Don't knock the octagon


Whilst a devoted Motor Sport reader I can’t help wondering why people are so antagonistic towards MG cars, especially those of the pre-war variety.

Over the past years Motor Sport hasn’t been particularly enthusiastic about them, though I must admit that the editorial attitude has changed noticeably in this respect over the past six months. Now a Mr. Pegum is knocking them, as your correspondence columns for December will show. I get the impression that the vintage and post-vintage thoroughbred fanatics look down on them.

This odd attitude has been very noticeable at some recent VSCC events. On one occasion “Bunny” Tubbs commentating at a July Silverstone meeting made a fatuous remark about pre-war MGs and had to be put in his place by the objective John Willis doing the commentary at Woodcote. Again at a Thruxton meeting before the Spero “Voiturette” Trophy race a “character” came over the public address system saying that he doubted whether the MGs entered would last the distance. G. V. Coles went out and won the race outright in a J4 MG.

Having been born at the end of the last war I can only surmise that when MGs arrived on the racing scene the stalwarts got upset because MGs were cheap to purchase and won races. All right, the finish wasn’t as elaborate as a Riley but they still won races. Of course, the sports/racing cars MGs produced had all the necessary trimmings of a competitor. They cost a little more but they won races. Nuvolari drove a K3 MG in the Ulster TT in 1933 and won. Again you may recall on August 15th, 1933, Whitney Straight drove a K3 in the Coppa Acerbo Junior and came home ahead of a number of single-seater Maseratis. The Italians were so upset they demanded the engine be stripped and the dimensions checked. Alas, an inspection revealed the correct sizes. So they can’t have been that bad.

Your correspondent, Mr. Pegum, is arguing over 4-5 b.h.p./litre from a 750 c.c. engine. All right, I like to be precise, Steve Dear was wrong, but bear in mind that MGs never produced a single-seater until the R-type. All single-seater MGs prior to the R-type were constructed at the owner’s request—from two-seater sports models. There’s no doubt that MGs were on to something in the R-type with its all-independent torsion bar suspension. However, the engine was similar to the engine in roadgoing showroom models.

For Mr. Pegum to suggest that MGs withdrew from racing because of Murray Jamieson’s outstandingly successful twin-cam Austin is just too naive for a man who quotes b.h.p. figures to two decimal places.

After six to seven years’ racing experience MGs probably knew more about the racing game than any other mass producer at the time. I think it was more than the Austins that caused MGs to desist from further efforts in racing.

After Bentley, MG flew the flag that was subsequently taken up by ERA and others. Very creditable I feel in the gap between Segrave’s win at Tours in 1923 and the victory of Tony Brooks at Syracuse in 1955.

Remember MGs provided a cheap competitive car as Ford do today. An action which you yourself commend as praiseworthy.

Nuffield swept Kimber, Hounslow, etc., out of the back door of the competition department in a similar way to the treatment Browning and Co. got from Lord Stokes recently, only Nuffield’s action was more discreet.

So don’t knock MGs.

Many thanks for providing a journal of such variety.

Graham Warren.

[I must say I don’t personally crave many pre-war MGs, the K3 and some Brooklands cars excepted—something to do with rubbery steering and being oozled by octagons, perhaps. But the make did give British prestige in motor racing a tremendous uplift, which is why Motor Sport’s “Great British Achievements” series in 1943 included the MG Magnette victory in the 1933 Mille Miglia (1,100 c.c. class).

Commentators’ comments at VSCC meetings are mostly made for fun and one shouldn’t take them home to grieve over.—ED.]