MG K3 Magnette – A Racy MG

At this year’s Lime Rock Historic Festival I was able to check out a 1934 MG K3 Magnette.  This car was a very successful racer for MG.  While the J Series MGs were raced in the 750cc class, the K3 was designed to race in the next class up, which allowed engines up to 1,100cc.

MG K3 Magnette 1934 (3)

1934 MG K3 Magnette

The MG K3 Magnette was introduced in 1933.  The early models had a slab side fuel tank at the back while this 1934 model has a streamlined fuel tank.

MG K3 Magnette 1934 (1)

Later MG K3 Magnettes Have The Streamline Tank

The MG K3 Magnette had a six-cylinder 1,087cc engine with a Powerplus supercharger, two overhead valves, and a single overhead camshaft.  The engine produced about 120 horsepower which gave lively performance in a car that weighed only about 1,750 pounds.

MG K3 Magnette 1934 (5)

The K3’s Supercharger Is Located Out Front Behind The MG Badge

The standard K3 cars, designed for racing, came without fenders, but obviously this car has been fitted with cycle-type fenders.  For open road races, like the Mille Miglia, fenders could be added.  Lights were not provided on the standard K3 cars either.

MG K3 Magnette 1934 (2)

The K3 Had a Four-Speed Pre-Selector Transmission

The pre-selector type transmission allowed the driver to select a gear and engage that gear only when he depressed the clutch.  This way a driver could select a gear before entering a corner, keep both hands on the wheel while going around the corner then engage the desired gear by a quick push on the clutch.

MG K3 1

1934 Models Are Distinguished By The Streamlined Fuel Tank  (1)

In the early 1930s riding mechanics were still used in many events, so the MG K3 cars were fitted with two seats.  This also allowed the cars to be used in rallies or road racing events like the Mille Miglia.

One of the first races that the MG K3 Magnette entered was the 1933 Mille Miglia.  Two MG K3 cars finished 1-2 in the 1,100cc class, also winning the team prize.  A third MG K3 driven by Sir Henry Birkin, better known for his racing for Bentley, blew a valve earlier in the race.

MG K3 4

Captain George Eyston & Count Johnny Lurani Won The 1,100cc Class In The 1933 Mille Miglia (2)

Even the great Tazio Nuvolari raced a MG K3 winning the 1933 Ulster Tourist Trophy.

MG K3 5

Tazio Nuvolari Winning The 1933 Ulster Tourist Trophy (2)

In the 1934 Coppa Acerbo Junior race, Hamilton, Cecchini, and Seaman finished 1-2-3.  At Le Mans in 1934 a MG K3 ran as high as second and finished fourth overall.

MG K3 2

Dick Seaman Finished Third In The 1934 Coppa Acerbo Junior Race (2)

Cecchini had a great deal of success in a K3 using the car to win the 1,100cc Championship of Italy.  He is shown below heading up the magnificent Stelvio Pass.

MG K3 3

Raffaele Cecchini At The 1935 Stelvio Hillclimb In A K3 (2)

It has been noted that the end of the MG K3 came in 1934 when the organizers of the most important British sports car event, the Ulster Tourist Trophy banned the use of supercharged engines.  MG needed to be in that race, so the development and production of the K3 came to an end.

MG K3 Magnette 1934 (4)

The MG K3 Magnette Was A Very Successful Car

While the MG K3 Magnette had a relatively short competitive life, it certainly helped to establish MG’s reputation as a sporty car.  These were not inexpensive cars.  A standard MG K3 Magnette was priced at 795 British pounds at a time when an annual salary of 150 British pounds was considered a good wage.  These cars were clearly not built for the mass market, but were very successful race cars.

References/Racing Images

1. “The British Competition Car” by Cyril Posthumus, 1959

2. “MG” by F. Wilson McComb, 2004

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