Drive and Restore: 1951 MG TD

A couple of factors make classic British sports cars from the early post-war years attractive for enthusiasts. The first is that their engineering is pretty basic, making them a popular pick for restoration projects. However, their affordability attracts many, and this 1951 MG TD is a case in point. It runs and drives well, meaning that its buyer could hit the road for a spot of instant gratification. However, it would also be a straightforward restoration that a person could tackle on a tight budget. If you’re suddenly finding yourself strangely drawn to this MG, it is located in Big Bear City, California, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has hit $7,200, which pushes it beyond the reserve.

It seems that the history of this MG includes an older restoration performed by a previous owner. It still presents pretty well, although there are a few spots where the MG Red paint shows its age. These include chips and marks and areas where the finish is developing a matte appearance. However, there’s a chance that those spots would respond positively to a buff and polish, which is an option that the buyer might investigate further. The Black soft-top is okay, but I wouldn’t class it as immaculate. I’ve had no trouble finding replacement tops for around $400, and this would seem to represent an affordable means of lifting the exterior presentation. The owner doesn’t mention any existing rust issues, and none are visible in the supplied photos. The exterior trim would be acceptable for a good driver-grade vehicle, and I can’t spot any problems with the glass. The only other fault that the owner identifies is inoperative wipers, so the buyer will need to undertake a spot of detective work to locate the fault.

If the buyer intends to undertake a restoration on this classic in a home workshop, the interior could be the area that consumes the most money. It is serviceable, but the seller describes its overall condition as poor. There is another issue with the interior to consider for a buyer striving for authenticity. If the exterior paint combination is correct, the interior trim is wrong. Any 1951 TD that wore MG Red paint and matching grille slats rolled off the line with the interior upholstered in red or beige. That suggests that the previous owner may have changed things during the earlier restoration. It also leaves the buyer the option of righting this wrong. However, the process is unlikely to be cheap, with a complete trim kit retailing for around $2,000. That’s a fair chunk of change, but it would represent a one-off expense that is unlikely to be repeated during the buyer’s lifetime…or the lives of potential subsequent owners. The dash may have a few minor flaws, but I’m not 100% certain on that point. Overall, the interior is another aspect of this classic that the new owner could restore at home.

Unfortunately, the seller doesn’t supply any engine photos. He rights this wrong by providing information on the car’s overall mechanical health. If it is numbers-matching, the engine bay should be occupied by a 1,250cc four-cylinder engine that produces 54hp. Bolted to the motor is a four-speed manual transmission, and this combination allows the TD to launch through the ¼ mile in 21.5 seconds. That figure isn’t guaranteed to get your heart racing, but don’t be fooled. Because occupants sit so close to terra firma, the MG feels far faster than the numbers suggest, making most journeys pretty enjoyable. The owner indicates that this MG’s engine received a comprehensive rebuild in 2007, and it remains in excellent health. He has fitted radial tires that have transformed the car’s handling. It runs and drives well and is ready to provide the instant gratification that I mentioned earlier.

This 1951 MG TD offers some interesting options for potential buyers to consider. Driving it untouched is an obvious choice and would cost nothing beyond the initial purchase price. Its overall physical condition and lack of rust mean that returning the exterior to its former glory should be an easy undertaking that would cost nothing beyond the price of materials. The most expensive part of the process would be returning the interior to its original appearance. However, depending on where the bidding lands at the auction conclusion, it could still remain financially viable. If you are serious about this classic, it would be worth considering those points and monitoring the listing. You could be rewarded by finding a wonderful classic British sports car parked in your workshop in a few days. I can’t think of a downside to that scenario.



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  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great looking cars. Not really surprised to see the Z3 hidden in the dash photo. I own a Z3 but have been looking for a TD for a while. Seeing this for sale by a Zed owner makes me wonder if I should abandon my search. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    Like 1
  2. Al

    Always wanted one of these, just could not get into it.

    A really nice vehicle if you are shorter than 6’1″ or have a max 32″ in-seam.

    It’s just a lawn ornament if you are taller than the above.

    I think I will just stick to the pink flamingo which in itself is becoming an expensive lawn ornament.

    Like 6
  3. robert gressard

    On the dash is a New England MG T Register member number. By Joining the Register much information may be gained to the car’s past. I am a 50 year plus member. Great club

    Like 3
  4. Puhnto

    When I was a little kid, the son of one of my dad’s friends, got a brand new MG-TD as a high school graduation present. Pale yellow with green interior. Crazy about cars, dad arranged for me to have a ride in it. We drove along with the top down along winding Northern California roads. I was both thrilled to death and scared stiff as we clipped along, probably never more than 35, so open and so close to the ground! I’ve loved them ever since.

    Kind of a shame they replaced the beautiful original steering wheel with that after market one.

    Like 2
  5. Johnny

    Nice looking little car. I,ve wanted on for quite awhile,but I first want to be able to ride in one and talk to someone who has owned on and learn more about them. The good and bad faults of them. Before buying one. Again. Its a nice looking car. I wonder since the sit so close to the ground. If the ride rough and beat a person to death?

    Like 1
  6. Warren Johnson Member

    About 1970 I bought a 1954 TD that the previous owner stuffed a 283 Fuelie the 4 spd and rear axle out of a Corvette. It was one hellva ride. It was well built, but, the biggest problem was keeping the engine cool in the summer. Wish I would kept that TD!

    Like 2
  7. Chris Dalambakis

    I’ve always loved this model. I own a 1960 MGA. I betcha that the non working windshield wipers would be fixed with a replaced dash board knob / control. Smith Electrics were famous for issues. Cheap replacement. You might even be able to open it up and fix the control knob yourself. Easy to unscrew and remove by reaching up behind the dash board.

    Like 1
    • Andrew S Mace Member

      ISTR the wiper switch is on the wiper motor, and I’m pretty sure there are folks around still who can repair those motors.

      As to “ride quality,” my now-distant memories of same (many miles put on TDs way back when) was that they weren’t all that bad in that respect!

      Like 1
  8. Bob Soderquist

    I’d sure like to see a couple photos of the engine bay and underside.
    Certainly looks like a nice TD but these are two areas that can make or break a good project.

    Like 1
  9. Phil Hall

    MG=Might Go

  10. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Sounds like a great deal. Ended:Nov 27, 2021 , 2:00AM
    Winning bid:
    US $8,755.00
    [ 15 bids ]

    Like 1

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