Purists once bemoaned the MG TD as the beginning of the end for the classic British sports car. In fact, the TD was the inevitable first step toward a more modern postwar MG capable of earning serious money abroad, which in 1949 meant mainly the lucrative U.S. market. As marque expert Richard Knudson observed: “If the TC started the sports car revolution, it was the TD that fought the battle.”
It did so by improving on the TC without losing its charm. Styling, for instance, continued Edwardian themes: bolt-upright radiator, cutaway doors, flowing separate fenders, fold-flat windscreen, a diabolical top and side curtains providing casual weather protection at best.
Even so, exterior metal was all new, and although the inner body still relied on 1920s-style wood framing, the TD was a bit wider and thus roomier than the TC, if still quite cramped. It was also some 200 lbs heavier, and as power was unchanged, acceleration was down though top speed was up.
Two changes were instantly apparent: The TC had righthand drive only while the TD was lefthand drive from day one; and the TD had 15-inch steel wheels instead of stately 19-inch wires, a cost-cut that some enthusiasts deemed sacrilege.
Happily, those wheels attached to a stronger frame with the relatively startling advance of independent front suspension. This came from MG’s new 1949 Y-Series sedan, though with wheelbase trimmed to TC length. Another Chassis “innovation” was a kickup in the rear siderails allowing more wheel travel. That combined with softer damping, wider tires, the reduced height from the smaller wheels, and the new coil-sprung front to furnish a smoother ride and even tauter handling.
If an evident concession to American tastes, the MG TD proved the most popular sporting MG yet, outpacing TC production by nearly 3-1 over the same four-year lifespan. Tellingly, more than two-thirds (precisely 23,488) were sold in the United States.
The MG TD was a favored “club racer” like the TC, so the “TD II” was a welcome mid-1951 development, boasting a larger clutch and oil pan, plus other minor but useful updates. MG also encouraged TD racers by offering various suspension and engine kits, as well as a short-lived 60-hp special, the “TD Mark II.” By late 1953, however, Triumph’s truly modern TR2 had MG looking to its laurels on the track and in the showroom. As a result, the TD stepped aside for an even more “radical” MG that would have those diehards grousing anew.