MG TC Special from Down Under

Stewart Kendell has re-created the Golden Era of motor racing with this meticulous restoration and construction of a MG TC Special. The Special has been featured in a publication of the MG Car Club Canberra by Jim Gibson and Jim has given permission for the Editor to adapt it for publication in TTT 2.

Photo 1 – Stewart Kendell’s TC Special.

The clean and simple lines of the MG TC really epitomised the evolution of design of the immediate pre- and post-war British affordable sports car. It was eminently suitable for its intended purpose with absolutely no decoration – a great example of simplicity being the essence of function and beauty.

Stewart Kendell, the restorer/constructor of the MG TC Special in this article, was well aware of the pitfalls of deviating from the Factory original specs in the knowledge that they can be many and unforeseen. Subsequent remedies can be costly, time consuming and frustrating, and in themselves can lead to later problems.

After two successful careers plus two ten-year TC restorations, Stewart decided at the age of 75, that he would take on this project and give it a go anyway. Six years later and now aged 81, the little racer was finished and at its first two outings it won three trophies.
So what makes a normally sane man with no formal qualifications in design, engineering or metallurgy, believe he can produce something as good as, or even nearly as good as, a famous automobile manufacturer? The first answer is “delusions” and the second is “No he can’t.” quips Stewart.

The two guiding principles were that workmanship must be of the highest quality and the final overall visual impression, from any angle, should fit comfortably into the period of the TB/TC. Sounds simple enough, but the execution is another matter entirely.

The car is 20kg lighter than a TC. The GRP (fibreglass) body from the bonnet back is much lighter than the original, but the internal steel frame and roll bar fully braced sub frame negates much of this saving. The bonnet, lower panels and cycle guards are also steel.

Even though this restoration is of a 1948 TC, Stewart wanted to re-create the glory days of the 1930s when MGs, like the K3 Magnette racer for instance, ruled the racing circuits. These cars were successfully raced in 1933, winning the 1100 cc class in the Mille Miglia driven by Capt. George Eyston and Count Lurani. The K3 also scored an outright victory in the Ulster RAC Tourist Trophy (TT) race, where the car was driven by the legendary, Tazio Nuvolari, at an average speed of 78.65mph. The K3 attracted many great names in the racing world – Sir Tim Birkin of Bentley fame, Whitney Straight and ‘Hammy’ Hamilton.

Getting started

Stewart had been through a bout of illness and after his recuperation said to his wife Helen – “I need some therapy in the form of a car restoration, something I can create with my own hands” – so after a nod from Helen the search began.

He’d owned many MGs from the square-rigger T– Types to the very smooth-lined MGA and B models. However, he was particularly fond of the iconic TC.

He found one in Sydney that someone else had partly assembled and was for sale, together with parts collected over a 20-year period. The boat tail GRP body came later, one of nine manufactured years before by Graham Paine in Melbourne. It was to be fitted in lieu of the standard TC wood and steel version. The detail in the fibreglass moulding is superb – what would have been rivets on an original steel body have been replicated and look very authentic.

The rolling chassis and associated parts arrived on a trailer at Stewart’s house in Surf Beach on the NSW South Coast. This became the start of a 51⁄2- year journey in bringing this unique little sports car to life.

Stewart’s meticulous attention to detail is demonstrated in its first-class presentation – this was no ordinary restoration.

The Execution

Stewart painstakingly manufactured the many additional special components needed, striving for accuracy and only used outside artisans for the body painting and seat upholstery. However he did work in an advisory capacity, in conjunction with local area tradesmen on specialist stainless steel welding and high-quality machine shop fitting and turning.

A steel frame had to be constructed and fitted to the TC’s chassis and the chassis had to be shortened at the rear.

Photo 2 shows the steel frame fitted to the chassis.

As Stewart pointed out before starting the project, there are pitfalls when deviating from standard specification. He found on several occasions that had he been a couple of steps ahead of himself, he would have fitted some components in a slightly different position, because in not doing so, another part, when he came to its fitment, had to be repositioned.

The TC’s 19-inch spoke wheels had rusted and the brake drums were not serviceable, so once again with attention to detail being the criterion – brand new ones were ordered (very expensive, but necessary) as the finished product had to be perfect.

After the engine sludge was removed, the engine was reconditioned. It has a standard bore and stroke – the bearings are standard thanks to a pristine Wolseley crankshaft, which was part of the treasure trove of parts (as there’s a lot of commonality between the XPAG [MG] and XPAW [Wolseley] engines of the day). Stewart also has another XPAG engine, which can be suitably modified as a racing engine, should more power be needed in the future.

The gearbox is standard TC, but the differential’s crown wheel and pinion are Morris Minor 4.55:1 taller ratio.

He painstakingly cut holes in the dash to house the instruments and controls and then covered it with green vinyl to match the leather seats.

The front mudguards and stays were a challenge, he says, “It took me several attempts to position them correctly, to allow clearance for front wheel cut.”

To see this little sports car in the flesh is a delight for anyone with an eye for early 20th century red- blooded sports/racing cars.

Ed’s note: A very pleasing result and looks a nice practical car to drive. Chassis number is TC4486.

Photo 3 – the dash has the original instruments, albeit arranged differently.

Photo 4 – much the same engine bay as a standard TC

Photo 5 – view from the rear