1950 TD: A 40-year friendship
April 01, 2011
Cover story: The Sacred Octagon, April 2011, Vol., 49, No. 2
New England MG ‘T’ Register, Ltd.
This is the story of a 40-year friendship and an affection for British sports cars that turned a well-used 1950 M.G. TD into a national concours contender. The TD (0875) was just a sporty second-hand car in 1961 when 17-year-old Mike Jones bought it off a used car lot in Allentown, Pa., with $400 earned on his paper route.
“My buddies and I were into British sports cars,” Mike recalls. “A good friend had a Jaguar. Another had a Singer, and another an MGA. So I decided to look for a sports car of my own.” The TD needed an engine overhaul, but then was ready to roll after Mike splurged on a $35 “Nimbus Gray” paint job and added some custom black racing stripes.
“I used this car throughout the remainder of high school and college and during my first job, until I got married and had enough money to buy another car,” Mike recalls, noting that his second car was also an M.G., an 1100 sports sedan, which was followed by an MGB/GT.
“At that point, the TD got a bit of a rest,” he says. It really didn’t see any “down time,” however, as Mike and Myra joined the New England MG T Register in the mid-1960s, and used the car for sprints, road rallies, gymkhanas, club events, and vacations.
Mike and Myra have been to dozens of GOFs. His TD’s registration number is 771.
“Our first GOF was in Danbury, Conn., in 1968, and I still have the dash plaque,” Mike says. “We traveled there in our MG 1100. For some time, we would have mom and dad and our two children with us, and would arrive together in dad’s Mercury Grand Marquis. From Toronto to Virginia Beach and from Newport to Watkins Glen, all of the GOF’s have been great fun.”
The TD kept on running well, because it was never off the road for any long period of time. But by 2007, it was showing its 46 years of road wear.
The car went to K&T Vintage Sports Cars in Allentown for a total restoration. “Remember my high school friend with the Jaguar?,” Mike says with a laugh. “Well, this is his shop.”
K&T is owned by Ken Beck, who has been fixated on British cars and Corvettes since he and Mike were boys. After collecting cars, racing cars, and working on them out of his home for more than 40 years, he opened a full-time shop in 2006, focusing on classic and antique car restoration and repairs.
A member of the British Motor Trade Association, K&T specializes in MGs, Austin-Healeys, Triumphs and Jaguars. The shop also welcomes American classic sports cars and street rods, and does everything from routine maintenance to body work and first-class restorations.
Ken took in Mike’s TD for a thorough ground-up restoration. Wherever possible, the original parts were rebuilt and reused, and it was Mike’s job to clean them and remove rust, including cleaning, wire brushing and painting all the original nuts and bolts.
The wood used in the body tub was completely replaced, and the engine was sent for an overhaul, its second in 57 years and about 80,000 miles. A lot of attention was spent getting the engine compartment details just right, complete with a periodcorrect battery and a white felt liner in the tool box. The new wiring harness duplicated the original, with a cloth covering and a single yellow tracer.
The car was painted red, as close to the original M.G. red that Mike could find. Then Mike enjoyed watching the beautiful new leather interior and dashboard come together. Great attention was paid to the fit, with hours spent getting the side curtains just right, with the original gauges and wiper motor rebuilt to operate and look as they were when new.
(Figuring out new ways to solve old problems is also part of what K&T does. Coming up with a better way to keep the bonnet panels propped open on Mike’s TD led to the fabrication of custom brackets that attach to the radiator props, which K&T is now selling to TC and TD owners around the country.)
Mike’s TD has earned a place of honor in the K&T garage as a premier class show car. It has won the Antique Automobile Club of America’s First Senior award, and nominated for a special award as an outstanding car at the AACA’s Eastern Regional Fall Meet in Hershey, Pa. It was named Best British Sports Car 1946-1952 from the Greenwich (Conn.) Concours International, and was the Premier class winner at the NEMGTR’s GOF in Mystic, Conn., in 2010.
The TD was invited to be displayed at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum’s “Best of Britain” exhibit in Philadelphia in 2010, and this winter is on display at the America on Wheels museum in Allentown, Pa.
Mike is enjoying the TD’s time as a top-class show car … but anticipates some day taking it off the circuit and getting it back on the road and enjoying it the way he did when he – and the car – were younger.
See 1950 MGTD Project Page for photos of the restoration process
Editor’s note: Since this story was written, the TD has won an AACA First Grand National Award and a Preservation Award at the 2014 Annual Grand National Meet in Lebanon, Tenn. See story here.