This car is the sole original survivor of a three-car team put together by MG to publicize the new P-Series, which had been introduced in 1934. The idea was that three identical works cars would be entered in the 1935 Le Mans race, driven by three teams of women, with the whole enterprise to be managed by Captain George Eyston, who had raced at Le Mans in 1928 and 1939.

The press had a field day with Abingdon’s idea, dubbing the six women “Eyston’s Dancing Daughters.”

The cars were carefully assembled at the works at Abingdon, fitted with cycle-type aluminum fenders, aluminum louvered hoods, an aero screen for the driver, luggage space modified for spare tires, special door locks, quick filler caps, racing wheels, radiator and headlights fitted with stone guards, double fuel pumps, Q-Type brakes all around, and J-Type gearbox ratios.

The engines were blueprinted, with lightened flywheel, Q-Type racing valves and springs. The head was polished and an air scoop was fitted to cool the sump.

The six drivers were hardly chosen for public relations value, as all the women had solid racing records, with Brooklands history, club racing, rallies, and hill climb success. Nevertheless “Les Girls at Le Mans” was the dismissive tagline.

The MGs proved themselves bulletproof, with only one light bulb being changed on the number 55 car and the only excitement being an argument with officials about whether one car had been refueled before the required time.

The women silenced their critics with steady progress, and Simpson brought the number 56 car, the example offered here, home in first place among the team. The three cars finished 24th, 25th, and 26th. The cars were then scattered, with C. Miles Collier buying PA 1667 (and it now resides in the Collier Collection) while the two remaining cars, PA 1661 (now missing) and PA 1711 (offered here) were reborn as works hill-climbers, fitted with Marshall superchargers by the factory.

The present owner bought 1711 from Sir Fredrick Royston in 1981, and it was completely restored in 1995. Its history is thoroughly documented, and it will be welcome at any event for which it is eligible. The car is offered with a large file of documentation, including extensive period photography. If, as Sports Car Market magazine publisher Keith Martin says, “The main job of a collector car is to be admired by friends standing around a garage with glasses of wine, while its history is told,” then 1711 will give hours of enjoyment to the next owner—on or off the track.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1934 MG PA/B Le Mans Works Racer
Number Produced:2,000 PA; 526 PB
SCM Valuation:$35,000 to $50,000
Chassis Number Location:Right side of firewall
Engine Number Location:Stamped onto left rear of block
Alternatives:1936-40 Jaguar SS 100, 1936 Frazer-Nash TT Replica, 1955-57 Aston Martin DB2/4

This car, Lot 164, sold for $124,076 at the RM Automobiles of London auction on October 27, 2010.

Vintage racing, the collector car business as a whole, and SCM all thrive on variety. A few months back, I wrote a profile of a 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza (SCM December 2010), which could usefully be thought of as a pre-war Ferrari Barchetta. The best analogue for this month’s subject car, the MG PA, would be to imagine a pre-war Bugeye Sprite.

The MG automobile company was created to fill a market niche for light, affordable sporting cars that could be driven on a daily basis—but could also be raced on weekends if the owner desired. After a somewhat faltering start in the 1920s, MG and its inexpensive sporting concept caught its stride with the worldwide financial difficulties and flourished (relatively) in the 1930s, becoming one of the most famous sporting car marques in Great Britain and the world.

Their product line during the early part of this period consisted of the 1,300-cc, 6-cylinder Magna, the smaller 1100-cc Magnette, and the 4-cylinder Midgets.
“There was a young fellow….”

Although none of the MG product line could be considered luxurious, the Midgets were the most Spartan of them all. The sales literature of the time advertised “Over one hundred new and improved features” over the preceding J-Type, but few, if any, of those features had to do with comfort. The idea was to build the minimum sporting car that could be affordable, nothing more.

They were cute, but with 36 horsepower and a crash 4-speed, they were anything but fast. The PAs were tiny little things; six inches shorter and over a foot narrower in the body than a Sprite. They were designed for a much smaller person than is normal today.

If you’re over 140 pounds with more than a 28 inch inseam, you’re simply not going to fit into one, much less have a passenger. These cars bring to mind the old limerick:

“There was a young fellow from Boston
Who bought himself a new Austin
There was room for his …. and a gallon of gas.”

I think every car guy remembers the rest. The limerick really does apply here. These cars were, however, immensely successful, with roughly 2,500 produced (PA and PB), easily the highest production of any pre-war MG.

The entire MG image was based on racing success, but the P-Series was designed (not unlike the Sprite) as purely a street ride. If you want to race one, go ahead, but that’s not why they built it. The factory did build eight Q-Types, effectively supercharged, pure racing variants on the P, but that was because the racing department was incorrigible.

Women at Le Mans

When the P series started selling far better than expected, the idea came along to send a group of women racers to LeMans to drive more or less stock PAs as a promotional gimmick. Three cars were prepared, with racing internals in their otherwise stock 850-cc engines and modifications to make the cars suitable for a long-distance race, and off they went.

The women all drove admirably, but they were seriously outclassed and beaten by Singer’s 972-cc entries. All this largely precipitated the introduction of the PB, effectively a PA with a 940-cc engine and a closer-ratio gearbox.

After the race, Collier bought one of the cars and the factory converted the other two into hill climb racers with supercharged PB engines. One was lost and the other is our subject car. It retains the supercharged PB engine, which is not correct for its Le Mans history but is appropriate for its later life.

Speed, cuteness and provenance

There is probably no other pre-war sporting marque with as many examples still around as MG, with the result that there is a very well-established market for them.

Their values fall into three basic categories based on a combination of speed, cuteness, originality, and racing provenance, pretty much in that order. The bottom rung is filled with basically stock, carbureted street cars that sell for $35,000 to $60,000.

If you add a certain amount of speed (the larger Magna and Magnette and the supercharged Ps), cuteness (the fabulous but hard-to-drive Airline Coupes), or basic racing provenance, the value goes up to the $90,000 to $130,000 range.

If you step all the way up to mechanically exotic (supercharged, high-RPM, pre-selector transmissions) documented factory racers, such as the K3 Magnettes and the R-Type (see SCM March 2006 for my profile) the values go from $190,000 to $250,000 and more.

Our subject car presents an interesting conundrum in staking the middle ground. Although it has unquestioned factory racing history, it is neither particularly fast nor exotic, and its current supercharged 947-cc engine is not correct for its Le Mans provenance.

On the other hand, the supercharger is a legitimate part of its factory history, and speed trumps everything if it’s original, so it constitutes a serious net gain in desirability. Visually, the car is pretty much a standard P-Type roadster, but the stories to tell of plucky early feminists invading the man’s world at Le Mans can count for a lot when your friends are over for a garage tour.

It’s unlikely that anyone’s going to drive the car much anyway, so whether anyone fits it or whether it’s very fast isn’t that important. All in all, I’d say that this car fits into the top of the middle range of pre-war MG values, and, notably, that’s where it sold.

It seems a fair price for a collectable, fun and interesting—if not very useable—car.

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