Story by Zach Mayne
Photography by Gerry Ryan • www.ryan-design.com
“The MG TC is often pointed to as the car that brought sports car culture to North America,” says Mitch Abrahams, the owner of the hot-rodded TC pictured here. “American servicemen who were stationed in Europe got to see the British sports cars overseas and bought them when they got home.”
Indeed, the little MGs were pretty far ahead of their time. Smaller, lighter and more fun to drive than anything available in the U.S. at the time, MG’s contribution to the history of the sports car cannot be understated. MG TCs were raced extensively as well. One of the most famous individuals to race one in fact was none other than Carroll Shelby, who took part in his first races ever behind the wheel of a friend’s 1949 MG TC. Later in life, he would credit the MG as a car that changed his life, since it made him want to go racing professionally. The rest, as they say, is history.
For his part, Mitch has been a car enthusiast since he was a toddler. “I’ve loved cars since I was old enough to talk,” he tells us. “I told my mother I wanted a red Volvo when I was two years old.” When he was 17, he rebuilt the engine in his MGB in his parents garage. “Getting involved with cars is like therapy for me." As a real estate developer in Toronto, Canada, Mitch still loves to design, build and restore everything from cars to buildings.
The MG TC he owns is an EXU model that was built specifically for export from England. Though MG produced over 10,000 TCs, fewer than 500 were specifically made for other markets, making it pretty rare. "In many ways the TC is the last of the pre-war cars, as it was rushed into production right after WWII to bring export dollars into the British economy," says Mitch, who bought the TC in 2011. “I was in the market for a fun car to restore with my kids." He added it to a garage that also has an MGB, a ratty Lotus 7, and early Datsun 240Z that will be his next project and a 2011 Porsche 911 Turbo. “I have an MGB that I ‘borrowed’ from my dad 35 years ago, kept running through high school and university and finally restored completely in 1997.” He had shared many of the memories and experiences and thought it would be a great experience for them to also restore a car and “learn about taking things apart and putting them back together.”
Initially he was on the lookout for Lotus 7, which he thought would be fun to work on, and more importantly, relatively easy. “While looking around for a 7, I met Bob Grunau, a local MG guru,” recalls Mitch. “Bob told me about this car. The owner had passed away and his daughters had kept the car for a few years but realized it needed a new home.” Though the old MG was worn out, it ran, but just barely. “The car had very little power, almost no braking and really handled like an old buggy.”
Initially, the idea was to simply restore the car back to stock, but as Mitch began doing research on parts for the car, he kept coming across upgrades and modifications that could improve the car’s performance. And thanks to the Internet, he also discovered people all over the world who were resto-modding MGs. “By then iit was clear that this was no longer a plan for dad and his kids,” he laughs. “My wife still teases me that she never believed that was a plan at all!”
After occasionally driving the MG for about a year Mitch handed it over to master car builders Len Bell and Frank Madore of Brittanicar in Montreal, Canada. “Once I got into it, the goal was to respect the original design of the car and to build it into something fast and fun that someone could have built in 1949,” he says. “The racing seats, the frame’s cross bracing, aluminum drum brakes, race wheels, supercharger… these were all upgrades that racers would have included in building a competitive TC in the 40’s.”
In order to build a proper motor for the MG, a solid billet steel stroker crankshaft was sourced from Phoenix Crankshafts in England. The crank actuates lighter and stronger connecting rods and pistons from Carrillo. For a high performance camshaft setup, Mitch went with Len Fanelli’s roller cam kit, which includes a hotter camshaft, chromemoly push rods and heavier duty valve springs. The MG’s head was then reassembled with roller rockers from Harlan Sharpe and bolted to the block with heavy duty ARP head studs.
While some enthusiasts might have been happy with the larger displacement engine, Mitch wanted even more power. The solution came from Mirage Garage, who supplied its Eaton supercharger kit for the MG. Supercharging an MG T-series is nothing new. When the cars were new, there were several companies that offered this type of forced induction to augment the meager power that cars had in stock form. Supercharging was appealing to Mitch for the simple reason that it’s an entirely period correct setup. The ignition system was upgraded with a Mallory ignition and on the cooling side of things Mitch installed a larger Flexalite fan that works in concert with an aluminum radiator sourced in England. Rounding out the performance upgrades is a custom stainless steel exhaust system with a Magnaflow resonator and muffler that terminates in a stylish looking fishtail exhaust tip.
Needless to say, the changes that have been wrought to the MG’s acceleration are remarkable. Says Mitch: “The stock TC had 54 horsepower and went from zero to 60 in 21 seconds. I hear that was acceptable in 1949. This car has triple the power- not a lot by today’s standards- but a huge amount of fun when you put the pedal down on a country road with the windshield folded down. It’s a real time machine, pretty loud and it can’t help but make you smile.”
The TC’s braking has been improved with the addition of custom aluminum Alfin brakes from Bob Grunau. There are also MWS spoke wheels that have been painted black and shod with stickier Avon radial tires that measure 6.0x16-inches. “The frame is boxed and cross-braced with removable bracing,” adds Mitch. “There is a Panhard rod on the front suspension and stock lever-arm shocks upgraded to race specs at all four corners.”
When Mitch purchased the MG, it was in running shape but had shabby cosmetics. “It had great pre-war lines but was pretty worn out,” he says. Once Brittanicar was finished working they’re magic on the MG’s performance, the car was turned over to Richard Grenon, a well-know car restorer who is also located in Montreal. Grenon repainted the car in striking black with single stage paint since as Mitch puts it “no one would let me do flat black.” The only change to the car’s exterior is a small hood bulge to accommodate the supercharger.
Like the exterior, the inside of the MG has only been lightly modified. There is a pair of Vintage 31 aluminum race seats upholstered in custom leather from Heritage Interiors and a smaller version of the original steering wheel that is wrapped in twine. There is also a small boost gauge to monitor the supercharger and lastly all of the original panels have been recovered in leather.
“The finished car is so different from the car I started with,” raves Mitch. “There is not a rattle or squeak to be heard. You immediately understand how people quickly fell in love with affordable sports cars and then soon after why they decided to get to work on making them faster.”
Since completing the build on the MG, Mitch has been driving the car on weekends and taking it to car shows. "I recently showed up at an exotic car meet and was happy to see it getting as much attention as the supercars," he says. "It's just a different expression of something that you are proud to take out for a drive or happy to tinker with and polish on the weekends."