There will always be an MG TD
The collector car market is experiencing rapid, unprecedented change. Consider, for instance, that online auctions have quadrupled their revenue since 2019. Or the fact that cars few even considered collectible five years ago, such as Mark IV Toyota Supras, are now fetching six figure prices. Or, as we reported earlier this week, that several auction houses are selling non-fungible tokens alongside cars. Even more profound shifts lay just over the horizon: Electrification and automation of new cars in the next decade may transform the landscape for older gas burners; baby boomers, the generation that effectively built the classic car hobby as we know it, will soon start passing their wealth and toys on to younger enthusiasts. Part of what we do here, and what Hagerty Insider specializes in, is help explain these changes and, in so doing, help preserve car collecting for future generations.
Heady stuff. On the other hand, consider this MG TD, sold online by Hemmings for $17,850. That’s about the right money for what looks to be a driver-condition TD. It would also have been the right price sixteen years ago, when we started tracking TD prices. Go back decades more and it’s still in the ballpark: Flipping through a 1971 issue of Road & Track recently, I came upon a classified for a TD described to be in excellent condition and asking for $3500—about $24,000 in today’s money.
For an investment-minded collector, the chart above looks pretty grim. For us, however, it's a reminder that some things never change, and a welcome sign that not all fun classics are appreciating out of reach.
Make no mistake: these cars are fun, even in 2022. The TD was in some respects already a relic when it debuted in 1950, what with its prewar styling and a 54-hp engine carried over from the earlier TC. To drive one, though, is to realize that the joys of lively steering and a tight manual gearbox were not invented by the likes of Honda and Mazda in the 1980s. (Indeed, as much as the Miata is touted as a modern-day Lotus Elan, its simplicity and accessibility really owes more to MG.) These qualities, along with a relatively low price, made the MG TD the most popular sports car of its era—MG sold 29,664 of them in four years.
Simple, hardy construction and strong aftermarket support have kept many of those TDs on the road—they're the third-most common MG in Hagerty's insurance books, ahead of other T-series as well as the newer 1962–1969 MGB. Those same qualities make even imperfect examples, like the one offered on Hemmings, a relatively safe buy.
The TD in question looks, from the photos and drive video, to be in what we'd consider average condition. "The kind of car you could drive without either being embarrassed or concerned about the odd stone chip," notes Jonathan Stein, who is, in addition to being a concours judge and Hagerty's senior manager of hobby support, a longtime MG devotee. "The hose clamps are incorrect, as is a horn that is silver instead of black. There are some other under-hood details that aren’t quite right, but those minor issues aren’t important in a driver-quality car, and there is nothing that can’t be sorted easily," he adds. Listening closely to the video, Stein hears a bit of clutch slippage, although it could just as well be driver error. No matter, replacement clutches are still relatively easy and cheap to come by.
The main challenge to the sustainability of the MG TD market is owner demographics. More than 80 percent of the people who called us for quotes on insurance for the cars in 2021 were baby boomers or older. That said, the share of younger buyers is rising, and more no doubt will find them as prices for other formerly attainable classics continue to rise. Come what may in the classic car market and world at large, we suspect these humble, hardy cars will continue to serve as gateways to the joys of vintage car ownership.