Peter Green’s 1933 Ex-Straight / Seaman K3 MG Magnette
IT IS always a pleasure to encounter almost-original historic cars. So I was fortunate last month to drive Peter Green’s 1933 K3 MG, which he part-shares with David Dutton. This is one afoot very many of these classic MGs, still in more or less unchanged guise since the days of its considerable and successful pre-war racing career. MG introduced the K3 after having proved their cars in racing with the series of smaller models, and by late 1933 it became available to customers as a catalogue model. In all, some 35 were made, if you include the two prototypes. The first of these was rather a lash-up, but it made ftd at class-record speed in the Mont-des-Mules hill-climb after the 1932 Monte Carlo Rally, in which it competed. The second prototype K3 MG was exhaustively tested in Italy as a prelude to a team appearance of these new 1,087 cc six-cylinder overhead-camshaft cars in the Mille Miglia of 1933. Driven by Earl Howe, Capt Eyston and Sir H. Birkin, Bt, they finished first and second in their class, after
Birkin had retired with a dropped valve. This was tremendous propaganda for the MG Company (Royalty attended the post-race celebrations), and was the forerunner of successes innumerable of the K3 on road and track. Valuable British prestige had been achieved with this trouncing of 1,100 cc Continental opposition in the legendary Mille Miglia and when it was announced that replicas of the team-cars would be available, for E795, MG were not wanting for keen customers. In the summer of 1933 S. C. H. Davis was allowed to try the K3 that Eyston had driven in the IoM Mannin Beg race, equipped with a starter which had been energised by a battery in the pits but no other electrics, and with the low 4.89 axle-ratio. He scotched rumours that this type of Magnette was difficult to handle, saying it could be kept almost anywhere on the Brooklands banking above thc 60 mph line at a lap-speed of 104.8 mph, and cross the Fork with 10 or 15 feet between it and the blue line painted on the
Track. The car, a slab-tank model, felt to be going easily at 6,200 rpm, representing a true speed of 108 to 110 mph. Davis also praised the pre-selector gearbox used for the K3 (which he called a “self-change” box), the changes from gear to gear being “happy and beautiful”, and by a little trick with the Inner he selected second while the MG was ready to move off in first, getting a 0-75 mph time of 14.6s. From second to third. 26 to 66 mph, took 12.2s. He felt that the type of gearbox listed need not be devastating to the transmission when changing down, providing it was used sensibly, preferably with doubledeclutching, and not as a brake by engaging second or bottom gear from impossible revs. He obviously did not try throat for long — in the time he drove it he wondered whether the K3 was “a bit front-end heavy for road racing and the steering slightly on the spongy side.” Green’s K3 was bought new by Whitney Straight. It is car No K3011, unregistered for the road before the war. Instead of the slab-tank body originated for the Mille Miglia and other road races. or the production pointed-tail body. Straight, who took delivery in July 1933, had Thomson & Taylor’s make a lightweight aluminium btxly not unlike the catalogue K3’s, but with a full-width flare on the scuttle, and a higher, but pointed, tail. It was painted in Straight’s racing colours of black with silver wheels; the original black paint still exists beneath subsequent coats. Straight won the very first race in which he ran the MG, the Copra Acerbo, and retired from the 500 Mile Race, but at the end of the 1933 season he finished second in two Mountain races at Brooklands, beaten only by Nays’ ERA and Dixon’s Riley, and bating the Class-G lap record at 70.67 mph. be young Dick Seaman then entered into ar.. arrangement with Straight to commence his racing career with this MG. Seaman won hit class in the 1934 Inter-‘Varsity sPeed-trials at Eynsham. Robin Jackson was then called in to tune the K3 and.after some inutial troubles, Seaman was third in the CoPpa Acerb° behind the K3s of Hamilton and Cecchini, won the Prix de Berne at 74,76 mph, won his class with a very good On at the Mont Ventoux hill-climb, and was fifth at Masaryk. Back in this country, the black K3 was second to Mays (ERA) in ti,he Nuffield Trophy Race at Donington ,ark and at Brooklands he regained for the from Dixon, the Class-G Mountain ‘p-record, at 72.87 mph. Seaman then 91,,c a “works” K3 in the East London GP !n South Africa before going on, as Straight bad done, to greater things, for which the
K’ had served as an excellent aPp,renticeship for both drivers. .,, ‘,IL* Seaman sold the MG to Reggie who had it tuned by Bellevue `..’arage and won his class in it at the Syston 1Veed-trials of 1935 and a third (best la : 10.92 mph) in an oa was ir lap: N handicap at Continued on page 1229 MG MAGNETTE — continued
the Brooklands Easter Meeting, before selling the K3 (still painted black) to buy his R-type MG Midget. It went to Sam Collier and George Rand in the USA, and subsequently passed through the hands of Hugh Bancroft, Gordon Morris and Robert Herb. Incidentally, while it was in this country it had been raced by Straight’s girl-friend, Psyche Althan, who was third in a Brooklands Mountain Ladies’ race, and W011 her class at Brighton. In 1979 Dan Margulies got it back from America and Peter Green could not resist it. . . .
Peter’s father will be remembered as an early member of the VSCC, with GNs and Salmsons, and his uncle Pat had the ex-Widengren Amilcar Six, which he later sold to buy the 1934 TT-winning MG NE Magnette. Properly brought up, Peter was further encouraged when for an 18th birthday present he was given an N-type four-seater MG. He kept this for about four years, then in the 1960s had an A30 van, followed by an N-type MG with a K2 body and a Morris engine. He still has this, now with the correct engine. His next move was to buy, in Sussex, the ex-Bellevue Garage Evans’ trials MG, BLL 493, which was three parts rebuilt when he sold it in order to relieve Margulies of the K3. The famous Straight / Seaman car was in need of new mudguards and mainly cosmetic attention. It had an American supercharger, since replaced with a post-war Marshall J100 blower, as a fair substitute for the correct No 9 Povverplus used on the early cars and which Green has. It will be remembered that much plug trouble was experienced with these superchargers and No 85 Marshall blowers were later fitted, so the present one is maybe Ott the small side. However, as Peter enjoys his corns the road but does not race it, this o not important. The cylinder block is not original but most of the rest of the engine aPpears to be, although the crank and rods are Laystall and the N-type cylinder head is to 1934, not 1933, specification. The big swalP is also as on the 1934 K3s, but otherwise the car, now registered MG 3570, is to the 1933 form, even to the single-lever braking system. As raced, there was no dynamo, which Green had reinstalled. It is Ialso very satisfactory that the body has slight swaging out at the sides to survived largely unchanged, apart from ace.ommodate different seats. The two 9….ck-action fillers for the fuel-tank which is nnegral with the tail and the racing roundels (in the body sides remain, as does the
undershield, and the headlamp t000-guards. , The fixed cycle-type wings look .osolutely right, as do the 5.00-19 Dunlop ,tYl’es. And this historic MG (which you will pe able to see later this year in ‘a BBC d.entnentary about pre-war GP cars) is no
cosseted machine. Taking it to this year’s Mille Miglia, to commemorate that great showing by the then-new K3s in the 1933 race, Green covered more than 2,000 miles in Italy, with no real trouble, although the blower did mildly seize twice. He loves driving the car, willingly bringing it out to the Cotswolds for me to try; when I asked what mpg it does Peter replied “Honestly, I have no idea, but although it is heavy, in the pleasure I get I am fully repaid!” Pump 4-star naturally, and he uses Castrol GTX oil. For his Italian tour Peter fitted in a switch-in electric fan behind the radiator. The 57 x 71 mm (1,087 cc) engine should be familiar to all MG enthusiasts. The oh-camshaft now has bevel-drive, but straight-tooth gears are used in the back-axle and rest of the engine, the axle whining pleasantly, above the burble of the n/s external Brooklands exhaust-system. Yet this is by no means an objectionably noisy sports / racing car. The blower sucks from an SD carburetter on the n/s, both enclosed by the dumb-iron cowl; the magneto on the o/s is a BTH, and Champion plugs stand up moderately well to the blower-oil. You climb into the cockpit over the doorless sides and are confronted by strip-type pedals (close together, and calling for small shoes) with the accelerator in the centre. The remote-gear-lever tunnel has a spoked brake-adjuster wheel on its extremity and the minute gear-selectee lever moves over a vertical notched quadrant in line fore and aft, neutral being right forward and bottom, second, third and top back towards you. The gears are selected by fully depressing the lb pedal, the action of which is quite light, although I could have done with a longer left leg! The bottom-gear band acts as the clutch for moving off and the changes, up or down, can be pre-selected, and effected in lightning manner. Outboard of this fascinating tiny gear-lever is the typical MG fly-off hand-brake. Before you, the surprisingly broad, full-louvred bonnet. The engine is unexpectedly docile, pulling down to very low speeds in third gear, and accelerating away cleanly, some smoke from the blower noticeable at first, while naturally it pays to keep the revs up, to humour the plugs. The steering, with a
big three-spoke wheel, is light and normally geared, none of the one-turn lock-to-lock of an early vintage car. The brakes seemed entirely adequate at the pace at which I ventured to drive this irreplaceable motor car. Originally minuscule levers on the sides of the gear-tunnel worked the advance-and-retard (on the left) and the mixture-control (on the right); the former remains but, like the dashboard Ki-gass, is no longer used.
The dash is well endowed with neat small instrument dials, and the vast Jaeger tachometer is before the driver, calibrated from “10” to “80” in steps of 10 rpm, the red sector at 5,500 to 8,000 rpm. Green is quite happy to use up to 5,000 rpm . . . From left to right you have: an ammeter, the s/c oil-pressure gauge normally reading about 4 lb / sq in, with below it the fuel-feed air-pressure gauge, to be kept at 21b. (There is no engine feed-pump, so the hand-pump keeps the passenger occasionally busy.) This pump is above the Ki-guts knob. Next along, towards the driver, you have the s/c pressure / vacuum gauge, rising to 8 lb / sq in as the revs mount, below it the engine oil gauge (1001k minimum), then on the other side of that immense tachometer or rev-counter, one over the other, are the water and oil-temperature gauges, normally reading respectively, 70 to 80 deg C, and 50 deg C.
Thus the very satisfying MG in which we motored one showery September day, calling in at the interesting Cotswolds Motor Museum at Bourton-on-the-Water as we were in the area (not that Green’s K3 is in any way a “museum” car!). After which I let the owner drive me back, and it was possible to capture something of what Straight and Seaman must have experienced on the race circuits, 50 and more long years ago . . . “Four-five” represents some 80 mph, with the engine and car just cruising, the ride good, in spite of cord-bound leaf springs, the back-axle, incidentally, underslung. I would gladly have continued for 200 miles or more, as I know Peter Green would have, in this MG which is an redolent of the past successes and prestige of this great British make, scored in races and record-sorties all over the World. — W.B.
Letters, December 2011
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