First road-test of the much discussed M.G.1100 A

A very comfortable, essentially safe car that accelerates well

Shortly after they had got the whole motoring world discussing the revolutionary Morris, 1100, the inimitable Mini’s big brother, B.M.C. announced the M.G. 1100 which is much the same motor car, but with different facia layout and a twin-S.U. version of the new 1,098 c.c. engine which has had its power output increased on the lines of those specialised methods known to tuning establishments such as Downton Engineering, etc.

The M.G. 1100, with two H2S S.U. carburetters and a compression-ratio of 8.9 to 1, develops 55 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. and gives a maximum torque of 60 lb./ft. at 2,500 r.p.m., compared to the Morris 1100’S 48 b.h.p. at 5,100 r.p.m. with 8.5 to 1 compression ratio but only one of those carburetters. The transverse engine location, combined gearbox and sump, sealed cooling system, front-wheel-drive and all-independent, anti-pitch Hydro-lastic Suspension are common to both cars and have been described previously.

Looking round the M.G. 1100 

The M.G. is recognisable by its typically M.G., rather high, grille and an M.G. motif on the back panel. Within, the circular speedometer and open cubby of the Morris have given way to a lidded cubby-hole, horizontal ribbon-type speedometer and regrouped n.inor controls. The facia and unlockable cubby lid (on frail-looking hinges) are of what looks like Formica, as found in the kitchen, the mottled tan and white colour, contrasting rather startlingly, on the test car, with the shiny light maroon leather cloth upholstery. Leather is available as an extra and I recommend it. The cubby-hole tapers lengthwise but is decently spacious. There is a drawer-type ash-tray in the facia centre, and the speedo meter is calibrated every TO m.p.h. to too m.p.h. and has below it trip recorder with decimals and total mileometer. The trip recorder is zeroed by a knob below the instrument panel. There is also a water thermometer calibrated ” C ” and ” H ” and an electric, slow-to-record, petrol gauge marked ” E ” and ” F”, the empty being reached when some fuel remains.

On the extreme right the switches and warning lights are grouped together. The top row consists of lights for r.h. flashers, choked oil filter and headlamps full beam, the last-named being a fraction Vat) bright. The middle row comprises wipers flick-switch, ignition key-cum-starter and lamps flick-switch, while the bottom row contains choke, dynamo light and screen washers button. The l.h. flashers light is set over in the centre of the facia above the ash-tray and didn’t function during the early part of the test. There was also a slight fault in the wipers’ switch.

The Lucas SB700 sealed-beam headlamps have a foot dipper button set rather too close to the clutch pedal. The pedals themselves are rather small. The bonnet is opened by a knob within the under-facia shelf, and has a simple-to-release safety catch; it pops open and releases automatically. The floor gear-lever is well placed in the centre, nicely to hand, and the hand-brake lever is conventionallyplaced, horizontally on the floor, also in the centre. A 1.h. stalk operates the flashers, and a button on the steering wheel hub, bearing an M.G. badge, sounds the horn. A small switch under the facia sill brings in subdued panel lighting, but the switches remain unseen, so that a stranger to the M.G. might easily switch off the lamps when wanting the wipers.

It will thus be seen that the controls are simple and conventional.

There are dual safety-type anti-dazzle vizors but these do not swivel sideways. The rear-view mirror vibrates and this, and slow-to-function screen washers and a poor blade in the driver’s wipers were not in the best traditions of” Safety Fast.”

The separate front seats are set over a cross-member, so that an unusually high but pleasing driving position is the result. Forward range of vision is excellent, there is a wide back window, but the side pillars of the screen are rather too thick. The front quarterwindows have fumbly catches, sans pips, but rain gutters. The doors carry plastic ” pulls ” (at the front only), window winders and handles (up-to.-open). They need a good slam to get them to shut and do so with the modern tin-can sound. The front winders take 3A turns, the back ones 31 turns to fully raise the glass. The quarter-windows in the rear doors are fixed. There is courtesy action of the interior lamp on the ojs of the roof only from the front doors. Each front door has a quite good exterior lock and the back doors are locked by pushing down the handle..;. The rear doors have arm-rests but there are no ” pulls ” fr getting up out of the seat, Grandma haying to haul on the safety belts.

Interior decor includes full-length floor carpeting with rubber matting for the driver, but the finish and construction of the facia sill cannot be called anything but crude. There is plenty of useful stowage for parcels and oddments in the M.G. 1100, B.M.C. having for several years given this much thought in their small cars. Both front doors have exceedingly useful, capacious rigid parcels wells. The back shelf is more than normally deep. In addition there is the aforesaid cubby-hole and a full-width shelf below the facia, a bit low set but able to swallow a lot of small objects. It is bisected only by the steering column bracket and a supporting lug and is open behind those, and it is extra deep at each end. There is crash-padding, along the lower edge and the test car had front-scat safety belts. Below the shelf, lower still, are the two quadrant levers, clearly labelled, a 2-speed fan switch, for the fresh-air heater. This is very powerful, if somewhat insensitive.

The lines of the M.G. 1100 are those of a squat, purposeful car. The luggage boot does not overhang, yet it contains a surprisingly useful quantity of luggage. The lid locks and is self-supporting when open ; it goes up far enough to render loading very easy. The spare wheel lives below the floor.

There is a chain-secured but very small fuel filler cap on the n/s of the body.

The initial impression on driving the new small M.G. saloon is of the high .seating position, cheerful area Of glass to light the interior, and of a seat which is quite comfortable but might have a better shaped squab. The clutch is moderately heavy, the engine responsive, and the gear-change fully up to the standards set by earlier M.G.s„ with excellent new synchromesh designed by Alec Issigonis. This is not applied to bottom gear but engagement is easier than it was with earlier B.M.C. gearboxes.

Suspension characteristics

Probably the most discussed feature is the new, coupled suspension. This provides a pitch-free ride at the expense of a short, sharp up and down motion, giving a rather choppy ride. It must be remembered, however, that Alec Issigonis and Alex Moulton have retained a very high degree of controllability and to defeat roll on corners have purposely kept the suspension quite hard. Moreover, such a revolutionary system is bound to call forth very high expectations with consequent slight disappointment. The Citroen DS19 with a far more complex system was being criticised soon after its introduction as capable of being “caught out” under certain conditions—if a humpback bridge was taken at speed the car reacted much as any other vehicle. Yet over the years it has come to be accepted that no car is 50 comfortably sprung as this Citroen.

In the same way the Morris1100 and M.G. 1100 will soon be recognised to have such fine yet simple suspension that we shall all wonder how we could have toleratedanything less efficient. The Lancia Flavia and the big Citroens are superior in riding comfort but their price is considerably elevated! The B.M.C cars do not iron-out bad corrugations, the notorious Sunningdale ” level “-crossing, for instance, as does Citroen suspension, but generally they do give a very shock-free ride without sacrifice of the outstanding, one might say unique; cornering safety of the B.M.C. Minis. Some of the criticism of a harder ride than was expected may well stem from the aural impression of the wheels meeting obstructions—the expected shock is absorbed almost to zero before it affects the occupants but such a high standard is expected, because the car has Hydrolastic suspension, that the very fact of shock-absorption having taken place may offend. This very clever rubber suspension does give a unique feeling of being out of contact with the road, possibly because the body shell is literally rubber-insulated from the wheels, and this almost sensual smoothness is an outstanding aspect of these Hydrolastically sprung cars.

Over really bad, pot-holed roads this suspension copes well but does not give a floating entirely shock-free ride. The bounce frequency is deliberately quite high, Alex Moulton quoting figures in The Automobile Engineer of 90-92 c/min, bounce and 65 c/min. pitch.

It is difficult to put into words the excellence of this Moulton suspension and the best way of assessing it is to drive the car yourself. I can safely say that it represents an astonishingly good compromise between achieving a high degree of comfort, at the same time sacrificing little if any of the ” dodgcability ” and prec:sion control at high cornering speeds that has endeared the B.M.C. Mini-family to so many fast drivers. If the hand-brake is used to hold the car on a gradient the tail rises until the car restarts, the car thus hinting that its suspension is unusual and different.

Driving the M.G. 1100

So far as handling qualities are concerned, a driver accustomed to the Mini-Minor feels that there is more car following the. driven front wheels and also that to hurl the M.G. t too round corners is not quite so satisfying because there is no definable change from under to oversteer with variation of throttle opening. The fact remains that the M.G. noo can be cornered extremely fast, as on a race circuit, with no vices and complete safety. Normally, the steering is almost entirely neutral but ultimately uniform undasteer causes the car to slide outwards. The 12 in. Dunlop C4 is do not squeal and roll is well controlled. The delightfillly light and precise rack-and-pinion steering takes 3 1/2 turns, lock-to-lock, which is just a shade low-geared ; kick-back and vibration are almost negligible and there is gentle castorreturn action. This M.G. 1100, then, is an essentially safe car, whether rushing through open bends or taking evasive action to avoid accidents. The Lockheed brakes, disc at the front, are adequate without being outstandingly powerful. They are light to apply and progressive and the only fault was an intermittent faint squeal from one of the discs.

Performance-wise this little M.G. goes well. In the gears genuine maxima of 26, 44 and 70 m.p.h. are attainable if the engine is taken up to valve-crash speeds. It will be seen that 1st and 2nd gears are rather low. The ribbon speedometer has about the average degree of optimism. As to acceleration, the following times are the mean of several two-way runs, after speedometererror correction, the best time being within brackets, and corresponding times for a Morris t too tested on the same road with the same equipment but a different driver are given for comparison :—

The notably smooth-running engine becomes rather noisy from about 65 M.p.h. onwards, although very pleasantly quiet at lower speeds, and there is some resonance on the over-run. On certain surfaces road-noise is transmitted, but is more subdued than on a Mini. The body structure is generally free from shake but some rattles and squeaks intrude, and the gear-lever transmits vibration. The car seats four comfortably and five normal-size persons with not too much of a squeeze.

The engine took much punishment during the timed tests without running-on or pinking. It starts easily with a minimum of choke and warms up quickly. It calls for too-octane fuel, as a note on gauge us. 31.36 m.p.g. in normal fast motoring and a journey across London. Actual range wasn’t checked but the tank is said to hold 84 gallons, so it Should be in the region of 265 miles. Top speed along the average length of straight was 82 m.p.h. but this should build up higher on a motorway.

To sum-up, this M.G. is, like some people, very smooth but lacking in character. It provides very comfortable, safe and quick transport, has the merit of being technically advanced and feels essentially dependable, but it may be found that it differs too little Iron) the ‘Morris two it so closely resembles to appeal to the more staunch M.G. exponents; it costs over kmo more than the Morris, by the way. Our test of an early model revealed complete immunity from water leaks in heavy rain and no troubles in a distance of 750 miles, after which a quart of oil restored the sump level. There is, of course, no gearbox or radiator to replenish and lubrication is confined to four points every 3,000 miles.

Unquestionably, at the new price of £713-9-5 the MG. 1100 is outstanding value-for-money — W. B.