MG: Holding My Ears

Hagerty Winter 2007

I’m not fazed by Jonathan Stein’s wild-eyed octagon obsession. We Triumph people are cool, analytical and well qualified to release verbal gas from MG balloons.

In the ’30s, while Triumph built the Gloria and Vitesse, MG cherry-picked the alphabet, dithering about what type of car to build. Stein’s favorite MGA came in 1956. Like a garage pin-up girl, it was pretty, but slow.

Triumph’s TR series nearly equaled MG sales and performed better, developing overhead cam fours and aluminum V-8s. New TRs were engineered to meet federal standards, retaining performance. MG raised their rubber-bumpered fleet two inches to meet impact standards, destroying handling while choking their 98 bhp engine down to 62.5.

Credit U.S. marketers for peddling MGs to blind loyalists while the product declined to a virtual antique. MG production stopped in 1980 because parent BL couldn’t afford the archaic factory or the 1950s parts used by no other BL car. Triumph, despite up-todate products, was chopped in ’81 to reduce corporate costs.

To my regret, MG still commands more recognition than TR. MG lovers still loudly praise pedal-car-sized M-types or paralytic, rubber-nosed MGBs. Holding my ears, I visualize the vintage MG brown-and-cream octagon and recall a favorite British hard candy, cream-colored with brown stripes. It’s called a “Humbug.”

Mike Cook is a former public relations man for Triumph.
To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Winter 2007 issue of Hagerty magazine.

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