Tommy's MG TD (1952)


The MG TD is a standard transmission, rear-wheel-drive roadster. It represents the state-of-the-art in engine design, transmission, and suspension... for 1952. Which means, what? The engine breaks frequently, it leaks oil almost as fast as it burns gas, and it handles only marginally better than a bathtub.


There are no airbags on this car, other than the one behind the wheel, that is. There are no safety belts, no roll bars, no windows, no A pillars, no B pillars — and no roof for that matter. And there're no crumple zones, except for your thorax.

Driving Experience

The driving experience is frightening. So frightening, we recommend you wear brown pants whenever you set foot in this car. Stopping is even more terrifying. The brakes on the MG are only slightly better than putting your feet through the floorboards, a la Fred Flintstone.

The top may or may not close and the windshield wipers look like something Thomas Edison could have designed. For all these reasons, we don't recommend driving this car if there's anything more than a 30% chance of rain in the forecast.

The engine in the '52 MG TD has 52 horsepower — which, it turns out, is just enough power to make it go fast enough to scare the living daylights out of you. Would it get up to 75? Maybe. But, we've never tried it. When 30 feels like 70, why would you want to try?

To counteract the great fear engendered by driving this car, Tommy has devised a simple rule: Never, ever drive the MG on any road built after 1952.

The speedometer works nicely, if all you care about is that you're moving. Other than that, it appears to bear no correlation to the actual speed of the vehicle.

On the upside, the MG does have a very nice, big steering wheel. Unfortunately, it's not designed to collapse in the event of an accident. In fact, the steering column has many of the design features of a steel spike.

The gear ratio is, well... interesting. We're not sure exactly what first gear is for — but it might be useful if you ever wanted to, say, climb a tree.

The MG has a standard suspension — for 1952. It's... how do we put this... buckboard like. If you suffer from hemorrhoids, boils on your tuchus or anything that even hints at posterior pain, stay as far away from this vehicle as humanly possible.

The handling of the MG is marvelous — as long as you're not moving. Then again, if you're not moving, you won't be able to turn the steering wheel. Why? Because there's no power steering. On the upside, the MG does have rack and pinion steering, which for its time was a superb offering — and was a big improvement over the reins and stirrups that were in use a few years earlier.

Though not designed for it, the MG has been known to go off road from time to time — to the garage, mostly, where it invariably spends a number of months and sometimes a full season or two. When this happens, wildlife has been known to take up residence, including raccoons, snakes, chipmunks and once, after a recent rainstorm, a family of ducks.


Let's be perfectly clear about this: There's nothing on this car that's plus or cushy, or could ever be construed as being comfortable. The seats are just a little bit better than sitting on a pile of rocks.

The noise level on the inside of the MG is excellent. There's plenty of it! For this reason, we recommend this car only for the profoundly hearing impaired or those with hearing aids that can be turned off.

Visibility is excellent. There are no blind spots because there's nothing like a window or a roof to obstruct the view. Or protect you if, say, an errant heat-seeking missile was aimed at the car.

There is no heater in the MG. This car was made before heat was even invented, and only a few years after fire was discovered by Piltdown Man.

Air conditioning is au naturel.

When it comes to comfort, on a scale of 1 to 10, the MG is about a 3; which puts it on a par with driving a tree.

It does have one really comfortable feature, though: the sloped armrest. Your arm rests beautifully on the angled support, so can rest your arm and steer with one hand and imagine yourself comfortably cruising down country roadsÉ as the tow truck driver hooks up the winch.

Headroom is excellent in the MG. Infinite, in fact. Unfortunately, that's offset by the legroom, which would make a munchkin from the Wizard of Oz cry in pain for more room to stretch out. Shoulder room is nearly none existent, as the MG was built for guys with small shoulders like Rex Harrison or David Niven.

Seats are supposed to adjust, though we've never attempted it. Why risk breaking anything else?

Storage is nonexistent. There's no trunk. There is a backseat. However, if you own this car, you'll never get to use it, as it'll always be filled up with a case of motor oil.

There are no bells and only one whistle — the engine, which whistles loudly. Whenever the engine runs. Which is only on occasion, as you now are beginning to understand.


Because there are no controls, ergonomics are superb. The few switches that do exist are right where they should be, because there's plenty of room on the dashboard for controls and amenities that will only come decades later.

The controls for the windshield wipers are located directly on the wiper motor — an innovative touch. Wipers move at glacial speed. Another interesting feature is the wiper blades themselves, which will never wear out — because they never touch the glass. (In fact, the car still has the original blades!) This is brilliant engineering, in our humble opinion, and we're shocked that the American manufacturers haven't adopted this trick yet.


Styling may well be the only reason to buy this car.

The MG TD has truly classic looks, not unlike early Jaguars and Triumphs. The design is magic. It's elegant and absolutely stylish, with a disproportionately long hood.


When we say this car has classic looks, don't get us wrong. We don't mean "classic" as a synonym for "old," such as when we're talking about Tommy. In other words, onlookers won't recoil in horror when this car pulls up at a stoplight... until they see the driver, that is.



There's good news and bad news here. The good news is that the MG is very easy to service and for that we thank God, because the MG needs to be serviced very, very frequently.


How reliable is the MG? Here's a simple way to answer that question: It's in the shop more days per year than it's out on the road.

One of the unique features of the MG is the starter motor — which locks up once every twenty uses or so. MG never managed to solve this problem, so you have to get out and rock the car back and forth to disengage the pinion gear. We really like this feature. It keeps you in tune with the car, enabling you to spot engine leaks and other problems before they get out of hand.

Overall comments

What do we like about this car? The fact that it's so unreliable, it keeps you from driving too far. We think that's a good thing, and far too uncommon with today's cars. The MG encourages you to walk, and you won't waste gas either, because you're not going to take this car anywhere you don't positively, absolutely have to go.

Who should buy an MG? Anyone with a death wish and too much time on his hands.



The only sensible reason to buy this car, as far as we can tell, is because you like the way it looks. Or, more precisely, you like the way you look in it. And how would you know how you look in an MG? The admiring glances, of course!


On the occasional day when it actually does run, the sun is out, and you're tootling down Memorial Drive, nothing could be better. And, when your drive is over and you pull into the driveway, you'll also experience a tremendous sense of elation when you get out. Why? Because you lived.