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MG TD Engine Swaps


When compared to American cars of the era, the MG T-series was an agile machine. They handled great, but the acceleration left something to be desired for many owners. Hot cams and superchargers helped, but for a real boost, an engine swap was needed. We would never encourage this sort of thing with an original MG, but there is no need to feel guilty if someone else has already done the dirty work for you…


If you like the idea of a more powerful TD, then we have found a two options for you. First, we have this 1952 TD that is listed on craigslist in Sturgis, South Dakota with an asking price of $6,900. At some point its factory power-plant was replaced with a Hurricane inline-six. This engine was manufactured by Willys and, depending on specification, could put out 90 horsepower. That may not sound like a lot today, but when you consider that the stock 1,250cc four cylinder only generated a bit over 50 horses, that’s a recipe for fun!


Next, we have this 1951 TD with even more tasteful modifications. The suspension and rims were donated by an MGA twin cam and the engine came from a 1962 Volvo 544. The B18D is a dual carb machine that’s good for about 90 horsepower. It is also known to last forever so besides adding some much needed power, it should also cure many of the reliability problems common to these cars.


This particular car has already been restored, so even though it may cost you more to start, it will probably be cheaper in the long run. Find it here on eBay in Chatsworth, California with bidding currently under $9k. Apparently, the owner got in an accident and can no longer drive stick so are forced to sell. We would love to have either of these cars and since the changes have already done, we wouldn’t feel an ounce of guilt. What do you think would be the ideal engine for one of these little British roadsters?


  1. Andrew S Mace Member

    As a child in the early 1960s, I remember that a neighbor briefly had either a TC or TD with a flathead Ford V-8 in it!

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    • Gerry

      It was probably the V8-60 flathead Ford. Looked great with side pies and cycle fenders – sounds god but needs alot of mods to make a HP difference – jigj compression edelbrock heads , progressive 2 two barrel carbs etc

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  2. Bob Hayton

    I have had 2 TD’s. Both were modified when I got them. The first was a 53 MK II with a Chevy 6 with a power glide trans. and the other was a 50 with a 63 Chevy 2 ,4 cyl. with a power glide also.
    The 50 worked out fairly well but the 53 had the firewall removed and a piece of 3/4 plywood bolted to the body in place of it to make room for the longer motor, no leg room so it wasn’t very good for any longer trips.
    I drove the 53 from Redondo Beach to San Diego for the G O F west in 1979 which the club I was in co- sponsored .
    The T D”s are fun cars to play with.

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  3. rich

    When I had my 52 TD back in the late 60’s wanted to swap a chev iron Duke 4 banger and use most of the hot parts that were used on midget racers at the time. *port head twin Webers and a hot cam. Would not weight more then the stock 4 and have way more power.

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  4. Gary

    I like TDs as much as the next guy, this Volvo swap is sweet.

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  5. viking

    the only improvements this 5 main bearing volvo b18 engine needs is a pair of dual port side draft weber carbs. and tuned exhaust headers, it will be good for more than 115 hp. it is a bullet proof engine.

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  6. scot

    ~ i have never seen one in person and i wouldn’t approve butchering a nice MG-T series, but i imagine a Rover aluminum V8 with brake and suspension upgrades would make one hell of a fine car. any of you guys know of one?

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  7. rusty

    Always thought an A series 1275 from an MG Midget would be nice, they can even be bored out to a respectable 1400 or more if your game..even with a Celica 5 speed conversion [common conversion in Aussie]

    this would be a basically same size engine in dimensions and CC’s and depending where you live may pass as an engine change without an engineers certificate [as my country deams] but horsepower can be increased massively , motor looks period and is from the same stable..simple,sweet and less rego probs hopefully [our modification laws in Aussie have tightened dramatically lately.] and no additrional weight factors [is a problem with the B series conversions’]

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  8. Jim-Bob

    If I were going to do a swap in one of these cars, I would go with something Japanese. Good power density, fuel economy and reliability would all be my criteria. This rules out a rotary, but leaves the door open to other things. The one engine that stands out to me is the Nissan GA16DE. It was the engine used in the Sentra throughout the 90’s and produced about 115hp. The only negative is I have no idea how I would mount it in a north-south orientation. Plus, the distributor is on the transmission side of the engine, so fitment would be difficult.

    My second choice is probably a better one: The Suzuki G13 DOHC 1298cc 4 from the Swift GT. It can be fitted with the transmission from a 2WD Geo Tracker to mount it properly, and give the car a useful overdriven 5th. It also has a respectable 100hp, but it comes in a lightweight package due to it’s all aluminum construction. I think it weighs less than 200lbs, fully dressed, but am not 100% certain. I would retain the EFI too as it is easier to deal with than a carburetor over the long haul. However, I do think it would be interesting to fit it with individual throttle bodies adapted off of a 4 cylinder sport bike engine. It may not be practical though. In that case, the Swift’s original EFI would be fairly easy to fit. The only negative is that, again, the distributor is in the wrong spot. However, if this EFI system is like the 3 cylinder Metro, then the early versions (89-91) do not integrate the ignition with the ECU. This means it could be converted to a stand alone coil on plug system, thus making it a fairly clean, low-maintenance installation.

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  9. Kurt Spengler

    No Need for a fwd based engine if you want Japanese go with a bullet proof 22r Celica engine..If modern American fare is more to your liking..Find a Saturn Red line from a Sky roadster or Pontiac Solstice..

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  10. Skip Middleton

    I would like to see a Lotus Twin Cam or Lotus designed Jensen-Healey motor in one of these.

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  11. JCorton

    Plumb in a Motus V4. Also applicable for a Saab Sonett. And others.

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  12. Jeff

    Well now, let’s do an Olds Quad 4. With a twin cam head and 16 valves and a T 5 transmission, it would look like an old prototype fresh out of hibernation with an Offy aboard. The sound is out of this world and so is the power curve. Top this!

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    • John Wright

      Yes, I agree with this choice. I need to find one and stash it away!

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  13. Solomonschris

    My first car in 1963 was a 1953 TD with a B-16 Volvo with a 3speed Volvo tranny. It was built for Elaine Bond to race in SCCA E modified. Her husband John was the publisher off Road & Track magazine. It was red with white TR2 or 3 bucket seats. It had MGA suspension and wire wheels, no bumpers, spare tire rack removed with the straps holding the fuel tank in chrome. The grill slats were painted the same exquisite red as the car. The engine was heavily breathed on. We had to change out the all or nothing competition clutch immediately. I had to have little chains at the doors to keep the outside door from flying open if I took a turn aggressively . It was a stunning car that was very undependable. It was over 50 years ago and I think I could still identify the smell of a burning British wiring loom.

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    • Charlie Baldwin

      I have a Volvo B20 with M41 overdrive transmission in my TD. I have a Yahoo Group called VolvoenginedMGs to help anyone who is considering the swap or someone that needs help with an already converted T series MG. Someone in the group came up with the fact that Elaine Bond raced an MG with Volvo engine. Chris, can you tell me more about the car that you had? Thanks.

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  14. Raymond Puder

    Have TD with a BMW and 5spd. Have heart issues since buying it, will be stronger soon to test drive it.

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    • Charlie Baldwin

      Raymond, I hope you will have lots of fun with your TD. They benefit greatly from having more power. Do you have the stock drum brakes? I have a design to install MGB front disc brakes and keep the original wheels. Check out my Yahoo Group – VolvoenginedMGs. If you want to join, let me know and I can send an invitation. Or you can request to join from the group.

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  15. rich

    Drop in a Datsun 1600 from an old Roadster. Both engine and gearbox are a drop in as it Datsun was a copy of the MG. More power and does not weep oil.

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    • Craig F Halsted

      Rich, do you know anyone who has done the R16 into TD swap? I have a 52 TD in need of an engine and also have an R16 drivetrain…or could do a U20 :-)

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  16. Charlie Baldwin

    The Datsun engine may be a copy of an MG engine, but it certainly isn’t a copy of the XPAG or XPEG of the T series MGs. Any engine swap is not bolt in, but the Volvo swap is fairly easy and matches the looks of the original engine with power increased to make a TD or TF able to keep up with modern traffic. The Volvo B16 is three main bearing and parts are hard to find, but the B18 and B20 are five main bearing and the best swap. As I mentioned above, an overdrive transmission is available with the D type fitting well with little to no cutting of the car. Yahoo is shutting down their groups, so we have moved to https://groups.io/g/VolvoPoweredMGs. The Volvo engines/transmissions are readily available at places like https://www.susquehannaspares.com/.

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