The MG Story: The MG Magnas and Type K Magnettes

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The MG Story: The MG Magnas and Type K Magnettes

The Magnas

It was clear that, during the first  years of the 1930’s, the MG designers were making the most of their opportunity to build, test and sell new and varied small sports cars. In late 1931 when it was decided to begin a new series of medium-sized six-cylinder cars, there were enough Midget variants around to allow most of the first type F Magnas to be assembled out of the existing parts bins.

Its axles, brakes and bodies were D-Type; its gearbox from the C-Type, and its engine little more than a Type M with the addition of two cylinders (as also used in the Wolseley Hornet of that era). Displacement was a rather uninspiring 1271cc.

Like its predecessor, the L Magna for 1933 was a rakish touring sports car of negligible ground clearance – a formula which helped ensure each of the 1876 Magnas manufactured were able to find a new owner. The L had bigger binders and a thoroughly redesigned six, which was made famous by its brothers; the type K Magnettes.

The Type K  Magnettes

Not all of the Magnettes were fire-breathing race cars; in fact, many were sedans good for about 120 km/h. Both large and small sixes were available, the engines being named KD and KA (also KB), respectively. Production sports chassis were the Kl and K2, differing in wheelbase, and many were equipped with the mechanically actuated preselector gearboxes that were then popular.

The KC version featured a single overhead cam and four Offy-type diaphragm main bearings gave it dead reliability at its standard blown output of 120bhp at 6500 revs. This magneto-fired engine, with a preselector box, was bedded down in a new K3 chassis which had everything the concurrent J4 Midget boasted, plus a few new tricks from Charles' hat.

Complete with a precise centre-point steering system and full road equipment, the K3 could be had in 1933 for around $4,000. What was this widely revered machine really like? Count Johnny Lurani, who drove one (with George Eyston) to a class win in the '33 Mille Miglia, has written that the K3 Magnette " ... had a conventional and somewhat heavy frame. The brakes were indifferent. Altogether the small car was very fast (over 160 kph with maximum load and normal coachwork). It was a good road holder, but was heavy in front and lacking in acceleration."

Nuvolari's winning drive in the 1933 T.T. was a high point for the K3, its questionable brakes standing up well because they were seldom, if ever, used. For more ordinary mortals MG provided better stopping in 1931 and a blade-tailed Grand Prix-style body satisfied the boys who used the cycle fenders as andirons.

Using a Roots-type Marshall instead of a Powerplus vane blower, power was cut back to reduce the engine's appetite for spark plugs. This didn't change the aggressive crackle of the supercharged six, though, which couldn't even be smothered by that engine designer's nightmare, the Brooklands silencer.

The K3's reputation was established by thirty-two cars in all, many of which provided first steps in the training of such drivers as Dick Seaman, Bira, and Reg Parnell. With the ERA's, these memorable MG's won respect for England in Continental voiturette racing. At the same time the data that they provided was being pumped back into bread-and-butter machinery.

Also see: MG Heritage | MG Performance Chart

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