British automaker MG is over 100 years old. Founded in 1920 by Cecil Kimber to make two-seat sports cars, the company has come a long way and is currently owned by China’s SAIC Motor Corporation Limited and venturing into electric mobility for the 21st century. Let’s take a trip down memory lane with this 1946 MG TC, the brand’s first post-war sports car. That’s World War II we are talking about, since the company wasn’t around in World War I.
This example is currently in the custody of car collector par excellence Kapila Jayawardena, and as I enter his private car museum on a Sunday morning, there’s plenty of stuff to distract me. You have seen some of his prized collection in Motor, and will see some more in time to come. Today’s focus is this 1946 MG TC.
This is one of the earliest TCs to be imported into Sri Lanka, as the model was produced in 1945, soon after World War II ended. CE 7713 was imported through British Car Company by a foreign planter stationed in Ratnapura. The car was sold to K. C. Amarasingham who raced it at Katukurunda. It is reported that the car first hit the track as early as 1947.
From then on, it changed hands to Barry Wittington, Chief Engineer at Rowlands, who continued to race the car well into the Sixties. Barry’s wife Sheila Mack who ran the Mack School of Dancing also enjoyed driving the car and relished its speed and roadholding. Those around at that time have fond memories of seeing this car racing along the roads between Colombo and Navinna with this attractive lady at the wheel.
The car would subsequently change hands and be owned by a planter – once again from Ratnapura, following the departure of the Wittingtons. It was bought in the Eighties by Milroy Abeygunasekara, and Clive De Silva took over ownership in 1990. The car was subjected to a nut and bolt restoration and remained with Clive until 2019, when Kapila Jayawardena bought it.
I am lucky to be treated to a passenger seat ride by Kapila en route to our photography location, and I always enjoy that. First impressions are the extreme snugness of this dinky two-seater. It’s a tad longer than a modern kei car, at 3.56m, and similar in width too, at 1.42m. You’ve got to fold yourself into the cabin with its individual, deep footwells, one leg at a time.
The 1,250cc XPAG overhead valve four-cylinder twin carb fed engine roars into action with a turn of the key and pull of the starter, emits a rorty exhaust note, and off we go.
As you will see in the video, it’s an extremely airy experience, and coupled with close proximity to the ground, exhaust note and wind blowing all around, makes 40mph seem positively exciting. You forget that the engine has just 54.4hp (yes, in those days, horsepower was quoted to the decimal point), and that the transmission is a four-speed unit. You can see that this bears some racing heritage, as the tachometer is ahead of the driver, while the speedometer lives in front of the passenger. The four-spoke steering wheel is also aligned where the tachometer is not obscured when the steering is pointing straight ahead, and the thin spokes ensure that even with some lock on, you can monitor your revs. As with Kapila’s other cars, gauges and lights all work.
With a body-on-frame design, wire wheels, drum brakes (unassisted) and unassisted steering, this car has none of the modern conveniences and creature comforts that we take for granted. Even though the exhaust note dominates, it’s never too loud to have a conversation. Air conditioning (or heating for that matter) is dependent on your immediate environment, the position of the sun, and how fast you’re going to generate enough wind. There’s no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay – not even a push-button AM radio. The TikTok generation may baulk at such simplicity, but those who recognize classic cars for what they are do not mind one bit. This is the digital detox at its best.