The MG TA: A Big Influence on the American Car Market

The story behind the spread of interest in sports cars in America is that American soldiers fell in love with the British sports cars during the period of time that they were stationed in England during World War II.  Specifically, it was the MG cars that caught the soldiers’ eye and that they enjoyed driving so much compared to the pre-war cars that were commonly available at home.

I suspect that the car they fell in love with was the MG TA and to a lesser extent the MG TB.  These were the current MG sports car models that were available just before the war.  The MG TC is generally acknowledged as the car that started the sports car interest in America after the war, but if there had been no MG TA and TB there would not have been the MG TC.

First of all it should be acknowledged that the MG TA was not called the TA when it was first introduced.  The car was known as the MG Midget T when it was introduced in 1936.  It was when a significant modification was made to this original car such that the newer model was named the MG TB that its predecessor became known as the MG TA.

The MG TA Was Initially Known as the MG Midget T

The MG TA Midget replaced the MG PB in 1936. The MG TA was a little bigger than the MG PB with a track that was 3 inches wider and 7 inches longer.  In what would seem to be a commercial business decision move, the type of which haunted the British sports car industry, the 939cc overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine used in the MG PB was not further developed and instead the MG TA engine was the same engine used in the Wolseley 10, but fitted with twin SU carburetors, a modified camshaft and manifold. The MG TA engine displaced 1292 cc, with a stroke of 4.0 inches and a bore of 2.5 inches and power output was approximately 50 hp at 4,500 rpm.  I think that it would have been much better in the long run for MG if they had continued the use of an overhead camshaft engine design.

The MG TA

The transmission used in the MG TA essentially the same in the Wolseley sedan that the engine car from. This meant that a cork faced clutch running in oil had to be utilized and this transferred the power via a non-synchromesh 4 speed box and high ratio bevel gear rear axle to the road wheels. This is one reason why the English were always so good at double-clutching – they had to be!  Later versions of the MG TA were fitted with synchromesh on third and fourth gear.

The MG TA Engine Produced About 50 Horsepower

The MG TA was not a fast car, but compared to other British cars, it was a lively performer.  The car had a top speed of about 79-80 miles per hour.  It would go from 0 to 50 miles per hour in about 15.4 seconds and would do the quarter mile in 22.8 seconds.  Gas mileage was about 30 miles per Imperial gallon.

As you can see, the MG TA looks a lot like the MG TC.  The simplest way to tell them apart is to take a look at the running boards.  As you can see from the pictures of the MG TA, these cars have three strips on the running board, while the MG TC only has two strips.  There are other more subtle differences, so you can tell that you have to be close to these cars to notice the difference between the TA and the TC.

Side View of the MG TA

The two-seat MG TA body was built on an ash wooden frame, bolted to the chassis rails. The front of the MG TA sported a vertical slat radiator design which replaced the honeycomb design used on earlier MGs. A slab type 15 Imperial gallon fuel tank and spare wheel carrier were at the back of the car. The fuel tank had a three gallon reserve compartment operated by a dual gas line from the tank leading to a dashboard mounted reserve valve switch.

The MG TA Dashboard and Interior Are Very Nice

The MG TA dashboard is symmetrical with a large speedometer on the passenger side and matching rev counter which carried an eight-day electric clock on the driver’s side.  Between them there is a central cluster with switches and other gages.  All the dashboard instruments are illuminated which proved very handy for night rallying and there was a map reading light on the passenger side of the dash.  Both the driver and passenger doors have map pockets and external door handles.  The spoked steering wheel is adjustable for rake.

In May 1939 MG brought out the more powerful MG TB.  While in almost all dimensions and looks it was similar to the MG TA, it had a significantly different engine.  The MG TB engine had a slightly larger bore of 2.62 inches and much smaller stroke of 3.54 inches.  This resulted in a slightly smaller engine size of 1,250cc, but it produced about 5 more horsepower and was more revy.  The compression was increased from 6.5 to 7.3, it had a better clutch, and the transmission was synchronized in all but first gear.  This motor was essentially the same as was used on the post-war MG TC.

The MG TA sold for about 222 British Pounds and between 1936 and 1939 about 3,000 MG TA cars were built.  The MG TB was only built for a short period (May to September) in 1939 and then the MG factory began making war-time products.  During this brief period a little less than 400 MG TB cars were built.

I don’t think that many MG TA cars have been imported into the United States.  But certainly the MG TC made a big impression on Americans.

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