In 1965, the year after I finished High School in Cape Town, a pal of mine bought a left-hand drive MG TD. The car was partially stripped and we set about a rebuild, guided by his father, who was a very good woodworker.
Many body timbers were fabricated and the car was put back on the road – and he still owns it to this day.
The TD was okay but I really fancied a TC, which I could not afford. In 1973, my company sent me off to work for B.O.C, our parent company, in Liverpool as part of my career development, returning in 1975. I was transferred to Johannesburg and very soon after that my brother dragged me off to see a TC that was for sale. I paid R1500.00 – all I had to my name, and drove it home. The price at the time equated to about GBP750.
It was not in very good condition, had all the wrong instruments and steered like a super tanker in high seas!
The long-term plan was for a full rebuild one day but, in the meantime, to use it if possible. After a bit of a fiddle, I transferred it into my name without a roadworthy certificate (it would have failed) and proceeded to run it on various events in Johannesburg. One such event was to parade the drivers for the F1 Grand Prix at Kyalami in 1979 and I got Niki Lauda and Miss South Africa as my passengers!
Photo 1 – a starring role for TC4521 at the F1 Grand Prix at Kyalami in 1979.
Later my dear wife Lorna joined my life and, as happens, children and a career followed, with all the commensurate demands on time and attention! The TC continued to run in its shabby state for many years.
Finally, it broke a half-shaft and, upon inspection, diff oil was found to be leaking into the back drums; steering was now half a turn free play and the brakes worked sometimes! The car was put on blocks and its licence kept valid.
Photo 2 – Tony kept the car on the road until one day a halfshaft broke and it was laid up.
Every time I went overseas on business, much needed parts for the eventual rebuild were obtained. I bought an original rev. counter and speedometer, all the curved English Ash wood sections, a brake master cylinder and a host of other bits and pieces. A voltage regulator, tail lights and parking lights were purchased at a club swop meet in Johannesburg and steadily the MG shelf started to look like there was enough for a rebuild. Fat chance!!!
Early retirement and the time arrived for a rebuild to start. On 14 February, 2008, the stripping of the car began.
Photo 3 – the start of strip-down. The car looks cosmetically OK – “beauty is but skin deep!”
The chassis had been badly abused and critical parts were missing. Various club members as well as Mike Allison in UK provided important detail and parts and the whole assembly was finally sand blasted and I spray-painted it in the driveway!
Photo 4 – the restored chassis.
The engine, gearbox and differential were all fully overhauled and painted, ready for final assembly into the car. Steady progress was made over the next three-and-a-half years! The body went back onto the chassis and then all the brake pipes were remade and installed.
Photo 5 – the body now back on the chassis.
The next major task was to install the overhauled engine and gearbox.
Photo 6 – the engine/ gearbox ready to go in
Wiring went in and about a thousand other activities took place, not the least of which was the upholstery and hood. Here my wife played an invaluable role in cutting, stitching, glueing and generally managing the whole project!
On the 17th July 2011 the engine was started for the first time in many years and ran smoothly – but there was a whole load of work still to be done before the car would be on the road.
I owe a huge amount of gratitude to many people who offered help and information. John James in the UK was particularly supportive in taking bits off his TC to give me accurate dimensions and details about fittings. Mike Allison was in South Africa for our National Gathering in Port Elizabeth and came down to Knysna for a few days, staying with us. He gave invaluable advice with my efforts at fitting the ash frame and aligning front and back halves of the body.
Ron Gammons was in South Africa on a Tiger Moth flying holiday, visited us and also gave lots of very useful advice on the rebuild.
Without such support from individuals, rebuilding would have been far more difficult.
My wife, Lorna spent an awful lot of time on the Internet, researching advice and information where I did not know how something needed to fit or what it looked like as mine was missing.
Of course, Mike Sherrell’s book was an essential part of the restoration project – it is an absolute “must” for anyone attempting a TC rebuild!
Finally the car took to the road on 9 October 2011, some 44 months after the strip started.
Photo 8 – from strip down to completion in 44 months – I’d say that’s pretty good going!
There are 7 MG Centres in South Africa and every second year, one of the 4 in the Cape organise a weekend get together. Shortly after finishing the rebuild, we set off to the Cape Centres Gathering in Graaff-Reinet, a distance of some 400 kilometres. It ran there and back without any difficulty!
As would be expected, there are still a number of things needing attention and I don’t for a moment expect the job to ever be totally complete – every time an old vehicle is used, some adjustments and attention thereafter are called for!
Photo 9 – Tony and Lorna on their way to the Cape Centres Gathering in Graaff-Reinet.
Photo 10 – The caption from Tony reads ‘The End’
Knysna, South Africa
Ed’s note: One of the pleasures of editing TTT 2 and running the ttypes.org website is in being able to help people. I am certainly no expert in matters T-Type – in fact I know a lot more about Triple-M cars, particularly J-Types and P-Types – but I if I can’t help with a query I generally know a ‘man who can’, or I can draw on the reservoir of technical articles in TTT 2, or in TTT which I edited in a previous incarnation. Additionally, Mike Sherrell’s TCs Forever! is, as Tony says, ”a must” and Doug Pelton’s Technical Tips are excellent.
I wish that my J2 rebuild would have taken 44 months from strip down to completion – it’s more like 44 years, plus a few! However, with a bit of luck and a fair wind it shouldn’t take 50 years!
I recently sent a woodruff key for the steering column to a friend (who is restoring his J2) for him to copy. I was updating him with progress on my rebuild and asked him when he thought he would finish his – “hopefully before I die!” was the riposte. One has to see the funny side of life!
Anyhow, well done Tony Lyons-Lewis and we even managed to get a part out to South Africa for him via his daughter who was flying out to see him from the UK.