1951 MG TD


・US-market model, repatriated in 1990
・Excellent mechanicals
・Believed unrestored
・Type 9 gearbox and reconditioned steering rack

The Background

The T-type models represent a very significant time in the history of MG, spanning the period from 1936 until the series’ replacement by the MGA in 1955. For many enthusiasts, this is the archetypal MG era, when the marque was characterised by cycle wings and running boards, imposing upright grilles and lashings of chrome.

The T-types evolved through a number of generations, arriving at the TD in 1950, which remained in production until 1953. That’s the car you see here, and it’s a model with a lot to offer. Fusing the proven 1,250cc overhead-valve engine with the larger Y-type chassis, it came equipped with independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. The TD was an export sensation; almost 30,000 of them were built, but only 1,656 of those were sold in the UK with all the others going overseas. Over 23,000 went to the USA alone, where its ease of use and of servicing saw it become deeply interwoven in the automotive culture.

Today, the TD in Britain sits in an interesting niche. With looks that can be traced directly back to the pre-war era, it’s very much at the vintage end of the classic scale – but with its advanced 1950s engineering, it’s actually a surprisingly amenable and usable proposition in a modern context. Compact, nimble, agile, and ever so characterful.

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The History

As was the case for the vast majority of TDs, this car was originally exported to its first owner in the USA, eventually finding its way back to the UK in 1990 which was when it was first registered here. (Aficionados will spot an American TD straight away by the fact that the rear number plate is mounted on the left rather than the right!)

Its first UK owner kept it for sixteen years, and only used it for shows in the summer. In October 2006 he advertised it in MG Enthusiast magazine, stating it to be in ‘condition one’ – this magazine is in the history file.

The current owner has had the car for around four years, and it’s seen minimal use during that time. He’d bought it from a neighbour across the street, who is a veteran car enthusiast who was restoring a 1909 Renault and bought the MG as a runabout in the meantime. When the time came to sell, the current owner baulked at the idea of his neighbour trading it in with a dealer, and instead snapped it up for himself. It was in remarkably good condition as-bought, and has only received a small amount of attention during his tenure to make it more usable in modern traffic, such as adding an electronic distributor and fuel pump. It’s an eminently driveable classic but, sadly, he’s not finding himself using it very much and feels that the time is right for it to pass on to a new keeper.

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The Paperwork

There’s a decent file of paperwork with this car. The V5 is here, showing its first date of UK registration as January 1st 1990, and year of build as 1951, with three former keepers since 1990. There’s also a stack of receipts for parts bought and work carried out; the distributor and ignition coil plus a luggage rack came to £541.20, the steering rack was stripped and reconditioned in 2011 at a cost of £1,780, and a receipt for £2,356 in 2010 shows a Ford Type 9 gearbox being installed as well as the brakes stripped and rebuilt. There are various other receipts, including one for a new fuel dipstick (because of course these cars don’t have a fuel gauge, you have to dip the tank), as well as a sheaf of old MOTs.

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The Interior

It’s a simple and pleasantly laid-out interior, with a surprising amount of room once you’ve folded yourself in. The dash is in great condition, with no marks, tears or scuffs, and all of the gauges and switchgear works correctly. A fun detail of these TDs is that the rev counter runs off the back of the dynamo, so the needle ticks up and down like a race car! The steering wheel is in good condition, as are the carpets and MG-branded sill plates. The seats are in very good order with a lovely gentle patina to them. There’s no evidence of water ingress, either current or historic; it’s evidently a car that’s spent most of its life garaged rather than living outside. It has the classic feel you’d expect, but also really doesn’t feel like a 70-year-old car. Time has been kind to it, as have its former keepers.

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The Exterior

The MG is believed to be unrestored and original – and if any restoration has been carried out, it would have been done in the States prior to 1990. The bodywork is extremely sound, with all of the panels in good condition and hanging straight and true. The car wears its original shade of olive green, and aside from the odd small chip to the paint, it’s all in extremely good condition throughout. We found no evidence of bubbling rust or noticeable corrosion, and it appears impressively solid underneath too.

The brightwork is all present and correct, with just a very minor patination here and there with no undue wear, corrosion or damage. The wheels are all in good condition, with the right hubcaps which are very tidy; the tyres wear 2003 date codes but look almost unused.

The roof is complete with no holes, marks or damage; indeed, we’d wager it’s seldom been used over the years. It raises, latches and lowers with ease. Aside from the fact that some mice have nibbled away at the interior webbing (which the seller will endeavour to fix before sale), it’s a very good roof. A brand new chrome luggage rack will also come with the car, which is still in its box and hasn’t been fitted.

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The Mechanicals

These are relatively simple and robust cars on a mechanical level, and parts support is exemplary so pretty much any service part or replacement is readily available. The seller reports that this is a lovely car to drive, with no issues to note with the suspension or brakes. The steering rack was rebuilt in 2011, and the gearbox was swapped for a Ford Type 9 5-speed unit (a common conversion for TDs) in 2010. There’s a battery cut-off switch under the bonnet.

The car started up happily for our photoshoot, despite not having been run for a fair while beforehand. The owner highlights that it sometimes fires up on three cylinders when cold, then runs properly on four once it’s warm, which could be attributable to a sticking valve, but it doesn’t cause problems with the day-to-day running of the MG; indeed, it’s a very smooth runner. The owner has fitted an electronic distributor and fuel pump, which are designed to look like the original-spec items but make the car a bit friendlier to use. (Easily reversible too, for the purists.) The bronze needles in the carburettors have also been replaced with modern needles to eliminate the risk of sticking and flooding.

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The Appeal

The MG TD makes a strong case for itself as a classic ownership proposition: a design that harks back to the pre-war era, housing more modern mechanicals that are friendly and usable on a day-to-day basis. And this particular TD is truly special – believed unrestored, it’s in lovely original condition inside, outside and underneath, in a very tasteful colour and with just enough modern tweaks to make it make sense in 2021. It’s not a car that will present its new owner with a long to-do list, but one which you can jump into right away and enjoy. And with the glorious summer we have ahead of us, can you think of a better means of open-top B-road exploration?

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Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.

As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the seller's discretion.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1951
  • Make MG
  • Model TD
  • Colour Green
  • Odometer 2,745 Miles
  • Engine size 1275
  • Location Surrey
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
22 bids
  • sh•••• £20,000 10/08/21
  • th•••• £18,000 07/08/21
  • ma•••• £17,500 07/08/21
  • te•••• £17,000 07/08/21
  • th•••• £16,000 06/08/21
  • 24•••• £15,000 05/08/21
  • th•••• £13,000 04/08/21
  • ke•••• £12,000 03/08/21
  • DA•••• £11,000 03/08/21
  • to•••• £10,250 03/08/21

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