History of the MG TD

Subtitle

The MG TD Midget 1949 - 1953

In 1949 a small group of MG leaders, headed by John Thornley, got together to try to create a car that was acceptable to the North American marketplace while at the same time would limit the investment of the Nuffield Organization. Clearly it would be impossible to completely create a new car, not only from a financial point but from a timing standpoint as well. What was needed was a little of the old, sprinkled with a little of the new. Another key factor was to borrow or incorporate features found in other Nuffield cars of the time that were more up to date than the MGTC. It was not, as one might have expected, a car with a totally different, modern appearance, but yet another Midget in the familiar mould. The TD Midget, while it certainly had the appearance of a Midget, had much which was different under the skin.


Early 1949 MG TD, with closed disc wheels.

First it was decided to start with the MGTC. It was felt that the MGTC still provided a favorable brand image to the North American marketplace. Many elements of the MGTC were still believed to be important such as:

  • The styling
  • Safety Fast engineering
  • The power train
  • The familiarity of design

What was missing was:

  • More futuristic styling
  • Better turning and handling
  • A smoother ride
  • Left hand drive
  • More creature comforts such as an optional heater and radio

Quickly a team of MG personnel took inventory of the components of the Nuffield Organization that they had to work with. They discarded the TC's frame because it was to light and not rigid enough. They found what they wanted in the Y types. A small modification to the frame was to have it sweep over the rear axle rather than under. This gave them more travel in the rear springs so they could increase the damping. In addition they adopted rack and pinion steering and front coil springs and wishbones. This and the change in rear end suspension allowed for a smoother ride and better handling than the MGTC. One of the major changes was to reduce the wheel size from 19 inches to 15 inches and increase the tire width to 5.50. All of these changes made the MGTD a superior riding car over the MGTC.


Early 1949-1950 MG TD, with closed disc wheels as shown in the workshop manual.

Because of the use of the larger frame the body became 5 inches wider. Although the body increased by 5 inches, only one inch actually found it's way into the cockpit so there is an indiscernible difference in the seating width. The biggest change that people notice about the MGTD from the MGTC is the lack of wire wheels. As part of the Nuffield cost cutting challenge the more expensive wire wheels of former T-Series cars were replaced by solid steel wheels. For the entire production run of the MGTD the factory took heat for this decision. They constantly tried to create implausible technical reasons why wire wheels would not work but their reasons were never accepted by the marketplace. In fact wire wheels were one of the most popular aftermarket accessories at the time. Nuffield itself had to offer an upgrade kit to wire wheels during 1953 because the essentially identical 1954 MGTF chassis sported wire wheels as an option.


Early 1949-1950 MG TD, with closed disc wheels as shown in the workshop manual.

Other changes between the MGTC and the MGTD were more stylized wings, partially due to the smaller wheels. A dual production capable LHD or RHD model, better brakes, adjustable steering column, and an interchangeable dashboard for left or right hand driving were also incorporated. An optional radio and heater, as well as many accessories designed to improve the performance of the car were made available.

The first model set the stage for what the TD was. Because of the short amount of time from the inception of the TD to the delivery of the first cars, not everything was quite as the MG Car Company would have liked it. In fact they were still making TCs on the production line when the first TDs were being produced. In addition, other cars such as the MG Y-type saloon and the Riley RMA and RMB were also being made on the same assembly line at the time. This says something for the flexibility of the Abingdon workforce and of the factory.

Apart from revised mountings, the engine for the new MG TD was the same 1250cc XPAG unit fitted to the previous model, the MG TC.

There were many subtle changes to the TD, but most were unnoticeable to the untrained eye. One exception was the change from solid steel wheels to ventilated steel wheels. This change was essential because there were complaints that the brakes on the early cars were fading due to inadequate cooling. Another change was to stiffen the chassis by adding an internal steel hoop under the dashboard. This helped to prevent `scuttle shake', although the later chassis still seems to flex quite a bit when pressed into corners.

The TD had a completely new chassis, which had been developed from that used in the Y-Type saloon. It was a much sturdier and stiffer frame than the old Midget chassis, as it had box-section side rails and crossmembers and it was of all-welded construction. Unlike the previous Midgets, the chassis was kicked up over the rear axle. Consequently, the rear leaf springs had a greater camber than before, and they were softer too being controlled by lever-arm shock absorbers.
At the front, the old beam axle and leaf springs had been dispensed with in favour of an independent system comprising double wishbones and coil springs. The upper wishbones were actually formed by the levers of the shock absorbers. The complete front end design was common to the Y-type saloon and was to form the basis for the front suspension for many future MG's.


MG TD assembly in Abingdon.


MG TD assembly in Abingdon.

One departure from the old Midget which raised the hackles of the "hardy" MG enthusiasts, was the use of 15 inch pressed steel wheels rather than the old spindly 19 inch wire wheels. These looked slightly out of place on a car with such old-fashioned bodywork, especially at the rear where they didn't quite fill the wheel arches.

The engine and transmission were again the same as the TC, as was the body style, although the latter was a little wider and the wings were more enveloping because of the wheels. For the first time, an MG was equipped with bumpers fore and aft which, it was suggested, took away the slightly "cheeky" air of the earlier cars and gave the TD a more "civilised" look. And in a way this was true, as the TD was certainly more comfortable to drive than any of its predecessors.
As a result of this, the TD found an even larger market than the TC, selling almost three times as many in a similar four-year production run. Again, a substantial number of the cars produced went abroad, particularly to the USA.

A Mark II version of the TD was introduced during its production run, having a slightly more powerful version of the XPAG engine (57bhp) with a higher compression ratio and bigger carburettors. There were also improvements made to the suspension, while the one-piece seat back and individual seat cushions gave way to a pair of bucket seats. In 1952, centre-lock wire wheels were offered as an option.

By this time, sales of the TD were beginning to falter, but MG had the prototype of its replacement ready to go into production. The car, code named EX175, was based on a modified TD chassis and mechanicals but with a beautiful streamlined bodyshell which was right up-to-date. Sadly, it was to be turned down flatly by the boss of the now British Motor Corporation as a deal had already been signed to build a similar car - the Austin-Healey 100.

Due to the fact that the United States had much more cash available to spend on entertainment and sports than did war torn Britain, the Nuffield Organization made a drastic change in their marketing, focusing on North America. In 1949 the MGTC was fitted with many elements to make it more North American such as front and rear bumpers, twin horns, and dual tail lamps. Even by making these changes only a fraction of the MGTC's were imported into North America. There were still too many issues with a car of this type for different North America conditions. Amongst those were driving on the right hand side of the road rather than the left, more high speed maneuvers such as freeways, a softer ride, and some additional creature comforts. What was needed was a total redesign of the MGTC if the MG Car Company was to capture a significant portion of the North American market. What was missing was a total commitment from the Nuffield Organization to do so.

About 50,000 MG TD's have been produced. The first MG TDs were manufactured in late 1949, and the model was formally announced in January of 1950. Only 98 TDs were made in 1949, 2 RHD and 96 LHD. There were a total of four model years - 1950, 1951, 1952, and 1953, and the models are nowadays referred to as the MG TD, TD2 and TD/C MK II.

The TD was also build with a body designed by Bertone. The MG TD Arnolt Bertone.

TD

The first model set the stage for what the TD was. Because of the short amount of time from the inception of the TD to the delivery of the first cars, not everything was quite as the MG Car Company would have liked it. In fact they were still making TCs on the production line when the first TDs were being produced. In addition, other cars such as the MG Y-type saloon and the Riley RMA and RMB were also being made on the same assembly line at the time. This says something for the flexibility of the Abingdon workforce and of the factory.

Apart from revised mountings, the engine for the new MG TD was the same 1250cc XPAG unit fitted to the previous model, the MG TC.

There were many subtle changes to the TD, but most were unnoticeable to the untrained eye. One exception was the change from solid steel wheels to ventilated steel wheels. This change was essential because there were complaints that the brakes on the early cars were fading due to inadequate cooling. Another change was to stiffen the chassis by adding an internal steel hoop under the dashboard. This helped to prevent `scuttle shake', although the later chassis still seems to flex quite a bit when pressed into corners.

MG TDII

In July 1951 the 1250cc XPAG engine received a new block, a new sump, a new bell-housing and a new flywheel in order to accommodate a larger clutch. The engine number prefix was changed to TD2, and MG TDs fitted with this engine have subsequently become known as TD2 models, although contemporary marketing materials did not use this designation. The changeover occurred at engine number XPAG/TD2/9408. (The TD2 should not be confused with the MG TD Mark II, see below).

Several changes were introduced between August and November 1952 as sales of the TD started to fall in favour of cars like the TR2 and the Austin Healey 100. These included circular rear lamps incorporating flashing turn signals, and a three-bow frame replacing the 2-bow frame for the hood. Also, the wiper motor was moved to the centre of the windscreen.

TD/C or TD Mark II

By the middle of 1950 the MG factory were also producing some special MGTD's known as the TD Mark II or the TD Competition Model. These cars were essentially regular MG TDs that had been given some extra factory accessories and tuning equipment. Initially there was no standard specification for these cars, and during the production of the MG TD the specification of the TD Mark II would change.

The only standard feature appears to be the provision of additional Andrex friction shock absorbers front and rear. Some of the modifications on offer included a modified cylinder head raising the horsepower of the engine from 54 bhp to 57, wider wheels, larger tires, higher rear axle ratios, twin fuel pumps, and larger carburetors. You could even have a supercharger. Most of the features of the Mark II were a part of the staged tuning that was described in various publications and offered as a factory tuning manual.

From all these changes it appeared that little changed in how the car actually handled. Many folks opted to buy a regular MGTD and go through a series of Stage Tunings to increase the performance of the MGTD well above what the Mark II achieved.

It was also possible at that time to order anything for a regular TD that the Mark II model offered, and more, and so many owners opted to buy a regular TD and then improve the performance of their car well above what the Mark II could achieve.

Production of the MGTD peaked in 1952 and 1953 found sales of the car starting to fall. Again the MG Car Company found itself in need of a whole new automobile but without the support of the parent BMC Organization.


MG TD/C MK II brochure click on the image to show the different details

The MG TD Arnolt

The Arnolt MG was the result of an American, Italian, and English collaboration.

Mr. Arnolt was an eccentric American enthusiast, industrialist and businessman who had a Chicago-based MG, Riley, and Morris distributorship.
At the 1952 Turin Auto Show, he saw a special Bertone body on an MG chassis and arranged to buy 200 bodies to place on MG TD chassis and sell as complete cars.
Eventually, after the construction of 102 examples, MG was no longer able to supply chassis, and to make good on his deal with Bertone, Mr. Arnolt started another project with them, which would evolve into the Arnolt Bristol.

The MG Arnolt was a more elegant, spacious, and refined alternative to the standard MG TD, and was available in both open (35 examples built) and closed (67 examples built) form.

The doors, hood, and engine lid were made of aluminium, and the body welded to the chassis rather than being bolted.
The cars were generally fitted with the standard 1250cc engines, though a small number of cars were fitted with the 1500cc MG TF engine.
They cost about a third more than a standard MG TD, which also contributed to the low sales volume.


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