I owned two TDs in the early 1960s, one of which incidentally, MRH 366, was at the Classic Car Show at the NEC near Birmingham, I think, in 2010. It was looking resplendent in red although I recall the original colour was black. I sold the TDs for the deposit on a house in York in 1963, (the three bed house incidentally was £4100 – how times have changed!). I had always intended to purchase another T-Type but work and the arrival in quick succession of two babies always seemed to conspire to prevent this. My involvement with T- Types ceased therefore until my retirement from work when to avoid boredom I thought I might obtain a classic car, one requiring some work possibly. I used the Internet to get ideas of what was available and at what cost.
In looking I saw an advert for a TC for sale in Dusseldorf, Germany, that was described as complete but needing some work, the asking price was E13,500 – just over £12,000. The car was identified by the seller as TC4432 from the German registration document, which was identified by the TC Register as being formerly registered in the UK. Good I thought, one potential problem overcome. I requested photographs of various parts of the car and these were forwarded by email. The car was red and black with black upholstery see photograph, more on that later.
I noticed some parts were missing, Altette horn, SFT27 spotlight amongst others and some parts had been changed, e.g. lights inserted in the rear wings, as TD, a key start installed and various other crudities including a replacement badge bar fixed between the wings, I realised the reason for that later.
Despite the above, I thought the car would make a good project and noting that TCs in good order were fetching upwards of £20,000 I offered €11,000 for the car, which was refused, we finally agreed on €12,000 approximately £10,700 with some parts being included, refurbished dampers amongst other things.
I then looked at getting the car back to my home in South Worcestershire. I sought quotes for the hire of a suitable trailer, ferry costs, two nights’ accommodation, and fuel and assessed the total cost as approximately £800/850 without food and drink. I contacted a shipping company and agreed a figure of £650 for collection and delivery to home, no contest! Advatec (whom I would recommend), delivered the car to my home in mid December 2009 in a covered wagon. They had to overcome a few minor problems in Germany before transporting the car.
On an initial superficial inspection of the car I noted that the chassis number on the battery box plate was TC4332, not 4432. Checking the German registration document the chassis number was scribed as 4432 as originally advised to me. Although clearly a transcription error, this is a potential problem dealing with the DVLA when the car is registered. TC4332 was built 18/12/48 and exported, to where I know not.
I did little with the car until the following May when I started a more detailed inspection.
There was little or no rust on the car, the chassis appearing to be sound, none of the trim was original, the dashboard was crudely covered in a leatherette material and various other features were not TC. All the brake wheel cylinders were seized, preventing a more thorough test of the car. I decided to start the engine to get some indication of its condition. I cleaned the plugs, dibbled oil into the bores, checked coolant, connected a temporary battery and initially turned the engine over without the plugs to get some lubrication around it. After installation of the plugs and with some trepidation the engine was turned over and for the first time in 8 years it fired at the second attempt. The oil pressure after the engine got hot settled at 50 psi on the gauge. Apart from adjustment being needed to the carburettors, the engine appeared sound with no unwanted rattles or knocks.
The car was elevated onto blocks to allow an inspection underneath. Straight away it was clear that there was wear and tear and some damage. The front axle to spring securing pins were mangled at their threads, obviously having collided with something, the shackles securing the rear axle casing to the suspension were TD, not TC and were also badly mangled and rusted. The brake master cylinder was not TC, probably from a commercial vehicle and the chassis had additional welded brackets to accommodate it.
As I took all this in my depression increased and I realised that my ideal of looking down that long bonnet cruising the Worcestershire countryside later that summer was gone.
I then looked at the body tub, the upper rear timbers (Hood) were badly rotted and a steel bar had been placed across the width of the tub underneath the tank straps to strengthen it. I had the feeling that there were many other problems and bodged up areas still unseen.
The moral here is clear, if you buy a T-Type, do not be stupid like me and buy it unseen, it would have been cheaper to fly to Dusseldorf and inspect the vehicle, reject it and buy a better older restored car here. What next?
I now had a dilemma, do I try to bodge the TC up to pass an MOT (still required at that time) or do I do the proper thing and undertake a partial or full rebuild? The more I thought about this the angrier I became; who would bastardise such a lovely car as the TC or any MG for that matter? For example, why attach a crude commercial vehicle brake master cylinder with associated alterations to the chassis, when a new/refurbished unit could be had for just over £100? No, the car deserved better, a rebuild it would be.
I had attended the 2010 rebuild seminar and obtained a copy of Mike Sherrell’s “TCs Forever”, a thorough read of this tome gave me encouragement. I had to decide whether to restore the car to a concours standard or to an “as built” condition. With my very limited mechanical knowledge and limited tools, just a few old AF spanners and sockets, although fortunately a double garage, I considered the latter to be the choice and try to restore the car to as near as possible its 1947 ex-works condition.
I obtained a copy of the ‘Brown Book’, the MG workshop manual ‘Blower’ and other restoration literature, and rejoined the MG Car Club and The Octagon Car Club. I also downloaded all back copies of Totally T-Type, and made an index of all references to the TC contained in them. I set about making a wish list of all missing or unserviceable bits and components and priced each item where I could, using the Moss catalogue. I nearly had a coronary when I added the total knowing that this was most certainly incomplete.
One sunny Saturday in late June 2010 dismantling commenced, I removed the rexine hood and frame, more rot around the rear of the tub revealed, and removed the seats and interior trim, more tub rot noted. From the overspray inside the doors and the tub it was clear the original colour of the TC was Shires Green. The dashboard was eased and the instruments carefully removed and stored for future refurbishment, photographs being taken for the record. The wiring was a mixture of what appeared to have been lying around at that time, and bore no resemblance to the colours indicated in the wiring diagrams in the ‘Brown Book’, not worth trying to reuse. The floorboards were removed along with a badly bent transmission tunnel and the rubber cover that was held together by steel staples, this went into the recycle bin. After removing all connected parts, e.g. the spare wheel carrier, unbolted the scuttle and disconnected all electrics, with the aid of a colleague from the village the tub was unbolted and lifted to the ground. The full extent of the tub problems now became clear, when pushed laterally the tub rocked from side to side like a budgies ‘kelly’, moving about 10” at the scuttle. More depression and flashing £ signs!
All bolts were bagged and labelled and all dismantled bits and pieces stored. The engine and gearbox were lifted out together, all mountings being unserviceable and stored in the garage. Work then commenced on the chassis; brake and fuel lines were removed and stored after being photographed, the chassis was blocked up and the wheels removed, the tyres being split along their inner sidewalls, more £ signs. Further evidence of the ‘bodger’s art’ then emerged. The front wheel cylinders were none TC and the brake back plates had been cored to accommodate them, again why when a wheel cylinder could be had for £45? – more angry depression. The headlights were found to be none TC, probably again from a commercial vehicle, the radiator shell was split in several places and had been crudely repaired around the studs that secure the radiator slats. More £ signs!
Finally, towards the end of May 2011 the bare chassis stood before me.
Now for the worst part of any restoration job, cleaning and painting. I decided that the chassis would be blasted and either painted or powder coated. Due to the chassis having boxed in areas I rightly or wrongly decided to have the chassis and some other parts Soda Blasted to ensure all areas were accessed and thoroughly cleaned followed by a primer, undercoat and black topcoat painted finish. Prior to sending the chassis for blasting I checked all its principal dimensions as the ‘Brown Book’ and found all within quoted tolerance except for a buckle in the transverse vertical flat plate that carries the rear dampers most certainly incurred at the same time as the damage to the axles/springs fixings. This was straightened by use of a hydraulic jack and timbers à la Sherrell.
During the cold and dark days of 2010/2011 I attempted to research the history of the TC. The car was an export model as evidenced by the Made in England plate on the battery box. I emailed the MG Clubs of all countries on the list of exported TCs in an earlier TTT, with the exception of the United States, this being due to the large number of T-Type clubs existing. No luck, all responses being negative. The TC was, I found out later, almost certainly exported to the US but more of that in a future chapter.
Chapter 3 will follow!