MG Midget

At 95 the lights still burn brightly at ‘MG’

In the classic car world there is always an anniversary to celebrate, and right now MG enthusiasts are doffing their cloth caps for the 95th anniversary of their favourite marque.

There is friendly disagreement whether MG actually started in 1923, 1924 or 1925.

The MG octagon logo was first seen in newspapers in late 1923 and was trademarked on 1st May 1924.

MG properly began trading in 1925.

So we will split the difference and pin it at 1924.

The MG name originated from the initials of Morris Garages, W R Morris’s, Lord Nuffield’s, original Oxford city retail sales and service business.

In 1923 Cecil Kimber, the general manager had the idea to increase sales by producing a sports cars based on the Morris Oxford chassis.

They were a great success and the fast and sturdy cars were much sought after.

Sort of the “muscle car” of the day.

The first stand alone MG, rather than a modified Morris, was released in 1928.

The car had a purpose designed chassis and is the model on which the traditional vertical MG grille made its first appearance.

For many MG admirers it is the low slung, two-seat sports cars that attract the attention.

The enduring image is of raffish young men, probably Air Force squadron leaders, racing their MG down country lanes in that green and pleasant land on the way to see their girlfriend, most likely called Sarah.

MG’s were also popular in California in the 1950s and 1960s with trendsetters who wanted something sporty and affordable.

Singer song writer Neil Sedaka referenced the image in his song Wheeling West Virgina when he sang about his morning drive to the movie studio: “Laurel to Sunset, Freeway to Culver, racing my MG down to MGM.”

But back in the day MG also produced a wonderful range of sports sedans.

The best of these are the agile MG Magnettes of the mid-50s.

It all went off the rails when the mergers with Austin and Leyland saw family cars, such as the Morris 1100, given the distinctive MG grille and sent out into the wide world as supposed MGs.

Some managers at British Leyland actually thought this was a good idea and the cars would sell.

That attitude just about sums up the low level of brainpower  at British Leyland in the 1960s and 70s.

Those with more sense and an understanding of MG’s heritage just shook their heads in wonder at such stupidity.

Car buyers were not fooled.

Of course, the brand’s reputation suffered.

Financial troubles followed.

But bright days are back for MG.

Now owned by SAIC of China, the brand again sells in Australia.

The have revealed two very stylish concepts, the E-Motion coupe and the X-Motion SUV.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au

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