Stalled Project: 1951 MG TD Roadster

Photos can be deceptive, and that is definitely the case with this 1951 MG TD. However, in this case the photos are deceptive in a good way. As it currently stands, this little British classic doesn’t look like it does in this photo, because it has been dismantled as a father/son project. This has now stalled, but a lot of the hard lifting has already been done for the next owner. The car comes complete with a pile of good parts, and maybe this is a chance for a motivated parent to finish the project with their own child. The MG is located in Huntsville, Alabama, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has now reached $3,100, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

This photo should provide a pretty clear insight into the state of play with the MG. The car has been completely dismantled, and the owner states that there isn’t a spot of rust to be found anywhere. The frame has been cleaned and professionally powder-coated. It has come up a treat, and really sets the standard for how the rest of the restoration project should proceed. All of the panels and trim are present, although the panels will require a strip and a repaint. Still, they do seem to be very straight, meaning that whipping them into shape should be a straightforward task. The owner states that the car is complete, right down to the side curtains and the top. All new rubbers are included in the sale, and for those of you who might be worried about purchasing a dismantled project, I can set your mind at ease a bit on that score. The worst part of tackling such a project is facing the prospect that nuts, bolts, and screws have been somehow lost along the way. In this case that shouldn’t be an issue. The owner has purchased a full bolt kit from renowned specialists Moss Motors. That means that every fastener that will be required is not only there, but is shiny and new. No wrestling with rusty old bolts on this classic.

The owner purchased the MG as a father/son project around 20-years-ago, and as he puts it, the son got married and he got old. You can’t fault the guy for honesty on that front. Prior to work grinding to a halt, the car’s 1,250cc XPAG 4-cylinder engine was treated to a rebuild. It isn’t clear whether this involved replacement of any internal components like pistons or valves, but if the external presentation of the engine is any sort of a guide, then the work will have been completed to the highest standard. It looks like the 4-speed manual transmission might also have received a refresh, although there is a good chance that there might be some work to do with the suspension and the brakes. Once again, this shouldn’t present the buyer with too many dramas. One of the over-riding characteristics of the MG is the fact that the engineering is elegantly simple. That is one of the reasons why they are such a firm favorite for a home restoration project.

With the owner saying that the car is complete, I would take that as meaning that there is a full interior present. We get a look at the gauges and switches, and these are in a nice, restorable state. Just what sort of condition the upholstery is in is unclear. Given the fact that the rest of the restoration has the potential to look so good, I wouldn’t be messing around with interior trim that is anything but perfect. A trim and carpet kit in all of the correct materials is pretty easy to find, and while it might stretch the budget to the tune of around $2,000, it could be money well spent if perfection is on the next owner’s radar.

Normally I will look at a fully dismantled project car, and while hope may spring eternal, I will always harbor some doubts in the back of my mind. I’ve lived this experience, and I know just how frustrating it can be to find progress halted by the lack of a single fastener. However, the chances of that happening seem to have been minimized with this particular car, because this is an owner who appears to be meticulous in his approach to restoration. If I lived closer I know that I would be sorely tempted to bid on this British classic, so it will be interesting to see if we have any readers who feel the same way.


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  1. MattR Member

    Is the TD the first MG with a metal frame? Fun project.

    • MattR Member

      Metal chassis I mean.

  2. Fred Veenschoten

    All MG’s had a steel chassis. They had a wood framework that the sheet metal was nailed to. Same with Morgan cars.

    Like 3
    • MattR Member

      I didn’t realize that Fred. Thanks for that. Not clear from references out there. For instance this wiki about the M series: “Early bodies were fabric-covered using a wood frame; this changed to all-metal in 1931.” Or an article on a 51 TD out there speaking about an “ash wood” frame.

  3. Douglas Smith

    This would be easier to assemble than a kit car. Easier than a beetle. as the body will be reinstalled in sections. Glass won’t be a problem, as there is only one piece. Every part is readily available. The fastener kit is a leg up.
    If you can do the body work, (no rust repair), and the paint, this would be a relatively low buck project.

    Like 2
  4. Robert Thomas

    My dad used to watch these cars race at Watkins Glen in the early 50s and he bought a used TC back in the early 60s. I remember when I was about 4 years old riding in the space behind the front seats. One day my uncle accompanied my dad and I on a jaunt and when the car when over railroad tracks, my uncle who had been leaning on his door, the door opened and he rolled out of the car. Those chassis sure had a lot of flex to them.

    Like 1
  5. wizzy

    Incorrect windshield and posts. Looks like Singer or maybe even older Morgan.

    Like 3
  6. hatofpork

    I see a Redstone Arsenal bumper sticker. Perhaps an engineer who worked there. That increases my confidence that issues so far addressed have been executed at a high level (likely including the xpag engine). YMMV but worth inquiring about.

    Like 1
  7. hatofpork

    Oops-just read the ad!

  8. brianashe

    My dad always wanted a TD, which is why I always click through when I see them posted here. I hope someone can take this on and finish it.

  9. Rocksteady

    Not long ago I had a ride in one just like this, same model year. Warm sunny day, driver ran it up the gears to 50 mph along a couple of boulevards and down again at the red lights. A curvy park road bit. It was a 20 minute automotive treat, sitting on the deck, engine roaring, the fumes adhering to my person, hanging my arm out the window ill advisedly while people looked down from gigantic family tanks. Any car person could have fun with this.

    Like 2
  10. Bernie H.

    This looks like a good project if all the parts are there. You could finish this up for maybe $6-7000, you do the labor, and have a nice ride, AND get your money out when selling. I’m 77, I’ve done 11 of these starting back in 1962 and on. Still have one in my shop I hav’nt driven in three years. Careful if you buy a repop radiator shell, some lousy quality out there that wont fit!!.

    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

      @Bernie H. ……. maybe years ago, but in 2020 a good, (not even top local show) paint job will blow the whole 6-7k … re-chroming will kill a couple G’s just for the ‘important’ stuff , a G for tires, THEN it’s here a G, there a G……………… but , yes, this is a good start

  11. stephan

    As a Recurring English car Junkie,” Working on an MGA MII at present, just finished a 65 MGB.. This is a great car to start on. The first tool to buy is a tap and die set to clean up all the nuts and bolts, What a beauty..Have fun English cars are so fiddley it makes for a great time , like a 900000 piece puzzle of Black..Love my English cars..

    Like 1
  12. Kirby

    There’s no reason to have to clean any nuts and bolts, the article says that the owner has already bought a complete bolt and fastener kit for the car.

    • chrlsful

      some needs threads chased…

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