By the 1950s, MG had come a long way from its roots as an offshoot of Morris Motors and had cemented a place as an innovative builder of sporting road and competition cars.
Released in 1945, the TC provided a marginally wider body than its pre-war TB predecessor, and now featured a part-synchromesh gearbox. More than any other model, it was the MG TC that was responsible for starting the American love affair with the British sports car, and many of the 10,000 produced up to the end of 1949 found customers in the U.S.
This was due, in large part, to a post-war British government directive instructing domestic manufacturers that they must guarantee to export 30% — soon rising to 50% — of their products or the government would refuse to supply them with steel. This measure had three principal effects: Some U.K. car manufacturers withered and died; others, like Land Rover, turned to aluminium as the material of choice; and a few, like MG, pursued overseas markets as if their businesses depended on it — which they did.
Power came from a twin-carb version of the 1,250-cc XPAG engine, good for a little over 54 horsepower, although for those with deep pockets and a yearning for more speed, a supercharger could be fitted to it. Many did. And many went racing, including the legendary Phil Hill, who had his first win in one.
Built by Steve Baker and his son Luke, pre-war and T-type MG specialists, this aluminium-bodied MG TC special has been engineered in the style of a factory racing car. Finished in a fetching combination of burgundy and gray, it looks utterly sensational.
The original MG TC chassis is said to be “immaculate, with no significant modifications” and it still runs its original axles and braking system, albeit rebuilt. The engine, which has been rebuilt, is the correct MG-crested XPAG unit mated to a rebuilt TC gearbox. The car also has an aluminium radiator, oil cooler and electric fan fitted for better cooling and increased reliability.
It sits on new MWS wheels and Blockley tires. The cockpit features a full set of either new or rebuilt gauges, including a matching pair of Jaeger instruments that measure speed and engine revolutions.
Ticking off every vintage fantasy, the huge headlamps, separate cycle wings, wire wheels, upright chrome radiator and aero screens merge seamlessly into a beautiful and evocative period-style sports car.
|Vehicle:||1949 MG TC|
|Chassis Number Location:||Stamped in left dumb iron and (usually) plate on left of scuttle|
|Engine Number Location:||Plate on left of flywheel housing or (late engines) plinth on right front of block|
|Club Info:||The MG Car Club; The MG Owners’ Club|
|Alternatives:||1933–39 Singer Nine Sports, 1936–50 Morgan 4/4 Series 1, 1950–53 MG TD|
This car was sold online for $50,394 (£40,950), including buyer’s premium, by The Market by Bonhams on February 2, 2023.
The T-series is the epitome of the trad Brit sports car, well known to Americans as most were exported there (though a lot have come back since). They are easily tunable and parts are fairly interchangeable since the chassis are all similar. A TC is essentially a post-war-built TB with a four-inch-wider body. They have formed the basis of hundreds of racing specials, though generally the Brits didn’t go to the extreme of stuffing flathead Ford V8s in them.
Our subject car is a fairly typical English special, running a mildly tuned motor and a lighter body in the style of the ’30s factory racing K3s and Q-types. Though by its very newness, it’s unlikely to be mistaken for a genuine example of either.
That is how this one came about, as it was built by Luke Baker, son of pre-war MG specialist Steve Baker, for his own amusement. The time demands of a young family — and ownership of another 6-cylinder car — meant the younger Baker had no time to use the car, so it was sold less than a year after it was completed.
“It was my car that I built for a bit of fun with an old aluminum tub on a TC chassis,” said Luke Baker, who has worked with his father at Steve Baker MG since 2010. “I had a TC rolling chassis, an engine and an old body, and started from the ground up.”
Baker MG sells the K3-style body, which retails new at £15k (about $19k depending on exchange rates). It includes the frame, filler caps and seat frames. So far it has sold around 30 worldwide.
Being made from a collection of parts meant that a real car didn’t have to sacrifice its original body. It looked hardly used, showing only 12 miles on the clock, and was sold with an MoT certificate — proving it recently passed our annual roadworthiness test, even though it didn’t need one.
Stock TCs are all over the marketplace in the $20k–$40k range. The week before this sale, The Market by Bonhams sold a TC requiring some small recommissioning for £17,010 ($21k). Sorted race cars generally fetch above $50k.
A high-quality build with lovely detailing, our subject car sold for roughly what was expected against an estimate of £30,000–£40,000, though in real life this might have been “just enough to buy it.”
It ticks all the boxes: abbreviated boattail body, peppy exhaust note and appealing touches such as the twin Monza-type fillers, large Jaeger dials, repro Bluemels Brooklands wheel and K3-type bucket seats. Though the artfully hand-painted front numberplate (like they used to be) was perhaps a bit too freehand. Thoughtful details include tie-down eyes incorporated into the rear light brackets, plus an electric fan, high-torque starter and modern oil filter. Blockley tires are always a sign of conscientious, enthusiast ownership. There’s no top but there is a tonneau cover.
A similar car, the Gene Ponder TC Special (TC6368) that uses a Baker body, was sold by RM Sotheby’s for $60,500 in September 2022. That car had a supercharger, 5-speed gearbox and “modern steering” (aka, a VW steering box).
The quality of the workmanship here shone through and, bearing in mind that a rough, restorable car would be approaching $20k, it didn’t look as if one could have such a device professionally built within the price paid. Indeed, Steve Baker reckons that if you bought a rolling TC chassis ($12k–$15k) plus one of his bodies, did all the work yourself and earned some money back by selling off everything that you didn’t need, you might just complete a car like our subject for around £35k ($43k). That would require expertise that not all of us have, and a professional build would cost much more.
So all things considered, the buyer got a deal here, at a price less than it would cost to replicate. Resale would be another matter, as the owner will likely find that specials generally aren’t worth any more — or even less — than stock cars. For now, the buyer has a lovely, characterful and unique sports car to enjoy. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of The Market by Bonhams.)