Determined to extend MG’s racing and record-breaking activities into Class G (1,100 cc), Managing Director Cecil Kimber announced the MG K-series “Magnette” range at the October 1932 London Motor Show. It comprised the roadgoing K1 (four-seater) and K2 (two-seater), as well as the sports racing K3.
Two of the first three production MG K3s finished 1st and 2nd in the 1,100-cc class of the 1933 Mille Miglia. As a result, MG became the first non-Italian manufacturer to be awarded the prestigious team prize.
MG K3s had very successful racing careers in the 1930s. Whitney Straight won the Coppa Acerbo Junior, which convinced Tazio Nuvolari to pilot a K3 in the September 1933 Ards Tourist Trophy, which he won. A few weeks later, Eddie Hall’s K3 took the checkered flag in the Brooklands 500 Mile Race by 28 minutes over 2nd place. Then Charles Martin and Roy Eccles finished 4th overall (1st in class) at the 1934 Le Mans 24 Hour race-the best result ever achieved by an MG.
Keen amateur racing driver JHT Smith spent a substantial portion of his 21st birthday inheritance on a K3 in autumn 1934. JB 3180 arrived stripped of roadgoing accoutrements and sporting a rakish pointed-tail body. Smith took much of the 1935 season to adapt to the K3, then had a new, larger-capacity light-alloy fuel tank and shallower radiator fabricated, and he lowered and slimmed the bodywork. After some success, Smith transformed the car into a single-seater for 1937.
From the factory, Smith procured a new engine block, “bronze” cylinder head, crankshaft, front axle, and chassis frame. In the winter of 1936-37, JB 3180 was overhauled and also received a new, sleek, monoposto body. It competed at Brooklands, Donington Park, and Crystal Palace with success.
At the beginning of 1938 season, as JB 3180 was being overhauled again, another K3 owner, A.P. MacArthur, bought the original frame. The year was Smith’s most successful season, with an outright win at Crystal Palace and an all-time Campbell Circuit class lap record at Brooklands.
JB 3180 was treated to another revamp in 1939, with changes to the engine, supercharger, steering, front axle, and brakes, and it received a new monoposto body. The old body was sold to MacArthur, who had bought the original frame.
After storage in WWII, JB 3180 returned to furious competition in the hands of new owners and was either being raced or on static display clear through 1990, at which point it was sold to Switzerland and rebuilt again.
Returned to England in 1995, it continued to race, then was put up for sale in 2000 by then-owner Peter Gregory. But the car’s single-seater specification deterred buyers, so Gregory restored the K3 to “slab tank” configuration. Rather than waste the special front axle, second monoposto body, and heavy-duty hydraulic brakes, Gregory incorporated them into a new single-seater which he based on a truncated MG KN chassis.
Meanwhile, the original chassis utilized by JB 3180 had also been restored to Mille Miglia specification. Although this second car had not existed as a complete entity for over 60 years, its owner felt just as entitled to the registration number and identity of JB 3180, and he appealed to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
In Gregory’s favor was the fact that he retained the original buff registration book, which had been handed to JHT Smith in 1934. Smith may have sold the original chassis to MacArthur as a spare during the late 1930s, but he kept the buff logbook so as to preserve the single-seater’s identity. After careful deliberation, the DVLA agreed with Gregory and he kept JB 3180 and even got the chassis number K3015, even though those digits were not visible on the car’s replacement chassis frame.
The second car that laid claim to the registration mark JB 3180 was issued with the registration mark CAS 398 instead.
It should be noted that the MG Car Club’s Triple M Register disagrees with one of the DVLA’s conclusions: The Triple M Register records the chassis number of JB 3180 as K3015/2 to differentiate it from the chassis number K3015, which they consider should still reside with the car built up using the original frame.
For all that 1934/37 MG K3 is arguably the antithesis of a “matching numbers” car, we believe it to possess continuous history as an MG K3. Described by the vendor as being in very good condition with regard to its engine, pre-selector transmission, electrical equipment, interior trim, bodywork, and paintwork, its history file includes the original buff logbook, numerous period race programs, and a wealth of documentation.