1933 MG J4 Midjet Sports
Year of manufacture1933
Chassis numberJ4 002
Number of seats2
The Ex-Hugh Hamilton, Bobby Kohlrausch, Dennis Poore, David Piper, 1933 RAC TT, EifelRennen and Masaryk Grand Prix-starring
1933 MG J4 Midget Sports and Voiturette Racing Two-Seater
Registration no. JB 3185
Chassis no. J4 002
During the early decades of the 20th Century, within the motor racing world Voiturette-class racing was the predecessor of modern Formula 2 - catering for smaller-engined often pure-blooded racing cars just below full-blown, free-for-all Grand Prix competition.
Back in 1933 the MG Car Company of Abingdon-on-Thames was making its mark Internationally. A team of three MG K3 Magnettes won both their class and the overall team prize in the early-season Mille Miglia, with such aristocratic drivers as Sir Henry Birkin and Lord Howe.
Another MG driver then showing immense promise was the 28-year-old Ulsterman Hugh Caulfield Hamilton, from Omaha in County Tyrone. He worked as a salesman with University Motors, the specialist central London MG dealership, while as a dynamic and daring racing driver he began making his name internationally behind the wheel of the 746cc MG J4 Midget now offered here....
One of the most sought-after of competition MGs, the J4 became the company's ultimate small-capacity sports-racing car, nicknamed the 'Baby K3' as being the 4-cylinder equivalent of its famed 6-cylinder K3 Magnette big brother. Factory assembly of this car - one of only nine J4s built 1932-34 - began on April 26, 1933. It was one of the latest improved 'Lightweight' J4 Midgets incorporating many C-Type components and larger brakes. For the major EifelRennen race at the Nurburgring in Germany on May 28, Hamilton had entered the car in the 800cc class to tackle 12 laps of the demanding 14.2-mile circuit. During the race he kept pace with far more powerful 1,500cc category cars and even the slower Grand Prix machines - finally winning his class by a staggering 24 minutes.
Back on home soil in Ulster on September 2, the mighty challenge of the year's RAC Tourist Trophy beckoned. None other than Tazio Nuvolari had been persuaded to handle the potent supercharged MG K3 Magnette, as Nuvolari familiarised himself with both it and the Ards circuit. Hugh Hamilton was one onlooker in this MG J4, learning from the Maestro's practice performance.
One race report then read: "The first hour showed clearly who was going to be important; and they were Hamilton, lapping furiously at 75mph and leading on handicap by 53 seconds..." then "Nuvolari, over a minute ahead of Eddie Hall and five minutes ahead of the big Rileys...". The report continued: "Hamilton had a handicap lead of only a few seconds before Nuvolari came in (for his pit stop) and at once speeded up still further, leaving the rest of his class ten minutes behind and breaking the class lap record again and again. At 2 o'clock he came charging in and at once began throwing away the race. Never calm or untemperamental, he shouted instructions at his mechanic, who responded the wrong way and became more ham-fisted as Hamilton became angrier. Fuel was thrown everywhere, the filler-cap left undone, it took a minute to raise the front axle. Then the starter failed, the bonnet was opened up again while the mechanic did his best to use a spanner as a switch, succeeding only in setting fire to his petrol-sodden gloves and overalls with a spark from the terminals. The poor man was now in such a state that he could not buckle the bonnet strap and...well, all in all it was nearly seven minutes before a furious Hammy was safe away...".
This bungled pit stop left Nuvolari a few seconds in the lead: "Robin Mere's 'flat out' pit signal was not needed.... Nuvolari was touching his brakes only momentarily at Comber and Dundonald.
"On the penultimate lap Hamilton's fuel gauge was registering zero; he knew he would never get round again. In a flurry of dust, and to everyone's bewilderment, he tore in, threw in a can of petrol in 20 seconds, and tore away again. It was remarkably fast work, but not fast enough. Nuvolari came by then, and Magnette led Midget. A few miles back his engine had cut, he had raised his hands in despair, and replaced them promptly on the wheel as Hounslow switched over (tanks). Reserve gave him enough - just enough - to keep ahead and complete that last lap...".
Nuvolari's MG Magnette won the 5hr 56mins race - and the 1,100cc Class G - at 78.65mph - Hamilton 2nd in his J4 Midget, and winner of 750cc Class H, at 73.46mph.
The fiery Ulsterman then took his car all the way to Brno for the Masaryk Grand Prix in Czechoslovakia on September 17. That race began in heavy rain and a rising gale. After a slow start, Hamilton began to climb through the field despite the atrocious conditions. After 7 laps he had caught Landi's 1,500cc Maserati 4CM to take second place behind Burgaller's leading Bugatti Type 51A, catching the latter when both had to stop for fuel. This time Hamilton's pit staff worked brilliantly, and he restarted ahead of Burgaller, but just as Landi shot past them both. Hamilton tore after the Maserati and the Italian then spun, leaving Hamilton's 746cc MG not only leading the 1,500cc class but gaining on nothing less than Luigi Fagioli's Scuderia Ferrari-entered Grand Prix Alfa Romeo Tipo B Monoposto, second overall in the Masaryk Grand Prix...
On lap 10 the recovering Landi repassed Hamilton but the MG driver clung on to the Maserati's tail and began looking for a way to repass through the spray. He was wearing a waterproof cape, but it worked loose around his waist and on lap 11 the battering airstream blew it up over his face, causing him to lose control. The little MG rolled several times, Hamilton suffering numerous broken ribs. Irrepressible as ever he quickly recovered - sailing to India that winter to shoot tigers. He would return to racing in 1934, driving a Whitney Straight team GP Maserati 8CM, only to crash fatally in it on the last lap of the Swiss GP at Berne.
During the winter of 1933-34, this ex-Hamilton MG was rebuilt at Abingdon-on-Thames around a replacement chassis. For 1934 it was loaned to Bobby Kohlrausch in Germany, who ran it painted white beside his K3 Magnette in German events with great success.
For 1935 this car's lightweight body was swapped for the standard J4 unit from 'J4 003'. The car was then sold to Margaret (Peggy) Blathwayt who, as Mrs J.C. Elwes, won with it in four minor British events. Riley racer Hector Dobbs then offered it for sale, finding an eager young buyer in entrepreneurial budding industrialist and later Aston Martin works driver Dennis Poore. He sprinted and raced the car at least ten times that year, and eight more through 1938-39 - accumulating at least seven class victories. He retained the car throughout the war, before selling it in 1948 to the Hon. J.C.C. Cavendish who ran it at Goodwood in 1949.
This historic little MG's association with contemporary and future greatness did not end there. In 1952 it was acquired by David Piper - who would become so familiar throughout the racing world as the successful private entrant and occasional works driver of Lotus, Ferrari and Porsche cars. He learned his craft in this car through 1952-54, and remembers it very fondly today: "It was a great car...", he recalls, "I absolutely loved it, and had great success with it. It had a big Powerplus supercharger, and an enormous bronze carburettor. One of its best features was its absolutely beautiful ENV gearbox with a wonderful change - like a Ferrari, in fact. It had no doors and a 'Brooklands box' silencer.
"I bought it from Johnny Cavendish - Lord Chesham. Nice chap, great car enthusiast. I was an agricultural contractor and I'd been doing a lot of work on his farm at Latimer. I saw the car there, we began talking - and I ended up buying it. That MG engine was wonderful a labour of love. I used to turn the Marchal headlamps round to face backwards so they were streamlined for racing. It really was a lovely car!"
After racing and sprinting it widely, David Piper part-exchanged it with Austen Nurse. The car subsequently passed through trade hands before lying fallow for some years, until 1964 when it was acquired by Colin Tieche who restored it to the highest standards. It ran on the Mille Miglia Retrospectives and in 1975 carried Mr Tieche to 2nd place in the 'Motor Sport' Brooklands Trophy competition.
In 2007 it joined Hans Telmert's collection in Sweden, before passing to the present Scandinavian vendor in 2010.
As an example of one of the rarest and most potent of pre-war competition MGs the opportunity to acquire a J4 is rare enough. But in 'J4 002' we proudly offer a car campaigned in some of the most major races of the 1930s, by a truly rising-star British driver and which then launched the careers of two more great British drivers. MG 'J4 002' is perfectly eligible for the modern world's most prestigious Historic motoring events and exactly as in period - is poised to punch above its weight. We recommend the closest consideration of this truly thoroughbred racer in miniature.