TPARTY

The T-type made MG an in­stant ex­port hit back in the day – and it’s still hugely en­ter­tain­ing to drive now

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driving -

It’s the hol­i­day we’ve all been on – the one where a go-get­ting friend or rel­a­tive emerges from a pile of Wain­wright books and sug­gests you es­chew four-star hotels and hot show­ers in favour of a leaky tent in the Lake District.

In­evitably it rains ev­ery day, din­ner is sausages and beans cooked over an open fire and the ac­com­mo­da­tion is deeply un­com­fort­able. But that one morn­ing when it all comes to­gether, and the sun­light hits which­ever windswept fell you’re camped out on, makes it all worth­while.

It is the MG TA Midget of hol­i­days. If you’ve read our fea­ture on great Bri­tish ex­ports (see page 16), then you’ll know that many a T-type headed State­side for an easy life in the California sun­shine. But driv­ing one in soggy Bri­tain is of­ten a more char­ac­ter-build­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – and the bet­ter for it.

For starters it openly en­cour­ages you to en­joy it roof-down, be­cause while you can drive it with its rather pram-like can­vas roof and sidescreens in place, con­tort­ing your­self through the rather nar­row gap – even with the rear-hinged ‘sui­cide’ driver’s door open – re­quires a spot of gen­tle ath­let­ics. The roofline isn’t par­tic­u­larly low, but slot­ting your­self be­tween the enor­mous four-spoke wheel and the low, thinly-padded leather seat takes prac­tice. Much bet­ter to just put the roof down and en­joy it al fresco from the off, as its cre­ators in­tended.

Flick the key, pull the starter but­ton and the 1292cc MPJG en­gine – es­sen­tially the Wolse­ley Ten’s four-pot with twin car­bu­ret­tors – bursts into life with an ex­citable chat­ter. From the mo­ment when you re­lease the fly-off hand­brake and slot the short gear­lever – which seems to be hid­den be­neath the dash­board as­sem­bly rather than sprout­ing out of it – you re­alise that the me­chan­i­cals are a fun­da­men­tal part of the ex­pe­ri­ence, to be em­braced, not ig­nored.

It’s less fre­netic than the nar­rower P-type Mid­gets that went be­fore, but still thrives on ac­tively in­volv­ing you in the ex­pe­ri­ence. You sit low in the cabin, which em­pha­sises the tall bon­net, and turns ev­ery drive into a mis­sion to point the ra­di­a­tor filler cap per­fectly at the apex of ev­ery bend. More of­ten that not, you emerge from the other side sport­ing an enor­mous grin.

Your main ally here is the huge steer­ing wheel – once you’ve got used to its size and slightly springy feel it be­comes clear that it’s per­fectly an­gled for the job in hand, and taps you straight into the rather lively part­ner­ship be­tween the worm and peg steer­ing and semiel­lip­ti­cal springs.

There’s a hint of wan­der – in­evitable on a 1930s car – but maintaining con­trol isn’t a chore; it’s some­thing that goes hand-in-hand with the in­stant feed­back de­liv­ered through your fin­ger­tips. Hit­ting a pot­hole elic­its an in­stant gen­tle trem­ble, but you al­ways know what the skinny Dun­lops out front are up to, no mat­ter what sort of road sur­face you’re on.

The TA seems to openly en­cour­age you to slot your way up through all four gears and re­ally think about how best to work your way back down them again; ear­lier cars lacked any form of syn­chro­mesh and later ones had it on third and fourth gears only.

The Lock­heed hy­draulic drum brakes are a rev­e­la­tion, too, cer­tainly com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sor’s less con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing ca­ble­op­er­ated an­chors; they al­low you to place the car con­fi­dently on coun­try lanes, but still make driv­ing one very much a raw, vis­ceral thrill that puts you right at the heart of the ac­tion. And don’t ex­pect it to apol­o­gise if you end up a bit wet and windswept as a re­sult of your ad­ven­tures.

The MG TA, then, is very much the Great Out­doors in four-wheeled form. It’s an unadul­ter­ated joy to drive – what­ever the el­e­ments throw at you.

lug­gage rack is a must, given the paucity of in­te­rior stor­age space.

1292cc MPJG en­gine was first ear­marked for the the Wolse­ley 10/40 sa­loon. Cork-lined clutch in a bath of oil was al­ready ob­so­lete and aban­doned on later T-se­ries. Skinny tyres of­fer more driver feed­back than out­right grip.

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