World War II saw the start of many romances and among them was the affair between America and Abingdon, where MGs were made. Americans met the MG, fell in love, and pretty soon Abingdon couldn’t keep up with the demand. Like many a love affair, the Smitten One did not notice his Beloved One’s shortcomings. The MG-TC was slow, uncomfortable, and came only with right-hand drive. On the other hand, it had classic looks and was enormous fun on the road. The secret was a vintage chassis (whippy frame, beam front axle) and a responsive little engine (the 54-bhp, 1250-cc XPAG). A driver had to pay attention to get the best from it, and if a car asks you to concentrate, before long you either love it or hate it. Nobody who has ever driven a classic MG has hated it.

You drive one and not a day will go by except that a mature lady will come up and tell you that she did her courting in such a car. She will also smile wistfully.

After MG established a bridgehead in America with the TC, it made the TD, which came with independent front suspension by coil springs and double wishbones. Allied to smaller and wider wheels, this made the TD more manageable, and it was in its element on a winding road. This very good example is finished in red with black interior and recent work includes new brakes and a thorough engine service that included a carburetor overhaul. It also had its electrics overhauled and a new distributor and coil fitted.

This is a car for the person who likes the wind in their hair and the challenge of real driving.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1951 MG TD
Years Produced:1954-63
Number Produced:220
Original List Price:$4,799
SCM Valuation:$45,000-$65,000
Tune Up Cost:$400
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:Data plate on cowl
Club Info:AC Owner’s Club, Ltd., 11955 SW Fairview St, Portland, OR 97225, 503/643-3225, fax 503/646-4009
Alternatives:Jaguar E-type SI roadster, Austin-Healey 3000, Sunbeam Alpine “Tiger”

This car sold for $10,350, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams & Brooks in Carmel, August 18, 2001.

A T-series MG is the one car that nearly every British enthusiast wants to own at least once in his lifetime. With the vertical radiator, separate sweeping fenders, cut-down doors, folding windshield and rear-mounted spare tires, they embody the charm and heritage of classic British motoring.

The only decision is which of the series to buy. The TCs had the classical lines of all prewar British roadsters, but suffer from a lack of power that makes them nearly unusable by all but true masochists for distances longer than 50 miles. The TD had smaller, wider wheels and independent front suspension, so it is actually safe at the reasonable speeds it can reach. The solid steel wheels that were standard on these cars don’t seem quite right, but they’re compensated for by separate headlamps in their own chromed cases. The TF had most of the same lines of the TD, but was as fast as the first MGAs. It lost the chrome headlamps, but most today have chrome wheels to provide a glint on sunny days.

For any but the experienced hobbyist, though, the purchase of this particular TD begs the famous question asked by an ex-mayor of Carmel, California, “Do you feel lucky?” Dust under the recent respray, and an off-the-shelf interior kit that wasn’t exactly to original specifications suggest a sell-it-quick restoration. The notes that the “electrics” had been overhauled and a new distributor and coil fitted probably just means that someone wrapped tape over a frayed wiring harness and did what had to be done to get the car to start.

Even worse, the incorrect dashboard is a clue that one or more former owners believed that “a job worth doing right…will probably cost more than I want to pay.” With the odometer showing a probably honest 76,737 miles, what the car should have received was a frame-up restoration with a full engine rebuild. Instead the seller, who had probably gotten this little car in a package with some other cars he really wanted, didn’t want to spend any more than it would take to get this car sold.

Nevertheless, was it worth paying just over ten grand for the MG-TD? If the buyer went into this deal with his eyes open, the price is reasonable. Just so long as he isn’t surprised when the car keeps conking out until he’s exorcised all the demons that almost certainly will be lurking in the fuel and electrical system. Not to mention the problems of leaking shocks, loose steering, and weak brakes that are likely to need attention in the next year or so. And then there’s the possibility of rot in the wood-framed body. If the new buyer has reasonable experience with British cars and is looking forward to setting this one right himself, then he can probably have a lot of fun with this addition to his collection.

On the other hand, if someone with no tools or experience bought this car because his wife thought it looked cute, it may be back on the auction block again soon after it breaks down and leaves her stranded on her way to the country club.—Gary Anderson

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