The history of MG begins in 1924 when Morris Garages employee Cecil Kimber began modifying Morris cars to increase sales, adding coach-built tourer bodies to Morris Cowley chassis. This soon developed to produce the first MGs like the Old Number 1 and 14/28 Super Sports model.
Since then MG has enjoyed a rich history, which has seen it change hands a number of times, though it’s still best-loved by car enthusiasts for its two-seater sports cars.
As part of our Best of Marques blog series, Carphile.co.uk select our top 5 classic MG cars from popular British sports car marque from classic cars that have been loved by generations to future classics you could enjoy today and bank on in the future.
Buy one while you can – MG RV8
When MGB production ended in 1980, MG turned their backs on the popular sports car market that they had served them so well and they had spent decades establishing.
So when Mazda launched their first MX5 in 1989 and the sports car craze exploded all over again, MG weren’t prepared. They needed a sports car to do battle with this new upstart from the East and they needed it fast. The solution, the MG RV8, an MGB for the nineties (literally).
Released in 1993, the RV8 took the sixties MGB design and updated it for the nineties. Fitted with a 3.9 litre version of the Rover V8 driving the rear wheels through a five speed gearbox and limited slip differential. With 190bhp pushing along the lithe RV8, the car could dash from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 136mph.
At the time, the RV8 received a tough reception. Criticised for being old-fashioned and expensive, both fair criticism when compared with the MX5 but, with the benefit of hindsight, the truth is that the hand built RV8 was never an MX5 rival but an alternative to a more traditionally built Morgan or TVR.
This early hostility kept prices low for a long time but buyers are waking up to the charms of the RV8 now. Today prices start at around £12,000 but with only 2,000 RV8’s made between 1993 and 1995 and with around 400 on UK roads today (many ironically went to Japan) there aren’t many about. Definitely a classic MG to buy while you still can.
The future classic – MGF/TF
Which brings us to the MGF, launched in 1995 to compete with the Mazda MX5 and BMW Z3. The MGF was the sports car that MG enthusiasts had been wanting for over a decade and the car that MG hoped would recapture the hearts (and open wallets) of British Sports car fans around the world.
It worked. MG fans, new and old, took to the pretty MGF in their droves. From launch there was a 1.6 or 1.8 litre (VVC) straight-four engine mounted in the middle of the car, which was new for an MG. Later there was a Trophy 160, with 160bhp that would cover the 0-60 dash in just 6.9 seconds. The MGF was blessed with good handling and a comfortable ride, thanks to its Hydragas suspension.
In 2002 the MGF morphed into the MG TF, a re-fresh designed to make the car racier. Coil-sprung suspension replaced the Hydragas and a number of styling and engineering tweaks kept the TF a popular buy right up to the collapse of MG Rover in 2005.
Which brings us to the MGF/TF today and its credentials as a future classic. You can buy a cheap MGF for well under a grand but if you’re not looking for a project, the very best low-milers come in around £5k and theres plenty of choice in between.
The superstar – MGB
The sports car that usually springs to mind when talking MG is the MGB.
Production started in 1962 and continued right up until 1980. MG sold more than half a million of them and for a long time the MGB was the world’s most popular sports car.
The MGB excelled as it was simple, reliable and as practical as any sports car owner would ever expect (especially if you opted for the pretty, Pininfarina-designed hatchback). The 1.8 litre straight four engine produced 95bhp, which doesn’t sound like much in the 21st century but in the right conditions it was enough to hustle the MGB past 100mph. Back in the early sixties that really meant something.
Half a century on there’s still a lot to recommend the MGB as a classic car purchase. There is plenty of choice, with excellent parts supply and club support. An undisputed classic whose influence can still be felt on the motor industry today.
Find out what’s great about owning a MGB in this video.
The game changer – MG TA
Produced between 1936 and 1939 the MG TA was designed as a replacement for the PB. It was the first of MG’s fabled T-series cars that would span five model generations and survive a world war but the TA’s game changer status were established as this car really opened up sports car ownership to a wider market.
The TA featured many of the sports car charms of it’s PB predecessor but hydraulic brakes and a synchromesh gearbox (fitted to later models) made it easier to drive and live with every day.
The MG TA was powered by a 1.3 litre straight-four engine, taken from the Morris 10. Breathing through twin SU carburettors the TA had a top speed of 80mph and delivered the thrills pre-war sports car fans were looking for.
The TA was a popular car for MG, they sold 3,003 before it was replaced by the MG TB in 1939. Production of the T series ended in 1955 with the TF 1500 Midget.
The legend – MG Old Number 1
Although not the first MG (as it features the circular Morris Garages badge rather than the iconic octagon) MG Old Number 1 is certainly the car from which the MG legend grew.
Produced by Kimber for the 1925 competition season. Old Number One was powered by a 1548cc Hotchkiss engine producing 11.9hp linked to a Morris transmission and 3-speed manual gearbox. It did its maker proud, winning a gold medal in the light car class at the 1925 Lands End Trial.
Soon after the Trial the car was sold to a friend of Kimber’s for £300, it then dropped off the radar, was seen hauling a pig food trailer on a farm and later rescued luckily from a Manchester scrap yard by an MG employee in 1932.
The car was restored by MG and used as a promotion vehicle for many years. Today the car is part of the Heritage Motor Centre collection at Gaydon.
Do you agree with our top 5 MG cars? Which MG classic car would be your choice? Please let us know by commenting below.