Hollywood Movie Star! 1952 MG TD

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Show of hands if you saw Quentin Tarantino’s film, “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood“. OK, a show of hands if you remember any of it. I had a hand up and then a hand down but I’m like that with movies. With streaming options, it’s possible if you are so inclined, to watch whatever Hollywood rolls out non-stop – too many to remember. Anyway, not really recalling the film, I definitely don’t remember this 1952 MG TD that had some sort of role. Let’s look it over and see if it rings a bell. You’ll find this MG in Los Angeles, California and available, here on Prop Store Auction for a starting bid of $20,000. Thanks to Lotar Z. for this interesting tip!

OK, so in the movie, which depicts Hollywood in 1969, this British racing green MG is owned by Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate and they’re filmed driving it in a few scenes. It is a restored TD and the seller claims, “This MG is in good overall condition with visible signs of use from production, including minor rusting and some scuffs to the paint and tires“. Everything that I have ever read about film cars says DON’T lease your interesting car for film use, it’ll never be returned in the same shape. It would be helpful to hear from readers who have had actual experiences on this front. Anyway, based on the accompanying images, this TD presents well with no obvious issues revealed. BTW, the TD is not a particularly rare edition of MG’s T-Type. Built between 1950 and 1953, approximately 30K were produced.

The surprise here is the Nissan/Datsun 1600 CC, in-line four-cylinder engine, and corresponding five-speed manual transmission. Perhaps this is a common swap – another matter where it would be good to hear from our informed readership. It may be a good mechanical move and add some appreciated power, but it seems to take a little of the Union Jack out of this renowned British sports car. The seller adds, “Following production, it was registered ‘Non-op’, though it remains operable. As this is a functioning vehicle…” No elaboration beyond that on this MG’s operating characteristics.

The interior of this MG presents very well. The wooden steering wheel displays signs of wear, perhaps brought about by some white-knuckling adventure through the Hollywood Hills but the gauges and wood trim are in truly beautiful condition. The upholstery is referenced as green leather though the images reveal an environment that looks black. From what can be seen, nothing looks out of place or in need of attention.

The bid range estimate for this car is $40 to $60K – that top-end seems a bit outsized; celebrity provenance? Perhaps, though I can never quite wrap my head around that one – you’re buying a car, not an association but I know, that’s just me. Tell me, would a movie car make you more inclined, less inclined, or have no bearing on your automotive interest?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. leiniedude leiniedudeMember

    ‘Celebrity provenance?’ I could care less. Been looking for a TD for a while now. 40 to 60 K is a big stretch to me. Nice looking rig though. About the lease, I have a buddy that at 80 years young has a nice collection of 1940 and 1950’s cars that he daily drives in the summer. He has leased a number of them for films. They come to his farm in Wisconsin and cart them away in an enclosed trailer. He says he has never had a problem. I can’t recall exactly how much coin, but less than I would have expected. Probably enough to pay for his wifes bowling & bar tab, LOL. She is about 80 also. Nice write up Jim.

    Like 3
    • Larry

      I have a frame off restored 1951 MGTD Roadster

      Like 7
      • Mikefromthehammer

        SU—WEET ride!!!

        Like 1
  2. Oldog4tz Oldog4tz

    From a car-watch perspective, the film was far and above the usual period piece. Rather than the same dozen or so old vehicles recycled in the background, their were dozens of period correct vehicles throughout the flick.

    Like 6
    • 370zpp 370zppMember

      For the ultimate Tarantino – car movie, check out “Death Proof”.
      you won’t be disappointed.

      Like 2
      • Terrry

        Oh yes you will. That movie sucked.

        Like 5
      • 370zpp 370zppMember

        Oh Terrrrry, so sorry you didn’t enjoy the movie.

        Like 3
      • glenn C marks

        I loved “Once Upon a Time…..” Generally not much of a Quentin fan. Watch the “extras” on the DVD. It tells about car procurement for the movie. If memory serves me correct, they actually restored Tex Watson’s car for filming (a ’58 Ford). The details for the movie’s filming were staggering and it showed.

        Like 0
  3. Mikefromthehammer

    The listing at the auction house says it is “olive green” when we all would call it British Racing Green as Jim did. Also, even though the pictures are quite dark, the leather looks like it is (a dark) green (to me at least). Finally, you’ve gotta love suicide doors, although I challenge anyone to try jumping out of this little MG while the car is in motion. People of a certain age (ahem, myself, for example) would find it to be difficult to egress the vehicle when the car is fully stopped, let alone while it is in motion. This would be a very interesting vehicle to own, and I would seriously look into bidding on it if my circumstances would allow. GLWTA

    Like 1
  4. bobhess bobhessMember

    Love engine upgrades in lots of cars but this isn’t one of them. If no engine put an MGB in it just to keep it in the family. Personally I haven’t seen a car for sale owned by a “famous” person that I’d buy anyway. Paying the extra bucks doesn’t get you anything but a more empty bank account.

    Like 4
    • Pete W.

      There are a lot better choices the the MGB engine to swap into a TD. For one thing, the carbs are on the driver’s side which interfere with the TD steering column.

      Secondly, the technology is the same as the original XPAG so the “improvement” is minimal. A much better choice would be the Volvo B18, which was pretty common back when TD’s were still popular.

      Like 1
  5. That AMC Guy

    Renting your classic car to a Hollywood film production is a real crap shoot. (I’ve known people who have done it.) They do not care about your car. They only care about their project. Even if the paperwork says they are responsible for damage, good luck having any “oopses” repaired to your satisfaction – they have more lawyers than you do. Once the film is done they are onto the next project and don’t care about cleaning up any loose ends (like your damaged car) left by the last one.

    Like 5
  6. Mackey914

    the non – op on the registration is a way of avoiding registration fees. It just means that the car is non operational, in the sense that it will not be driven on the road. Or at least how it was when I lived in California.

    Like 1
  7. Lowell Peterson

    I have aTD too, (pun intended?)6’2″ and 230, and 76 . Getting all that in and out is one of my most strenuous endeavors of the week! No shoes of course! But once in its exhilarating to buzz the niehborhood. So Mr Hammer yer spot on. By the way, film car renters usually contract includes compensation for damage or clearly excludes that.

    Like 2
  8. david r

    My POS 62 Falcon was seen for about ten seconds in “End of Days”. They gave me a new paint job because some shattered glass rained on it. They have money to burn and aren’t shy about spending it.

    Like 1
  9. Guardstang

    I have a customer that restores and owns Model A Fords and he has rented them to film and TV productions many times. There are people that own a data base of local classic cars and production companies contact them to locate the vehicles they need. Bill has told me they send a trailer and the cars come back cleaner than when they left. He told me he doesn’t get rich but the money helps pay for the hobby. Mind you his cars are not used as hero cars, usually just parked on the street to make you think its the 1930’s. If the company needs a car for hero work or damage they will purchase or make cars for that purpose.

    Like 2
  10. david r

    And maybe it’s just me, but Once Upon a Time was pretty far from “forgettable”.

    Like 8
  11. Tom Lange

    Putting aside whatever Tarantino value it may or may not have, as a TD this is a $9,000 car. Wrong engine, trans, replaced interior, not too good paint, etc. etc. Maybe for the movie buff it is a $20,000 car, but certainly not for any MG guy.

    Like 2
  12. Brian MMember

    I once volunteered my TR3A for a commercial for G-Mac clothing, a line from golfer Graeme McDowell. Drove it over to Orlando and they took a number of moving and still photos with the celebrity in or near the car. The ads were to run in England and Ireland but he lives much of the year here in the US when not on tour. I wasn’t the operator in any of the shots, so no fame, even fleeting, for me.

    Like 0
  13. Larry

    I sold a 1959 Cadillac Hearse/Ambulance for one of the cars used in Ghost Busters and sold a 1940 Willys Coupe used in Fast and Furious

    Like 0

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