Motor Sport Road Test (Post-war Series) No. 2
A very well-appointed car with a lively performance. Excellent roadholding and braking, and effective weather-protection.
It is good to know that the ever-popular M.G. Midget has survived the war and is in production again. It is the same trim, efficient 2-seater we knew pre-strife times, with 1,250-c.c., push-rod, o.h.v. 4-cylinder engine, 4-speed gearbox, and 1/2-elliptic suspension, now improved in a number of practical ways and endowed with greater elbow-room and even better weather protection.
We took one of these cars over from the M.G. works at Abingdon last November and subjected it to a strenuous 400-miles test; the more we drove it, the more reluctant did we become to take it back to Mr. Cox, M.G.’s Publicity Manager. From the commencement a driver feels at home in this M.G. and, as he enthuses over the comfortable driving position and the layout of the controls, his passenger is invariably praising the comfortable seating and the very generous leg room. The bench-type front seat has been contrived so that not only is it possible to slide the two separate cushions forward, but also to adjust the rake of the squab, while the steering column is telescopic, so that the best seating position is quickly attainable. The seat strikes just the right balance between sponginess and hardness, and, while perfectly comfortable, the driver is prevented from rolling about when indulging in fasterthan-normal cornering. For competition work raising the cushion some 3 in. would aid visibility, as the bonnet slopes upward to some extent, although both wings are visible in any case. M.G.s have always fitted the near-perfect handbrake and the centrally-disposed lever on the “T.C.” is no exception. Of “fly-off” type, it really holds the car, releases instantaneously when pulled back, and locks effectively if the thumb-catch is pressed down. It is indeed an excellent brake.
The central, remote-gear-lever calls for equal praise. It could hardly be better placed, is short, absolutely rigid, with a pleasantly slim grip. This is well merited, for the synchro-mesh gearbox is one of the nicest we have operated. The synchro-mesh works well, but double de-clutching is equally effective, and upward and downward changes are really quick. The change back into top gear from 3rd is very pleasant, helped by the sensible positioning of the lever. It is also quite practical to “snatch” upward changes with the throttle foot held down. The only care necessary is not to pull the lever too far to the right when going from 2nd into 3rd, or it tends to catch on the gate; the reverse position works easily against a spring. The clutch is light and works well, but it might be a trifle more progressive. The brake pedal needs fair pressure, but gives excellent results.
The wood facia has a centre panel carrying Lucas ammeter, ignition and lamp switch, horn button and dipper, Jaeger oil gauge reading to 100 lb./sq. in., starter pull, mixture pull, fog-lamp switch, battery charging socket, panel light switch, and screw-type, slow-running adjustment. It is flanked by a, dash. lamp and a 30 m.p.h. warning lamp and, on the left, is the 100 m.p.h. Jaeger speedometer with mileometer and trip, and on the right the Jaeger rev.-counter reading to 6,500 r.p.m. and having an inset clock. Also, on the extreme right, is a window which flashes the word “Fuel” when the tank capacity is down to about two gallons; unfortunately, it does this very vividly, right in the driver’s eyes. Speedometer and rev.-counter are simply but effectively calibrated. The oil gauge is somewhat blanked by the steering wheel, but not seriously; the lamp dipper is rather too close to the wheel and could with advantage work the other way, so that it could be flicked with the left forefinger, instead of having to be fumbled for with the thumb. The panel lighting is adequate for reading all the instruments, but too much green light leaks round them for the light to be left on while driving. The starter is up to its task and the mixture-enrichener for the twin S.U. carburetters is springloaded to obviate driving off in “rich” — a good point. The ignition key in the “off” position does not render the electrics dead, yet has to be “on” to work the wipers. The dynamo gives a good, controlled charge and the dual screen wipers are efficient but very noisy. Normal oil pressure is 42 lb./sq. in. and does not vary with hard driving. There are only two hexagon-motifs now visible from the seat, one in the centre of the 3-spoke steering wheel and one on the back of the licence holder. The scuttle has the two familiar wind-deflecting “humps” and the screen folds flat, with wiper box before the passenger. Entry into the M.G. is no more difficult than in any other lowbuilt car of this type, and is aided by the low running boards. Door handles and bonnet fasteners work effectively, and each door has a pocket. There is no cubby hole.
Our initial impression of the “T.C.” Midget was its trim, well-balanced appearance and the high quality of the finish. The car could certainly take its place unashamedly with the “limousines and landaulettes” outside the best hotels, while there was practically no suggestion of austerity. There are carpets on the floor, and a wind excluder round the handbrake, and the finish of the car — red in our case with upholstery to match — and the equipment included, leave nothing to be desired. A most useful item of the body layout is the generous luggage space behind the seat. This is covered by a “tonneau”-cover when the hood is down, or by the hood when this is erected, and will hold several suitcases, still with room to spare for coats and similar etceteras. This is a very valuable feature, and the need to carry luggage externally should never arise.
Getting away from Oxford, after inspecting that pleasingly-stark 1923 o.h.v. M.G. in the Nuffield Showrooms, we soon found we were cruisirig at 55-60 m.p.h. on the speedometer. The M.G. proved to have a very subdued exhaust note, even when accelerating in the lower gears, and in towns it attracted only favourable comment and attention. We soon found ourselves keeping the engine speed above an indicated 2,500 r.p.m. by making full use of the gearbox, encouraged by the excellent placing of the rigid gear-lever and the ease of the change. This desire to employ the lower ratios is enhanced by a complete absence of gear noise on any ratio and only the slightest sound on the over-run. The steering we found to be really high-geared (in quite the vintage tradition); it actually needs 1 5/8 turns, lock to lock. The lock is moderate. As the test progressed we confirmed not only the ability to control the car by wrist-movements alone, but that no return motion is felt through the wheel on any surface, and that there is admirable castor action. The wheel judders in the hands at times, but never to an abnormal degree, the scuttle, like the radiator, being commendably rigid. It is rather heavy steering through appreciable arcs, but very reasonable in normal motoring. The door cut-away tends slightly to impede the elbow when “dicing.” This steering is in no way “spongy,” and after 7,500 miles showed little lost motion.
The M.G. corners as well as its predecessors. If anything, it understeers, which is all to the good, especially as the quick castor action brings it out of corners very nicely. We could not make the car slide, even on wet roads, and it steers accurately both on the straight and when cornering. The steering remains good when reversing, which is useful in special tests, and the car certainly does not roll, even under “test” driving. The tyres protest rather early, but not too loudly. The suspension is pleasingly hard in quite the “old-school” manner, yet the car is not uncomfortable and can be taken over gulleys and bad surfaces without any feeling of remorse. This firmness of the suspension undoubtedly endows the “‘T.C.” M.G. with the good roadholding aforementioned and, if it occasions a few body rattles, we feel these are entirely forgivable in view of the pleasant handling qualities achieved.
The brakes are really good. They call for fairly firm pressure on the pedal, but have a secure, hard feel, are very powerful, and progressive braking is quite easy to accomplish. There is only occasional brake noise and in the wet, if the wheels are allowed to lock, the car remains controllable.
On the first day of the test a cold wind made us resort to the excellent weather protection which we were so glad of later on. Four rigid sidesereens are stowed in a felt-lined locker at the back of the luggage compartment. They fit, two on each side, by inserting metal tongues into slots at the back and metal sockets over studs at the front, where wing nuts secure them. We soon erected the front screens and found that they excluded side draughts. When we encountered driving rain and a gale-force wind we erected the disappearing hood and the rear side screens, and in a matter of miles gave full marks to the weather protection of the new M.G. Midget. Hardly any rain drove in and the interior of the car was literally warmer than that of a saloon — so much so that in less severe conditions we should have removed the rear sidescreens in order to ventilate the car. The weather really was quite abnormal and the M.G. came through with flying colours, the interior almost bone fry, No one need have any qualms about using this car in winter, and this protection is rendered practical by two windows in the back of the hood, permitting of easy reversing, and by signalling flaps at the base of each sidesereen, normally secured by a press-stud tab.
As we have observed, the driving position is generally comfortable, but, unfortunately, there is nowhere to stow one’s clutch foot and the accelerator is rather difficult to hold fully depressed. The fuel tank holds the useful quantity of 13 1/2 gallons and possesses a very excellent quick-action filler cap. Two other good points about this M.G. deserve special emphasis. One is the provision of centre-lock wire wheels, rare on modern cars. They carry 4.50 in. by 19 in. Dunlop synthetic tyres. The other is the excellent lighting. It is possible to drive at maximum speed after dark, thanks to the long-range beams from the Lucas headlamps, yet these “dim” effectively, while the small Lucas spotlamp is one of the finest we have driven behind. The sidelamps rather reflect in the headlamp plating and so can be checked as “on” from the seat; there is a good brake lamp, but no reversing light.
We subjected the car to our usual timed tests, and here it was decidedly unlucky. Wind was gusting up to gale force across the course, which was sodden with rain – very unfavourable conditions. The figures we obtained are given in the accompanying table, but before you commit them to memory, some explanation is necessary. At Brooklands it was possible to work a car up to its true maximum speed. Under prevailing conditions we cannot do this, but our speed for the flying 1/4-mile is a fair approximation of what can be expected under road conditions. As usual, we did several runs in both directions of the course with the screen down, and carried a lightweight passenger and only a few gallons of petrol. The main figures were: flying 1/4-mile at 63.5 m.p.h., mean speed, best run at 65.75 m.p.h. Best standing 1/4-mile in 22 sec., 0-50. m.p.h. in 16.25 sec., 0-60 m.p.h. in 27.25 sec. The wet road affected the braking, which from 30 m.p.h. to a standstill occupied 41 ft; the car slid with locked wheels and did well in the circumstances. Incidentally, before doing these tests we check the speedometer to eliminate inaccuracies; weight is ascertained on the same weighbridge in each case.
The engine of the “T.C.” M.G. is smooth and free from flat-spots, so that the speed attained before changing into a higher gear really rests with the driver. An indicated speed of 3,000 r.p.m. is very pleasant, or 4,000 r.p.m. for brisker occasions. The engine sounded to have reached its safe limit at an indicated 5,500 r.p.m., and the corrected road speeds were then 22 1/2 m.p.h. in 1st gear, just over 39 m.p.h. in 2nd gear, and 56 1/2 m.p.h. in 3rd gear. In top gear we got an indicated speed of 4,400 r.p.m. entering the measured stretch and 4,600 r.p.m. leaving it, on a run timed at 62.1 m.p.h., which shows that, given a longer run, the car would probably have improved on its maximum speed. On the road, in fact, on one occasion the speed exceeded 70 m.p.h.
It was most interesting to find that the engine did not protest in the slightest degree to “Pool” petrol. It started at once from cold, but needed some encouragement from the enrichener before it would pull. It always cut clean on the switch, and in just over 400 miles no oil or water was needed. The fuel consumption, checking a tankful against the trip reading, came out at 27 m.p.g., much town work and all the timed tests included. In top gear the engine began to “take hold” above an indicated 3,000 r.p.m., and in the same ratio would run down to a few m.p.h. without transmission snatch. Beneath the bonnet the oil filler is readily accessible on the valve cover, and coil, electric fuel pump and junction box equally so on the bulkhead. The external mirror is well placed, but visibility suffers with the sidescreens up on a wet night. The starting handle is clamped to the front of the luggage shelf and the tools are in a locker beside the battery box on the bulkhead. The engine is finished in light grey paint and the rev.-counter is driven from the belt-driven dynamo. The wheelbase is 7 ft. 10 in., the track 3 ft. 9 in., and those with garaging problems may like to know that the overall dimensions are 11 ft. 6 in. by 4 ft. 8 in.
To sum up, the “T.C.” M.G. Midget is a good-looking, attractive car. It corners very well indeed, and its excellent gear-change and good brakes, together with “vintage-like” roadholding and suspension, enable it to live up to its slogan of “Safety Fast.” Its other characteristics, if less outstanding, are equally satisfactory, and its economical speed, willing acceleration and very practical and complete equipment, combine to render this car a thoroughly useable 2-seater. Full details from the M.G. Car Company, Ltd., Abingdon-onThames, Berkshire. The price, with purchase tax, is £527 16s. 8d. — W. B.