MG got its original name from "Morris Garages", a dealer of Morris cars in Oxford which began producing its own customized versions to the designs of Cecil Kimber who had joined the company as its Sales Manager in 1921 and was promoted to General Manager in 1922. Kimber remained as General Manager until 1941 when he fell out with Lord Nuffield over procuring wartime work. Kimber died in 1945 in a freak railway accident. In 1952, with the BMC merger, long-time service manager John Thornley took over as GM, guiding the company through its best years until his retirement in 1969.
MG is best known for two-seat open sports cars, but MG also produced saloons and coupés. More recently, the brand has also been used to designate sportier versions of other models belonging to the parent company.
"MG" might stand for something new under its new Chinese owners. Nanjing boss Zhang Xin said: "We want Chinese consumers to know this brand as 'Modern Gentleman'. To see that this brand represents grace and style."
There is some debate over when MG started. The company itself stated it to be 1924, although the first cars bore both Morris and MG badges and a reference to MG with the octagon badge appears in an Oxford newspaper from November 1923. Others dispute this and believe that MG began trading in 1925.
The first cars which were rebodied Morris models using coachwork from Carbodies of Coventry and were built in premises in Alfred Lane, Oxford but demand soon caused a move to larger premises in Bainton Road in September 1925 sharing space with the Morris radiator works. Continuing expansion meant another move in 1927 to a separate factory in Edmund Road, Cowley, Oxford, near the main Morris factory and for the first time it was possible to include a production line. In 1928 the company had become large enough to warrant an identity separate from the original Morris Garages and the M.G. Car Company Limited was established in March of that year and in October for the first time a stand was taken at the London Motor Show. Space again soon ran out and a search for a permanent home led to the lease of part an old leather factory in Abingdon, Oxfordshire in 1929, gradually taking over more space until production ended in 1980.
Originally owned personally by William Morris, the company was sold to Morris Motors (itself part of the Nuffield Organisation) in 1935; a change that was to have serious consequences for the company, particularly its motor-sport activities. MG was absorbed into the British Motor Corporation in 1952, and latterly British Leyland in 1968. Under BMC, several MG models were no more than badge-engineered versions of other marques, with the main exception being the small MG sports cars.
Amidst a mix of economic, internal and external politics, the Abingdon factory was shut down as part of the ruthless programme of cutbacks necessary to turn BL around after the turbulent times of the 1970s. Though many plants were closed, none created such an uproar among workers, dealers, clubs and customers as this closing did. Years later, Sir Michael Edwardes expressed regret about his decision. Later forms of MGs built by BL's Austin Rover Group were often badge-engineered Austins, and were made at the Longbridge plant. As of 2003, the site of the former Abingdon factory was host to McDonalds and the Thames Valley Police with only the former office block still standing. The headquarters of the MG Car Club is situated next door.
After the Austin Rover Group became the Rover Group, ownership of MG passed to British Aerospace and then BMW. BMW later sold the business and MG became part of the MG Rover Group based in Longbridge, Birmingham. The practice of selling unique MG sports cars alongside badge-engineered models (by now Rovers) continued. The Group went into receivership in 2005 and car production was suspended on 7 April 2005.
In 2006, it was reported that Project Kimber led by David James had entered talks with Nanjing to buy the MG brand in order to produce a number of sports cars based on the discontinued Smart Roadster design by DaimlerChrysler. No agreement was reached and it was later announced that the re-launched Smart Roadster would bear the AC name.
Nanjing is expected to restart production of the MG TF and ZT ranges at the beginning of 2007, but the ZR and ZS models are unlikely to be produced again because of copyright reasons.
On July 11, 2006 Nanjing announced that production will continue on the TF sports coupé. A new plant will be built in Ardmore, Oklahoma to build the next-generation TF, accounting for roughly 60% of TF output worldwide. A new development center will also be opened in the United States, located at the University of Oklahoma. The Longbridge plant in the UK will continue to build TFs as well, and a third plant will also be built at an unknown location in China. According to Nanjing, MGs will go in sale in the United States in the early summer of 2008.
The earliest model, the 1924 14/28 consisted of a new sporting body on a Morris Oxford chassis. This production continued through the next models following the updates to the Morris. The first car which can be described as a new MG, rather than a modified Morris was the 18/80 of 1928 which had a purpose designed chassis and the first appearance of the traditional vertical MG grille. A smaller car was launched in 1929 with the first of a long line of Midgets starting with the M-Type based on a Morris Minor chassis. MG established a name for itself in the early days of the sport of international automobile racing. Beginning before and continuing after World War II, MG produced a line of cars known as the T-Series Midgets which, post-war, were exported worldwide, achieving better than expected success. These included the MG TC, MG TD, and MG TF, all of which were based on the pre-war MG TB, with various degrees of updating.
MG departed from its earlier line of Y-Type saloons and pre-war designs and released the MGA in 1955. The MGB was released in 1962 to satisfy demand for a more modern and comfortable sports car. In 1965 the fixed head coupé (FHC) followed: the MGB GT. With continual updates, mostly to comply with increasingly stringent United States emissions and safety standards, the MGB was produced until 1980. Between 1967 and 1969 a short-lived model called the MGC was released. The MGC was based on the MGB body, but with a larger (and, unfortunately, heavier) six-cylinder engine, and somewhat worse handling. MG also began producing the MG Midget in 1961. The Midget was a re-badged and slightly restyled second-generation Austin-Healey Sprite. As with the MGB, the Midget design was frequently modified until the Abingdon factory closed in 1980 and the last of the range was made. The badge was also applied to versions of BMC saloons including the BMC ADO16, which was also available as a Riley, but with the MG pitched as slightly more "sporty".
The marque lived on after 1980 as British Leyland (later Austin Rover Group), the then-owner, continued to place the MG badge on a number of Austin saloons including the Metro, Maestro, and Montego. In New Zealand, the MG badge even appeared on the late 1980s Montego estate, called the MG 2.0 Si Wagon. There was a brief competitive history with a mid-engined, six-cylinder version of the Metro.
In the late 1980s, when Austin Rover Group was renamed as the Rover Group, it revived the two-seater with the MG RV8; then in 1995 it introduced the all-new MGF (later updated and relaunched as the TF, reviving an old MG name).
With the demerger of Rover from BMW in 1999, the MG name appeared on sportier versions of the current Rover saloons and the Rover 75 estate and even a van.
The MG Rover Group purchased Qvale, which had taken over development of the De Tomaso Bigua. This car, renamed the Qvale Mangusta and already approved for sale in the U.S., formed the basis of the MG XPower SV, an "extreme" V8-engined sports car. It was revealed in 2002 and went on sale in 2004.
From its earliest days MGs have been used in competition and from the early 1930s a series of dedicated racing cars such as the 1931 C-Type and 1934 Q-type were made and sold to enthusiasts who received considerable company assistance. This stopped in 1935 when MG was formally merged with Morris Motors and the Competition Department closed down. A series of experimental cars had also been made allowing Captain George Eyston to take several world speed records. In spite of the formal racing ban, speed record attempts continued with Goldie Gardner exceeding 200 mph in the 1100 cc EX135 in 1939.
After World War II record braking attempts restarted with 500 cc and 750 cc records being taken in the late 1940s. A decision was also taken to return to racing and a team of MGAs was entered in the tragedy-laden 1955 Le Mans 24 hour race, the best car achieving 12th place
In 2001 MG re-launched their motor sport campaign to cover Le Mans 24hrs race (MG X-Power Ex 251), British Touring Car Championship(BTCC) (MG X-Power ZS), British and World Rally Championships and MG Independent British Rally Championship ( MG X-Power ZR) and in 2004 plans to race in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) with a heavily modified V8 powered ZT supertouring car were cancelled due to MG Rover's liquidation in April 2005. The Le Mans team failed to win the endurance race in 2001 and 2002 and quit in 2003. MG Sport+Racing raced in the British Touring Car Championships with the MG ZS between 2001-2003 as a factory team. In 2004 WSR raced the MG ZS as a privateer team and still race in the series today with many wins to date. After three years without a major sponsor, WSR teamed up with RAC in 2006 and the team was called Team RAC. The MG British Rally Challenge still runs today despite the liquidation in 2005.
Cars manufactured by MG:
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