1956 MG TF: Impulsive behaviour
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Hear the letters “MG TF” and you might be forgiven for recalling the mid-engined rear-drive MG T roadster sold by MG between 1995 and 2011.
It was under Rover, then BMW ownership then, after a management buy-out of the brand, by the new MG Rover, with the MG TF the final iteration, launching in 2002. By the time it ceased production in 2011, the business was owned by Nanjing Automobile.
But there had been an earlier MG TF, which originated as a body-on-frame two-seat sports car called the MG T series, starting production in Abingdon, UK in 1936 as the MG TA, a development of the earlier PB.
Over the years MG worked slowly through the alphabet, with the TF launching in October 1953 as a facelift TD, using a 1250cc motor, a four-speed transmission, headlights now integrated into the front fenders and a sloping front grille, with a new pressurised cooling system masked by a fake external radiator cap.
But 1954 introduced a more powerful, 1466cc engine with a modest 47kW output, to punt a car that weighed in at under a ton, road ready.
The MG T ceased production in April 1955, after 9602 had been built, and one of those was this car, an MG TF sold new in New Zealand in 1956, to a woman in Balclutha.
Owner Dean Lindsay said when he first spotted it, it was in the Roy Savage collection, which was auctioned at Southward Car museum late last year.
Dean went along to look at another car, but after it went above his maximum he rang his wife to see what she thought about an MG TF, which he described as “a Noddy car”.
She logged on to the auction live, to have a look, while Dean raised his hand to try to hold the bidding a moment while he heard what she thought. “The hammer went down, but I wasn’t sure what the final bid was, so I hung up on her, and switched the phone off.
I was scared my hand-waving had raised the bids, and the cost had gone up without my knowing.”
Fortunately it hadn’t, his marriage was safe, and the car was loaded on a transporter for the trip north.
Dean says he normally does a fair bit of research before buying a car, “But this was an impulse buy. I don’t believe you’d find one like it.”
It’s easy to see why he was keen, for the car is completely original and has done fewer than 56,000km, or less than 1000km per year.
It came with “a complete dossier,” it has the original tools, the original engine, even the paint is the same as the factory applied more than 60 years ago, and sporting few real blemishes.
The interior paint has clearly lived a bit of life, but nothing you’d notice at a casual glance. There’s a lovely patina to the seats and the only addition is the radio, fitted at some point before Dean bought the car. The luggage rack and spoked wheels were options when it was new.
Once we’ve hopped in via the rear-hinged “suicide” doors and Dean is behind the wheel, the car fires up easily and we’re soon tooling about in the sunshine.
“The ride is a bit flexi, but it goes well,” he says. “It drives like a dream, eh!”
The car is perfectly happy at open-road speeds, although one feels a tad vulnerable in an open-top car without seat belts — though there is a passenger grab handle.
Dean stops to generously let me take the wheel.
There’s no power steering, of course, but the car’s so light it barely matters. I’m sitting a lot closer to the wheel than I’m used to, but enjoying the almost supple way it handles the bumps, and especially I enjoy how flexible third gear is, delivering delightful pep for pulling away or cornering, yet equally happy to tool through Kerikeri’s bustling main street, or putter along at 50km/h.
We’re unlikely to get too hot in this. If we do, the windscreen folds down. If we want more cover, the original hood is easy to put up, and side windows are under a cubby behind the seats.
Luggage? That’s what the rack is for, as there’s no boot. What you see is what you get, and the car is worth having a close look at, if nothing else for the details.
There’s that British flag on the car’s flanks, and even the dipstick sports an MG logo.
With that red paint glowing in the sun, it’s easy to see why Dean made this particular impulse buy.