If Volkswagen is the people’s car, then British brand MG gave us the original people’s sports car, having pioneered the segment a century ago – we take a look at a company with an impressive heritage…
It was destined to be, because when he was just a 16-year old lad in Oxford, William Morris was hurled into the fledgling industry on wheels – the youngster’s father was unable to provide for the family due to his failing health, and William started repairing bicycles at home to help out. Never one to shy away from hard graft, he soon opened a bicycle shop and couldn’t help but start customising them, and racing his own creations to great success.
In 1901 William progressed to motorcycles, and by the time he was 25 he sold cars in a building with his own name on the title. When he was 33 William built his own premises, and The Morris Garage was born.
Over in the US the car industry was revolutionised by Henry Ford and his moving assembly line, but in England MG was the company that in those early days succeeded best at high-volume manufacturing, and by 1925 MG boasted four factories.
Raised in modest surroundings, William never forgot his blue-collar roots, and his cars were testimony to this man of the people. His first ever automobile was affordable and compact, and that was soon followed by the MG Chummy, a two-seater convertible powered by a 12-horsepower engine.
Right after he started building little sports cars, William once again couldn’t resist racing his creations, and just like on two wheels he found success, with his little MGs winning numerous prestigious events such as the 1925 Lands End Trial. Rapidly, MG was establishing itself as a marque of respect, particularly if you were in the market for a value-added sports car.
First, MG rolled out the M-Type Midget in 1929, a cheap, lightweight roadster that could do the fabled ‘mile-a-minute’. Naturally, enthusiasts of the time flocked to the Midget, realising its excellent potential for racing all over Europe – legendary drivers like George Eyston, Briggs Cunningham and even the king of them all, Tazio Nuvolari, all raced and broke records in MGs.
Then the Second World War dented proceedings somewhat, but there was a blessing in disguise as American G.I.s helped make MG a truly international name. Returning from Europe back to the US, many soldiers shipped the little MGs home knowing that the US market offered nothing similar for the keen driver. Having only ever had the chance to drive big, comfortable land-barges, suddenly American enthusiasts were introduced to proper handling and sports car dynamics, and a sports car revolution was underway thanks to a suitably eccentric British import. MG created a segment of its own, a class of car that later inspired such iconic models like the MG A, MG B, and the giant-killing MG BGT V8 of the 1980s.
The appeal of MG always remained the same, as the company continuously offered value for money to the asses with its inexpensive, stylish designs that hit far above their price range. In the 1990s MG took on the challenging task of taking on the very best sports cars in the world, and launched the avant-garde MG TF which packed a mid-mounted engine just like state-of-the-art racing machines to take advantage of optimum performance. This innovative model once again came to market catering to the people, with its inexpensive price tag and low running costs. Today the MG TF’s relative rarity makes it an appreciating classic car on the rise, following in its forebears’ footsteps and occupying a worthy place in enthusiasts’ hearts.
A hundred years later, William Morris’ enthusiasm for cars and his man-of-the-people roots still live on throughout the company. MG continues to focus of affordability and value for money, offering class-leading equipment levels, safety technology, entertainment systems, and of course that fun-to-drive factor. The latest turbocharged engine technology is present throughout MG’s range serving up all-round performance, and steady electrification of the range ensures that future drivers won’t miss out on experiencing the innovative heritage of MG. Ever since William first started tinkering with bicycles that daring, pioneering spirit has been a part of MG, and concepts like the MG E-motion and the MG X-motion point towards a bright road ahead.