MG 1½ Litre

Brand new model, with mine the first in the Far East, ordered from England and shipped during the Italian-Somali war, thereby costing extra for war-risk insurance while traversing the Red Sea. Four seater, but very sporty and innovative. Body: yellow, leather upholstery: red. Wire wheels: silver. (All the MGs had the Rudge-Whitworth quickly detachable wire wheels, with the big 2-eared screw-on hub, and a copper mallet in the tool kit for knocking them off. Screwed on lightly, they were self-tightening as one drove). This car had Luvax hydraulic shock absorbers adjustable by the driver with a 5-position switch on the dash. The fluid pressure was maintained by a pump attached to the rear axle, whose up and down motion operated the pump. You could adjust the suspension from v. soft to v. firm while you drove. In addition to all the other usual gauges there was an oil temperature gauge.

There was also an oil capacity gauge incorporated with the gas gauge: push in a button and the meter switched over to read the oil capacity instead of the gas. It had a 15-gallon fuel tank (imperial gallons at that) as had all the other MGs, and grouped lubrication. In those days all sorts of things had to be greased, particularly all the spring shackles, front and rear. Normally this had to be done on a lift, but the 1 1/2 litre had all the lubricating nipples located on the firewall under the hood. One was supposed to use, every 500 miles, heavy oil rather than grease, which was then conveyed to the appropriate point by fine copper tubing.

MG 1 Litre  MG 1.5 litre with Anne
Lindsay, MG 1.5 litre, Anne 1.6 meter
This was the car I had in French Indo-China (with which I lured your mother, in fact!) and the rugged roads played havoc with the lubricating tubing, wiping some of it away. We found that we were zealously pumping oil out on the ground in some instances, instead of to the shackles.

The 12-volt system -- new, then -- was supplied by 2 6-volt batteries under the floor on either side of the shaft tunnel. One of these sustained a hole from an Indo-Chinese rock, and thereafter would not hold enough charge to last overnight. Fortunately MG had provided a starting handle, unlike Studebaker. All these MGs had 2 SU carburetors, one to each pair of cylinders (or, in the case of the Magna, to each 3 cylinders). The SU had a large dashpot with a piston attached to a tapered metering needle floating in the jet. Vacuum made the needle go up or down, opening more or less of the jet. The compression ratio was such that with normal HK gas it would knock, so I patronized one particular station which kept a large can of Shell Aviation gas for me -- then very special at 100 octane -- and mixed this with the normal to alleviate the problem. In French Indo-China the gas was very bad and no aviation fuel; but the MG had a vernier control on the ignition which allowed one to adjust the spark. I was able to retard it enough to minimize the knocking, but, of course, lost power in the process.

One wonderful innovation on this car was a built-in jacking system. Four hydraulic jacks mounted permanently on the four corners of the car were linked to a hydraulic cylinder under the passenger's footwell. Lift a little trap door, dial in whether you wanted the front, or the back, or all to lift, tighten down a valve, fit on a handle from the tool kit, and simply sit there and pump. Very stable and civilized. When finished one released the pressure valve and the whole car sank gently to earth, the jacks retracting to their normal housings. And this was 1938! This was the car I left in Hong Kong, and which Mother sold at a much better price than the dealer ("all we want is to get enough to clear what's owing on the loan") would have produced. How much could we get for that car today?!

MG 1 Litre
photo credit: By FaceMePLS from The Hague, The Netherlands "MG VA-T" 1938, CC