A brief history of MG: From the MG 18/80 to the MG3

One of the most iconic British sports car marques, MG is probably best known throughout the world for their small, speedy models, especially the two-seater convertible Midget range. What was once the MG Car Company Limited is now extending its life as MG Motor, part of the Nanjing Automobile Group, China’s oldest car maker. OSV takes a look at the interesting history of MG.

When did MG start making cars?

MG’s history as an independent company is a bit murky, but its foundation can be traced back to the mid-1920s and Morris Motors. Around this time (exact dates are disputed), an Oxford Morris dealership producing its own cars, which bore both the MG (for “Morris Garages”) and Morris badges.

In 1928, the company firmly established its own identity as the MG Car Company Ltd. The same year, the first all-MG original car – rather than a modified Morris – was released: The MG 18/80. The next year, the tradition of small MG models began with the M Type.

The marque quickly established itself on the racing circuit too – in 1933 MG had the first non-Italian team to win the prestigious K3 at the Mille Miglia road race and soon began producing and exporting T series Midgets in 1936.

History of MG

When was MG bought by BMC?

Ownership of the MG was originally in the private hands of William Morris, but transferred to Morris Motors in 1935. In 1952, both firms were absorbed by the British Motor Corporation Limited, which merged Morris with Austin. The BMC entity would eventually also include Jaguar and, after a partial nationalisation, BMC became British Leyland. It then became the Rover Group in 1986.

During this period, only MG sports cars were “real” MGs, with others being rebadged models from other makes.

When did the Abingdon factory close?

After the 1960s, MG would lose even more models. The economically tough 1970s proved particularly damaging for the firm, with several plant closings. This included the shutdown of the historic Abingdon factory which had been turning out MGs since the company’s early days in 1929. The Abingdon factory closing caused uproar, and was seen by many as the death of the marque.

One good thing in this decade was the production of the millionth MG car in October of 1975. The car was an LHD MGB roadster.

However, it was after the closure of the Abingdon factory that the MG Marque was temporarily abandoned.

When did MG start making cars again?

History of MG

MG was revived in 1982 when the Austin Rover Group built high-performance versions of their saloon and hatchback models, the Metro, Maestro and Montego. The MG Metro continued until 1990 and the Maestro and Montego were suspended a year later.

When was MG bought by BMW?

After British Leyland, by this time it was just ‘BL’, became the Rover Group, MG was passed to British Aerospace in 1988. In 1994, the MG marque was passed to BMW.

The previous year, MG was revived again with the launch of the MG RV8, followed by the MG F in 1995. The MG F, a two-seater roadster remained in production until 2011 (excluding the pause between 2005-2006). The MG F was the first mass-produced “real” MG sports car since the MGB ceased production.

They also revived the two-seater MG RV8 in 1992.

History of MG

When was the MG Rover Group formed?

In 2000, BMW sold both marques and the MG Rover Group was formed. They continued selling unique MG sports cars alongside badge-engineered models, but this time those models were Rovers. The MG ZR was based on the Rover 25, the MG ZS on the Rover 45 and the MG ZT/ZT-T on the Rover 75.

However, the group went into receivership in 2005 and car production was suspended in April of that year.

When was MG bought by Nanjing Automobile Group?

History of MG

In 2006, it was reported that David James had entered talks with Nanjing to buy the MG brand. The aim was to produce a range of sports cars based on the Smart Roadster, a discontinued model by the DaimlerChrysler brand. However, no agreement was reached and the project remains dormant.

In July 2005, the Nanjing Automobile Group purchased the rights to the MG brand and the MG Rover Group assets for £53 million. This created a new company called NAC MG UK, and was later renamed as MG Motor.

In 2011, MG launched the MG 6 in GT and Magnette versions. These became the new-generation MGs, and were the first MG’s available in the UK after the MG TF.

The new MG 3 went on sale in September 2013 and the following year, MG was voted the third place for the ‘Best Manufacturer’ category in the Auto Express 2014 Driver Power Survey.

And that pretty much brings us to the present day. MG have since achieved record-breaking growth in the UK, with sales rising to 316% in 2014. The Abingdon factory is now a business park, but there is a plaque at the business park entrance commemorating the MG Factory.

MG History
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Rachel Richardson
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  • 14th November 2016

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