Bring a Trailer Bargain of the Week: 1949 MG TC EXU

Today, the Mazda Miata is arguably the definitive affordable convertible sports car. But it didn’t spring up out of nowhere. The Miata is based on classic British roadsters like the MGB, the Triumph Spitfire, and the Austin-Healey Sprite. But they in turn come from another car: the MG TC. Not only is it an important sports car ancestor, but it’s also this week’s Bring a Trailer bargain buy.

The MG TC: the OG British roadster, Miata inspiration, and Carroll Shelby’s career-starter

A black 1936 MG TA by a brick wall
1936 MG TA | Bring a Trailer

The MG TC wasn’t the first sporty British car, Road & Track reports. It’s the successor to 2 pre-WWII cars, the TA, and the TB, Hagerty explains.

American soldiers coming over didn’t really have lightweight sports cars at home. As a result, when WWII was over, they imported TBs in droves, Hagerty reports. So, when the MG TC debuted in 1945, the British automaker made sure to send some over here.

Mechanically, the MG TC is fairly similar to the TB, Autoweek reports. It has a 1.25-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 55 hp, linked to a 4-speed transmission, Hagerty reports. However, the roadster only weighs 1800 pounds.

The brakes might be drums, but they’re hydraulic, and because the car’s so light, surprisingly effective, Autoweek reports. The MG TC also has rubber engine mounts to lower vibrations. And while the roadster isn’t large, it’s wider than the earlier models.

Plus, while it looks a lot like the earlier TB, its suspension design is more modern, featuring hydraulic dampers and rubber bushings, Bonhams reports. Plus, instead of a sliding-pillar-type design like Morgan used until recently, it has more solidly-mounted springs, the MG Owner’s Club report. So, while it’s not fast, it’s a ton of fun when the road gets twisty. It was even used as a police car, Petrolicious reports.

That’s likely why Carroll Shelby started his racing career with an MG TC loaned from his buddy, R&T reports. He won his very first race, Hemmings reports, qualifying for the second race against more-powerful cars. He won that race, too. Though it probably helped that his friend tuned the engine “up to 100+ hp,” Barrett-Jackson reports.

Ken Miles' 1965 Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang prototype in white with blue racing stripes
1965 Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang prototype | Mecum

In short, without the MG TC, not only wouldn’t there be a Miata, but there also wouldn’t be any Shelby Mustangs or Cobras.

The 1949 MG TC EXU on Bring a Trailer

A gray 1949 MG TC EXU parked on the street
1949 MG TC EXU | Bring a Trailer

Like Shelby’s borrowed racer, the MG TC we’re featuring today is a 1949 model, Bring a Trailer reports. Its engine isn’t original to the car, but it is the same kind of four-cylinder originally installed in the TC. And, like all the TCs produced for Europe and the US, it has right-hand drive.

The rear view of a gray 1949 MG TC EXU with a view of its red-leather interior
1949 MG TC EXU rear | Bring a Trailer

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This 1949 MG TC’s service history is somewhat sparse, Bring a Trailer notes. However, it was restored by the staff at the San Diego Automotive Museum after it was loaned to the museum in 1991. The current owner purchased the roadster in a 2017 auction, after which they installed new tires, rebuilt the steering box, and refurbished the brake hydraulics. Unfortunately, the odometer was reset when the MG TC was restored sometime in the 1980s.

The red-leather interior of a 1949 MG TC EXU
1949 MG TC EXU interior | Bring a Trailer

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In terms of equipment, MG didn’t offer much on the TC in-period. However, it does have a fold-down windshield, red leather upholstery, a real-wood dash, fender-mounted side mirrors, knock-off-style wheels, a horn, and a fender-mounted auxiliary light. It also comes with a beige soft top and a beige tonneau cover.

What makes it a bargain buy?

As of this writing, this 1949 MG TC EXU is listed on Bring a Trailer at $8500 with 3 days to go in the auction.

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Considering its good condition, that’s a fairly low price. MG TCs typically go for roughly $20,000 on Bring a Trailer. Several examples have sold at Bonhams auctions for closer to $40,000.

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So, while the Shelby GT350 may be dead, you now have an excellent opportunity to own the car that led to its creation.

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