This is the story of research into the history of my 1955 MG TF 1500 (TF8931).
The first piece of luck was that a set of registration plates YTU 890 came with the car which I had purchased, sight unseen, from The Perth MG Centre in 1985. This MG arrived in Clare, SA, on top of a loaded interstate truck. Were these Western Australian plates? Or maybe UK plates? They had the look of UK plates – aluminium letters and numerals on a black background. Who knows? I put them in the shed and forgot about them for 30 plus years.
I knew from the body plate on the bulkhead that this car was an export model built in January 1955. The big question was, “To which country was it exported?” Australia was looking unlikely according to TF historian Matthew Magilton of Melbourne. He had no record of its chassis number 8931 as having been exported.
Knowing that the last two letters of UK plates in the fifties were allocated to specific Licensing Authorities, I decided to pay a visit to the Chester Records Office when next in England as the letters TU were used by them at that time. They brought out the ledger for 1957 when I was expecting the one from 1955. I could see the registration details for YTU 890 which appeared to be for a Vespa scooter. Little did I know at the time that I had misread this detail. And so, I dismissed the theory that this was a UK registration for my car. It just did not add up.
My research went on hold for a year or two.
And then came my second lucky break. The “Totally T-type 2” online magazine recently had a list of TF1500s recorded as thought to be in the UK. Why was my car’s chassis number 8931 on that list? It was an export model. I contacted the editor, John James, and he was as puzzled as I was! However, he got to work on the case and with the help of Barrie Jones, registrar for TFs for the MGCC he established that the car must have come back from the country to which it was exported because it was at one time registered at an address in The Wirral, Cheshire.
Meanwhile, a second approach to the Chester Records Office gave me details I had overlooked. These were chassis and engine numbers, the name and address of whom I presume was the first owner, and registration details around the UK showing where the car was based between 1957 and 1969. Most importantly of all, the previous plate was listed, namely BY 7939 [WAN]. What on earth did WAN represent? John had no answer but this was my third lucky break.
I thought that WAN may be short for the Wanaka region in New Zealand but enquiries to MG Clubs in ‘the land of the long white cloud’ led nowhere. As a last resort I emailed the NZ national archives. This drew an immediate response by an employee who stated that while his was not the right department, he had an interest in number plates from around the world and that WAN may refer to a country identification plate, similar to an AUS or GB plate attached to the rear of a vehicle. And that such letters may well stand for “West Africa – Nigeria.” He also told me that in the mid-fifties Nigeria was a British colony which a few years later became independent. This leads me to believe that my TF was exported to Nigeria in 1955 and purchased by the first owner who was working there and whose job subsequently came to an end, necessitating his return to England with the car. [I have yet to contact members of his family to confirm this]
As previously mentioned, the car, when I bought it in 1985, was in Western Australia. Its registration number at the time was XKB 771. According to Western Australian records the registration letters XKB were only issued between 1969 and 1979. This means that this TF arrived there in this period, likely brought out by an emigrant from the UK, possibly a ‘Ten Pound Pom’ like myself! I know from invoices I received when I bought it that the previous owner was a Mr. Jones of Kalgoorlie.
I consider myself lucky to have discovered this information and even luckier to enjoy owning an MG TF 1500.
The front cover picture shows Peter holding the UK plate YTU 890 which came with the car. The plate on the car (UJS 102) is a South Australian one.
TF8931 has therefore carried four different plates:
BY 7939 when in Nigeria
YTU 890 when in the UK
XKB 771 when in Western Australia
UJS 102 now in South Australia
The country identification plate, more properly known as the International Licence Plate Country Code first appeared on vehicles in the UK in 1910 as GB, in Nigeria in 1937 as WAN and in Australia in 1954 as AUS.
T. Shipside was a car dealership, opened in Nottingham by Tom Shipside (Peter’s grandfather) as a Morris dealership in 1913. It closed early ‘60s.
Ten Pound Pom is a colloquial term used in Australia and New Zealand to describe British citizens who migrated to those countries after the Second World War under an assisted passage scheme, giving free passage. The £10 was said to be the administration fee.
Rick Buckley sent me this invoice from a well-known 1960s dealer. It was for parts he purchased for TA1449 (CTB 401).
The August 2022 issue of TTT 2 told us how Rick bought CTB 401 as a fourteen-year-old in 1968 for £25. An ex-Lancashire police car, it was in pretty poor shape with a cracked block and an engine in bits.
He recalls a bus journey from Oldham to Manchester to visit the Aladdin’s Cave at Archway to buy the parts with money he had saved from weekend work delivering fruit and veg to local shops.
Those were the days!
Useful Suppliers’ contacts
Matt Sanders has used these two companies in the past. The details may be of interest to owners in the local area:
They do brake and hydraulic pipes and to measure and pattern fittings plus control cables.
Matt has found both these companies to be quick and reliable.
Overflow pipe on radiator
Ian Ailes sends me lots of tips which he has picked up over the 22 years he spent restoring his TD. The car is pictured below with Ian showing one of his nephews how the fly-off handbrake works.
One of the tips was learnt the hard way, due to the car boiling over when tuning the carburettors (more to follow on tuning in a future edition).
Says Ian,” Whilst setting the carbs up in the heat, the car boiled over. I realised that the overflow pipe discharges just above the wiring loom and crossmember so I have fitted a length of hose to run any water down below the chassis. Here are some photos. It is important to make sure the pipe is clear to allow the header tank to breathe. The hose was in my box of spare bits but fitted snugly.”
Above (left) length of spare hose. Above (right) hose fitted to overflow pipe.
Here’s a couple more…..
Ed’s note:I have also done the same on my J2 and like Ian, I learnt the hard way when some nasty rusty water from the radiator overflow discharged itself over my brand, new wiring loom.
Supplier feedback (Burlen)
David James has helpfully sent in the following:
“Having just received your notification about the latest edition of TTT 2 reminded me to send you some feedback on a supplier of services that I have recently used. The carburettors on my TC have been leaking for quite some time. The hold-up bolts (that secure the float chamber to the body) have been working loose. I’d replaced the washers and have been gingerly tightening them, but then the thread on one stripped. When I examined the other the thread in the body was badly damaged. I needed to fit Helicoils, but the blind hole with the fuel drilling to one side suggested that I should leave it to someone with experience. So, I contacted Burlen and was able to speak to the person who would be doing the work. He was very helpful and so I sent off the two bodies, stripped of all other components. The ‘restoration’ man emailed me to say that he’d received them and then phoned with an update. He was able to fit in the job between other full restorations. I was pleased with the result and was much more confident when tightening the hold-up bolts.”
Jane Bateson is enquiring about this TF1250 on behalf of her neighbour, who owned the car in the mid-fifties. This wonderful period photograph was almost certainly taken within a year or two of its first registration.
SYB 350 comes up from the DVLA search facility as having changed hands in June of this year and is taxed and on the road. Prior to this, Jane says that the car was located in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
If you can help, please contact the editor at jj(at)ttypes.org [Please substitute @ for (at)].
TA1854 (GPA 631)
Martin Smith is looking for any information on this TA. GPA 631 comes up from the DVLA search facility as ‘Untaxed’. It has not been active since the turn of the millennium.
If you can help, Martin would like to hear from you at Smithm503(at)btinternet.com [Please substitute @ for (at)].
TA???? (EP 6693)
Nick Morris would love to know what has become of this car. It was owned by his grandfather, John (Jack) Morris, for a period in (roughly) the late forties/early fifties. He lived in Welshpool at the time. Whilst in his ownership, Nick’s dad (Des) learnt to drive in it. Nick can be contacted at nick-morris(at)outlook.com [Please substitute @ for (at)].
EP 6693, a 1936 TA ‘Not taxed for road use’ – last V5C issued by DVLA back in January 2006.
TB ???? (DVE 414)
Dave Lewis sent me this photo of DVE 414 with wartime blackout shutters. The car was owned by the late Bill Ison, a remarkable man.
Bill joined the RAF before the start of the war and trained as an engine fitter.
Once the war started, he volunteered for aircrew duties as an air gunner in Ansons, because he thought the girls would like the uniform!
He then transferred to North Africa on Blenheims and whilst there was selected for pilot training. Following his training in (what was then) Rhodesia, he returned to North Africa, now as a Blenheim pilot.
He later transferred back to England flying Lancasters and attacking the rocket bases in France.
After the war he went on to be a civilian flying instructor with Cambridge Flying Group. He taught for over 60 years on Tiger Moths, becoming Britain’s oldest Flying Instructor at the age of 89.
Sadly, he died at age 90.
He always talked very fondly of his MG, as the following extract from one of the many articles he wrote for The Cambridge Flying Group magazine attests:
“The Spring and Summer of 1940 were very typically seasonal, in that spring turned young men’s thoughts to love, and summer warmed them up to fruition. The war was ticking over, Dunkirk was just a French seaside town, and there was nothing much to shoot at (except the rabbits around our Norfolk aerodrome). I had just become an AG, with a half wing brevet (instead of the least glamorous flying bullet) and dear old Dad had bought me a new MG – black with cream upholstery and silver wire wheels, DVE 414.”
Dave Lewis, who learnt to fly on Tiger Moths at Cambridge Flying Group from 2005 with Bill Ison, would dearly like to know if Bill’s old TB has survived. He can be contacted as follows: d.o.lewis.dh82a(at)googlemail.com [Please substitute @ for (at)].
Ed’s note: DVE 414 does not come up from the DVLA search facility. Notwithstanding this, there are scores, possibly hundreds, of cars in being prior to the formation of the DVLA, which have never been registered on the system.
TA or TB or TC?
Ted Hack kindly sent me this photo. It was taken by his father, who was on his second or third major work trip to India in early 1966. Location was probably Poona, but could have been Bombay (now Mumbai). TA owner, Ted, bought his TA in 1963 so his dad knew that he would be interested to see a T-Type on India.
Here’s another, which appears to have ‘gone to ground’. Shown as ‘Untaxed’ on the DVLA search facility, the last V5C is recorded as 13th December 1985. Any leads, please to jj(at)ttypes.org [Please substitute @ for (at)].
TA3124 (CSF 886)
This one counts as a ‘Found’ as it was sold at Mathewsons Auctions in October for £12,000.
Rick Buckley is seeking early ownership (prior to 1965) information for his car, which he has recently acquired. He has details of the last two owners, but would like to complete the history file. He can be contacted at rick.buckley(at)btopenworld.com [Please substitute @ for (at)].
One that ‘slipped through my net’ and should have appeared in the August issue, with apologies to the owners. This car, which was featured in MG Enthusiast in 2008, was sold from Australia to the United States in 2012. It is possible, but not confirmed, that TC0721 may have found its way back to Australia.
The previous owners would love to get in touch with its present owner as they have some history on the car which they would like to pass on.
Contact details are juliananddi1(at)gmail.com [Please substitute @ for (at)].
(Mike sent this to the Octagon ‘Bulletin’ in response to a query raised by one of their members…. Ed)
It is easy to forget just how long ago our remarkable XPAG engines were designed. Retaining the oil in the engine was not the priority it is in today’s ‘perfect’ world.
Here I quote from my Green book ‘TCs Forever-More!’ page 75:
“(Again,) there are variations on the original ‘dog’s turd’ involving half-hearted attempts to fit a lip seal in its place. Now we have to turn to our own John Bowles once again for inspiration. J.B. devised a simple hand cutter, piloted off the crankshaft pulley threads to cut into the face of the timing cover and the sump at the same time, and so producing a round hole of appropriate size for a ‘Viton’ lip seal to run on the crank pulley boss. Ordinary ‘black’ lip seals will not do, as 5/6000 revs is a bit much for them. Naturally, the sump and gasket need to be fully bolted up for this operation. Replacement is simply a matter of removing the crank pulley. This time the original engineering solution was sadly lacking. Enough said. It was a long time ago.”
cutter shown piloted off the crankshaft
The small spindle passes through the centre of cutter head and threads into end of crankshaft with starter dog and pulley removed. A small handle at the rear drives the cutter forward by hand, a little at a time, while the two large handles turn the cutter.
This cutter is set in stages (not one big cut) to make a concentric hole in the face of timing cover and sump as one. The operator must make sure the hole being cut is as small as possible, ideally to fit a Viton seal of 36. 47. 7. dimensions, cutting only the front face into the void, (and not right through!). If the hole does not clean up at 47, then a slightly larger o/d seal may be needed.
In worse case, a steel ring may be required to house the standard seal.
One of my earliest motoring memories was watching a mechanic adjust the 16 tappets of a 1940’s era Buick straight 8. This was a time when the hydraulic self-adjusting tappet was something in science fiction and the ability to adjust tappets while the engine was hot and running was the benchmark of a skilled mechanic. I might add it is a skill that I have never been able to emulate and having once tried it with the MG, I can assure you that it is not practical as the resulting oil spray covers everything.
In the Buick instance, the mechanic took about 20 minutes to complete the task, though high oil pressure was not a feature of this era. Today, the mechanic’s tappet adjusting skills have largely been displaced by the hydraulic valve lifter and ‘technicians’.
I recently had cause to adjust XPAG tappets. Unlike the Buick, the XPAG procedure requires a hot engine and the rotating of the crankshaft manually to access the tappet gap of an identified valve, against the fully open position (the tipping point) of an identified valve rocker. The same adjusting procedure is also applied cold to MGA/B series tappets.
Of itself, the described procedure is simple, but age has a way making ‘the simple’ a struggle when it involves arthritic hands, eyes that have seen better days, a front pulley dog nut on which a tab locking washer interferes with the spanner fit and observing when the identified valve rocker has reached its maximum opening – the ‘tipping point’.
Considering the problem, I found a simple solution. As the accompanying photo shows, an open ended/ring spanner placed over the tappet rocker adjusting lock nut of the valve being opened, gives an exaggerated view of the valve rocker/valve movement and the picking of that elusive fully open ‘tipping point’.
From my first rebuild of a 1939 TA in the early 1970s to the rebuild of my 1939 TB TIckford in the 80s and then acquisition of a very original 1936 SA 25 years ago, originality was always top of the priority list. However, lurking deep down there has always been the desire to do something just a little special.
I think this goes back to the early 70s and seeing a very nice red single seater MG on a trailer at the Beaulieu Auto Jumble and being very impressed.
In 2018 I was looking around for an MG project in my then forthcoming retirement and had put the word out that I was looking for a TA/TB chassis and mechanics for just such a project. No sooner than I had mentioned this that I found the perfect opportunity of a complete TA chassis, axles, rebuilt MPJG engine and gearbox and lots of spares.
A deal was struck and I set about planning the project. The TA and TB Tickford had both taken 3 to 4 years to do but for this rebuild I set a target of driving the car 12 months from starting.
As I planned to supercharge the engine, I sold the MPJG engine and gearbox and purchased an XPAG engine which, rather than rebuild myself this time, I had rebuilt to facilitate my time scales.
I spoke to Steve Baker https://www.stevebakermg.co.uk to order one of his Q type bodies and arranged for the chassis to go to Steve for body fitting. At the same time, I had the rebuilt engine delivered to Steve along with a Hi Gear 5 speed box which he fitted. Steve then delivered the car back to me ready for full assembly.
I then took the car apart again for full assembly which included wiring, petrol pipe runs, dash board planning and assembly, body painting and fettling and fitting the myriad of jobs that are required in any rebuild.
Yes, I hit my target and 12 months from starting I was able to drive the car!
As I have done with all my MGs, I drive the car weekly throughout the year.
Now if I can find a Wilson preselector gearbox and nose hung Marshall or similar supercharger, I rather fancy doing another ………………………
I’ve picked up on Andrew’s comment “another MG that is now on the road after 40 years stuck in a garage going nowhere. like so many stalled projects all over the UK.”
I don’t know how many stalled projects there are in the UK, but I would hazard a guess that the figure for pre and immediate post-war MGs might run into the hundreds.
Within 10 miles of me I know of a TC and a TD which have been owned for many years. The owner had started work on the TD (the TC was totally dismantled) but he has recently passed away. I am not sure what has become of the cars, but I am concerned that they will never see the light of day.
Within 18 miles of me, a TB had ‘sat resting’ with what remained of its body taken off the chassis, for more years than the owner might admit. He took some persuading to part with his TB, but he finally realized that he would never finish the car and agreed to sell it.
Opinions vary on the fitting of racing type bodies to T-Series models, but it does at least put another car on the road, which would otherwise be unlikely to survive intact.
I must admit that I rather like them – I only wish I could afford to buy one!
After the return trip to Spain when I was 18, ‘TIZI’, (my 1936 MG TA), lay forgotten in the back of a stable while I went on to university (notable only for where I discovered a second love, an MG TF, and Civil Engineering).
As I was only 16 in 1963 when I acquired TIZI (see TTT 2 Issue 66), she remained registered in my mother’s name. She, in her wisdom, and unbeknown to the rest of the family, transferred the ownership to my son on his arrival. In the 1980s, ‘young Charles’, then 14, decided to visit the stable and uncover the patient….
His face lit up with a big smile ………….
…only to soon appreciate the extent of the
illness and seek expert medical input.
He mobilized a surgeon and the operating team and after inspection, the diagnosis was “very poorly, seriously neglected and perhaps terminal.”
A bit more probing….
…followed soon thereafter by an Xray….
…then some plasters……
….. but the bald tyres from 1968 / Madrid were left for later amputation! The only viable option, another anesthetic….
So followed a deep sleep back in the stable for another 20 years until the end of my work on the Channel Tunnel, the Humber Bridge, an oil terminal and a gas terminal (4½ miles north of Glasgow), the Jubilee line, a power station and a tunnel in London, the M4 motorway, Gatwick Airport Runway, three years in Saudi, 3 years in Paris and railways in Australia. No wonder ‘TIZI’ felt forgotten and unloved!
Finally, the prodigal engineer remembered his first love and decided to return to base and try to make up for all his neglect (of both ‘TIZI’ and the now 45 years old ‘young Charles’).
‘TIZI’ was to experience a new birth. The intent was to return her to the state I found her as a poor student, neither better nor worse – a time when it was then just her and me. A lifetime ago before all the future loves, distractions, family, cars (57), house moves and work had intervened.
Ten years of retrieving and transplanting body parts from the attic…
…. chroming, cleaning, mending – not least the driving seat intestines – followed, to help with the rebirth….
Then off to Adrian’s operating theatre at Finishing Touch in Weston-super-Mare for the final cosmetic surgery.
The new intern, Charles junior, sedated ‘TIZI’ and having first removed his surgical gloves to protect her spinal column, fixed her arteries / electrics.
….and having acquired the skill to graft on new top skin / tonneau, he discovered the special doctor-patient relationship, and with it the beginnings of responsibility and ownership.
‘TIZI’ is now completely recovered in full health, out of intensive care and back on the road, looking just as she did the day we fell in love in 1963.The old adage that one never forgets one’s first love is indeed true.
She is at last beginning to forgive me for even considering amputation of her bumpers and for all the intervening deep surgery and neglect.
Now it is over to young ‘Doctor Charles’ to find the joy of a first true love!
Some time ago I fitted a Roller Cam from Len Fanelli to my TD after it had eaten 3 camshafts and two sets of tappets, admittedly over a period of 40 years. After having discovered my TF had eaten a cam lobe after only 3000 miles, I decided to fit it with a roller cam. Following a lot of consideration, I went with the same performance cam as in the TD, even though the TF is more of a concours car, it keeps everything the same.
I decided to go the whole hog with a new set of roller rockers, 6 blade water pump and plastic fan while I was at it.
While communicating with John on his steel tappet gaskets he asked me to do some photos and write the installation up for TTT 2.
The kit ready to go.
I know some people out there manage to change springs using special tools and rope or air in the cylinders, but because these are 350lb open pressure springs, I went old school and removed the head.
This is the first time I have had to do any engine work since the car was restored so I am now finding out what an absolute pain it is to work on a TF compared to a TD.
Why MG didn’t leave the bonnet sides attached to the top as Morgan did, I don’t know. Off with front bumper, radiator and shell, giving access to the timing cover. Drop the sump. remove the distributor and generator, and off with its head.
Swapping out valve springs was not too difficult on the bench taking care not to damage seals, which had to be removed to get bottom steel cup on.
Removing the timing gears was not hard, but would have been easier if (1) chain had split link, or (2) I had two pullers. Constantly moving between the two gears, pulling a bit at a time on each one was very time consuming. there is not a lot of room to get leavers in.
Next, out with the old and in with the new camshaft. It was the usual pain to get the centre bearing in, fortunately I have a 4-post hoist which made life easier. I would not recommend doing it on axle stands but it could be done. Remember it has to go in one particular way, so it gets its oil feed.
Now for the cam followers, there are two ways to fit these. Link outwards or link inwards. To fit link inwards, you need to grind a bit of metal off the block to get them in, this I did with the TD.
If you fit them outwards there is a slim chance that, as the cork gasket gets saggy, they will cut a hole in it. I ordered a John James Metal Tappet Cover gasket, so it has the plenty of clearance and of course will not sag.
Now head is back on and followers in, so I can measure the length of the push rods and have them machined to size. When I did the TD a friend had a lathe, but he has sold that, so now I have to get a machine shop to do it, so more running around. Job keeps getting delayed, and finally took 3 weeks.
First mistake here – more later!
Warning – length of pushrods is quite critical so as not to get interference with rocker on full open. You will need 2 turns below the body of the rocker, in my case that was 4-5 turns from bottom of recess.
I already had a set of roller rockers but if you buy a set, bear in mind there are 4 different ones, just as there are 4 different original rockers. The only thing with the rollers is they are a bit harder to tell the difference, but you must get them right.
Refitted the side plate, timing gear cover, distributor, generator sump, put in fresh oil.
What to do with the exhaust manifold was another problem. For years I have had a 4 branch manifold, which I paid a lot of money for, but it will not fit with a Laystall Head due to it being 12.5mm wider. This pushes the manifold out and interferes with the steering shaft. It was no problem on the TD as that is left hand drive. I am trying to modify it, but in the mean time I have sent the original manifold and down pipe off for ceramic coating, which will be another month.
I managed to get the 4 branch modified so it would fit, but am having problems with pin hole leaks on my welding. I re-fitted the original, now it is back from coating.
Engine all back together, fresh fuel in the tank, set the CSI distributor and selected curve 11 and fired it up, ran OK, will get to tuning when I have connected up the radiator and everything else.
Heard a crack, didn’t think too much at the time so went ahead and refitted radiator and surround along with front bumper. Fired her up again and heard another crack. Pulled off the rocker cover and saw two rocker pillars had cracked between the bolts in line with the shaft. Between puling the valve gear apart and measuring and refitting several times, I managed to break another 6 pillars before I noticed the marks on the bottom of the rockers. It looked like the cup of the push rod had been making contact with the rocker when the valve was fully open.
The instructions that came from Harland Sharp (the manufacturer of the roller rockers) said to set the adjusting nut two threads down, I set it 2-3, but that was forgetting about the recess; it should have been 2 turns from the surface of the rocker, not from within the recess. This is to give clearance at full open for the pushrod cup. Until I get a new set of pillars I cannot prove this, but it looks the likely suspect. I have had the same set-up in the TD for about 8 years and never had a problem with pillar breakage.
I don’t have the tools to remove the cups from the push rods. They were quite a firm fit and required a hydraulic press to get them in. So, as I did not wish to damage them, I took the alternate route.
I drilled/ground out the recess until I could get full angle without interference at 3 turns. Probably a bit over the top but I only wanted to do it once
Now the wait for the new pillars.
John had wanted some information on driving with this set up, but after what happened I put him off, forgetting about the TD. So, after downloading an app I did some quick runs. Unfortunately, the only quiet 100km/h road near me is not level or straight, also I was starting on a gravel hard shoulder, so I could probably do better. But I think the times shown (see Note 1) are good for a road car in this day and age.
I have always liked the roller cam in my TD, but I will say, it feels better with the CSI distributor. Thanks to the supplier* and one of his clients who put a similar spec motor on the Dyno and found the optimum curve (see Note 2). No pinking or missing and even the gear stick rattle at 3000rpm seems to have gone.
Bernard W Wood (New Zealand)
Ed’s note: *Roller/Lifter camshaft kits are supplied by Len Fanelli of Abingdon Performance: laf48′ ‘at’ aol.com
I am aware that there has been much debate about these kits on T Series sites and there are some who say they would not entertain fitting them.
The last thing I want is to get caught up in any controversy regarding this. I am not advocating fitting the kit; my sole objective in publishing Bernard’s article is to provide a technical article which readers might find interesting. Bernard had previously mentioned to me when I sent him the steel tappet chest gasket kit, that he was just about to fit one of Len Fanelli’s roller/lifter camshaft kits to his TF. Always keen to gather in articles, I asked him if he would write one for me. Although he would have preferred to have waited until he had overcome the difficulty mentioned in the article, he agreed to my request because I was short of copy at the time.
The performance figures from his TD with the Fanelli roller/lifter camshaft kit are set out below, after Note 1 (the engine spec). Note 2 shows an advance curve using different CSI distributor settings. The optimum curve is setting 11.
These should be possible with Bernard’s TF, once he has sorted it (to be reported in a future issue).
Note 1 Bernard’s TD’s XPAG is 1250cc +80 thou Laystall Aluminium head with 32cc chambers – about 9.8:1 CR, Fanelli performance roller cam and roller rockers, 1½” Carbs, 4 branch manifold, CSI electronic distributor curve 11. Uses 95 octane fuel and has a 4.55 diff.
Performance figures (100km/h road not level or straight, and starting on a gravel hard shoulder
0-60 km/hr 5.0 sec
0-100 km/hr 15.0 sec
0-60 mph 14.0 sec
¼ 14.0 sec
1/8 mile 7.0 sec
Note 2 Bernard says that curve 11 is very close to the original curve if you set the static timing at 10 deg. BTDC instead of 0 deg.
In October’s issue of TTT 2, we left Paul, Christine, and the MG TC at a campsite just north of Rome. There was less than 1/2 gallon of petrol in the car, enough to travel about 15 miles. They only had 30p in Italian Lire, not enough to buy breakfast, let alone any petrol.
In 1977, credit cards, cash machines and the like did not exist. The only way to get foreign currency was to go to a bank, with your passport and cash in some traveller’s cheques. Food and petrol had to be bought with cash.
With the scariest episode of the trip still to come, what could they do?
Paul Ireland continues where he left off in the previous issue……
“Fortunately, ‘Sir Good Fortune’ smiled on us the next day. We found the camp site would cash our traveller’s cheques, and at a reasonable rate. Just ‘around the corner’ there was a petrol station. It was open! We were ‘trucking again’!
Our next stop was Viterbo. Here we saw advertisements for a free concert. Vivaldi, the Four Seasons. What better way to spend an evening? After our evening meal we walked to where the performance was to take place. It was already full and we were directed up a narrow spiral staircase onto a balcony. From here we could look down on the dozen or so performers.
It was a hot and humid evening. The enthusiastic conductor was smartly dressed in black tails. While the performance fell short of the London Philharmonic, the location and atmosphere made it a very enjoyable experience. From the number of encores, everybody apparently agreed it was magnifico. By the end of the evening the poor conductor was drenched in sweat.
Our problem came when it was time to leave. A large priest was blocking the narrow doorway to the staircase. Before people were allowed past him, they bowed their heads, crossed themselves and said a few words in Italian. How could we leave? I suggested, “Let’s do the same as the locals and quietly mumble a few words.”
Next, we visited Orvieto and its amazing black and white striped stone walls (like a humbug) cathedral – somewhere well worth a visit if you get the chance. This was followed by Assisi.
We got to Assisi up a winding and very narrow road. I am sure you can imagine my astonishment, when in the car park, a large coach was disgorging Americans. “I cannot see how that managed to get here” I commented to Christine. As we left, we waved to the somewhat bemused American tourists. I cannot imagine what they thought about seeing a classic British sports car in Italy.
Our descent was on a road that was almost a motorway. That is how the coach got there. We had arrived by the ‘back way’!
With the exception of a very hot, 40 minutes ‘stop start’ queue where TC nearly boiled, the rest of the trip up through Italy passed mostly, without incident. Just a delayed departure from the hotel one morning to clean out the oil that had leaked into a rear drum. Travelling through Austria (before the need for a Carnet), into Germany, stopping at a camp site by Lake Constance. Boy did it rain that night!
In the ‘good old days’ tents were not as sophisticated as they are now. No sewn-in ground sheet or fly sheet that covered the whole tent. The ends of our tent were exposed to the weather. Woe-betide anything that touched either end when it was raining. The morning came and the heavy rain continued. I had left TC with its tonneau cover as it was the only way to keep the car dry. Despite the cane (see pic below) the tent was full of puddles. The sleeping bags and nearly everything else was damp. Fortunately, an Italian family took sympathy on Christine, allowing her to shelter as I put up the hood, installed the side panels and loaded the very wet TC with a very wet tent and camping gear.
As we drove on through Germany, the weather brightened and, despite protests, I took the hood down. “It will help things dry out” I said. That was, of course, until Christine pointed out the rain was actually making things wetter. So, the hood went back up. Shortly afterwards, shock and horror! Coming towards us was an old Mercedes followed by a German TF. HOOD DOWN! I had hardly stopped moaning that this reflected very badly on the British, when in my mirror I saw a rapidly approaching Mercedes, lights flashing. At the first opportunity, I stopped and was greeted by a German who said “I no speak English, you stop.” We waited in embarrassed silence until the TF arrived. Fortunately, the TF driver could speak a smattering of English.
He explained they were going to an ‘old timer’ car rally and please would we go with them. Now sandwiched between a Mercedes and a TF, we agreed. ‘Kidnapped’ by the Germans!
Parked up at the event, you can just see our TC poking out between the Mercedes and TF that hijacked us.
All I can remember of the route we took was that it involved a car ferry. When we stopped, we found ourselves in Strasbourg. Our ‘captors’ arranged accommodation for us but I remember very little of the rest of the evening. Too much schnapps!
The next day, the rain had passed, the classic cars, Germans included, had dispersed. The sun shone. Hood down saw us driving along very quiet scenic roads through verdant forests. In 1977 there were still border controls between European countries. We rounded a corner and across the road was a barrier – an old-style barrier with a concrete block on one end. On the left-hand side of the road was a sentry box. The barrier and sentry box were immaculate, as if new. We had come to the German border, strangely without passing anything to indicate we were leaving France.
Imagine the scene. A deserted road through the forest. A 1930’s style car with two passengers, stationary by a barrier. The sentry-box. A picture that would not have been out of place at the start of World War 2.
In the 1970’s there was a series on TV that both Christine and I watched. It was called “The Secret Army” – a story about an escape line in Belgium. It was the serious precursor to the comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo! You can still find it on watch again TV.
In The Secret Army, the extremely sadistic Gestapo officer, Kessler, was superbly portrait by the actor Clifford Rose. You got a chill in your spine whenever he appeared.
Just as might have happened in World War 2, out of the sentry box came a soldier, fingering a machine gun, pointed in our direction. Scary? Even scarier! He was the splitting image of Kessler, right down to the wire rimmed glasses.
We froze in horror.
‘Kessler’ strode purposefully up to the TC, machine gun pointing at us all the time. When he got to the car he demanded of Christine. “Passports”! By then she already had them in her quaking hand.
He then walked slowly around the car. It seemed like an age.
It was as if he had three hands. One hand was firmly placed on the machine gun, the second held the passports while the third flicked through the pages. His eyes, through those wire rim glasses, appeared to be focused accusingly on us, just flickering occasionally to look at the documents. I watched him with horror in the rear-view mirror as he inspected the suit cases on the luggage rack.
We waited in terrified silence.
After what appeared like an age, sitting in terror, he arrived back at the passenger door. He paused, then in aggressive tones said slowly “Ah so – “we have zee British …. Yah!”
At this point I was wondering if we could make a run for it. The barrier was just higher than TC’s bonnet. Or if it would be better to try to escape as he took us into the woods to be shot. I decided the latter option would give us more chance.
‘Kessler’ continued, “so the British” (long pause) “they must visit Bad Gastein”, or some similar place, I did not hear the full name, panic makes one deaf. He continued “I was born there; it is a very nice place!” At which point he clicked his heels together and handed back the passports. After we had both mumbled “of course, we are just going there” he strolled to the concrete block to lift the barrier.
As soon as it was high enough, TC was accelerating flat out. Once we had rounded the corner, I stopped so we could both recover from the shock. It is one moment of the trip that is burned into our memories.
After that scare we had an uneventful journey up to Brussels where we had arranged to stay with my cousin who was working there.
You must have heard the old joke. “How do you get four elephants in a Mini?” Answer, “two in the front and two in the back” After my cousin had gone to work, we decided to go with his family for a short trip to a tourist attraction. Well, “how do you get three adults and two children in a TC?” Simple, three in the front and two in the back!
The previous evening my cousin had told us a story. He said that one day, his boss ran into the office. Slamming his door, he told his secretary he was not to be disturbed. A few minutes later a Federal Police officer, dressed in black leather, arrived, burst into his boss’s office, despite the protests of his secretary. Dragging his boss from underneath his desk where he had been hiding, the police officer served a notice for some road traffic offence or other. My cousin added that in Belgium there were the Local police who were friendly and the Federal police. “Do not upset the Federal police” he warned, “they can be very aggressive.”
Fortunately, we were not going very far with five up. Just after starting our journey, Michael, sitting at the back with Christine asked, “What does that say on the motorbike, the one that is following us with the man in black?” POLICE! Fortunately for us, the Federal police man either decided a MG TC really was a 5-seater or that prosecuting the British would be too difficult. He turned off at the next junction. Lucky escape or what?
On our way back we had arranged to stay with a university friend at his flat in Crystal Palace. That was in the days before the Congestion Charge and London Ultra Low Emission Zone. To show our gratitude we had bought what, from the picture on the packet, looked like a sumptuous meal. Gnocchi. A few days after we arrived home, our friend telephoned and told us all the packet contained was what looked like dried potato flour. His evening meal with his flat mate had been a complete disaster. We later learned Gnocchi powder is used to make miniature pasta dumplings, and consists of wheat, eggs, and potatoes. It is not a whole meal.
Finally, after 4 weeks we arrived back home, much to Christine’s father’s relief. A journey of a lifetime that remains still strong in our memories.
The TC had completed the whole trip without any real problems. It shows just how robust these little British sports cars are.
My advice to any T-Type owner is, do not leave it languishing in the garage, get it out and use it. The roads in Europe are now much better than the UK, smooth and quiet. If you do not fancy going it alone, why not join the T Register spring or autumn tours, or the MG Octagon Car Club Founders Weekend? In that way you can really enjoy your T-Type and perhaps experience a memorable trip such as ours. Rome and back in 1977.
Paul and Christine Ireland
Just for the sake of historical accuracy, the first cash machine, known as an ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) was installed on 27th June 1967 in the branch of Barclays in Enfield, North London.
I can recall trips to mainland Europe with my parents in the 1960s. Passing through Customs’ posts was quite an ordeal – I think it was the uniform of the border guards and the guns they carried that frightened us.
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