Sale of the Week

There will always be an MG TD

by David Zenlea
20 March 2022 3 min read
Photo by Hemmings

The collector car market is experiencing rapid, unprecedented change. Consider, for instance, that online auctions have quadrupled their revenue since 2019. Or the fact that cars few even considered collectible five years ago, such as Mark IV Toyota Supras, are now fetching six figure prices. Or, as we reported earlier this week, that several auction houses are selling non-fungible tokens alongside cars. Even more profound shifts lay just over the horizon: Electrification and automation of new cars in the next decade may transform the landscape for older gas burners; Baby Boomers, the generation that effectively built the classic car hobby as we know it, will soon start passing their wealth and toys on to younger enthusiasts. Hagerty Insider exists, in no small part, to help explain these changes and, in so doing, help preserve car collecting for future generations.

Heady stuff. On the other hand, consider this MG TD sold online by Hemmings for $17,850. That’s about the right money for what looks to be a driver-condition TD. It would also have been the right price sixteen years ago, when we started tracking TD prices. Go back decades more and it’s still in the ballpark: Flipping through a 1971 issue of Road & Track recently, I came upon a classified for a TD described to be in excellent condition and asking for $3500—about $24,000 in today’s money.

For an investment-minded collector, the chart above looks pretty grim, especially when taking into account inflation. For us, however, it's a reminder that some things never change, and a welcome sign that not all fun classics are appreciating out of reach.

And make no mistake: these cars are fun, even in 2022. The TD was in some respects already a relic when it debuted in 1950, what with its prewar styling and a 54-hp engine carried over from the earlier TC. To drive one though, is to realize that the joys of lively steering and a tight manual gearbox were not invented by the likes of Honda and Mazda in the 1980s. (Indeed, as much as the Miata is touted as a modern-day Lotus Elan, its simplicity and accessibility really owes more to MG.) These qualities, along with a relatively low price, made the MG TD the most popular sports car of its era—MG sold 29,664 of them in four years.

Simple, hardy construction and strong aftermarket support have kept many of those TDs on the road—they're the third most common MG in Hagerty's insurance books, ahead of other T-series as well as the newer 1962–1969 MGB. Those same qualities make even imperfect examples, like the one offered on Hemmings, a relatively safe buy.

The TD in question looks, from the photos and drive video, to be in what we'd consider average condition. "The kind of car you could drive without either being embarrassed or concerned about the odd stone chip," notes Jonathan Stein, who is, in addition to being a concours judge and Hagerty's senior manager of hobby support, a longtime MG devotee. "The hose clamps are incorrect, and there are some other under-hood details that aren’t quite right, but those minor issues aren’t important in a driver-quality car, and there is nothing that can’t be sorted easily," he adds. Stein also hears a bit of clutch slippage, but the video may have been shot before the recent clutch replacement when the engine was out to address oil leaks, which go hand-in-hand with most MGs. No matter, replacement clutches are still relatively easy and cheap to come by.

The main challenge to the sustainability of the MG TD market is owner demographics. More than 80 percent of the people who called us for quotes on insurance for the cars in 2021 were Baby Boomers or older. That said, the share of younger buyers is rising, and more no doubt will find them as prices for other formerly attainable classics continue to rise. Come what may in the classic car market and world at large, we suspect these humble, hardy cars will continue to serve as gateways to the joys of vintage car ownership.

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  • Rick McCarty says:

    The old MGs are fun to look at but they were made for smaller people. I did contort myself into one to check it out and wasn’t bad once in the seat. But trying to get in & out of it was not pretty.

  • Phil Auldridge says:

    I owned one in the 70’s. Cute, yes. Fun to drive? Hardly. Abysmal handling, marginal brakes, skimpy power, etc.
    After divesting myself, I never once thought ”gee,wish I hadn’t sold that TD”

    • Barry Covington says:

      I had a ’53 TD in the early 1980’s as my initial purchase of a “fun car.” Sporting to drive but I never liked the snap-in plastic windows or the top speed, to my mind, of about 55 mph. Faster than that and I feared the engine would explode. Had an opportunity a few years later to buy a ’66 Austin Healy 3000 in great condition for $7500, with rollup windows and could drive at highway speeds. Wife said no dice, she liked the MG. Ultimately sold the MG to two Swedish fellows who paid $9K. They were traveling the southeast, buying European cars to ship back home because they claimed it was profitable to do so. Always regretted not buying the A-H for less than I sold the MG. But I recovered, bought my first Porsche 911. Today I still drive a 911….slightly better ride than a TD. 🙂

  • Maestro1 says:

    I had a TD a long time ago and loved it. In those days imported cars were still unique to be seen in traffic, and
    I had a lot of attention which I could of lived without. If I remember correctly the car was BRG with Tan interior. 0-60 in several months. It was cold in the Winter and leaked in the rain but I loved it anyway.

  • Burt Harwood says:

    1963 I passed up the chance for a TD & have not regretted buying a Fiat 1200 Spider which we owned, but out grew in 4 years. The Fiat was replaced by a 66 Mustang GT cpe – still have today with over 20 first place trophies.

  • Jon Albert says:

    Because it was the Nuffield Organization’s reaction to the international post-WWII demand for the MG TC, a car that was already a nearly-decade-old antique when it entered the market in September 1945, the TD falls into that category of neither/nor: not as ‘old-school’ charming/ visceral as the TA/B/C, nor as “of its time” as the contemporary Triumph ‘TR’ series. It was Alec Issigonis’ solution to a directive to quickly update the sports car line while sharing major chassis components with the ‘Y’-series saloons. Yet they were a resounding success- while the TC galvanized the idea of a small, affordable sports car with American car enthusiasts, the TD established MG’s popularity in volume.

  • Ovide Theriault says:

    I have a 1954 MG TF. Love it! A very visceral experience compared to my 1974 Fiat 124 spider or 1970 Opel GT (I sold days before purchasing the TF). Can’t stop smiling everytime I get behind the wheel. Yes, slow to todays standards, but it feels like your going fast. Reminds me that all the great and famous past race car drivers started road racing with these cars. Buy on Friday and Race on Saturday.
    Love mine.

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