FLYING AGAIN: Adrian Brooks successfully restored this 1949 MG TC, affectionately known as the 'Blackbird'.
FLYING AGAIN: Adrian Brooks successfully restored this 1949 MG TC, affectionately known as the 'Blackbird'. Iain Curry

Restoration takes MG from trailer trash to mint condition

IF EVER asked to draw the signature 'classic car', a post-war MG TC would be about as perfect as you could choose.

Tiny proportions, open top, wire wheels, standalone headlights and tall radiator grille lined in chrome.

It looks like it comes from a period when motoring was a lot more fun - a time when speed cameras, traffic queues and endless beeps telling you to put on your seatbelt and stay in your lane were a lifetime away.

This comprehensively restored MG TC example hails from 1949, and its owner Adrian Brooks has performed miracles in securing its survival and presenting it in a pristine state.

Adrian bought the car some 25 years ago, but the fact he was forced to take it home in bits in the back of a box trailer speaks volumes of its condition and how far it has come.

1949 MG TC
1949 MG TC Iain Curry

The restoration work took two years, but the TC immediately started winning show awards in MG Car Club events and became something of a superstar in motor sport events.

Adrian was born in England a few years before his 1949 MG and first dabbled in mechanical things by buying old 1930s motorbikes from the tip and fixing them up. His enthusiasm for the MG marque began when he was 21, he and his new wife having a great time in their classic 1939 MG TA.

When kids arrived, the fun MG was replaced with family cars, but by 1990 Adrian sought out an MG TC for a race car build and found a dismantled example in Victoria.

"It was in pretty poor shape; a pile of bits really,” Adrian said. "I threw it all in a trailer and towed it home behind me. I looked at it when I got home and couldn't quite believe what I'd taken on. You only do this sort of thing once.”

1949 MG TC
1949 MG TC Iain Curry

Fortunately the engine was in very good condition, having been recently rebuilt, but the rest of the car would ensure it would take two years of hard labour to complete what became known as 'Blackbird'.

"I did get all the rust removed and cleaned the chassis and had the body panels chemically stripped,” Adrian said. "Sadly, these were just too far gone and couldn't be recovered.”

By chance, Adrian was put in contact with a Ferrari-trained body panel maker, who hand-crafted aluminium panels for the car using Adrian's other MG TC for reference. The rear guards, petrol tank and firewall all managed to be salvaged and remain original, but the remainder has all been hand-crafted and looks superb.

Adrian's research suggested his MG TC was green when it first landed in Australia all those years ago, but he opted for the striking and lush black paint seen in the photos "because everybody else had red and green ones... and black on chrome looks lovely too,” he said.

1949 MG TC
1949 MG TC Iain Curry

The original 19-inch skinny "pram wheels” were replaced with custom-made 48-spoke, 15-inch wire wheels instead, able to accommodate chunkier tyres for racing.

The car's signature chrome radiator grille and lights were re-chromed and polished (and look stunning against the black body), while the interior needed to be completely redone.

"The interior basically wasn't there when I bought the car,” Adrian said, "so I cut some boards to shape for the floor, made metal pipe work and wrapped these in aluminium to make bucket seats to be upholstered (in red) and cut out some ash for the dashboard.

"The lovely mechanical instruments were all original and rebuilt, and at that time it had no full windscreen, just the little racing screens.”

1949 MG TC
1949 MG TC Iain Curry

Adrian added a sports cam and SU carburettors to the engine for competition events and sourced a "rare as hen's teeth” genuine MG TC supercharger, which had been sold by the company as an option.

With the original TC's 1.3-litre four cylinders only able to launch the car to 100kmh in about 23 seconds, the supercharger made a huge difference in performance. "It changes everything for both track work and road driving,” Adrian said. "It can be quite hairy.”

A talented racer (Adrian won the 2004 Victorian State MG Road Racing Champion in an MGB GTV8), he gave up competition aged 70 and moved to the Sunshine Coast - a place, he says, ideal for his much-loved 1949 MG TC.

1949 MG TC
1949 MG TC Iain Curry

"What better way to get around than in the Blackbird,” he said of his '49 MG TC, now fully road registered in Queensland (note the required protection around the exhausts to pass registration) and complete with a hand-built wooden luggage rack that has replaced its racing roll cage.

Looking at pictures of the car when it was in bits before Adrian's restoration work tells a remarkable story of survival for this lovely old MG. It truly is a picture-perfect classic.

1949 MG TC
1949 MG TC Iain Curry

Vital statistics

1949 MG TC

Details: Two-door, two-seater rear-wheel drive roadster built in England between 1945 and 1950.

Number produced: 10,001.

Owner: Adrian Brooks.

Engine: 1.3-litre in-line four-cylinder with genuine MG TC supercharger.

Transmission: Four-speed manual with synchromesh.

Did you know? An MG TC's 0-100kmh time was about 23 seconds, which was deemed respectable for a sports car of the era.


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