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British Sports Cars on the Streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This image, taken on a street in the City of Pittsburgh contains a group of British sports car enthusiasts and their cars at a gathering of some sort in 1951. In the post-war years, imported sports cars became quite popular with service men and women who had served abroad during the World War II because of their good road handling characteristics and charm. The machines some of them shipped back home interested others and soon imported sports cars, convertibles, and sedans became somewhat popular here in the US.

In this photo on the left, front-to-back is an MG TC, an MG TD and behind it an unidentified machine. The TC was an improved version of the earlier pre-war TA and TB models. TC models are powered by 54 h.p 1250cc (1.25 liter) four-cylinder o.h.v. engines and are equipped with four-speed transmissions. This model was produced between 1945 to’50.

  • Front-to-rear above is an MG TC, an MG TD, and an unidentified machine behind them.

The later MG TD, second in line above was changed somewhat and fitted with a more modern chassis like that used for the MG TY saloon with independent front suspension and semi-elliptic rear leaf springs. The US export models used a similar 1250cc engine as used in the earlier models but with the compression ratio raised from 7.4:1 to 8.1:1 with an output of 57 h.p. This model was in constructed between 1950 to ’53. Behind the TD is an unidentified sports car.

On the right-hand side of the image is an upmarket Jaguar XK120 roadster that introduced the new 3,400 cc (3.4 liter) d.o.h.c. six-cylinder engine when it was a show car at the 1948 London Motor Show. It was named for its 120 m.p.h. top speed and was soon put into production with a chassis featuring independent torsion bar front suspension with semi-elliptic leaf springs fitted at the rear. Other body styles offered were a drophead and a fixed head coupe. The XK120 was in produced between 1948 to ’54.

Tell us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh Library.

  • Below a Jaguar XK120 roadster.

21 responses to “British Sports Cars on the Streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  1. One of the books that spurred my early interest in cars was The Red Car, by Don Stanford (1957). It was the story of a young man who salvaged a wrecked MG TC. I think I was in the fifth grade when I read it, and years later still remember the scene where the TC was challenged by a souped-up Ford V8. The Ford pulled way ahead until the two cars hit winding roads through the hills. Then the TC’s light weight and low center of gravity began to have an effect. The MG quickly caught and passed the Ford, leaving it behind.

    I think it was that difference in performance that drew people to foreign sports cars in the fifties. American cars went very fast in a straight line. Foreign sports cars could go around corners.

      • I remember a long lost memory of reading that book. Recall the comments about the MG being faster in the turns and curves and able to outrun the more powerful Ford. Thanks for the memory. JWL

    • I wouldn’t have called it “great literature” even when I read it (probably about the same time, 5th grade, early ’60s). But it was a good story, well written, and I enjoyed it. I suspect it did help influence my interest in early racing at least some. At that time, in grade school, every so often, we got advertising sheets for some sort of book club that sold direct mostly through schools. My parents would allow us to choose a few to broaden our reading experience. That was one of the books I chose, and one of the few I fondly remember.

      • I read it , too. And though I’ve heard that the TD is a better car I’ve always been partial to the big wire wheels on the TC (and would still take one over a TD if given the choice).

  2. The bumper guards on the front MG look a lot like the ones on my old 33 Chevy. A flxible bus is in the background too. Also, a Happy Thanksgiving to the staff and readership of TOM. A little time off this week!

  3. The unidentified machine behind the TD may be a ’49/’50 Healey Silverstone. Healey’s have separate front wings of the shape shown and 2 of the 4 engine compartment side vents (located below the bonnet line) may appear in the photo. Add RHD and a windscreen that can be and is partially retracted as clues. Nonetheless I cannot be absolutely certain that it’s one of 105 Silverstones produced. They were powered by the 2.5 litre Riley engine.

  4. Our new neighbors in the late 50’s had a TC, but he didn’t drive it much, not due to weather (SoCal sun), but because of reliability I think. He soon shed his British Iron and went domestic, but I remember marveling at the wire wheels and open cockpit. Later, a younger friend down the street led me into his garage and into the presence of a 50’s Triumph, his brothers’ car. Again, it rarely saw the light of day due to one problem or another, but it sure was fun playing racer in the cockpit. Everyone else in the neighborhood drove staid Big 3 wagons and sedans, though a later friend had a Morris Minor in the family.

  5. You may be correct on the Healey Silverstone James, sure looks like a front fender from one. Got to repaint one back in the 1970’s, the Riley was a twin underhead cam engine.

    Bob

  6. Pittsburgh?

    1951 plates??

    A Jaguar XK120 and MGs and a Healey Silverstone???

    So is that Ed Hugus in the XK120? If it isn’t then he was likely the seller of most of these cars.

    The relationship Hugus and his “Continental Cars” had with the startup of Carrol Shelby’s deals with AC and Ford to produce the Cobra is central to the genesis of the Cobra.

    CSX 2001 was completed (engine and transmission installation) at Hugus’ “European Cars Inc” shop in 1962 as were six of the first eight Cobras. internet search for DNF’d: The story behind how some of the first Shelby Cobras got built AT Hemmings Daily.

      • As I recall thru the mists of my mind there were more Allards in the states than Healeys at that time sporting cycle fenders, and they were easier to work on here because they were american powered???

        • Well an Allard is certainly another possibility. This is not based upon my visual identification, rather by a reference to an email reporteldy sent by Ed Hugus to Pete Vack (and referenced on page 137 of “They Started in MGs: Profiles of Sports Car Racers of the 1950s By Carl Goodwin”) where reportedly Hugus told Vack that he purchased an Allard K2 from Tony Pompeo in 1950.

  7. In my time(youth), there used to be a smart quips about the Brits and their “motors” like “Lucas… Prince of Darkness”, comparisons… German’s custom work-“Masters of Precision, all body seams right and tight… British coach builts- all over the place ; 1/2 inch here; quarter inch there, all with-ih 3 feet of each other…and with common appliances like TVs, why they never invented them ’cause they couldn’t make them leak oil.

  8. Interesting to see an early 120 in the period. Besides the date of the photo the chrome sidelights and lack of wing vents mark it as an early car. Not an alloy body though based on the windscreen mounts.
    This one has sealed beam headlights, rare to see today as most of what you see in Concours are “correct” flat lens tri-bar lights. Also check out that radio antenna! Sure would not see that today either.

  9. I wonder if one of these guys was “Bunny” Kountz, who owned, or was the son of the owners of Kountz & Rider, an upscale men’s store in Shadyside, Pittsburgh’s most affluent neighborhood. I remember going there in the 80s, and there were lots of black and white pictures of him competing in 50s sports cars.

    In my steeltown down the Monongahela in the early 70s, I remember seeing not only the occasional MG TC, but also a Mercedes 300 cabriolet and one of our neighbors had a white TR-3.

  10. Was there ever a lovelier, more basic, “pure car” design than an MG-TC. You wouldn’t want to change a single line.
    In sixth grade, in the early ’60s, i found a fictional book in the school library, of all places, of a 1935-36 Auburn 851/852 boat tail speedster, at least according to the illustrations, being driven along open roads. I couldn’t stop reading it, even in my lap while the geography book was opened on my desk, but i couldn’t fool Mrs. Doster, our teacher, and was busted.
    That’s all i can recall of that book, but if it jogs any memories here, especially a title/author, i am all eyes and ears. It was in the same vein as the MG-TC/Ford saga. May not have been Thomas Wolfe or Victor Hugo, but was as good as it gets for my then 11-year-old self.

  11. For the sake of accuracy, the four-door saloon MG mentioned in the text was called Y, not TY. The YA was produced between 1947 and 1951 and was indeed the first production British car with independent front suspension. The YB took over with a few mechanical upgrades and remained in production until 1953, before being replaced by the ZA. There has also been a YT model, which was a cabriolet version of the YA, only sold on export markets and produced in less than 1000 units.

  12. We serviced All British & all European Sports Cars and Motorcycles at: Norman’s Automotive Garage , Silver Lake Blvd, Silver Lake District, Los Angeles. WE also serviced anything from 2 to 18 wheels! Foreign, Domestic, and American autos & Commercial Trucks Driving the MGTC requires the special skill of : “Double Clutching ” for up-shifts & downshifts. We lovingly referred to them as: “Coffins on Four Harps”. It’s sort of like driving: ” A Sports-car version of a Model A Ford Roadster! Either: You accept their Simplicity and learn how to Operate them and /or: Work on them — or walk away! They are “special” and deserve good awareness of what they really are: ” Old Rolling British Treasure” ! Conversely: The MGTD or the MGTF Series can be regarded as MODERN MG’s and can survive anyone who can safely operate a modern style Standard Transmission. Any of them are a lot of fun to drive, and they are all, — in their own ways — competent Vintage English Sports-cars. These cars put Southern California’s Claim as: A Sports -car Haven: “|On the map” !!!

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