More Information About the MG Magnette Rally Performance

On February 6, 2013 I posted a report about some of the stories that I had read in the book “Rallying In A Works MG”.  In that post I noted that the author of “Rallying In A Works MG”, Len Shaw, had complained about the competitive performance of the MG Magnette when he competed in that car in the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally.  I had wondered if the complaint was rooted in a poor performance by the MG Magnette, or by good performances by the other cars.

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Len Shaw With The MG Magnette For The 1955 Monte Carlo Rally

The week I acquired another book that includes some information about the rallying history of the MG Magnettes.  This 2nd edition book, “The Works MGs” was written by two people, Mike Allison and Peter Browning, who were involved in the MG Competition Department, albeit after the days of the MG Magnette.  I have just got the book and I have only briefly flipped through it, but I did look up what they had written about the MG Magnette.

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“The Works MG” by Mike Allison & Peter Browning

In the book “The Works MG”, Allison and Browning quoted 1955 MG Magnette navigator Willy Cave extensively about the MG Magnette at the Monte Carlo Rally.  From reading what Willy Cave wrote it seems that the performance of the MG Magnette was negatively impacted by a poor decision with respect to the road conditions.  It seems that the MG Magnette works cars arrived at Gap on time.  From Gap, there was a timed run into Monte Carlo.  While in Gap, the MG Works team discussed whether or not to add chains to their tires for this run.  The decision was not to add chains.  As they drove from Gap, south to Monte Carlo the road conditions were much worse than the crews had seen in Gap.  The cars from this point had to maintain a pace within an allowed plus/minus timing window.  The Magnettes began to lose time and they were passed by a number of other rally competitors all of whom apparently had chains on their tires.  Eventually the MG Magnettes decided to add chains to their tires.  Obviously, this required them to stop the cars to add the chains.  When the team arrived at La Javie, where the first special stage ended, the team had lost enough time such that their rally was effectively over.  Only the top 100 cars at Monte Carlo qualified for the final 325 kilometer mountain circuit test.  The three MG Magnettes were finally classified as finishing 178th, 202nd, and in 237th position.

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The 1955 Monte Carlo Rally MG Magnette Team

In the above picture, Willy Cave is pictured second from the left and Len Shaw is fourth from the left.  Note that the rally team seems large.  Well it seems that it was.  The car that Willy Cave was in had a 3-person crew and it seems that the other MG Magnette cars had 3-person teams as well.  From what both Willy Cave and Len Shaw wrote, these cars were very well equipped with spare equipment and ditch extraction tools.  All of this extra equipment along with an extra crew member would have a negative effect on the performance of a car that does not have a high horsepower engine.  As a result of putting the commentary of Len Shaw and Willy Cave together, it seems to me that some questionable preparation decisions before and during the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally had a negative effect on the MG Magnette’s performance during the rally rather than the absolute performance of a MG Magnette itself.  The MG Magnette was not a high horsepower car and needed to be prepared accordingly.

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