Shahwar Hussain on the unalloyed joy of driving with the wind in your face in a 1940s car that makes you become one with it – the MG TC
British cars before the war, and for quite some time thereafter were seldom manufactured in any great numbers but what delightful cars they were! An overwhelming number of manufacturers were small-time operators, and many of them made only the chassis and engine. The British seemed to have perfected the art of taking the chassis and engine from some existing car and putting on a variety of bodies with some very individual looks. The British were hooked on sports cars, and these operators would take an existing chassis and engine and build up a small, lightweight two-seater on it and – lo and behold! – a sports car was born. Many of these cars were agile and fast but never flamboyant in style. Most of them had the typically British understated design. The MG TC is a sports car in this mould although not exactly an after market job.
Say MG, and the picture that forms in the mind’s eye is that of the TC. Although the TC was manufactured from 1945 to 1949, it is this model that enthusiasts identify with the MG name. The entire T-series, right from the 1936 TA to the 1955 TF, caught people’s fancy on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was the TC that took the cake.
The TC was famous for what it was, which, relatively speaking, was not much. With its low and sleek design, it looked like it was doing 100mph just standing still when, in fact, it had a top speed that boasted all of 78mp. It was slow even by 1945 standards.
But, immediately after the war, in the world that was starved of new cars, the MG TC carved out a niche for itself even though it was not exactly a new car. It was basically a 1935 model re-launched in 1945 with a few modifications. The TC took the US by storm. The GIs who served in England during WWII took a liking to the TB, the predecessor of the TC, and took some TBs along with them on their return to America. Since Britain’s economy was shattered, the government ordered all manufacturers to export a certain amount of their output. And, for MG, the seemingly limitless American market was a boon. To the Yanks, used to the bulky and ungainly ‘sports’ cars that came out of Detroit, the MG TC was a revelation. They were small, light, low, sleek and easy to maneuver. The fact they were not very fast did not seem to matter.
From 1945 to 1949, 10,000 MG TCs were manufactured and of these approximately 2,000 were exported to the US. I don’t know how many of them landed on Indian shores, but I am fairly sure it was nowhere near the US figure. Very few collectors in India have a TC in their stable and I guess I have seen no more than two or three TCs over the years at vintage rallies.
I have driven MG Midgets and an MGA, worked on a six-cylinder MG SV and had seen others drive the appealing TC but never had the chance to even sit in one. However, for some time now, especially in the winters, I have seen one particular red TC in immaculate condition on the streets of Delhi. I determined that it was one TC that I had to sample. I found out it is owned by Kishore Gidwani and when Ramesh and I landed up at his place one hot and humid morning, I was delighted to see three MG TCs – all in excellent health.