A Tale of Two Ts

This short article has come about as a result of the Editor mentioning the registration number MG 4950 in the TA Airline article (August 2012 TTT 2). The original registration number of the Airline was MG 4952, chassis number TA0355; MG 4950 is chassis number TA0352.

John Masters in Wichita, Kansas, USA noticed mention of his car and e-mailed this article.

I have long been an aficionado of antique cars – and anything else with an engine. I am a 20 year veteran of the US Air Force and spent my entire career in automotive maintenance. To that end I currently own four antiques. For some strange reason, I have always acquired cars that are out of the ordinary. Unique body types and limited edition models have dominated. My first MG was a 1952 YB Saloon. Only a few thousand were built. My Model T Ford was a 1926 Fordor, again a limited production body type and rarely seen. Ever heard of a 1954 Ford Comete Monte Carlo? It was built in Poissy by Ford of France. Only a few in the US and I had one of them. Other cars were similarly acquired, driven and passed on to new owners. Today, half of my antiques are vintage MGs.

In 1992, I was offered an old MG by a local friend. He had owned it for several years and his wife no longer drove it. She wanted it out of the garage to make room for her modern car. I agreed to take a look. It was a red MG roadster, the same year as my first MG – 1952. I drove it, liked it and bought it. Then I started researching. This was before Internet access. I had questions about some of its equipment, especially the two fuel pumps and the extra shock absorbers that were not shown in the Moss catalog. I called Moss Motors and was discussing the car with the salesman. He asked me for the chassis serial number. When I told him TD/C-xxxxx, he said it was a rare Mark II model. A Factory competition machine.

Since then it has been on numerous tours, shows, parades and displays. It has had its share of difficulties as most vintage cars do. I had driven it to a show at the state fairgrounds about 60 miles from home. Round trip was uneventful. The next day, I decided to take it to the filling station to top off the tank. I got 100 yards from my driveway when it suddenly lost power. Engine was running and speedometer registered, but it was not moving. One rear axle shaft had sheared. A few weeks and numerous phone calls later, it was back on the road again. In the late 1990s, I acquired he 3rd member of an MGA and installed the 4.3:1 ring and pinion in the original TD axle housing – quite a job, but not nearly as difficult as some have indicated. I have undone numerous “improvements” by previous owners and maintained the car as it should be. It is not a 100 point show car, and probably never will be. I like to take it out for an occasional spin, parade, car show or trip to the ice cream parlour. It always draws a crowd.

In 2009 a local friend asked me to evaluate a Model A pickup for a friend of his. Since I have had Model As for about 20 years, I agreed. In the background of a few of the photos, I could see a red roadster with the recognizable shape of an MG. When I asked about it, I was told it was a TD. Not interested as I already had a red TD. The owner then responded with a group of photos and said; “No, it is a mid-30s TA, it runs, and is for sale too.” A few e-mails and a couple telephone calls later, I was planning on a weekend trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico. When I checked it out, it would crank over, but would not fire up. Price was re-negotiated and I loaded it up in my truck and headed back to Wichita. I later discovered that the carbon centre of the distributor cap was missing! It was not inside the distributor housing. It took a while to locate another cap, but when I did and tried to crank, it immediately started! I was able to drive it a bit, but kept it off the streets until I was able to license, insure and register it. It still had both of the original British license plates (MG 4950).

When I started to evaluate the overall condition, I was concerned. Although the car was complete, it was in rather poor condition. Body wood was OK. Seat risers and floorboards were only good for patterns. Although a challenge, I was not deterred. My father was a carpenter and passed along most of his woodworking skills. Many chassis rubber pieces were in poor condition.

Although the TA has a different engine from the TB and later MG T-series, all of the motor mounts were the same. Most of the chassis was serviceable, but needed cleaning and lubrication. Shock absorbers had been converted to tube type. Radiator hoses were nearly rotted away. The oil filter was sealed with duct tape. A previous owner had bored holes in the rear fenders and mounted taillights, a reflector and turn signals directly on the fenders. Headlights had been converted to sealed beams. I suspect that the modifications were done before the car came to the United States as all the lights and bulbs are Lucas brand. Exhaust system was a mess of flex-pipe and an incorrect muffler mounted on the opposite frame rail. Air filter and fuel pump were generic parts store items. The dashboard had been changed to one with a straight edge on the bottom, like a P-series and had also added chrome octagons behind the tachometer and speedometer, also like a P-series. Tachometer and speedometer had been reversed. Recently, I had to repair a flat tire and found a red, Dunlop inner tube inside the tire. 2 previous patches carried the Dunlop and Made in England logos. How many years had that tube been in the tire?

TA0352 proudly displaying her British MG plate
TD/C18895 still with its original engine XPAG/TD3/19184

Today, the TA is still undergoing repairs, upgrades and restorations. Universal joints were replaced. Tail lights have been replaced with British style “D” lamps and the holes in the rear fenders welded up and fenders repainted. A correct exhaust system is in place. The new, correct dash is currently being prepped for installation. The broken MG nosepiece medallion has been replaced. Seat risers and floorboards have been replaced. Fuel pump and air filter have been replaced with correct items. The British license plates have been restored and reinstalled. I have no aspirations of making it a show car, but rather a driver for local shows, parades and the occasional tour.

John Masters Wichita, Kansas, USA

Ed’s Note: John’s TD MK II is TD/C18895, an export model (as the overwhelming majority of this model was), which was built on 19th August 1952. John has the vehicle history for the TD from about 1959 through to the present day and has owned the car for 20 years. In 1959 it was in western Kansas. There was an MG dealer in the early 1950s in Denver, Colorado from where it is assumed that the car was originally purchased. Mention of TD MK II chassis numbers reminds me to correct an error which crept in to the previous issue of TTT 2. In the feature article on TD/C29478 I said that as far as I knew, this car was the third but last Home Market TD II produced. Eagle- eyed Tom Lange spotted this mistake and sent me the following:

TD/C 29478 was followed by 29479, 29480, 29438 (out of sequence but indeed made on 7/17/53), 29607, 29792 and 29908, all Home cars.

Unrelated, but 29867 was described in my ledgers as EXL/FL, which I take to be Finland (?????).

He added that he has a copy of the original Production records for the TD model and can help with queries related to date of production and engine number fitted as well as technical queries relating to the MK II model as the following answer he recently gave to a MK II owner illustrates:

Later cars did indeed use a larger internal- diameter air intake (snorkel), and a larger oil- bath air cleaner. But earlier cars used the stock 1-1/4″ intake, with slightly modified carbs to suit. If you remove the 4 bolts and take off your air cleaner unit you will be able to see the outer flanges of your carbs. If the bolt holes for the air intake are round then you (very probably) have a later car, and the larger manifold and air intake are indeed right for your car. But if the holes have been filed horizontally oval, then your car (very probably) came with the stock 1-1/4″ air cleaner.

The down side of that is that with the 1-1/4″ air intake the engine is no doubt somewhat strangled.

One thought on “A Tale of Two Ts

  1. Dave Maskell says:

    My dad owned MG4950 some time around the late 40’s or early ’50s. He is 89 now. I was with him today looking at old photos and there were a couple of photos of his old TA, of which he always speaks fondly. I saw the distinctive number plate and thought it would be fun to see whether it is still out there. He has not internet so I took a look just now when I got home. Took me all of 5 seconds to find this! So pleased she has found a loving home. I will print off your photos for next time I am visiting him and will also borrow his old photos to scan them (they are tiny B&Ws).

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