Parts or Restore? 1954 MG TF Project

As MG limped along in the early 1950s, raiding its parts bins to line-extend its T-series cars, it was hearing complaints that the TD, while comfortable, was slow. The TD meandered from 0 to 60 in over 20 seconds. MG tried to assuage the market by cobbling together a “competition” model with an uprated engine, called the TD Mk II. The factory found about 3 extra bhp from the 1250 cc motor via special tuning and parts. But with the advent of the Jaguar XK series, the TD’s headlight and fender arrangement was looking elderly, and it was STILL slow. So in mid-1953, MG tried one last time to keep the T-series alive, creating the TF. Here on eBay, is a 1954 MG TF, bid to $1,259, reserve not met. This car is located in Independence, Oregon. The seller indicates the TF has been stored in a barn for fifty years – and it shows. A license tag reads “72” which would be the last time it was on the road.

The TF was like Godfather Part III, a car you wished didn’t happen. But MG didn’t have the MGA ready yet, so they crammed the TD Mk II engine into the TF, incorporated the headlights into the wings (“fenders”, for the Mustang crowd), fiddled with the radiator, and called it good. Oh, and they managed to get about 1/2 bhp extra by using stiffer valve springs. Twin SUs and a four-speed gearbox completed the package. In this guise, the TF was able to make it to 60 mph in just under 20 seconds, a very slight improvement over the TC. The seller says this motor turns over with good compression.

The interior here is…. somewhat intact. One photo in the listing shows that the lucky buyer will receive a better steering wheel than this one; otherwise you’re going to be making like a worker on the Abingdon line to refurbish everything. Fortunately, parts availability is pretty good, and this car does come with its side curtains, some tools, and other extras.

This car obviously needs everything, and the underside shows it has at least surface rust. I will bet that when you separate panels from the frame, you’ll find more of the tin worm. To strike a slightly more positive note, sighting down the side of the car, it looks straight! The seller is excited to tell us that this restoration will be “easy and straightforward”, but I dunno. What do you think – is this a parts car or should it go back on the road?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Seller is correct about the easy restoration part. These cars come apart easily including taking the main body off the frame. There is wood inside a few of the panels of the cowel that is available if needed. Not a lot of the TFs left so I’d throw my vote to restoring this car. As said, almost everything about his car is available to help the project.

    Like 18
    • Cadmanls Member

      Have to agree with Bob the TF isn’t seen to often. Remember helping a friend of a friend paint his in the driveway. Was a good 10 footer. That friend had a TC and a TD all pretty cool cars. Getting back to this one yeah needs restored and English cars are pretty simple machines.

      Like 4
      • Christopher Gentry

        In my humble opinion , the TF was the best of the T series. I wish I could … Besides being poor and very limited mechanical skill. It’s on the wrong side of the country.

        Like 2
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        The TF will always be my favorite of the T-Series. MG finally found a way to incorporate some streamlining to make the features flow. If I had the means I would take this project on. Of course I would try to source out a set of wire wheels. Those rims are SO tacky…

        Like 1
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        This is one (1955) that just wandered into a local show-N-shine and it attracted a lot of attention until the event was almost over for the day. Only then was it safe to shoot a decent pic. Never got a chance to talk to the owner…

  2. Bruce

    A friend and I took one that was at least running and mechanically sound, took it apart, stripped it, repainted it and reassembled it in two weeks. We sent the interior out to be rebuilt and after two weeks we had a car that would be hard to tell from new. This is a perfect neighborhood car. Go get groceries from the local store where you do not have to hit a high speed road.

    Side curtains are not completely useless but in windy weather they are close. This is a smiles per miles kind of car. Practical in many ways but also great fun to drive and they just look great. I have heard of a couple with MGB engines which can easily out perform the stock one from the local MG club but I have not seen on personally.

    He went from that TF to purchase a Bentley R-Type from 1947 with an aluminum Razor Edge body by James Young that we painted from the dull black to a triple blue that was a real eye grabber and from that one to a P-51 Mustang before they got stratospheric in price. Good memories on working on all of those.

    FYI later he won best restoration at Oshkosh Air show for an AT-6 that is just amazing, better than new.

    Like 6

    I would like to point out that this car is steel over wood construction. If the wood is bad, the easy restoration plan falls off a cliff.

    Like 1
    • Kelly Breen

      You are bang on correct about that. But wood is a forgiving material to work with. If the wood is present it is possible to use the old bits to template new ones.
      It definitely it becomes a time consuming project,, but even marine grade ply and ash are not that expensive.

  4. Steve

    A popular engine swap were Volvo engines. Also, there were superchargers for T-series MGs. They are somewhat rare but did help boost the HP.

    Like 2
  5. Kelly Breen

    It I old enough and intact enough to be worth more keeping it closer to original. Although built in a factory on a line the parts were “fitted” by hand. Read with a bit of persuasion and sometimes a mallet.
    It is a lovely car. Well worth fixing.
    Hot rod the basket cases. This one looks good.

    Like 3
  6. Frank of Eden

    Having owned an MGB, I have ALWAYS wanted a TF! I just thought they looked the nicest of all of those “old looking” MG’s, and always thought that those TF’s were the most “romantic” of all of the T series. Sad that they were all so under-powered back then.

    Like 2
  7. Thomas Crum

    I considertheTF to be the most attractive of all theMG models. Well worth restoring. and ideal for a good metal worker good with 12 Ga. sheetmetal.
    I would also like to have a cousin in England that could assist with mechanical parts.

  8. Dennis Zozula

    I had a 54 TF for thirteen years. I loved it. The comment about a being a neighbour hood car is dead on. It did not perform, it got underway. Mine was a right hand drive and that added a little charm. It had steel wheels which I preferred to the wire wheels. The Volvo swap was suggested but mostly to preserve the original engine. I kept it a bit rough as I considered it a driver. A heads up. The mechanical clutch mechanism has a pivot on the frame so if the engine mounts are sloppy you will occasionally have a bucking bronc.

  9. Glenn Reynolds

    As previously mentioned wood rot can be an issue. If it’s not too bad and limited to door bottoms, etc, I had success using West system epoxy, which was designed for wooden boats. The repairs can be made without having to remove the wood; a huge advantage.

  10. V12MECH

    I love these cars, have a basket case lined up to make into a driver, I can do all the work myself, but like a motorcycle, I have to be careful when I drive it, one hit from a dolt in a giant SUV on their phone and I am toast!

    Like 1

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