people would pay a premium for them, thus increasing the profit for the business. He began promoting sales by producing his own special versions of Morris cars to appeal to people who wanted a custom or sporting car. In addition to being a sales manager and general manager, Kimber was also a visionary, and he and his wife, Irene, drew and designed custom body coaches. To build the cars that would eventually become the MG, Kimber first used the Morris Bullnose Cowley chassis and running gear from the Morris factory, and then he added his custom coachwork which he had produced by Carbodies of Coventry. The suspension was lowered and the high steering components were modified and lowered (raked). The car colours were pastel and they were two-seaters with leather seats and with the “Dicky Seat” (occasional seat) behind. The hood was unique because it covered the front seats as well as the occasional seat at the back. The car was nicknamed a “Chummy” which might have been because the hood covered all of the passengers and not just the two in front. One source called these cars “Kimber Specials”.

The cars were originally assembled at the Longwall Street repair garage, but in 1923, they needed more room. They moved to an old stabling yard in Alfred Lane which Morris had used to store used vehicles. The assembly staff consisted of Cecil Cousins and his assistant, Stan Saunders, Jack Lowndes and George Morris.

Eager to prove that his cars were true sport cars, Kimber entered a Chummy with a race-tuned engine in a road race. In March 1923, Kimber won a gold medal in the London-to-Land’s End-Trial. He celebrated his win by designing and ordering six two-seater coaches from Raworth of Oxford. These bodies featured yacht-like scuttle ventilators and rakishly slanted windscreens braced on the sides by triangular glass supports. These 11.9 hp Raworth Chummies were probably the first cars to be referred to as an M.G. However, sales were slow because the cars were twice as expensive as a Morris Cowley.

William Morris, seeing an opportunity for profit, created his own version of a “Chummy,” called the “Occasional Four”, and priced it lower than Kimber’s Chummies. Knowing that he had to make a distinction between his Chummies and the Occasional Four, Kimber next tried the Chummy coach on the Morris Oxford chassis and added a more powerful 14 hp engine later in 1923. Sales of this car were not too successful, so in 1924, Kimber tried a more elegant saloon body, designed by G.S. (Jack) Gardiner who was one of Kimber’s sales team, on the Morris 14/28 Bullnose radiator, Oxford chassis. This car body was of polished aluminum and may have been fabricated by Clary Hughes of Birmingham. Gardiner’s car was so distinctive that Kimber created a similar one with a coach from Carbodies for Billy Cooper who was a timekeeper at the Brooklands track. His car attracted a lot of attention when drivers and spectators saw it parked at the track entrance.

Morris Motors made some changes to the Oxford chassis in September 1924, which included a nine-foot long wheelbase. Kimber took the longer chassis and designed an all aluminum, four-seater open tourer with optional two colour paint on the bonnet, boot, and wings to go with the polished aluminium side panels. He dropped the Morris Motor name and advertised them as the M.G. 14/28 Super Sports, “our popular M.G. Saloon”. At least four different versions of the 14/28 Super Sport were offered at the 1924 Motor Show, including an open two-seater, open 4-seater tourer, and a vee-front saloon. The car badge was still the Morris Oxford badge that was used on all of the Morris cars, but a separate MG octagon badge, “MG Super Sports”, was added to the last of the 14/28 cars built. The cars featured artillery-style wheels in 1924-1925, and then in 1925-1926 they had bolt on wire wheels. Some experts feel that the 1924 Morris 14/28 was the first car to be called the M.G. instead of the 11.9 hp Raworth Chummy. Here is a YouTube video link about the 14/28 Super Sports: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8TCxKrr-gw

In 1925, Morris Garages moved from Alfred Lane, Oxford to a larger place on Bainton Road, which shared space with the Morris radiator works. Also in 1925, Hubert Charles, a Morris engineer, began working in his spare time fitting the MG bodies to the new Bullnose Morris Oxford chassis, and he also worked with Kimber on engine tuning and experimental work. He officially joined MG in 1928 as Chief Draughtsman. Continuing expansion meant another move in 1927 to a separate factory in Edmund Road, Cowley, Oxford, near the main Morris factory and for the first time it was possible to include a production line.

There are several points of view about the MG octagon badge and the official registration date of the M.G. Car Company. The logo appeared in Oxford newspaper ads as early as November 1923, and some sources say it was registered as a Morris Garages trademark on May 1, 1924. Other sources say that it was not a registered trademark until 1925. The exact date when the M.G. Car Company was officially formed also varies between sources. Most sources say it formed in March 1928, and they had their very own stand at the London Motor Show in October 1928. Old Number One.

Kimber was still interested in garnering racing credentials for his cars. In 1924, he had a special racing car built on a modified Bullnose Cowley chassis and fitted with the Hotchkiss (now owned by Morris) 11.9 hp, 1548cc overhead valve engine. The lightweight, two-seater body was built by Carbodies of Coventry, and had a boat-shaped tail. The rear was modified by cutting the chassis frame and welding new rails which curved up and over the rear axle to secure the rear springs. The engine was tuned and it had a standard Morris 3-speed gearbox. As with all the Kimber Chummies, the high Cowley steering column was lowered. The dash was fitted with a tachometer, fuel and oil gauges, in addition to the standard speedometer and ammeter. Lighting was provided by two small sidelights on each side of the scuttle and a single headlight. The headlight was removed at some unspecified time and is not on the car at the present time. The car was originally painted in plain grey primer, but its current color is red. It was originally registered FC 7900 on March 27, 1925. In March 1950, it was registered under a new number—FMO 842 after a restoration, however in 1959 the car was given back its original registration number.

Kimber drove this car and won a gold medal in the Light Car Class in the 1925 London-to-Land’s End-Trial. The car was then sold to one of Cecil Kimber’s friends. It was offered back to Kimber but he did not purchase it at the time. It was used to haul food for pigs for a while, and then it was purchased in 1932 by a MG employee after he recognized it in a scrap yard in Manchester. He bought the car for £15. The car was restored in the Abingdon factory in 1933 and was used for sales promotions. The Nuffield Organization (formerly Morris Motors) officially christened the car “Old Number One”. It was described as being, “The First M.G., Built in 1923,” even though it was built in 1924. Many people feel it was not the very first MG car as that honor should go to either one of the 11.9 hp Raworth Chummies or one of the 1924 Morris 14/28 cars. It has been exhibited at many events and shows in England and it was sent to the United States for the 50th anniversary celebration of the MG. Old Number One is currently on permanent display in the Historic Vehicle Collection at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon and is still kept drivable. Here is a link to the British Motor Museum: https://www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk/. You can view a video about Old Number One at this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfZKfbfMviw .

Sources Used: The websites listed here provide more in-depth information and are worth the time to read!
https://www.mgownersclub.co.uk/mg-guides/pre-war/old-number-one
https://www.namgar.com/articles/article/mga_history/mg_-_early_days/
https://www.mgownersclub.co.uk/mg-guides/pre-war/1440-tourer
https://www.namgar.com/articles/article/mga_history/mg_-_early_days/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Oxford_bullnose
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Cowley
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris,_1st_Viscount_Nuffield
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_Cars
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_14/28
http://www.bullnose.org.uk/
Video about the Bullnose 14/28: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8TCxKrr-gw
Video about Old Number One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfZKfbfMviw
Great Marques M.G., by Chris Harvey, 1983
MG Past & Present, by Rivers Fletcher, 1985
MG by McComb, by F. Wilson McComb, Revised Edition by Jonathan Wood, 2004

Karen Border
TRF Publications (The Roadster Factory)
www.the-roadster-factory.com
Sales Department Phone: 800-234-1104

1977 B of Craig VanHevelingen of Southmont, North Carolina.

An American MGB Association Queen B is the ’77 B of Craig VanHevelingen of Southmont, North Carolina. Here is his story:

I’m a new member and just received your letter in today’s mail. Thought I’d send you a couple of pics of my MGB it’s a 1977 pretty much all original, I enjoy driving it as well as working on it.

My name is Craig VanHevelingen and my membership # is 19-16306 . I don’t have any real interesting stories about the car , I bought it because I like modern antique vehicles. In the past I was very involved with air head BMW motor cycles and an active member in the Air Heads Beemer Club . I restored a number of them and always rode a lot . However old age and deteriorating riding skill’s have caused me to stop riding and sell my last bike, also a 1977 model. Anyway I bought the MG to fill the gap, and it has done so. Anyway here’s a couple of pictures of it as well as my last

Origins of the MG – Background to the MG, Part 1

by Karen Border, TRF Publications

I have promised our MGB customers some stories about the origins of the MG marque and so I began researching them. The one thing I learned about the development of the MG was that it seemed to just sort of grow out of one man’s desire to make a better car than his employer made! Today it would be odd indeed if, for instance, Ford or GM would allow their Sales Manager at one of their car dealerships to purchase a factory-made chassis and then put a body that he or she had designed on the chassis, and then sell the remodeled car. I was not able to determine whether or not Morris got the profit from these cars, or if Cecil Kimber made the profit from them, or if they split the profit. Another thing I learned during my research was that there were some differences in versions of how the development of the MG marque came about, and there is no clear timeline. But here is my effort to explain how the MG was developed. Because it is such a complicated story, I am going to have to do it in installments. I have also included a list of books and web links that I used for research, so you can read more about the subject

Karen Border Installment 1. Background to the MG

The history of MG cars began in the early 1920s as a sideline sales promotion business of Morris Garages. William Richard Morris (later 1st Viscount Nuffield) started a garage in Oxford in the early 1900s and by 1910 the name was known as Morris Garages, Limited. At that time, Morris Garages began to produce the Morris Oxford, a series of models which included the 1913 Bullnose Oxford, and continued through 1935 with the Farina Oxfords V and VI.

The Oxford Bullnose was designed in 1912, and produced in March 1913. It was a small car with a White and Poppe 1018 cc four-cylinder, side-valve engine with fixed cylinder head. It had a distinctive radiator with a bullet-nose rounded top, sort of like the front of many farm tractors. It was an open-tourer, two-seat car, but they also made a van version. No four-seat versions were made as the chassis was too short and not strong enough. The Bullnose de luxe had a longer chassis with different body versions and it became available in November 1913. The body versions included limousines, sporting cars, and vans.

In 1915, Morris developed the Continental Cowley, and it included an engine from the United States made by the Continental Motor Manufacturing Company of Detroit. This 1495 cc engine was 50 percent larger than the 1018 cc engines previously used, and the car was also longer, wider and featured other components from the United States. Some of the other parts from America included the clutch and three-speed gearbox from Detroit Gear & Machine Co. The front and back axles and steering gear also came from America. The car design still had the Bullnose radiator, and because it had a larger and stronger chassis, it was available in a two-seater body with occasional seats at the rear, which I believe in America we might have called “Rumble Seats”, but in England they were called “Dickie Seats”. Dickie seats were sometimes called “mother-in-law seats” and they originated from horse-drawn carriages. Their purpose was as a place for servants or guards to ride. Or children would ride in the Dickie seat.

The Cowley was also the first Morris car that included electric lighting as a standard feature on the cars, but lighting was not provided as standard on Cowley delivery vans. Lucas was, of course, the lighting supplier. Production halted during WWI because it became difficult to get the parts from America, and the factory was used to make munitions. Several Continental engines were lost at sea during the war. The last Continental Cowley was made in 1920, and used the last of the American engines.

After the war, in 1919, the Morris Cowley was updated and called the Cowley Bullnose. The engine was switched to a Hotchkiss & Cie French engine, that was manufactured at the Hotchkiss branch factory in Coventry, England. Morris would end up buying the Hotchkiss works around May of 1923, and it became known as the Morris engine branch. From 1919 on, the Cowley was what we would call the “Economy Model”, and was only available in a two-seater model with smaller, lighter tires. You can read more about the Cowley on this wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Cowley. This article gives detailed specifications for the cars and the engines.

In addition to the Cowley Bullnose, Morris continued development of the Oxford Bullnose. It was modified to have a longer wheelbase and stronger construction, and could carry up to five passengers. It featured a self-starter and had a better electrical system than the Cowley. It was what we would call, the “Deluxe Model”. It featured the Hotchkiss 11.9 fiscal horsepower 1548 cc engine. The Oxford Bullnose was admired because the transmission and everything that revolved, except the fan belt, was fully enclosed in an oil bath.

One notable thing about William Morris was that he introduced the techniques of mass production to England by using the assembly line processes that Henry Ford had been successful with in America. Prior to this, most automobiles had been built one-at-a-time. The Cowley and the Oxford became mass produced cars. From 1919–1925 Morris expanded his production from Oxford into factories at Abingdon, Birmingham, and Swindon.

We will leave the development of the Morris Cowley and Oxford cars, and for the next installment, I hope to be able to cover the beginnings of the MG, Cecil Kimber, and Old Number One. In my research, I came across an English group of pre-1930 Morris car owners called the Morris Bullnose Club. Here is a link to their web page: http://www.bullnose.org.uk/. They have several photo galleries on the website which you might like to view. At the end of this letter is a list of the sources that I used and I am including this installment of the story and some photos on our Photos of the Week page. I welcome any comments or corrections to this series on the MG. Please send your comments and edits to trfpublications@aol.com.

Until next time,
Karen Border
TRF Publications (The Roadster Factory)
www.the-roadster-factory.com
Sales Department Phone: 800-234-1104

American MGB Association Meet 2019 and Britfest in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina


story by Bruce Magers, photos by Frank Ochal

The American MGB Association (AMGBA) held its 42nd annual meet in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on October 4-5, 2019. The event was held in conjunction with the Grand Strand British Car Club’s Myrtle Beach Britfest which has been going for the past 7 years.

The event began with a Friday night welcoming party at Nacho Hippo that was an opportunity to get together with old friends or meet new ones. The car show on Saturday was held in the Market Common, the former site of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base which has been developed into an upscale dining and residential area. The “English Tea” event was a big hit as well as “Canine Angels Service Dogs” who benefited from the proceeds of the event.

Thanks to Rod Smith and his assistants for their cooperation in organizing this event.

The AMGBA officers were kept busy throughout the car show with member inquires as well as signing up new members for the association.

Next year’s Meet is still in the planning stage. Keep an eye on our website (www.mgclub.org) or in future issues of the Octagon for details. The MGB and Midget Meet 2019 winners were as follows:


CLASS 2 – MG Midget/Austin Healey Sprite

1. Sandra Clark, ’74 red MG Midget, Danville, VA

2. Buddy & Pat Batson, ’61 Austin Healey Sprite

3. Thomas Meservey, ’76 yellow MG Midget, Awenda, SC

CLASS 17 – MG B /C /GT Chrome Bumper

1. Jim & Neal Smith, ’72 blue MGB, Myrtle Beach , SC

2. Susan Beck, ’63 blue MGB, Spartanburg, SC

3. Jack & Sue Brennan, ’73 green MGB, Myrtle Beach, SC

CLASS 18 – MG B /C /GT Rubber Bumper

1. Suzanne Hammer, ’80 blue MGB, Little River, SC

2. Jim & Neal Smith, ’79 red MGB, Myrtle Beach, SC

3. Billy & Kathleen Morris, ’77 green MGB, Myrtle Beach, SC

AMGBA Meet 2019 - 1st place Chrome Bumper B - Jim & Neal Smith,'72 blue MGB, Myrtle Beach , SCAMGBA Meet 2019 - 1st Place Midget - Sandra Clark, '74 red MG Midget, Danville, VA
1st place Chrome Bumper MGB –
Jim & Neal Smith, ’72 MGB, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
1st Place MG Midget –
Sandra Clark, ’74 MG Midget, Danville, Virginia
AMGBA Meet 2019 - 1st Place Rubber Bumper MGB - Suzanne Hammer, '80 green MGB, Little River, SCAMGBA Meet 2019 - 2nd place Chrome Bumper MGB - Susan Beck, '63 blue MGB, Spartanburg, SC
1st Place Rubber Bumper MGB –
Suzanne Hammer, ’80 MGB, Little River, South Carolina
2nd Place Chrome Bumper MGB –
Susan Beck, ’63 blue MGB, Spartanburg, South Carolina
AMGBA Meet 2019 - 2nd place Rubber Bumper MGB - Jim & Neal Smith, '79 red MGB, Myrtle Beach, SCAMGBA Meet 2019 - 3rd place Rubber Bumper MGB - Billy & Kathleen Morris, '77 green MGB, Myrtle Beach, SC
2nd place Rubber Bumper MGB –
Jim & Neal Smith, ’79 MGB, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
3rd place Rubber Bumper MGB – Billy & Kathleen Morris,
 ’77 green MGB, Myrtle Beach, SC
Awards Ceremony at AMGBA Meet 2019 and Myrtle Beach Britfest in Myrtle Beach, South CarolinaAMGBA Meet 2019 and Myrtle Beach Britfest Welcoming Party at Nacho Hippo in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Awards Ceremony at AMGBA Meet 2019 and Myrtle Beach Britfest in Myrtle Beach, South CarolinaAMGBA Meet 2019 and Myrtle Beach Britfest Welcoming Party at Nacho Hippo in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

’70 B of Dean Zywicki

An American MGB Association Queen B is the ’70 B of Dean Zywicki. Here is his story:

I bought my ’70 B a few months ago with just under 65,000 miles on it. It was last titled in 1991 with 63,000 miles. It took a few weeks to get through everything to make it road ready again (suspension rebuild, fluids, brake hoses, etc.). I just love seeing photos of it and other Bs everyday.

 

2019 33rd Chicagoland British Car Festival

The 33rd annual Chicagoland British Car Festival was held on Sunday, September 8, 2019 at Harper Community College in Palatine, Illinois just outside of Chicago. The show is organized by a consortium of British Car Clubs in the Chicago area. It has become the premier event for those interested in British cars in the Chicago area.

Each year the show features hundreds of automobiles ranging from those in Concours condition to just normal everyday drivers. This year was no exception as approximately 500 cars were gathered on the field representing virtually every marque produced in England despite the very British weather of intermittent rain sprinkles most of the day. Door prizes and popular vote awards were presented to the lucky winners.

The weather overcast with a light drizzle and the weather limited the overall attendance. British food was provided by food stands along with Robinson’s ribs and a Polish food vendor. Numerous vendors were also in attendance offering everything for the British car fan.

The American MGB Association (AMGBA) was on the field welcoming old members and signing up several new participants. If you have not had the opportunity to attend this popular event be sure to mark your calendar for the 34th annual event which will be held on September 13,2020 at Harper Community College in Palatine, Illinois. For further information go to www.britishcarunion.com or www.mgclub.org .

'72 B of Sandy Rapp from Glenview, Illinois at 2019 Chicagoland British Car Festival
'78 B of James Compton from Elgin, Illinois at 2019 Chicagoland British Car Festival
2019 Chicagoland British Car Festival - AMGBA Tent
'74 B-GT of Jeremy Kinsey from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin at 2019 Chicagoland British Car Festival
'99 Mini Cooper, '95 R-V8 and

MG Hector SUV

Chinese-owned British carmaker MG will make its India foray this year. And its first product for India will be the Hector SUV. The MG Hector launch is scheduled for June 2019.

Measuring 4,655mm in length, 1,835mm in width and 1,760mm in height, the MG Hector is larger than its rivals like the Jeep Compass and the Tata Harrier. The monocoque-bodied Hector has the much-sought-after SUV stance, though the large rear overhang looks a bit ungainly. And the 17-inch diamond cut alloys are also a size too small. What grabs your attention right away is the chrome-studded grille up front that’s flanked by high-set LED running lights. The actual headlights sit within C-shaped brackets lower down on the front bumper. Scuff plates at the front and rear add to the design, and a ‘floating roof’ has also been neatly incorporated.

The MG Hector interior will offer seating for five and feature lots of soft touch materials for a premium experience. Another area where the SUV promises much is equipment. The MG Hector’s features list will include a 10.4-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen infotainment system, a 360-degree surround view camera, a panoramic sunroof, tyre pressure monitoring system and power adjustable driver’s and co-driver’s seats. The Hector will also feature class-leading connectivity technology.

MG Hector engine and gearbox options will include a 170hp, 2.0-litre diesel from Fiat with a 6-speed manual and a 143hp, 1.5-litre turbo-petrol unit that will be available with 6-speed manual and dual-clutch auto transmissions. The petrol-manual powertrain will also be offered with an optional 48V mild-hybrid system.

MG will start its India operations with heavy localisation and this will reflect in a competitive price tag.

MG Hector

’69 B-GT of David Haines from Washington, DC

An American MGB Association Queen B is the ’69 B-GT of David Haines from Washington, DC. Here is the story:

Over a period of approximately 4 years (2011 – 2015), I performed a ground-up restoration of this car for my son, David R. Haines, who at the time was a Captain in the Marines and was a pilot for the V22 Osprey.

Extensive body work was required including the installation of new/ middle outer sills and new floorboards along with extensive metal patching. The RH fender was replaced with a used unit. The front cross member was removed, sandblasted and painted. The entire body was chemically stripped prior to repair and repainting.

The restoration included an engine rebuild along with a new radiator and oil cooler. I bought and then rebuilt, at a University Motors session, an overdrive transmission to replace the original non-overdrive unit.

The carburetors were rebuilt at a University Motors class. The front suspension includes new swivels, anti-roll bar and coil springs. The rear springs were replaced. The interior has been completely replaced including the headliner. The seats, both front (leather) and rear (vinyl) have been reupholstered. New carpeting and interior trim panels were installed. A new wiring harness and alternator were fitted. I fabricated a new radio console to house a modern digital radio and additional switches for accessories. The bright work includes new front and rear bumpers, a new grill and re-chromed window frames. The car was originally pained Mineral Blue. The present color is GM Dar Metallic Blue (base coat/clear coat).    

American MGB Association – for MGB, MGB-GT and MG Midget owners

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