Stories From “Rallying In a Works MG”

In a recent post, I noted that I had obtained a copy of the book “Rallying In A Works MG” by Len Shaw.  This is a book about rallying in England and in the Monte Carlo Rally in the early 1950s.  I found that this book provided an incite into rallying in those days.

I first became aware of this book as part of my interest in the MG Y-Series sedans.  These cars were the all-weather alternative to the MG sports cars – primarily the MG-TD.  The advertisement below was taken from the book.  The “One and a Quarter litre” reference is based on the size of the engine in the MG-YA and later the MG-YB.


MG Advertisement For The MG-Y Sedan

Len Shaw started off rallying his own MG Y in the late 1940s, but due to his rally success and personal relationships with some people at MG he was selected to be part of the MG Works rally team.

In those days cars were improving at a rapid pace compared to the pre-war cars.  Many of the major rallies which were strictly navigational rallies timed to the minute resulted in many of the top teams finishing the rally with a “clean sheet”.  As a result in order to provide clear winners and to order the field, special “tests”, that were timed to the second were being introduced to rallying in Europe and England.  I believe that these tests were first introduced at the Monte Carlo Rally.  Ultimately these tests evolved into special stages, which are the basis for the performance or stage rallies that we have today.

The picture below shows Len Shaw in a Works MG Y rally car entering a test at the 1953 RAC Rally.


A MG-Y Enters A “Test” At A Rally

As you read “Rallying In A Works MG”, you cannot help but be impressed by the rally performance of the MG Y cars.  An example of this is the result of the 1953 Morecambe Rally.  This was a rally with a length of 250 miles over two days with several tests that had 278 competitors entered.  The winner of the rally was Ian Appleyard in a Jaguar XK 120 with an overall score of 189.02 seconds, while Len Shaw came in second overall with a time of 191.6 seconds in his MG Y.  Think about that.  The MG Y was only about 2.5 seconds behind the Jaguar!

I found the picture below to be interesting.  It shows a direct comparison in the size of the MG Y with the MG TD.  As you can see, the MG Y is not that much bigger than the MG TD.  In the picture below, Len Shaw is standing beside the car on the left side of the photo with his arm on the roof of the MG Y.


Two MG Ys Flank a MG-TD

I got the impression from the book that Len Shaw and his team mates on the MG team were clearly interested in winning the team prize at each rally that they competed in.  Individual results were seen as contributing to the overall team results or standing.  For the period of time that Len Shaw writes about the MG Works Rally Team had three drivers – Len Shaw, Reg Holt, and Geoff Holt.

The cars were equally prepared and were differentiated by chevrons that were painted on the front fenders.  These can be seen in the photo below where from left to right, the cars have two chevrons, one chevron, and three chevrons.  On the MG Works rally team, the team members referred to these cars as the corporal, lance corporal, and the sergeant for one, two, and three chevrons, respectively.


The Works MG Team

One of things that I found interesting in the book was a description of some of the tests that were part of these rallies.  The notes shown below provide a description of a test that was held at the Oulton Park Circuit.  It is interesting to consider if adding a couple of “tests” to some of our North American time-speed-distance rallies could increase the interest in rallying by bringing a “sporting” aspect to rallying without going to the extreme of special stage rallying.  Some of the tests involved such simple requirements as starting and stopping and reversing.


An Example Of A Rally “Test”

With the approach of the mid-1950s, MG was developing newer cars than the MG Y series.  While this was going on, the MG Works team was in need of other cars to compete in rallies.  In 1954 Len Shaw drove a Series II Morris Minor as they waited for the MG Magnette to be ready.  I don’t think that Len Shaw thought that the Series II Morris Minor was much of a rally car.  In its standard form, the Series II Morris Minor produced 30 horsepower and had a top speed of 62 miles per hour – judge for yourself.


Shaw Rallied This Series II Morris Minor in 1954

Following the interlude with the Series II Morris Minor, Len Shaw competed in several rallies for the MG Works rally team in a MG Magnette.  It seems that Len Shaw was disappointed in the competitive performance of the MG Magnette and he decided to no longer drive for the MG Works rally team.  He mostly quit competitive rallying and focused on his business.  What is not clear to me is whether the disappointing competitive performance was because the MG Magnette was not a good performer or whether the performance of the non-MG cars had improved at a faster rate than the MG cars.


Len Shaw With A Works MG Magnette Rally Car

In summary, “Rallying In A Works MG” is an interesting book and I would recommend the book to others who are interested in rallying in the early 1950s and these MG cars in particular.

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2 Responses to Stories From “Rallying In a Works MG”

  1. Paul says:

    Great Summary of a great book. The MG Y Type could certainly hold its own against much better known names and contemporary models such as Jaguar!
    Glad you enjoyed it

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