Restoration report on a MG Special 1951

The car is a MG TD MK II special and possibly the only one of the custom built bodies made under German post war production which survived in Europe (some may be in the US).

The initiator and designer of the car body was almost certainly Christian Odendahl, racing driver and MG dealer before and after the war. Odendahl was racing MGs at that time and he appears to have placed the order for the manufacture of the body to coach builder Fritz Hennefahrt Co. located in Bad Cannstatt a suburb of Stuttgart, Southern Germany.

Stuttgart is one of the major car industry centres of Germany and is probably better known to most readers as the home of such names as Gottlieb Daimler, Mercedes Benz, Porsche and Bosch.

The book “Aus Liebe zum Sportwagen” written by Hagen Nyncke and Halwart Schrader explains that MG importer Woodhouse asked Hennefahrt to build a copy of the TD body on a rolling chassis supplied by Abingdon due to the shortage of steel after WW II.

The finished cars were distributed among the handful of German MG dealers. Most, if not all were sold to GI’s who took them back to the USA.

The Hennefahrt MG used one of the first three TD MK II left hand drive chassis frames produced by Abingdon. These were as follows:

TD/C3670 EXL Engine no. XPAG/TD/LHX 3578

TD/C3671 EXL Engine no. XPAG/TD/LHX 3517

TD/C3672 EXL Engine no. XPAG/TD/LHX 2272

Two of these are said to have gone to Germany of which TD/C3671 was one.

The date of production of the above three chassis was 05/10/50, 06/10/50 and 06/10/50 respectively.

The Hennefahrt car was equipped with a more powerful engine of 72 BHP. The tuning of the TD MKII engine from 57 BHP to 72 BHP was possibly done already at Abingdon works and the original first German registration papers of the car dated 05 May 1951 (reproduced below – click image to zoom in) actually showed 72 BHP rating (shown as 72 PS). Andrex shock absorbers were installed (as they were on the MK II model) which improved handling.

During the period from 1951 to 1956 while the car was owned by racing driver Odendahl of Cologne, more modifications were done to the front body line with a view to giving it a more modern look. This included modifications to the bonnet, head lights, radiator shell and slats and bumper bars. Additionally, the car was equipped with single seats and a newly designed two sectional chrome plated steel frame to hold the wind screens.

The registration document showing the change of ownership from Christain Odendahl to Manfred Schnabel in Frankfurt in March 1956.

The car was on the road for an estimated total period of 10-12 years only. From its first owner at Cologne (Odendahl) it changed to the second owner in Frankfurt and was later registered at Augsburg near Munich / Bavaria until the early 1960s.

At this point in time it ‘disappeared’ and it was feared that it had been scrapped. However, approximately 40 years later in 2003 when the widow of the last owner asked some workmen to dismantle a utility shed in the garden, the car was discovered amongst a heap of scrap and in the company of a wide range of collected metal items such as agricultural tractors, juke boxes, casino slot machines, etc.

As one would expect, the condition of the car which had been sitting in the shed for such a period of time was very sad. The colour of the bodywork at that time was turquoise / green. The rear wings had dropped off, so did the doors when one tried to open them and all the other remaining parts were in a similarly poor state. The front right hand side showed signs of damage caused by an accident.

Fortunately, the car was mostly complete with all the essential mechanical and electrical parts still in place.

Three views of TD/C3671 as found in the shed.

Following the discovery of TD/C3671 a classic car dealer from the North of Germany acquired the MG. The car was given a quick reassembly job and a touch of paint covering the worst looking spots.

In 2006 the car then found a new owner in Bavaria / Southern Germany. This person was prepared to invest in the restoration of the MG and he contracted a panel beater company for the body work. The company started to make jigs for the front and rear wings, and started to fabricate new doors. The various layers of paint on the body shell were removed by hand and without the use of sand blasting.

Part way through the job of restoring the sheet metalwork and after 450 contract man hours the owner ran out of money and he decided to stop all work. No restoration work had been done to the mechanical and electrical parts, but all was still completely there. In addition a spare cylinder head was available. An original hood and a second double lined (winter time) hood were of no use anymore but offered a basis for a reproduction.

The Hennefahrt MG was now partly dismantled and semi restored and offered for sale on the internet. Potentially interested parties were scared of hidden surprises with the potential risk of unexpected possible extra efforts and cost incurred to complete the restoration. For a long time no buyer was found and the car ended up to be stored outdoors under a tarpaulin in front of a home in the Bavarian countryside.

By coincidence Rainer Kuehner discovered the Hennefahrt MG and in 2013 he became the proud new owner. Rainer, being a professional restorer running a car body and paint shop. was game enough to tackle the job of finishing the restoration project.

Interestingly enough, more than 60 years after the car was first put on the road in the town of Stuttgart and after a tricky tour of different parts of Germany, it now returned to the Southern part of the country again. Rainer’s home at Moeckmuehl is a small country town located only about 40 km from Stuttgart.

The car was still mostly complete with all its essential parts intact and with only some minor bits missing. The boot was filled with left over, or not as yet used, sheet metal pieces which were partially fabricated and at various stages of completion; some of rather questionable ‘fit for purpose’.

The body had been primed by the Bavarian company and was now mostly in grey colour. The threshold plate showed traces of what might have been the original paint. Quite possibly the original colour of the Hennefahrt MG was silver grey.

The body being removed from the chassis.

Having acquired the car the first step was now to dismantle it and the body was lifted off the frame. The entire sheet metal body was dipped in an acid / caustic bath to remove all rust.

Body having now emerged from the dipping process

Next it was given a first primer coat followed by sanding. The accident damage in front was repaired and cosmetic correction to small dents done which had been ignored by previous panel work. Various front and rear quarter panels were made up and replaced.

The doors had a straight panel section inserted at the lower part which had to be cut out again. A rounded panel was fabricated and inserted to maintain the contour of the flowing body line.

Subsequently a second primer coat (green colour) was applied to the parts finished.

The engine overhaul work was done by Wanner Parts Service near Offenburg / Southern Germany. Prior to sending the engine block to Franz Wanner the starter motor, dynamo, oil filter, water pump and other outside mounted items were removed.

The cylinder block had a re-bore with new oversize pistons installed, and the crankshaft was reground with all new bearings fitted. The original crankshaft seal to clutch housing was replaced with a Simmering type oil seal including a fabricated seal housing flange. The cylinder head was planed and the valve seats were reground.

After the engine block had been closed up again it was spray painted in the original red colour.

The carburettors were in a very poor condition and were in need of a complete overhaul. After disassembly the housings were glass bead blasted. The jets, fittings, moving parts and linkage were replaced as necessary.

The gear box and differential gear were overhauled using all new bearings and new replacement parts where necessary. A new prop shaft was provided.

Both front and back axles were sand blasted and spray painted with two component epoxy resin primer. Aluminum parts were glass bead blasted.

After sand blasting the exhaust pipe and muffler parts the material of the assembly was considered to be of sufficient integrity to be coated with temperature resistant paint and then hopefully will be suitable for reinstallation. Time will tell.

Another area which still requires major attention are the Andrex shock absorbers. On both the left and right unit the lever had been welded to the spline shaft, when the splines were worn or damaged. So far it has not been possible to source any replacement parts for these Andrex units and Rainer is still looking for an alternative solution. A local machine shop is possibly available to fabricate a spline shaft.

Rainer Kuehner, the proud owner – lucky man!

The radiator was given to a specialised company for reconditioning. The radiator shell and slats appear to be MGA, however the dimensions are different. It is not known whether it is possibly a prototype or custom made unit from England.

The starter and dynamo will need to be sent away for overhaul by a local shop. All dashboard instruments are present and will need to be reconditioned by a specialised company.

The planned schedule is to have the body work finished by spring of 2016, followed by installation of new wiring and completing the electrical system. The brake system has to be put into operation. At this moment the engine and gear box have been put into place only. More engine ancillaries have to be re-assembled and engine re-commissioning is to be done.

(Report compiled by Georg Rahm with light editing by John James).