1934 MG Magnette
Year of manufacture1934
Chassis numberNA 0522
Number of seats2
The Ex-Charlie Dodson 1934 RAC TT-winning
1934 MG NE Magnette Sports Racing Two-Seater
Registration no. JB 4750 (see text)
Chassis no. NA 0522
This truly historic MG survives today as the most significant of the seven MG NE Magnettes which were constructed at the company's legendary Abingdon-on-Thames factory essentially to win the British RAC Tourist Trophy race of September 1, 1934.
In the hands of the diminutive C.J.P. 'Charlie' Dodson, established racing motorcyclist and twice winner of two-wheeled TT races on the Isle of Man, '0522' dramatically won that great sports car race on Ulster's 13.6-mile Ards public-road circuit. This historic MG has since reappeared in many forms of motor sport over the 85 years since, and Bonhams is now privileged to be able to offer it for sale here at Goodwood.
The 12hp Wolseley Hornet had been introduced in 1930, powered by a smooth 6-cylinder 1100cc engine, and that unit was adopted by MG who modified it to power their first F-Type Magna model in 1931. The MG K-Type Magnette sports cars quickly followed for 1932 with further uprated 6-cylinder 1100cc engine. It was then in the spring of 1934 that the N-Type Magnette emerged with its new tapered chassis frame, narrower at front than rear with 8-foot wheelbase. While the core production version was offered as the Type NA, the same chassis was then adopted as the basis of the works team racing version which emerged as the Type NE. Only seven of these competition versions were constructed upon that shared chassis design, each of which retained the frame's routine 'NA' serial prefix.
It was against this state of MG's productive art that the Royal Automobile Club as organisers of the annual Tourist Trophy race tried to halt the great event's slide towards "...becoming an unrestricted Grand Prix". They declared 'full touring trim' to be the order of the day. Competing cars had to carry hoods, lamps and mudguards. The RAC officials insisted that entries should be more closely representative of the standard output of British factories. However, when in April 1934 the RAC announced a TT ban on supercharged engines, uproar ensued. In an era when supercharged cars had not been handicapped severely competition between large-engined cars and small in the TT being evened-out by a handicap system - not to run supercharged was "considered a little odd...". Cecil Kimber of MG with two supercharged TT wins, did not approve, but since the RAC were immoveable, he had no choice but to bite-the-bullet and build a team of unblown cars, for this the biggest race on the calendar.
Kimber's new works team of Type NE Magnettes including '0522' offered here featured single-overhead camshaft 1,271cc 6-cylinder engines, breathing through twin SU carburettors. With triple valve springs, high-crown pistons and a comperession ratio as high as 9.8:1 they delivered a claimed 74bhp at 6,500rpm. Six MGs competed, entrusted to drivers Bill Everitt, Captain George Eyston, Wal Handley, Charlie Dodson (in '0522'), Norman Black and A.P. 'Ginger' Hamilton. They formed Class F, and their ascribed race handicap was 1 lap, 9 minutes 26 seconds.
From the race start on the Ards circuit, based just outside the Ulster town of Dundonald - first heading west to Newtownards, then south to Comber and back through Ballystockart - Everitt's MG led initially from its sister MG Magnettes and the pursuing Aston Martins, Frazer-Nashes, Singers and a pair of Rileys.
Little C.J.P. 'Charlie' Dodson then rocketed '0522' into the lead, despite the team having intended Wal Handley to be pacemaker. One report read:
"For the MG mechanics it was a day to remember. At a quarter to one, Everitt found a wheel collapsing under him and some hasty research revealed that standard wheels had mistakenly been substituted for racing on the front of all the team, a fact which demanded rapid action. The form was for Dodson to come in first for a rear wheel change (a change of all four was unrehearsed), but as he had a minute and a half lead over Eyston, the latter was signalled in to his displeasure. Then, as work began, and the situation was being explained to Eyston, in came Handley with a faulty gearbox. Eyston lost three minutes and little Charlie broke the lap record."
Amongst the big-engined cars, the Hon. Brian Lewis and Eddie Hall were rumbling to the fore, Hall pushing his special Bentley into a minute's lead, the advantage then see-sawing between the two as pit stops began. By 3pm Hall was leading at 78.62mph, with Dodson's MG 1min 21secs behind on handicap, and Lewis third, 2mins 51secs in arears.
At 3.30pm Hall brought in his Bentley in to the pits, Lewis's Lagonda swept by to take the lead. For three laps they then fought a wheel-to-wheel battle.
But into the final hour Dodson was re-established in the lead in '0522'. But his advantage was only half a lap when Lewis thundered past the pits pointing at his front tyres. As the Lagonda slowed, Hall speeded up "...and did the fastest lap of the race at 10mins 6secs. He had Charlie Dodson almost in his sights now, and would certainly catch him if it did not rain. "But it did rain. A massive black cloud blew up from the west and a real Irish thunderstorm broke loose. Hall dropped 25secs a lap but continued to gain on the Magnette.
"One lap to go, and the MG led by 42 secs. 'I kept watching the mirror, looking for the Bentley', said Charlie Dodson. 'Every time I cleared a bend I expected to see Hall coming up behind, but he didn't show up along the straight out of Newtownards'. The gap was 35secs then, 31secs at Moate, 26secs at Ballystockart, 22secs at Dundonald. 'Once I was round the (Dundonald) hairpin I looked again, but still didn't see him. And I knew then that I'd win...'"
And Charlie Dodson in this MG Magnette did just that, giving the marque its second successive victory, by 17 seconds from the Hall Bentley. "And nobody any longer mourned the demise of the supercharger, least of all the Ulster crowd". Dodson's victorious time overall in '0522' was 6hrs 13mins 24secs, an average of 74.65mph and the win earned £500 the equivalent today of £35,000.
After its return to the factory, three of the NEs had been adapted to carry light-alloy PA bodies. Re-tuned 6-cylinder engines were also installed, and chassis serials 'NA 0517', '0519' and '0522' became deployed as the Three Musketeers team cars contesting the major trials and rally events through that spring and summer. And it was this car '0522' again by now known as 'Aramis' which won that year's Welsh Rally, and led The Musketeers to the Team Prize there. However, by September 1935, all three of these MG NEs had been returned to TT form and were sold to the MG-specialist Evans family to contest the great Ards race again in 1935. However, the RAC handicappers were by that time wise to the cars' startling performance potential, and in effect handicapped them out of contention. At Ards the previous year's race winner could only carry its talented driver Kenneth Evans home 13th overall and 9th in class.
The Evans family's South London-based Bellevue Garage concern then offered the cars for sale, and '0522' was bought by Ian Connell and Peter Monkhouse of Monaco Motors. Starting with a class win for Connell in the 1936 Inter-Varsity Trial, they subsequently campaigned it in numerous such events to mid-1938. It is also believed that the car was entered for the 1936 Le Mans 24-hour race, which never took place due to a general strike. Through the war years it passed through four more owners' hands, and the last of them in 1948 was Tom Dargue who fitted a new slab-tank body.
The car later passed to P.B. Merritt and leading lady driver Betty Haig who campaigned it successfully 1951-54 at venues such as Goodwood. A brief period with J.N. Tolitt followed before it was sold to Pat Green in mid-1956. In 1958, having been raced several times the car's hard-pressed crankshaft broke. After Pat Green's death, his widow retained '0522' until 1993 when she sold it to his nephew, well known competition MG collector Peter Green.
Mr Green then restored this most important MG to its Three Musketeer 'Aramis' configuration using the PA body commissioned by his uncle in the 1980s but never actually fitted. At this point the cars original cylinder block numbered '764' was removed to preserve it and is offered with the car today. 'NA 0522' then continued to be used and raced extensively in the hands of the owner's daughter and son-in-law. In 2008 it was sold to Hans Telmert's private collection in Sweden before passing subsequently to the current Scandinavian owner.
Of all the outstanding competition cars built by MG during the inter War period the NE Magnette is widely acknowledged as the best handling and most driveable of the breed. Today this outstanding, 85-years young, RAC TT-winning MG Magnette is accompanied by a considerable documentation file, recording its proud history. Such treasures from such prominent British motor sporting marques rarely appear for sale by public auction. One decisive bid will be all it takes to emulate '0522' in its heyday...by beating all opposition.
Please note if this car is to be UK road registered the original number 'JB 4750' will need to be re-applied for.