The MG Story: The MG TC

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The MG Story: The MG TC



In a discussion of the MG TC, a word inevitably pops up which at first seems an accurate appraisal, and then later seems the cruellest slander. The word is "overrated." It's too bad that the implications are derogatory, since the TC was overrated here in the best possible way.

To put it another way, this post-war brother of the TB was to become an overnight sales success that few, if any (including those at Abingdon) could have predicted, particularly given the car's very modest size, power, and layout.

It is during the second world war the grand dreams of post war car building emerged in heavy-handed airbrush renderings of bubble-domed space sleds which looked about as much like a TC as a bull rhino. The people bought what was available. This included Austins, English Fords, and especially the TC. Once bitten by the latter, the victim was incurably afflicted, and one enthusiast led to another.

The ranks of the believers filled out quickly on both coasts thanks to climatic and commercial conditions, and began the long but successful inland march. As owners realized how much sheer fun there was in driving the TC fast and hard, sports car racing was revived here and grew with MG's always making up the bulk of the entries. This completely nonplussed the British, who couldn't understand what could be seen in these Midgets ("The PB was much more car, old boy.") and were aghast when they heard they were being raced. With the help of the Lord Nuffield, the stage-tuning manual, and the crescent wrench, all crises were averted.

The MG TC Chassis

From built-in badge bar to taillight, the TC was right in line with the MG tradition, especially in appearance. The hood stretching for half its length screamed gravel-scratching horsepower to any bystander who wasn’t aware that most of it was a housing for out-stretched shins. The slanted louvers and latches were fully in keeping as are the finely cut clamshell fenders and sharply cut away doors. A slab gas tank is slung almost vertically from the back of the tonneau by two straps, and recessed into it are the triangular tubes that hold the spare wheel (a special hub for two wheels was available).

The MG TC Engine

Mechanically the TC showed its ancestry, too, but with the difference that under Nuffield management more parts and assemblies are bought from outside suppliers. As a result detail design throughout wasn't as closely controlled as it once was. Kimber would be proud of the TB and TC engines though, which take a fantastic amount of abuse when properly maintained.

There was nothing earth shattering about the design of the XPAG engine (used in TB, TC, TD and early TF), but the emphasis throughout was on rock solid rigidity in relation to the size and output. Four long stoke cylinders stand right in line surrounded by plenty of water space and high horizontal webbing for stiffness. A broad crankcase was lopped off on the crank centreline and two bolt caps for the three big main bearings pulled up into very slight recesses in the bottom of the block.

An MG rod would go long before the crankshaft, which was a strong piece and well counterweighted. Long and slim by modern standards, the H-section rods had notably wide big ends and split small ends with clamp bolts to lock the wrist pins in place. Flat- topped stock pistons had full skirts on three rings.

High on the left side of the crankcase, the cam was spun in three bearings by a roller chain, kept tense by a shoe under oil system pressure. Two modified worm gears near the centre of the cam turned the oil pump, mounted outside the block at the left front, and the Lucas distributor with centrifugal advance and micrometer adjustment. The deep cast sump held the oil and a fixed, screened pickup on the left side.

The detachable head carried eight valves in a row, slightly angled to the right to give a mild wedge shape to the "bathtub" type chambers. Rocker gear was conventional but neatly detailed, weakest points being pushrods and case-hardened tappet faces. Valve springs were double and timing is hot enough for the most rigorous road use. Abingdon quoted valve crash speed as 5900 revs, which could be seen and surpassed by many stock TC's.

The MG TC Frame And Brakes

In the classic tradition of sports cars, the TC's frame had a system of solid axles and short semi-elliptics and this introduced flexibility, but watching the joints between doors and cowl while bounding over bumps was nerve wracking, even with the knowledge that the body is built to "give" sympathetically. Except for kickups over the front axle the frame rails run straight back, being slung under the rear axle.

Brakes regressed in size and quality from the P series, but they boasted hydraulic instead of cable operation. This left the TC with an edge in braking power, but durability was less certain unless special linings are riveted in. A point to watch was the protective pan below the master cylinder, where water collected and corroded the fluid reservoir.

The MG TC Steering

Probably the worst piece of design in the TC was the steering gearbox, which could only be described as crude. Its turn and a half from lock to lock satisfied the most rigid standards, but its designer had apparently never heard of anti-friction bearings, and the worm and peg usually progressed in fits and starts.

At one point a good solution was a Tompkins roller steering kit, which included a tapered roller thrust bearing for the peg and shaft. In addition the drop shaft bore could be reamed to accept a Ford wrist pin bushing, and together these steps improved steering accuracy beyond recognition. Of course, the worm and peg must have been in good shape, which wasn’t always the case.

The MG engineers must have had inkling about the steering, because they hung a big enough Bleumels wheel on the TC to wrench it around any corner. This handsome and reassuring steering apparatus was well placed in the cockpit, slightly lower than in its descendants. Everyone who has tried it vouched for the fact that right-hand drive wasn’t half so hard as it looked, and that highway passing didn't require a passport to the Beyond. Many drivers found that they appreciated a better view of the edge of the road, which was perfect for racing.

In any case, the forward outlook over the TC's long hood and high fenders had terrific inspirational value, the radiator cap and side lights pointed the way right on down the road. When America gave the TC its handling it was found to be incomparably better than the local iron that it had been wallowing around in. In the Old Country this post-war Midget was rated good in the cornering department but substandard for a small sports car probably because of its slack steering and flexing frame.

On smooth surfaces a TC clung fiercely to the last scrap of roadway, and under most conditions it steered neutral, verging on understeer. There was not enough power to do it, but the brakes or steering could bust the rear end loose neatly if artificial oversteer was called for. Through all kinds of dicing the TC's roll angle was very low and couldn't actually be detected from the pilot seat.

A TC on twisty asphalt roads or on gravel or dirt where the stiff springs and rapid steering was near perfect. On the open highway it cruised happily at 4000rpm plus, equivalent to 100 kph. It kept it up forever provided reasonable pains were taken to keep the equipment properly oiled and lubed. Recognising the necessity of a low first speed, the gear ratios rate tops. A heartening 100 in third could be reached easily.

Lots of very special TC's have been bolted together, but none staggered the mind or the eardrums more than the blown racing version lovingly built in 1951 by Ernie McAfee for John Edgar. An Italmeccanica blower turning half again as fast as the engine pumped through a liquid intercooler to a much-beefed-up XPAG power-plant, which eventually carried a big stick weighing 148 horsepower.

Also see: MG Heritage | MG Performance Chart
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