The Dick Jacobs MG TD Special (SHK 7)

The June Issue of TTT 2 featured an article by Matt Sanders on the Dick Jacobs TA Special (CS 7695). Mention was made, and a picture included, of the successor to the TA, a TD-based Special (SHK 7). This attracted the attention of reader, Rob Dunsterville, from New South Wales, who when living in England, wrote an article on SHK 7 which was published in The Classic MG Yearbook 1974. This was edited by the late Dick Knudson, co-founder of the New England MG T Register in USA. To quote Rob from a recent email to me, “I was greatly assisted by Dick Jacobs himself and he corrected my draft and approved the final story so the details are authentic.” 

The article was entitled ‘SPECIAL, SPECIAL’ and with Rob’s permission (as the author) I have reproduced it here. I need to point out that whilst the words have been faithfully reproduced, the layout is different, due in part to print size, font, and positioning of some photos between the original article, as published, and TTT 2. Also, the pic of SHK 7 with rigged up rough luggage rack is different to the one originally published. The pic of the front suspension is ‘landscape’ rather than ‘portrait’.



Rob Dunsterville

To some, the ownership of an MG special is more exciting than owning a concours premier class winner. To own one that was well known in its competitive heyday, being driven to and from every event, must be going one step further. Perhaps the ultimate is the T Type special registered SHK 7. This is the car built up by Dick Jacobs whose career with MG’s is legend.

Tim O’Rorke is the lucky man with this car now in his London garage. In fact, it could be said that he is doubly lucky as this is his second ownership. He sold SHK 7, after worthy service, when his demands of motoring were beyond its capabilities.

He regained it when, by chance, he was browsing through a copy of Autosport early in 1973 and saw the familiar registration number in the sale column. The sirens called and with nostalgic memories flashing through his mind he set off in the successful pursuit of his old amour.

The Beginning

Dick Jacobs had been driving TC’s and the earliest TD’s for the MG Factory in races for production sports cars. From additional experience with his TA/TC (1937 chassis) based special, he could see in the TD the basis for a more successful car and set about building just that. A brand new TD chassis   had its rear end cut off and the rear end was ingeniously relocated using Panhard rods and coil springs, Dick says, “The production of this chassis was entirely due to the more than close cooperation of Syd Enever, the chief development engineer at Abingdon. The front suspension was modified to YB specification which was smaller and stiffer springs giving less unsprung weight”.

Into this rolling chassis he installed a TC block which had liners to reduce the swept volume. A polished and balanced crankshaft with special pistons all added up to 1,087cc (which is a familiar size coincidentally, to those who know anything about K3’s). The basic idea behind this reduction was that Dick could fit a supercharger and yet remain in the under 1500cc class. A standard XPAG engine of 1250cc when blown would be placed in the next class up to its disadvantage.

Early MG’s had superchargers fitted between the dumb irons and driven by the crankshaft. Later, the style changed and by fitting an extra pulley behind the starting handle dog nut, a blower could be mounted under the bonnet with no modification to the bodywork. However, Dick had a small problem. He wanted to blow the engine but a supercharger would not fit in the conventional position, as he had cleverly designed the body to be much too narrow to reduce drag.

His engineering ability soon overcame this and he moved the dynamo to the off side and put the puffer, a Marshall with a 1 ½” SU carburetter on the near side with the inlet pipe making a journey around the front of the head and into the inlet manifold in its usual place. This repositioning also allowed plenty of space for a four branch exhaust system, enhancing the discharge of exhaust gases. The re-routing of the plumbing allowed no room for a fan and was omitted, but an electric one is now on the car to ease traffic overheating problems.  Dick built the body from small diameter steel tubes and light alloy panels. Fibreglass has since been used for the bonnet, rear end inspection hatch and nosepiece. The shape was devised as he put it “from two photographs – one was the rear of a Frazer Nash and the other the front of an HWM, both very successful cars at that time.”

The cockpit and simple dash (Ian Nowell photos)

Head on view shows narrowness of design & cooling fan

Much of the car was lightened using the old technique of drilling everything in sight, including the accelerator pedal.

The mechanical modifications proved amazingly satisfactory and the car still retains the same crankshaft. Production MG’s were particularly competent in the road holding and handling department. This special, incorporating a mixed bag of suspension equipment was a different kettle of fish. Again, Dick’s experience and competition knowledge was used and development work soon sorted out the problems, so that the car now not only holds the road in a surprising manner, but handles superbly with the lightest of touches. Its difficult to realize that there was a problem at all, as it feels so good in comparison with a normal T Type.

Dick confesses that the car never won him any races, but he obtained overwhelming pleasure from its reliability. He was rewarded by being in the first three every time out, except in the Manx Cup Race, where he admits to over-revving the engine, which caused the blower belt to come off. He reckons that his most thrilling race was for the Ulster Trophy at Dundrod where he came in third in the 1300cc scratch race after removing the wings and head lights.

 He remarks that the car was a pretty and pleasing shape by the standards of the early fifties and this is borne out by the number of fresh offers he received for the car at every meeting. He finally accepted one from “ a young man who had made a lot of money producing films.” Disappointingly, the registration book has been lost between the periods of Tim’s ownership, and he cannot remember the name of the second owner.

 Tim bought the car from a doctor, who, he thinks, was the third owner. Apparently, he had had little joy with it as a star performer and sold it after two years. Tim soon found out the reason when he returned it to Dick’s Mill Garage in East London for an engine overhaul.

Dick had not seen or heard of the car for about eight  years  and  immediately  spotted  that  the

supercharger had been removed. When it was stripped down the lack of performance was abundantly clear. During an earlier overhaul someone had fitted the wrong pistons, not realizing that he was defeating Dick’s original concept. This gave a compression ratio of about 4:1 instead of about 8.0. With the engine back in shape, but still sans compresseur, Tim set off from Mill Garage almost directly for the Continent after quickly rigging up a rough luggage rack, as there is no space behind the seats. Even the passenger side of the cockpit is cramped with the battery half sunk into a well in the floor.

Tim with SHK 7 with rigged up rough luggage rack – note the drilled wheels.

“SHK 7 was as happy on the not-so-good Spanish roads as anywhere”, says Tim, “and she was quite capable of the magic ton with reassuring stability, even if the ride was a trifle hard at times.” Tim’s first competitive event in the car could have been a disaster. He had entered a sprint organized by the Cambridge University Automobile Club on one of the old airfields in East Anglia and had put fastest time in practice for his class. During the lunch break his eye rested on the TD disc wheels which had been heavily drilled full of holes for lightness. Tim spied hairline cracks joining each hole with the next one and that was enough to cause him to withdraw and drive slowly home.

The tyres at this stage were in need of replacement as worn Dunlop R3s are unstable in wet conditions.

All basic XPAG with long route for the inlet pipe from supercharger to manifold

Tim arranged for a garage to renew both the wheels and the tyres and was determined to have another go against the clock – his competitive spirit undaunted. On the road to the garage, he thought he could smell petrol leaking. He reduced speed and turned his head to see if the leak was from the tank. Suddenly the car in front stopped but Tim was unable to follow suit. An inevitable collision occurred and frighteningly, flames shot into the air from under the bonnet. Tim managed to put out the fire but the car was in no shape to go racing.

After two years of happy ownership, he decided it was time for another car and turned his attention to TR’s and the like. During those two years SHK 7 had served him well as an everyday car and his only one at that. It was only equipped with a primitive windscreen, hood and side curtains and these were fitted after Dick sold the car, but seldom used in the best MG tradition.

The car passed to a man called Clayton and then again to Jamie Granger. Under his direction it added more competitive miles and some modifications were carried out by Atlas Motors of Isleworth in Middlesex. These included fitting of an anti-roll bar, MGA drum brakes, and again a supercharger, but this time a Shorrock. SHK 7 then had a long spell in a private garage while Jamie was in America.

When he returned a couple of years ago, he decided to sell and this is where Tim reappears on the scene. During his first ownership it was painted blue but when he saw it again it was British Racing Green with white circles as it still is.

Tim returned the car to Atlas for a thorough check over for registration purposes and peace of mind and used it during the summer of 1973. During the winter he tidied up a few bits and pieces ready for the finer weather this year but it was not to be. Tim has had many commitments away from London and has been unable to give it more than a regular check over. SHK 7 is eligible for membership in the Historic Sports Car Club and Tim hopes to reverse this summer’s lack of activity next season in both MGCC and HSCC events.

Thus, you can see that Tim is not a man to wrap this irreplaceable car in cotton wool. Far from it as his MG experiences will bear out. He started by illegally keeping a M type at school which he tinkered with during the term time. When he got his license, he was straight off to the Continent in his holidays. He took a good stock of big end bearings and that’s about all. It was easier to change those beside the road than fix the temperamental oil pump. However, he was stumped with a broken crankshaft in Switzerland.

Rear end with suspension modifications

His next MG was a blue PB which also became a European tourer and on one trip to France with the late Piers Courage, they took it in turns to frighten each other coming down the Alpine passes at about 60mph using only the handbrake as the foot brake had seized. He also had a couple of J2’s, one he thinks had a F… engine which was not so frowned upon in the early sixties. So, you can see that SHK 7 is in octagonal hands which will soon be gripping the steering wheel with all the tenseness that makes motor sport so exciting, or in a relaxed manner out some summer evening. As with all MG’s it will be most exciting to see a car such as this in action again.

Traditional TD/Y suspension with adaptations and mounting plate for anti-roll bar.

Editor’s note

I had hoped to reproduce a photograph of Dick Jacobs racing SHK 7 at Silverstone. As it was a photograph which appeared in Motor Sport publication, I asked permission to reproduce it, saying that I was willing to pay a reasonable fee. Unfortunately, after an initial acknowledgement, and then no further contact from the publication I emailed them again, but sadly, nothing.

The one photograph I have appears to be a photostat of a photostat and would look awful.

Rob Dunsterville, the author of this fine article, is keen to learn the current whereabouts of SHK 7. Any ‘leads’ to the editor, please. jj(at) [Please substitute @ for (at)].