Requiem for MG: A Look at 10 MGs Through its History
On this date in 2005, the MG Rover Group ceased to exist. Yes, MG still exists under some kind of Chinese operation producing crap sedans and SUVs now, so we steadfastly refuse to recognize it, the way Grandpa Simpson refuses to recognize Missouri. Rather than get into some long-winded dissertation on why MG was cool, we thought we'd just take a look at 10 of the cars that made that brand great: Old Number One
The first MGs were simply special-bodied Morris Cowleys, so it's not correct to call this "the first MG," but in reality, that's exactly what it was. Morris Garages was founded by William Morris as a repair facility. Morris later founded Morris Motors, Ltd., an auto manufacturer.
PHOTOS: See Full Galleries of the MG M-Type Boattail Speedster
It was producing perfectly pleasant small British cars and Cecil Kimber, who came on as general manager of Morris Garages, started taking the bodies off, and rebodying them with sporty little two-seat roadster bodies for racing. Old Number One was the first of those cars, built specially for the Land's End Trial in 1925. The car now forms part of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Collection at Gaydon, where it is generally on permanent display, in full running order.
1936 MG NB Airline Coupe
The Airline Coupe is probably one of the rarest MGs outside of the one-offs like Old Number One. They were based on the P-Series Midget, London coachbuilder H.W. Allingham designed the body. He then marketed these special Airline coupés, and farmed out the actual construction to Carbodies, a body manufacturer that had been a supplier to MG since the early 1920s.
PHOTOS: More Pictures of This Gorgeous Airline Coupe
The PA Airline coupe shown here is one of the ultra-rare six-cylinder cars, and sold at RM Auctions' London sale in 2010 for more than $240,000.
1950 MG TD
This was it: the car that put British cars on the map. Sure, the Jaguar XK120 got tons of attention in the States, but it was the TD -- the most recently updated version of the T-Series Midgets -- that would be the car Britain would export to the United States in real numbers.
PHOTOS: Full Galleries of the 1953 MG TD
Between 1950 and 1953, 30,000 MG TDs would be produced, at three times the volume of the MG TC in two years less time. 23,000 of those cars ended up here in America, making it one of the most successful sports cars of all time.
1956 to 1958 Magnette ZB
These are the MGs everybody forgets about. Between 1953 and 1969, MG built very cool sedans under the Magnette nameplate. They were kind of the poor man's version of a Jaguar Mark 2, and were the very first MGs to use monocoque construction. They're classy and cool, if not terribly quick. The ZA is just as nice, but suffers a bit in terms of power, which is sorely lacking even in the later ZB, so every bit counts. The later Mark III cars are cool in their own way, but their boxy bodystyle isn't as sophisticated as the ZA and ZB.
1960 MGA 1600 De Luxe
The MGA -- in every year -- was simply a stunning automobile. Here was a car with all the class, sophistication and great looks of a Jaguar XK120, but with a price tag that a history teacher could buy if he set his mind to painting houses all summer.
PHOTOS: Honorable Mention - The 1957 MGA Coupe
The best -- for our money -- wasn't the super-cool Twin Cam, but the rare MGA 1600 De Luxe, which had the Twin Cam's Dunlop disc brakes and pin-lock wheels. Only 70 were built in roadster form, and an extremely scarce 12 coupes.
1972 MG Midget
In the early 1970s, Midgets started to get a boost in power, thanks to the 1275cc engine used in the Mini Cooper. Between 1972 and 1974, they also had round rear wheel arches, which made them look significantly better for some reason, almost like a Fun Size Triumph TR6. Once you got into 1973 and 1974, bumper overriders started to spoil the look, but those cars in 1972 were terrific.
Power increases through the early 1970s aside, an early MGB is a better bet. Every year that went on seemed to add more safety equipment, more emissions equipment and less of the elemental fun the MGB was supposed to deliver.
PHOTOS: Full Galleries of the Early MGB
The earliest cars delivered in 1962 seem to adhere most to what these cars are all about. If you have to look later, get something pre-1973, and preferably into the 1960s.
1967 - 1969 MGC and MGC GT
The MGC was the six-cylinder version of the MGB. They get a lot of flak for not handling as well as the Bs, with that gigantically long Austin straight six under the bonnet, but if you think about them like the long-legged grand tourers they're supposed to be, they're terrific cars.
PHOTOS: Full Galleries of the MGC
With a modified hood and a completely different torsion bar front suspension setup, only 10,000 were ever produced, evenly split between the GT and the roadster.
1973 - 1976 MGB GT V8
MGB GTs are cooler than the roadsters, if you ask us, but the coolest might be the MGB GT V8. Tuner Ken Costello was already fitting Rover V8s into MGB GTs, and MG wanted to get in on the action.
PHOTOS: More Shots of the MGB GT V8
They had Costello build the prototype and they went into production for 1973 with 137hp and 195-lb.ft. of torque for a 7.7-second zero to 60 time, and a 125 mph top speed. Around 2,500 were produced.
1995 to 2005 MG F and TF
We're not exactly sure if we like these modern MGs, but the fact that they were produced at all is pretty amazing. After a 15 year hiatus, they were the first new model the MG brand produced since 1980, after the brand was whored out for badge-engineered sedans and hatchbacks.
It was the last true MG produced up until the company was bought at a fire sale by Nanjing Automobile Group in 2007.