One of the most cherished British classics ever made, the T-Series sums up everything that was great about England, from a time when Britannia ruled the waves. Oozing quintessential British charm, the T-Series lasted two decades and encompassed five distinct derivatives. From the narrow-tracked TA to the Morgan-esque TF with its integrated headlamps and wider bodyshell, all these cars have their charms and are well supported by specialists around the country.
After the World War 2 had ended, the MG sports car was put back into production with the new and improved TC. The earlier TA and TB models came in for some criticism for being too narrow in the cockpit, and wearing out the sliding spring mounts at the rear too quickly. Making the cockpit a couple of inches wider, and adding some new rubber bushes at the rear was all it took to ready the car for post-war sales…
However, while the T-Series was everything you needed in period, that period was a long time ago. As a result none of these cars is fast while handling and braking is ‘of its time’ and maintenance demands can be high. But if you’re after a charming classic to enjoy some touring when the sun comes out and you don’t anticipate doing a huge mileage every year, an MG T-series could be just the thing. While this guide coveres the TC, all of the models are fundamentally the same, so much of the information is interchangeable.
Which T-Series MG buy?
Each of the various T-series derivatives has a character all of its own, so you need to work out which is best for you. Unsurprisingly the most usable is the TF 1500 as it was the last of the line with the biggest engine, so it’s no surprise that these are the most valuable of the lot, along with the TC. However, the latter has a cramped interior and is pretty antiquated to drive, but it has more charming looks than the models that came later.
There’s little difference in values between the TA and TB or left- and right-hand drive cars; the TA, TB and TC were never built with left-hand drive anyway. This leaves the TD, which offers perhaps the best balance of pre-war looks, drivability and usability, while availability tends to be pretty good too.
Performance and specs
Engine 1250cc, four-cylinder
Power 55bhp @ 5200rpm
Torque 64lb ft @ 2600rpm
Top speed 78mph
Fuel consumption 30mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 838kg
• All these cars have a separate chassis, with the TA, TB and TC sharing one design and the TD/TF another. The earlier chassis gives few problems, although any impact twists it. The pre-1948 chassis can crack under the front seats as there was only reinforcement this far back, and the subsequent strain on the channelling leads to stress fractures. The later chassis is less durable, as it’s box section rather than channelling, so it rots from the inside out.
• Although the bodyshells vary between the various T-Series derivatives, they all share the same construction and weaknesses. All rely on wood framing, although the TF features more metal, to add stiffness. The wood causes the greatest problems, and most of it’s hidden from view. There’s an exposed crossmember under the dash; if this is rotten the rest of the woodwork will be too.
• It’s easy to inspect the outer body panels, as there aren’t any box sections. Corrosion around the edges of each wing is normal, while the seams can harbour rust, thanks to the beading absorbing water then promoting corrosion.
• Other corrosion hotspots include the bulkhead behind the front seats and the fuel tank; inspect the latter especially closely. Felt pads locate the tank; they absorb water then the metal dissolves.
• Most Ts had an XPAG engine but the TA featured a 1292cc Wolseley Ten-based powerplant, which can be fragile. Cylinder blocks crack, so check for hairline fractures. Oil and water mix because the head and block crack; in the case of the latter, it’s usually on the pushrod side, behind the tappet cover. The strength of the metal isn’t helped by the cylinder head studs passing through the water jacket. Look for white emulsion on the oil filler cap and dipstick. A healthy engine should display 50-60psi when cruising. To top it all there are white metal bearings, which increases rebuild costs.
• The Morris Ten-based 1250cc XPAG engine fitted from the TB onwards (1466cc in the TF) is more straightforward, with shell bearings. However, the crankshaft can break across the front web while the valves can drop into the cylinders, when their heads break off. The cam followers also wear quickly; any engine rebuilt recently should have had improvements incorporated, such as improved valve springs.
• TD and TF gearboxes are the weakest; the gears and layshaft create the most problems, so make sure the car doesn’t jump out of gear and that there’s no significant whining.
• The primitive suspension needs regular TLC. The first three generations featured cart springs, while the TD and TF have independent front suspension. The earlier system is strong, but the TA and TB feature sliding trunnion spring mountings at the rear. The steel tube which carries the phosphor bronze bushes wears, but it’s easy to fix.
• The phosphor bronze upper and lower trunnions of the TD and TF are prone to wear, and if they’ve been replaced by steel MGA items they’ll be even more worn. Regular lubrication with a mix of oil and grease will have slowed down the wear rate – but it can’t be eradicated completely.
• The TA, TB and TC have a worm-and-peg steering box, which usually wears rapidly and is often over-adjusted to remove play. This makes things worse and ensures the box has to be replaced. The steering racks fitted to the TD and TF are durable; any play is probably because of slackness in the adjustable inner ball joints on the tie rods, which is easily fixed.
• The pressed-steel drums of the TA-TC are prone to warping, so feel for juddering when braking. Original-style brake drums are available.
• The TC and TD had cast-iron drums, which are integral with the hub, so they’re difficult to remove, so preventative maintenance is frequently overlooked. It doesn’t help that the alloy wheel cylinders are prone to seizure.
1936: The MG TA debuts.
1938: A Tickford TA coupé arrives, with folding hood and wind-up windows.
1939: The TB appears, but production lasts just four months. The rarest T of all, the TB is just a re-engined TA.
1945: The TC appears. A widened TB, it marks MG’s entry into the North American market in 1947.
1950: The TD debuts with a fresh frame and bodyshell plus redesigned front suspension. It becomes the most popular of all the T-series models.
1953: The TF brings a more modern look, with faired-in headlamps. A TD with a modified bodyshell, even the engine is carried over.
1954: The TF1500 appears; it’s the most usable of the T-Series MGs.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
The cheapest of all T-Series cars is the TD, which starts at £6000 for a project car, with runners ranging from £12,000-£15,000. Even a very solid and great condition car will only cost around £20,000. The original TA and TB models are similarly priced, although a significant premium will be paid for the best models – typically costing up to £25,000.
As the most usable and potentially enjoyable of the T-Series cars, the TF is slightly more expensive still. Projects start from £8000, with average to good cars coming in at £13,500-£20,000 and the best at around £26,000-plus. As the best looking, and most collectible, the MG TC is the most valuable of all, and is around £1000 more than any equivalent TF.
Words: Richard Dredge