Estimate: £17,000 - £20,000
Immediately after World War Two, Britain’s economic mantra was ‘Export or Die’, and it was the car industry that led that export drive – somewhat ironic considering that in modern Britain we import 10 times as many cars as we export.
One of the big export success stories was MG, whose T-Series sports cars made a massive impact in the USA. The pre-war TA and TB and immediate post-war TC and TD were extremely popular with US servicemen stationed in the UK, so when they went home they often took their cars with them. On the back of that, a fruitful export market opened up, upon which MG was quick to capitalise. Of the 29,900 TDs made, only 1,656 stayed in the UK with almost 24,000 of the export models going to the USA.
The TD was introduced in 1950 and while it used the same wooden frame and separate chassis of the TC Midget, it employed the front steering and suspension set-up from the Y-Type saloon, which made it a far more agile car to drive, while power came from the same 1,250cc XPAG engines as the previous model – not fast, but surprisingly tractable and lively.
The TD was also achingly pretty, as this Old English White and Carmine Red example testifies. More importantly, it’s an original RHD car and unlike most T-Series Midgets it has never left these shores. That alone makes it a fascinating rarity.
It’s an older restoration, rebuilt in the 1990s and put back in use by the current owner last year, with an eye on retaining its charm and patina rather than an overblown restoration. In our eyes, the balance is perfect and it gives you a car you’re not afraid to use, with plenty of charming original features.
The TD spent most of its life living on the East Coast of the UK but despite being close to the sea it has astonishingly survived without rot. A lot of that is down to the full restoration it received in the 1990s, of which a record comes with the car. It was originally green, but the colour scheme was changed at the time of the rebuild to one that is brighter and more colourful, but also period correct. After a lay-up, the MG was recommissioned for the road last year and re-trimmed with new wet weather gear and a full brake and engine overhaul.
In the current owner’s custody it has had new tyres all round, a new brake master cylinder, new carburettor floats, in-line fuel filters, new fan belt and an oil change. The owner has also removed the wipers and motor as the car is never driven in the wet, and the wiper motor is quite significant in size and restricts the view. Both the wipers and the motor are still with the car and can be easily refitted of required. Lead replacement additive has been used with every other full tank of fuel, but given that the TD was designed to live on ration-era ‘pool petrol’, the MG XPAG unit is famously forgiving of whatever you put in the tank.
The car comes with a full V5, spare key, original radiator cap, original starting handle, workshop manual and owner’s manual as well as an abundance of paperwork cataloguing work done over the years including that full rebuild in the 1990s.
Make no mistake, this is not a concourse car and the work required to bring it up to such a condition would be significant – but nevertheless, if that’s what you want then it is a nice basis from which to start.
It would be far better as a car to preserve and enjoy in its current form, though, as it’s completely rust-free both on top and underneath. The paint shows its age – the restoration is over a quarter of a century old and has aged with what’s actually quite a charming patina. There are a few cracks in the paint around the windscreen frame and rear tonneau panel and some damage to the finish on one rear mudguard, where it looks like something has been dropped on the bodywork. There are also a few other areas of crazed paintwork but none of these are visible close-up. From 10 paces you can’t see any of the cosmetic niggles as they’re all very minor – and make no mistake, this is a very pretty car indeed.
It comes with a full wet weather pack including hood and side screens, plus half and full tonneau covers, all of which are collectable items in themselves. The hood has had a small repair about two inches wide on the right-hand rear quarter, which is only noticeable when the roof is in position and is fully watertight.
Inside, the cabin is simple, and the ornate ivory dials and Bakelite dash are among its most alluring features, while the recently re-trimmed seats are in fine order.
Otherwise, there’s a small chip in the windscreen and some areas of pitted chrome work, though the chrome on the car is so original it would be a shame to re-plate it. Little details such as the winged MG logos on the bonnet release levers and dipstick are beautiful, charming details.
The TD drives more like a pre-war car than a post-war one, but that’s it’s inherent character and in many ways part of its appeal.
The car drives great. The gearbox is fine, the engine pulls through the rev range with surprising tractability and the clutch is quite light in operation. The car will do 70mph but is happier at 50mph for longer periods of cruising – after all, the XPAG engine is on 1250cc and runs a low compression ratio.
Oil pressure and water temperature are consistent, the electrics all work except the analogue clock and the choke is rarely needed - only when the outside air temperature is below 10 Celsius.
There is a small oil leak - after some investigation by a specialist it was determined that it is not significant enough to warrant further stripping down. The car requires a small top up every 300 miles or so but given an oil change is recommended every 2000 miles, the leak is inconsequential.
The driving position is quite comfortable all told, with plenty of legroom and shoulder room even for larger passengers, while the mechanical feel of the car makes it a truly rewarding to drive, especially as you gain confidence and realise that the TD, with its Y-Type front end, is actually quite a delicate and well-balanced car to drive.
The appeal of this TD is apparent as soon as you look at it. Put simply, there are few cars this well-proportioned or this pretty and although the colour scheme on this one isn’t original, it really does look the part – both of its era and also far more vibrant than the original all-over green.
It’s in fine mechanical and structural health, which means it’s a car you can simply jump straight into and enjoy, while its smart but not perfect appearance means you can thoroughly enjoy driving it without feeling guilty about using it. The new owner will be the next chapter in this car’s remarkable 68-year history and we believe will fall in love with it straightaway – it’s a car with truly immense levels of character and is well sorted both structurally and mechanically. Indeed, it would make a perfect car for navigation rallies or road trip events thanks to its all-round usability.
This is a thoroughly charming and beguiling car with just the right amount of patina to allow you to thoroughly enjoy using it.