An Automatic MG TA!

Long term TA owner Bill Ryding spent nine years collecting parts and had substantial refurbishment done to some in order to assemble what is essentially a new MPJG engine. He did so to fulfil his ambition to have a spare engine for his car.

Unfortunately, during a lengthy spell in hospital it proved necessary to undergo a leg amputation earlier this year, which naturally forced a change of circumstances regarding not least, the future of his car and the spare engine on which he had spent a documented £5,500.

Following correspondence between Bill and Brian Rainbow the engine was advertised on the TTT 2 site and there have been a couple of expressions of interest.

Brian told me that Bill had found a way around keeping and, more importantly, driving his TA, so I followed this up and the outcome is described in Bill’s own words in a note to me as follows:

“I now have a couple of photos (enclosed) of the TA engine which I hope will be of use for the sales advert.

THE GOOD NEWS IS – that although I missed the Northern National on the 9th of this month, I now have my modified TA back home and I am driving it successfully with my “left foot”.

Perhaps it may be of some interest to members to learn what I have done to achieve this outcome – i.e. what I guess is the very first TA Automatic!

The man I have to thank for the substantial considerations in converting the 1939 TA to automatic drive is my good friend Andy Schultz of Cuerden Classics, a Trading member of our Preston Club.

Limits were established in that no alterations were to be made to the original chassis or bodywork (drilling existing parts or welding to the existing structure) such that the TA engine could, when required be replaced, thus setting the car back to standard.

The choice of engine and automatic gear box was very limited and after much thought and searching it was decided to consider an early 70s Morris Marina engine (the “A” series 1275cc) of which there was a short run of automatic gear boxes.

Ebay came up trumps with a used but assumed good condition unit which was duly collected from its home in North London.

Then it was old engine out (the easy bit) …………..

…………… test fitting of the Marina engine and auto box and the results were surprisingly good.

A modified front engine plate was required to move the engine forward for the gear box alignment and existing engine and gearbox mountings were used for fixing the engine in place.

The required forward movement of the engine resulted in losing the original cooling fan but the problem was overcome by fitting, in the limited space a MGB electric fan to the rear of the radiator.

Twin SUs from an MG Midget and a bespoke air filter completed the fuel side of the engine and the electrical side was modified with a new dynamo, coil and high torque starter motor.

Then there remained the complications of switching over all controls from left to right and vice versa as the fuel is now on the passenger side of the engine with the electrics on the right.

A modified foot well cover was required to house the larger than previous gear box and manual control extension (NB this is a bolt on panel which will be stored for eventual restoration.)

The foot brake remained as original with the accelerator pedal fixed to the left of it in the vacated space of the now not required clutch pedal.

The old prop shaft was removed and stored for future use and replaced with a locally sourced new one manufactured to fit the new dimensions.

There are, no doubt many other additions and alterations that have been put in place which I have omitted but with my limited engineering knowledge I am happy to say that as far as I am concerned the car is now usable, has passed its MOT and my ambition is achieved in that I can drive my TA again.

There are one or two points that are important to consider:-

• The engine is an “A “series 1275cc which is lighter in weight and far out-performs the MPJG previously fitted.

• The braking system is original and even with soft brake shoes fitted still leaves a lot to be desired for effective breaking, so there we have conflict!

Therefore practice, care and anticipation are at a premium for safe and enjoyable driving.

I am delighted with the result which once again gives me the great pleasure of driving my TA.”

This is the Marina unit fitted and ready to go.

Ed’s note: Since compiling this article with Bill’s considerable help, he has been in touch to report the following:

“I have now done a couple of runs in my automatic TA – a serious one of 120 miles and a Club run and lunch of approx. 70 miles.

The amazing thing is that my concern about braking is somewhat resolved by the fact that on steep descents I can now opt for second or even 1st gear without high engine revs and double de-clutching and this, together with the much reduced weight of the car with the Marina engine and the added power of the Marina engine, puts you in a situation where very little braking is required at all.

This is something that I had not thought of during the original build but is certainly a bonus and makes the driving experience an indisputable pleasure.”