Vintage vehicles, Automotive history and stories from motoring's past. 

MG TV work van

When Americans came back from WWII this country was on the verge of a lot of changes. Among those changes was in the automotive world where demand was incredible. Many of those returning Americans had been to England where they saw scrappy little MG sports cars and, coincidentally, that company started bringing their cars to the US to eager buyers. 

Starting in 1945 Morris Garage, or MG, began importing their third generation open two-seat sports car to these shores. Those cars were almost completely unchanged from what was being sold in England save for some differences in the bumper and American style sealed beam headlights. It was even right-hand-drive and used the same wood frame as its predecessors. 

Yep, wood frame. 

Under the hood was a tiny but mighty 1.2 liter four-cylinder engine producing some 54.5 horsepower although many enthusiasts bested that with tuning and aftermarket equipment. While a car like this, today, with almost no creature comforts, tall wheels that almost look like they belong on a bicycle and 0-60 time of 22.7 seconds would never sell, MG found 10,001 folks to put one of these in their garages. 

And, more importantly, this car literally defined a sports car at the time such that companies like GM and Ford stood up and took notice and, years later, countered with the Corvette and Thunderbird. 

In those times these cars were also used for racing, helping to set the ground work for the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) which exists to this day. And, of course, having a wood-framed car with spindly wheels racing around a track meant things were going to break. So mechanics were needed. 

That’s how this week’s car, an MG TC van, came about. With various wooden shelves in the back for tools and spare parts this would have been the ultimate tool for the MG racing team to use as part of the cadre of vehicles to take to the track. You get all the joy and fun of driving the MG TC while also having your parts bin right behind you. 

Under the hood is the familiar 1.2 liter four-cylinder engine for sure but to accommodate that extra weight and, perhaps, keep up with modern traffic there’s also a supercharger there to add a little more get up and go. The 22.7 seconds it took for an MG TC to get to 60 miles per hour is paltry when compared to a big heavy sedan like the Tesla Model S which can do the same sprint in under 4 seconds. Times have changed. 

Still if you were an MG mechanic when these cars were new this would have been a great thing to have where you could show up right to your client’s disabled car and get it back on the road again. Now see how I avoided making jokes about English car reliability there? Warm beer indeed. 

It was likely that whoever bought an MG TC when new would have an affinity for turning wrenches on their own car as keeping it running and, most likely, making it run more quickly was just part of what owning a sports car was all about in those days. And, no, adding a performance chip didn’t count in those days since the computer was your mind and the closest thing to electronics in the car was the headlight switch. 

Today MG TCs have become easier on the pocketbook as the people who returned from WWII and craved one as a collector car either already have one or, sadly, aren’t driving any longer. Parts are easy to find though wood rot on the frame is one of the bigger issues. These are fun collector cars that are definitely a road trip to the past and, today, would stand out at any car show. 

And, if you’re really lucky, you’ll have an MG TC Van where you can put those readily-available parts right in the back.


Tony Barthel

Tony Barthel has been writing articles and blogs since 1996 with reviews of new cars, stories about old cars and the people who love them and finding the best car shows around for the Curbside car show calendar. He is also author of a book on event planning and public speaker on business and tourism marketing plus a YouTube creator of travel videos. Tony loves RVing and is the co-publisher of the StressLess Camping blog.