1952 MG: Found Dismantled in a Barn
When Bill Demarest first saw a dismantled 1952 MG TD in a barn, he envisioned what it could be. He bought the car and returned with a tow bar, then loaded up boxes of parts and pieces into the car for the trip back home.
The cylinder head had been removed, allowing Demarest to look down into the 76-cubic-inch, four-cylinder overhead-valve engine. There, on the top edge of one of the pistons was stamped the word “FRONT.” Of course, that edge was installed toward the rear.
It was then that Demarest pulled the engine from the MG and proceeded to take the car completely apart, down to the last nut and bolt. When it went back together, he wanted to be certain that everything would be as it should be.
For 12 years Demarest scoured the country — and beyond — for needed parts. “I had the body tub reskinned,” he says. “All of the wear items were replaced, as well as all the bearings and seals,” he reports. MG produced the popular TD model from 1949 until 1953.
He says most of the restoration work was accomplished in the basement. Demarest wanted this restoration to be as authentic as possible, but he drew the line when he learned that the original color had been blue when it left the factory in England. “It had to be Coventry Red!” he says, and so it is.
The original standard disc wheels were replaced with flashier 60-spoke wire wheels, and a new Lecarra wood-rimmed steering wheel on a telescopic column improves the appearance of the cockpit. The dashboard is covered with a walnut veneer.
A pair of very desirable “King of the Road” headlamps was on the MG, but the buckets housing the lights had been dented by years of carelessly dropping the 21-louvered engine hood on them. New ones are unattainable, Demarest reports, so he set about to repair his. He solved the problem by melting lead wheel-balancing weights and shaping the lead to fill the holes and dents to match the outside contours of the lamps. With that tedious task completed, he sent the headlamps off to be replated with chrome.
The bucket seats and door panels are covered in biscuit-colored leather. A matching convertible top is stretched over the top rails and bows. With the top raised, the MG stands at 4 feet, 5 inches; when lowered, the top is covered by a boot of the same fabric, secured by 10 snaps. The 15-gallon gasoline tank is secured between the rear of the car and the spare tire. The engine requires 6 quarts of coolant and 4.5 quarts of oil.
Directly in front of the driver are two large dials, a 6,000-rpm tachometer beside a 100-mph speedometer. “It tops out at about 70 mph,” Demarest says. “It’s very comfortable between 60 and 65 mph.”
As for amenities, Demarest points out it has no heater, no air conditioning, no turn signals, no airbags, no radio, and no roll-up windows. But, it does have side curtains and a single electric one-speed wiper on the driver’s side of the windshield.
The original 5.50x15-inch tires have been replaced by 165R15-86S radials. The nimble little car on its 94-inch wheelbase can be turned in 31 feet, 4 inches.
Demarest enjoys his sparkling MG now more than ever. “It has a very nice tone to the engine,” he says, “There’s just enough valvetrain noise to be interesting.”