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MG TD TF 1500 - Restoration Practices

This topic has probably run long many time before, but I'm interested in some opinions. I've watched the antique road show on PBS quite a bit and they are pretty hard over on not "over-restoring" collectibles, and in some cases not touching them at all. Now, realizing that we don't ride around of a Sunday PM on our 1903 30-06 WWI military rifle, there is certainly a difference between antiques and how much restoration is appropriate. I have an acquaintance who has a mega point restored MG TD, but the only original part on it is chassis, most body metal and that is about it. So, is it restored, or rebuilt. I think there is a difference. In any case, as I look at my 1952 TD with it's original seats, with some tears, and it's original fabric covered dash, faded, and other original pitted pieces of chrome, I have to ask myself, isn't that part of the patina of age that makes this car what it is? Why not just keep it running, preserve what is there, forget any "body off" restoration and enjoy that patina of 50 years of past ownership. Indeed, why might that not make such a "preserved" car, just as valuable, or even more valuable than one which has been "re-manufactured" from modern materials etc. I'm inclined toward the idea of "preservation" with the only exception being that which is needed to maintain driveability, and safety, rather than "restoration/remanufacture". What say you all??


I agree wholeheartedly!

We have fellow in our local club that has a '57 Jaguar XK140. Best I can tell it is in original unrestored condition. You can stick your head in the window and smell the old leather. It's great!

Here's a pic:

I sit somewhere in the middle.

I have carried on a love affair with cars ever since I sat on my parents' front porch and watched the then new Packards roll by with their twin side-mount spare tires. I've had some wonderful cars--Model As, Jaguars, Buicks, VWs and now my 1953 TD. All of these cars have come with major defects caused mainly by prior owners who failed in the TLC arena. I like original, but everything must work properly for me, and they must look good. By good I mean no dents, quality paint, interiors that do not shame the owner, and engines that work and look like the owner is a responsible caretaker of the vehicle.

I think driving an old car is a rush. But, I could not abide driving my car if it had a torn seat or ratty carpeting, a cracked windscreen or dented bumpers and hubcaps. While I would never go so far as to return my TD to concourse condition--even if I could afford it--I would also never let it become so deteriorated as to be ashamed to take it to an antique car show at the local mall. And like so many antique car lovers, I, too, will drool over the perfect restoration or rebuild.

RF Wacht

Several comments: A few years ago in The Sacred Octagon, Dick Knudson had an excellent article about restorations/replicas/copies- and delved into the deal of what is or isn't the original car. Much depends on your definition and tolerance of patina. The truly original car is so rare- by now so much has been changed (tires, wiring harness, fuel lines, mechanicals). My own car has mid-70s patina which I hate (not so good paint, and a nice black vinyl Amco interior! It is mechanically perfect, chrome mostly redone, and I drive the heck out of it. From a distance it still looks nice, and everyone thinks it is so cool (even my son's 11 year old friends!) The frame off is comming- maybe when the kids are out of college in a few years. I personally couldn't stand split seats and looking at a faded dash original or not- if I had to for posterity, put those in the attic and replace with new! Regardless, I think the most important thing is to use and drive these great cars as they were meant to be. A couple years ago there was and article/caption in TSO that was about a perfectly restored car being trailered to a show, and the caption said something about "MG Lives". Should have been "MG has died"!
George Butz

Can I throw a different point of view into the arena. I'm presently restoring my '51 TD and my aim is for it to be the best there is. The fact that it's a MG car I am working on though is almost irrelevant. I have been interested in engineering since I was a small boy and need something I can make or repair with my hands. If I didn't have the MG I would probably be restoring an old clock. I'm certain other MG T series owners who are engineers will know the great feeling of doing a job really well - that's why I want my TD to be the best. To illustrate the point even though repro parts are readilly available I've made virtually all the body fittings out of brass. This includes all the wing nuts etc for the screen frame, the plates and half wings for the side screen fixtures, the internals to the rear lamps, the stems for the headlamps and even the windsceen wiper arms. With my modern car its not worth even changing the oil - I don't have the necessary computer to switch the dammed warning lamp off.


Jan T
J Targosz

Still another opinion....

If you are going to fix it, fix it right. While I would love to have an original untouched TD, my car was ready for the scrap yard. Most people would have passed on my car, but I didn't like the idea of it being crushed. I figure I should do the best possible restoration I can do right now, short or building a concours car. I know that in time it will begin to show it's age again, but I want to start off with a fresh "new" TD.

If I had started with a driveable car, I might feel differently.
Evan Ford - TD 27621

I like to refer to 2 discriptions. Original and authentic. No ones car is original any more. as soon as the oil is changes it is no longer original. So, Lets go for authentic. It can be brought back to an authentic condition, refering to all the books, so that we can enjou the past. True, Some of the parts we get are below our expectation of good, but if it were not for the availability we would not be enjoying. I have a 80 LE which is very close to original, so close the people look to it to see how it was, Also I have a friend with a TF that is about as original as one can be after this long. Again one can look at it still and see how it was. Authentic to me is a better term. Maybe we should promote the judging of 'original' cars regarless of their state.
Ellis Carlton

My TD was a basket case that someone had mutilated to fit a larger motor, it had threadbare top and upholstery, so I had no choice but to restore it as near as possible to orignal. However there is someone in our locality who for years has been driving a MGA twincam with faded badly crazed paint a messy dash and wornout upholstry. I would love to have it and restore it to a thing of beauty instead of a wornout old car that it now is. Dave
David Broadbridge

Sometime in its earlier life, my 50 TD threw a rod through the oil pan. The owner welded a patch over the hole. It's still there, and I wouldn't think of replacing the oil pan with an undamaged one. It's part of the car's history. Of course, you have to crawl under the car to see it, and the rest of the car looks great.

Steve Markman
R Markman

For my two cents, a car with good original paint and interior with a good patina (wear of paint and leather, etc.) is by far the best. Unfortunately, those cars are few and far between. When reality hits, paint is chipped and flaking, interior torns, carpets ratty, mcehanicals need help, etc., then replacement or repair to the original specifications is the best alternative. I'd much rather see a car that is worn and used, than a better than new concours car that is never driven.

IMHO, there are far too many guys out there that spend gobs of money over-restoring cars (Pebble Beach is a good example) to a far better condition than when they left the factory, and never drive them. I met a gentleman recently who had a Series 2 Jag E-Type coupe that he had been restoring over the last 15 years. He claimed he did most of the work himself, and it was quite well done, not over-restored. He looked at me like I was the village idiot when I asked how many miles he drives it - "I don't drive it, I take it to car shows on my trailer". I don't get it.

Keep 'em on the road!

Larry Thompson
Larry Thompson

Ellis....IMO...hit the nail on the head!
Put me down for "Authentic" with a dash of "period" and a side order of "re-engineered"! I have been somewhat unhappy at times with "re-production" parts and as such many of them have gone back to the dealers that sold them to me. My "new repro" door hindges were just awfull,back they went, the old one's after I beadblasted them to brass and enlisted the help of a friend that polishes old guns for a living and re-pinned with stainless steel pins look great to it correct...NO...they should be "body coloure" (and with paint chipping)...but it IS something someone could have done in the 50's. Just one example of "points off" for concoures....but to me points "on" for something that show's some of the "Hidden Patina" of the car! Brass was "cheap & tacky" then so they hid it with paint. Re-engineered, sure...whats wrong with some "extra fusing" if it keeps the car from burnning down because a headlamp was shorted? My rear reflecters on the tub (TF1500) are now turn signals...if it keeps the SUV behind me "in line", worth the effort....nobody else notices!
I could go on & on but you get the picture...she looks good and she is functional with the accent on "FUN"!
David 55 TF1500 #7427
David Sheward

After all the pros and cons are sorted out its really nothing more than the individuals own taste. the other day I chatted with a fellow in a local parking lot driving a 1932 Ford Model A two door with wire wheels. Hes owned the car for twenty years and its totally original...checkered paint worn upholstery some minor dings but he LIKES the car just the way it is....rolling timewarp so to speak. My TF still has its original leather seats but only because there were no rips or tears when I bought it, theyre worn with age but most important not worn out. I treat them regularly with conditioner to prevent further aging but even after re painting the car back to MG red the seats get the most compliments at shows because they indicate the cars aging process. For myself I wanted the car returned to presentable condition....god knows I have driven enough rats over the years do to necessity this car is going to last so that hopefully someone 30 or 40 years down the motorway will be able to enjoy driving it as much as I do!
jeff payne

Hi David B.

You are referring to Dan Casey's Twin Cam. We call it "Crocodile" because of the paint. Dan is the Twin Cam guru and has other Twin Cams in his stable.

I think he won't repaint Crocodile as he wants it for a daily driver.

As far as restoration is concerned, I don't mind looking at trailer queens at car shows but I would never have a car that I can't drive and enjoy. This includes gravel roads albeit slowly. Life's too short not to drive these cars.


Paul van Gool

OK, I'll bite also...

I had read this thread yestarday, and had a chance to ponder it as I was washing my car last night.

To make the antique road show analogy, while unmolested originality is desirable for antiques, the same doesn't hold true for classic cars, right or wrong it just doesn't. Truly 'Original' cars a few and far between.

In all it still comes down to the objective of the owner of the car. Why do you have it? To drive? To preserve to marque? to do both? IMHO driving your car around town with rusty (but yet original) hubcaps does not do the marque any justice.

When does patina turn to ratty? Sooner or later cars will need to be "refurbished". Maybe that's what your original question was at what level should a restoration be? Personally unless you are a professional restorer, aim for 100 point pebble beach and what you will end up with is a 90 point good looking driver.

What is over-restoration? is it the fact a car will standout of a crowd of under-restored cars?


Blair Weiss

Sure some, perhaps many cars are over restored to a level in which they never were. The key issue is that the car is driveable as it was meant to be. EG why not swap the engine for modern fuel injetced unit, fit power disc brakes ete, etc.
We have a TD which was repsrayed 30 years ago, the ash is rotten but it usewd in trials and is driven hard. That is what they are for - driving driving and yet more driving; not just to sit there and lopk pretty. It is a bit like having a beautiful wife or girl friend - do you guys simply look at her and do nothing. If you are red blooded you get her into the sack as often as possible. This ensures that she keeps young and retains her looks.
Some time ago I visited a couple who had 5 ancitent Alfa Romeos, rare and very rare. They were all in usuable condition and were used; one was mud splattered - the wife hadn't cleaned it since she went to the supermarket in it.
Don't over restore and use it. Youy'll lose it unless you use it.
Bob Marshall

This thread was discussed between 02/07/2003 and 04/07/2003

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