With heavy ties to Rover and Morris, not many realise it was a manufacturer in its own right. Here we will look at the history of MG and see what the future might hold for the classic British brand.
MG was founded by Cecil Kimber. Mr. Kimber was an employee of William Morris, and the MG initials originated from Morris Garages. It remained the personal property of William Morris until 1935, when it became part of Morris Motors Ltd.
Up until 1980 MG produced their sports car, the MGB. It was available as both a 2 seat roadster and a 2+2 coupe. Perhaps the most popular B launched was the B GT. It was a pioneer in popularizing the hatchback shape, retaining the coupe style whilst being as practical as a station wagon.
Upsetting the neighbours
When MG first launched the B, they came under fire from Renault. The French manufacturer claimed MG had stolen the front end design from their ‘Floride’ model. However the Floride was an unremarkable car that never made a significant impact on the market. Fortunately for MG the lack of popularity of the Floride made it more hassle than it was worth for Renault to pursue any case against them, and the argument silently ended.
Morris Motors Ltd was eventually swallowed up by BMC (British Motor Corporation). BMC eventually evolved into British Leyland. In the 70’s British Leyland were experiencing great financial woes of their own. This eventually led to the closure of the Abingdon plant and the marque being temporarily abandoned.
MG has been involved in Motorsport since its earliest days. They produced a couple of dedicated racing cars for enthusiasts to use. The enthusiasts who purchased the vehicles also received considerable help from the factory. MG was also the last foreign brand to be used in NASCAR racing in 1963. As recently as 2012 MG powered cars have featured in the British Touring Car Championship.
After a shirt stint with British Aerospace MG along with Rover was purchased by BMW. BMW dismantled large parts of the group selling them off separately. When BMW sold the main company to ford in 2000, the Longbridge plant was kept open by a group of businessmen known as the phoenix group, who famously purchased it from BMW for £10. This is not strictly true, as the stock and assets that came with the deal meant that BMW made a huge loss on the sale. But overall BMW had made so much money from selling Land Rover and other assets that overall they were still onto a winner. They were eventually declared bankrupt in 2005.
MG tried their hand at producing a supercar early in the new century. The X Power was produced in Italy, with the finishing touches being made at Longbridge. Production was eventually stopped due to a lack of interest; the last ones were sold to customers in early 2008. It was available in a 320 bhp version, and a special SV-R model that produced 385 bhp.
The Chinese connection
In 2005 Nanjing Automobile Group purchased the rights to the MG brand for £53 million. They created a new company called MG Motor, which saw its first new model released in 2011, the MG 6. Available in both hatchback and saloon versions this new model is available in China, Chile, Colombia and the UK.
The Future of MG
With the MG 6 featuring a 1.8 133 bhp petrol engine and a 1.9 diesel variant, they are not very likely to continue with the motorsport heritage anytime soon. It appears that the Chinese owners are using the marque to gain traction in unfamiliar markets. However, the cars being produced are far closer to Rover than they are to the MG’s of old. Although initial sales predictions were estimated at between 2000 and 3000 for the UK, in 2012 they only sold 782 cars
The details that matter
Many collectors of MG’s earlier sports cars complain about the screen height. It makes it awkward for a slightly taller driver to see and doesn’t provide the best protection. However this is actually an early indicator of MG’s commitment to motorsport. The actual screen height is dictated by international racing rules.