MAD about T-Types? The Motor Assemblies Durban (MAD) built MG TDs

Firstly, my thanks to John James for such an excellent publication. Secondly, and given the current virus situation and the inability to use my MG TD, I thought it about time that I contributed to that excellent publication. Way back in 2018 I was looking for a replacement classic car, having sold my previous XJ-S in order to facilitate the building of a garage and driveway. My thoughts led me to an MGA or a Frogeye Sprite, but then looking at the various sites I suddenly realised that a T-Type would be within budget, albeit one requiring work. Well, I found one and one that was slightly unique in that it was a CKD assembled in Durban in 1950 and having spent its early life in what was then Rhodesia. This is where the fun began.

As a TD requiring work, I was perhaps fortunate that the car was complete and far from a basket case, but the car had been unused for many years. Indeed, reviewing the history, it was last used in anger way back in the late 1960s when it resided in Rhodesia – the history showed that it had been dismantled when in Rhodesia before being exported to South Africa and then sold to a new owner who planned to rebuild it as a hobby. The car was therefore purchased as requiring recommissioning and in February 2019 I set out to get the car ready for use. I can write many interesting articles about the fun (?) I had when stripping the car and the multitude of problems I found (gearbox, engine, body frame, etc.). However, this is not the time nor the place. What I would like to discuss, or find out more about, is the Motor Assemblies Durban or MAD built MG TDs – thanks to Mike Johnson from Cape Town MG Club for passing on the apt MAD acronym.

I must be honest, one of the attractions of this particular TD was the fact that it was a CKD car and the plate that identified the car as the 127th of the 345 built by Motor Assemblies Durban (see image later in this article). I did do some research and found the following interesting site http://motor-assemblies.blogspot.com/2012/01/motor-assemblies-limited.html Also, from an earlier edition of Totally T-Type 2.

  • CKD TDs supplied to South Africa:

Clausager, in his book Original MG T Series records that 345 CKD (Completely Knocked Down TDs – essentially kits of parts) were supplied to South Africa, most of them in 1950. I have had recent correspondence with Pierre van Hell in South Africa about his TD (TD 1328). The Production Records list chassis numbers 1328 to 1337 as CKD cars (probably produced around April 1950 – exact date not given in the Production Records) and Pierre confirms that his TD was built by Motor Assemblies in Durban and that it was the 31st TD built by this company.

Whilst interesting, the detail relating the TD was scant and left me with more questions than answers. What were those questions? First and foremost, what actually is inferred by CKD? If you do a little research this can cover a whole host of sins from a fully built car being disassembled before shipping (correctly referred to as SKD or semi-knocked down), but can also be extended to include vehicles that are only partially assembled i.e. vehicles without key components or systems as these would be locally sourced or indeed cars that were never assembled, but only ever a kit of parts. Second, what was the local content for the MAD TDs? Thirdly, what adaptations to the assembly were introduced – due to limitations or differences in practice at the local assembly plant? Why did I have these particular questions? Well one reason is given below.

Reading the book by Clausager ‘Original MG T Series’ the location of the three plates (chassis/engine, body type/number and patent) for the TD is given as:

Chassis/Engine – front face LHS tool box
Patent Plate – above Chassis/Engine plate on front face tool box
Body Type/Number – bulkhead to LHS of toolbox Made in England – LH end of tool box (only export cars assembled Abingdon)

Example of an Abingdon built MGTD showing the location of the various plates.

Having removed the plates (and a plate with the MAD build number) I was about to replace as indicated by Clausager – my plates were all located on the bulkhead to the LHS of the tool box prior to removal. However, I could find no locating holes in the locations indicated by Clausager and no evidence of any holes having been filled. As opposed to drilling new holes in the bulkhead I thought some further investigation was required and what I found was interesting. With thanks to Mike Johnson and Tim Wilkinson, both owners of MAD built TDs, who sent me the following details:

Tim Wilkinson (TD1580) – UK

  • I also don’t have the initial history of my TD. When I acquired it in the late 1960s the car was supercharged and the colour scheme had already been changed to red with biscuit upholstery (the original colours were visible underneath). I believe it had been raced in the Johannesburg area. Another difference in my CKD car is that the engine was originally painted grey, which I think is a colour inherited from the TC. After an initial restoration in Cape Town I brought the car with me to the UK in 1973. I subsequently took it to Arizona where I was working for five years, and then back to the UK where I did another respray and refurbishment. We are currently in St Albans. There was also a significant amount of extra chroming which was probably in vogue at the time.
  • The Motor Assemblies ID plate on my car came with a painted infill, which I’ve tried to keep intact. Others may possibly have been removed during refurbishments over the years?
  • For the record, my TD was built in Durban, South Africa by a company called Motor Assemblies. It has a normal engine number. The Abingdon body type/number plate was left blank. Instead it has an extra Motor Assemblies plate giving the number TD 51.
  • I don’t know in what form exactly the CKD kits were shipped, but local content could have included at least paint, glass, tyres, batteries and interior trim. Tom Lange concludes that the engines were shipped separately and I agree. My car was originally a pale blue green colour (maybe Almond Green) with dark green (Apple Green?) interior trim which I don’t think was an Abingdon combination. You can find more information on Motor Assemblies on the web.

Mike Johnson (TD1736) – Chair MG Club Cape Town

  • I have attached photos of our car which I bought in 1963 at the age of 18.  It was laid up for 30 years during this time but now back in regular use in its distinctive Clipper Blue colour.  Fran and I went on honeymoon in it 48 years ago and although I have a MGA as well, the TD remains our favourite – obviously.  To brag, our TD and Martin Davies’ TD appeared very briefly in the first episode of the BBC series the “The Crown” which was partly filmed here in Cape Town.
  • Believe all the MAD cars had the brass plates on the left-hand side of the fire-wall as per the attached photo from my car.  As I recall, most MAD TDs I have looked at were the same.  My car has chassis number 1736 and engine number XPAG 2237 stamped on the respective plates but no body number. 
  • It was often mentioned to me over the years that with CKD cars the individual components were crated separately i.e. assembled engines in one, gearboxes in another, chassis, body parts and so on.  This I have heard from people who were involved in the motor trade.  I know from my own days at sea in the Merchant Marine, before containers came onto the scene, crates destined for assembly plants were usually in differing weights and sizes perhaps indicating different contents.

Further investigation revealed that indeed it appears that most MAD built TDs have plates on the bulkhead to the LHS of the tool box as indicated by Mike (only one car has them located as indicated by Clausager and this was an early car No. 51) and that the body type/number plate is unstamped. I have so far located 11 of the MAD built TDs and all these verify the above (with the one exception noted) and representative images are shown below in support of the above. The following images show my car (No. 127) and Mike Johnson’s (No. 67).

My CKD MAD assembled MG TD showing a close up of the plates. Note the unstamped body type/no. plate.

Above: My CKD MAD assembled MG TD showing the location of the plates Below: Mike Johnson’s.

Close up of the plate of Mike Johnson’s CKD MAD assembled MG TD (No.67).

It would be interesting to know how the plates were married up to the vehicle. I am assuming that this happened at Abingdon at final assembly as pictures of tubs for dispatch from Coventry to Abingdon show no locating holes for any of the plates. If the plates were indeed in a different location and the body plate was unstamped, then what would this indicate? Would it have been more likely that the car was never built up at Abingdon (or only partially built)?   Another interesting fact is that the engine numbers are stamped differently to the chassis numbers – done locally and at a different date. The indication is that the engines were shipped in batches and then allocated to the car at the assembly plant (top photo is a MAD assembled TD; bottom is an Abingdon built TD). This would support the fact that the CKD kits supplied to MAD were indeed not complete cars, but only partial cars.

An example showing the different stamping for the engine no. for the MAD assembled MGTD.

From a search on the Internet, the following was mentioned by Tom Lange in relation to MAD assembled TDs and engine numbers:

“The Production Records show one interesting thing: while TA cars listed as CKD had engine numbers supplied when dispatched, not a single TC, TD or TF CKD car has an engine number given in the record. I believe this makes clear that those cars were shipped without engines (to avoid taxes), and that batches of engines were kept separate. Only when the cars were finally destination-assembled would an engine be selected from the supplies, inserted into a chassis, and the engine number stamped onto the Guarantee plate.”

If anyone reading this can help me further with my investigations into the MAD built TDs then let me know (via the editor) Please note that these are only my thoughts and based upon the information I have obtained. I am quite happy to be corrected based upon further information being made available.

Final thought – ‘You do not have to be mad to own a TD, but you can own a MAD TD.’

2 thoughts on “MAD about T-Types? The Motor Assemblies Durban (MAD) built MG TDs

  1. LJUden says:

    Hello,
    I have a MAD TD. It was built 2nd May, 1950, chassis number 1507 and exported to S.A. as CKD but there is some suggestion that it went first, or via Eire. It has a MAD plate giving car number 74. I have the names of all of the owners, the first being Ken + Bobbie Lloyd of Natal who purchased it new in 1951. Later it was sold and went to Zambia then The Seychelles and later repatriated to U.K.
    When new it is thought to have been Ivory but there is a vague suggestion it may have been red. By the time it went to The Seychelles it was blue. In the U.K. it became “a poor BRG.” It is now, B.M.C. Connaught Green. It has been registered in 4 different countries, had at least 4 changes of colour and 7 owners. It still has its original engine but now has a 5 speed box and I use it as often as I can. Lionel Uden, Devon.

    • Huw says:

      Thanks Lionel. It is surprising how many of the MAD cars are now in the UK. Would be great of you were able to send some pictures. Let me know via the editor. Huw

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