There is no disputing the MG TD’s classic car status, but does it qualify for entry into an even rarer club? Sit a group of people down in a pub who are even remotely interested in cars and with the right fuel on board they could quite happily debate all night long what makes a classic car. A discussion often centred on criteria such as: age, history and infamy. Throw a picture of an MG TD onto the same glass strewn table and the only conclusion is that this must be a car from the earlier Vintage era.
All the required pre-war hallmarks are present from the distinctive running boards, separate headlights, upright and narrow grill, side opening bonnet and tiny suicide doors. Peer inside and those thoughts are only confirmed by the giant 1930’s thin rimmed steering wheel and antique dials and switches. This car looks like it should either be in an episode of ‘Poirot’ driven by the suspiciously wealthy cousin of a well-to-do family under the Belgium sleuth’s watchful eye. Or piloted by one of the RAF’s finest in ‘The Dam-Busters’ pulling up at a base before another low flying practice mission. In terms of cinematic history at least, it is certainly difficult to place an MG TD any later than that.
Entry into an MG TD is not without risk of personal injury providing instant respect for anyone who did manage to leap in at great speed, actor or otherwise. With the roof up and accompanying side panels fitted, the tiny exposed screw heads on the rear hinged doors tear at clothing and flesh mercilessly all while your attention is diverted on whether to enter bum or leg first. I think the sequence is one leg first, then bum, followed by your second leg. Memory on that being a little vague after being forced to check a leather jacket for tears at the same time my passenger found they had to lick a few flesh wounds of their own.
Ensconced in the driver’s seat and one of the biggest steering wheels in the world is quite literally sat in your lap, forcing your legs slightly apart so it can be turned freely. Something complicated further by the very narrow footwell meaning anyone with larger than Size 5 feet will have to very carefully consider how they are positioned to avoid pressing more than one pedal at a time. Once comfortable, being relative at this stage of proceedings of course. It is time to fire the eager 1250cc unit into life, select first gear, release the fly-off handbrake, check the dash mounted mirror and pull away. Oh how they don’t make them like this anymore. The MG TD is the original definition of LOL in every sense.
On the move the first realisation is that the steering wheel is the size it is because anything smaller would make it impossible to turn the front wheels. The gearbox on the other hand is really slick with a nicely sized square gate with reverse easy to locate. The brakes are also more than adequate, as long as you can successfully locate the appropriate pedal. An issue for my Size 11’s which kept catching the throttle pedal at the same time resulting in more than one continuation at a junction. Fortunately all without consequence, although a very quick lesson learned with feet placed sideways on the pedals thereafter.
Tuning into how to overcome the MG TD’s ergonomic challenges reveals a surprisingly spritely little car to pop along in. The plump leather seats are really quite comfortable and hide a lot of the shortcomings of the basic suspension. The lightweight frame also means that direction changes can be executed quickly, despite the skinny tyres, and fairly quick progress made along country lanes without too much effort. The MG TD sort of springs and bounces along with accompanying squeaks and rattles that all come together to deliver a truly distinctive and definitely period driving experience. In the rain, with the roof up, you have to also squint through the tiny upright windscreen whilst laughing nervously as the little wiper blades barely touch the glass in their slightly pathetic downward arc. Overall though it has to be said this car is a little charmer that will win you over in the end.
MG TD provides an insight into how pre-war motorists whizzed around the countryside whilst avoiding any foreign private investigators that happened to be on their case.
How does this car make you feel?
In one word: Vintage
As a favourite meal: Steamed chicken with potatoes and vegetables from the allotment
Anything Else: Didn’t people have a great sense of humour back then, as well as tiny feet.
Key Ingredients: Vintage looks and feel inside and out, tiny upright windscreen and bouncy suspension
With thanks to Great Escape Classic Car Hire
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