Achieving a Long-Held Dream!

Jerry Birkbeck’s TC4244. The photo was taken in Mill Street, Warwick. Mill Street is adjacent to the Castle Wall (See Warwick Castle) and goes down to the River Avon. In the 17th Century there was a bridge constructed and the abutments are still there. This crossed over to Bridge End which formed the southern entrance into Warwick.

For the petrol heads amongst us I am sure that there is always that special car that has taken over part of your psyche from an early age. Many overcome this. Others never do and a compromise needs to be accepted; moreover, how often do dreams fall apart when reality hits and you discover the car is not quite how you imagined it? It’s awful to drive and getting in it is a nightmare! Indeed, as you glance through the ads in your classic car magazine and see that someone has a very well restored car of their obvious choice for sale `due to change of plans’, `not regularly used’ and so on, is it more than often likely that it is not quite what they had remembered all those years ago? In fact, it’s awful!

Many folks seeking a classic car have not driven a pre-70s car, let alone a pre-50s car, at all. Their view is one through rose tinted spectacles and when they visit a club stand and look at a superb Healey, MG or Triumph and start talking, you begin to understand how there is no appreciation of the maintenance and needs of an older car and just how different this experience is from using a sophisticated, well-built car that fulfils all the user’s everyday needs. As we all know, older cars are a very different breed.

This is of course digressing! I too, was one of those dreamers who aspired to an MG TC. Why? Certainly, childhood memories at the age of 11 drew me to the lines of an MG T-Type owned by a science master at my school. I have no idea whether it was a TA-B-or C. It looked a little tired but it oozed class and I set my heart on one.

I started along the right lines when I picked up a 1936 PB fifty years ago for £50. It was a non-runner and although I had high hopes, it never went as I had no technical knowledge, no money and with attending college, very little time. I did have a garage (rented inevitability and shared with an Austin 7, which did go and was a rather large gentleman’s daily transport for his equally large wife and two children!) but there it stood until it was sold by my mother (!) whilst I was travelling in Europe in the summer of `68.

It is fair to say that I committed all the cardinal sins, selling the engine to a fellow PB owner, but at least his car was running! My PB (CND 973) is still in existence and is on the Triple-M Register, which is encouraging.

In 1969 I almost bought a TA in Birmingham, `almost’ as I never managed to find the place and my enthusiasm was dented by the girl I was going out with, who thought I should be looking for a Mini and preferably a Cooper!

When I began work in 1970 I had a Spitfire and lived in Stafford, where I noticed several T-Types, not appreciating at the time that this was Harry Crutchley country and where the MG Octagon CC was born.

I did meet my wife Jo, in London in 1972, over the bonnet of a YA, which was my first driving venture into the MG world and this revived my desire for a TC. This receded as children and family pressures had their inevitable impact on time and resources; the Y being sold prior to our first child’s birth.

In the early 90s I re-joined the MG train and bought another Y; this I kept for six years and I moved on to a TA. This was a start and over the next thirteen years it included moving the car to my vision of a TC. I spent much time and money upgrading the car from the `Cream Cracker’ styled car, which I bought in 1998. Fitted with cycle wings and painted duo tone cream and brown it was a rather ugly duckling. However, re-painted Old English White and with bits of TC, XPAW engine, 5 speed box, VW steering, the wings from the `Heartbeat’ TV series, new interior, rebuilt engine and many upgrades it began to look the part. It was well used and ran well, covering 35,000 miles during our ownership. The little car visited many countries in Europe, Ireland and England and Wales. It still was not a TC, even though when it was sold in 2011 it was a highly usable and attractive T-Type. Indeed, I recall someone well known in the MG world describing it to me as a `Bitsa Car’. Although initially slightly hurt by the description, he was absolutely right.

The reason for the sale was the purchase of a lovely MGA 1600, which was a fantastic car but was hopeless for travelling unless a boot rack was added. That would destroy the perfect lines of the car. OK, so you can add a removable boot bag but that too has problems. So, I reflected as I approached my 70th birthday that if ever I was to realise my ambition to own a TC then a decision had to be made. We do own a well-loved YT and this is a great car for touring and I have no wish to sell it. Therefore, the sale of the MGA was the only way forward. I had used it throughout the year during my ownership – a superb car to drive and the upgrades that had been undertaken included a new 1622 cc engine, 5 speed box, upgraded electrics, to which I added a set of chrome wires, new hood, side screens, tonneau and a re-chroming of the windscreen supports. However, if ever anyone chooses to buy an `A’ then drive with the hood down as putting one up is an unbelievable pain!

So, in July 2016 I began my search for a TC and placed the MGA on various free websites. These were not a success and it was only five weeks later, having had no responses at all that I used Classic Car Weekly and their sister website Classic Cars for Sale and this is where I had an instant response. Prior to this I had been looking at a few TCs and test-drove a couple. One in Leicestershire looked interesting from the advert but in practice was excellent mechanically but bodily was perhaps a tad challenging. I saw another in Bristol which would have been a good buy and was enjoyable to drive, but as I hadn’t sold the ‘A’ I could only offer a deposit. The vendor quite understandably mentioned that he had another purchaser and it was he who sealed the deal. I also followed up several TCs from Devon through to a contact in the UK who imported TCs and had a number arriving from Australia and one from the US. The latter looked interesting but that fell through when the vendor was offered a higher price. Most of the others were too expensive or required significant work – neither routes that I wanted to go down. I was almost `resigned’ to possibly picking up a yellow TC that had been upgraded with some sensible modifications – but yellow?

Then out of the blue the September issue of `Enjoying MG’, the Owners Club magazine, had an advert for a TC. It looked interesting and was within my price range. The owner, a really nice guy who was emigrating to South Africa (having lived there for many years) as he was `fed up with the UK weather’ and had not only the TC to sell but a further dozen classics from his collection. (This was covered in an article in a late 2015 issue of Classic Cars in their `Collectors’ piece).

Nick, the owner, explained at length on the phone about the car, although he didn’t enthuse about its condition as much as he might have done. He did however mention that overused word `patina’ quite a few times. Nonetheless, I arranged to visit Shropshire the following day to have a good look at the car.

The weather was grim which would have made it difficult to find Nick’s remote property but for the Sat-nav which came up trumps. Nick showed me some of the cars in his garage which included a beautiful Lotus Elan Sprint, a just completed MGA Coupe and a fine Porsche. He then took me to his lock up to view the TC. `Lock up’ is totally the wrong word – it was a modern Dutch barn. Nick shared this with a fellow enthusiast and this is where the TC was stored.

I was sold on it immediately! As Nick explained, the TC Chassis No. TC4244 was completed in Abingdon on 8th December 1947 with Engine No XPAG 4888 (which it still retains) and painted black with red trim. It was then exported to South Africa.

The TC, affectionately known as `Myrtle’, had three owners up until the restorer Jim Kotze bought it in 1980. The car had been stored in two different garages for 20 years until Jim commenced a nut and bolt restoration which he completed in July 1981. The chassis was taken to a marine engineering firm where it was sand blasted and treated against corrosion. The wheels were trimmed or turned and sprayed with a high heat aluminium powder.The knock-ons were built up with welding, filed and re-chromed.

The frame was rebuilt by a qualified carpenter out of well matured oak. To further enhance the frame it was painted with red lead. Apart from new pistons and rings the engine was in good condition. The head too was overhauled.

Jim had a choice for the bodywork of importing new body panels or having the body work undertaken in aluminium by a reputable firm (Charlie Hatton in Durbanville). He chose the latter. The mudguards and doors needed minor repairs. The whole car was then disassembled for a complete re-spray in its original black colour. The walnut lamination on the dashboard was then upgraded.

All the instruments, except the clock (which was in working order), were overhauled by Vintage Restorations. A new wiring harness was installed. The piping, hood and many other parts were imported (principally from Naylor Brothers). The newly upholstered seats were fitted and the restoration was complete.

In 1982 a Rod Paxton bought the MG and fine-tuned the restoration bringing her to showroom condition. He then won a Bronze Certificate at the National `Concours d’etat’ meeting in Pietermaritzburg.

He sold the TC in 1984 and Bernard Krawitz, a car dealer from Alexandria (Eastern Cape) who was intending to buy an E-Type in an auction, but missed out and bought the TC instead. He sold the car in 1986.

It then became the property of Malcolm Potter and the TC returned to Pietermaritzburg. He undertook minor upgrades having the wheels powder coated and five new Dunlop B5s fitted. Around 2011 he had the brake system overhauled and a new master cylinder fitted.

In February 2013 Nick Oswell-Jones imported the car into the UK. He has used it very little and I acquired the TC on Monday 12th September 2016. Since its restoration between 1980 and 1982 it has only covered 7500 miles!

First Impressions

The car looks stunning but I had to fully charge the battery, check all the levels and tyre pressures. The levels were fine as Nick has used it recently. The tyres (although they have covered around 3000 miles look great, excellent treads and no side wall cracking) but after nearly 30 years they are solid. I am replacing them with Blockleys. Whilst I am aware that purists prefer B5s (now only available in replica form as Ensign tyres) as originally Dunlop B5s were fitted to TCs when they left Abingdon, Blockleys are far better tyres, using enhanced materials and possessing better grip and wear qualities.

The steering has a good deal of play and I drove the car over to my good friend Brian Rainbow, who as many of you know, has an excellent technical knowledge about TA-TCs. He recommended fitting polyurethane bushes to front and rear and following a series of checks throughout the suspension, this will be undertaken over the next week.

The body and paint finish is superb as is the chrome. All the correct lights are fitted – although the fog light should be a Lucas FT27 – and they all work. Directional flashers are incorporated in the sidelights and rear D Lamps. The hood and side screens are good but will benefit from a clean, there is a full and half tonneau.

I am looking to the end of October to have her running well.

The reality is that the long held dream has not disappointed and I am fortunate to be only the ninth keeper of the TC over a period of 69 years. To have that continuous history, with all the owners’ names and periods of tenure, is rather special. (The YT that we own has had four owners since 1950, and though 3 are known and their period of ownership, I have no idea who first acquired the car).

So, on an entirely personal note – a great 70th birthday year – so far!

Jerry Birkbeck