1939 MG TB Tickford Drophead Coupe

The introduction of the T-Type Midget marked a significant turning point for MG Cars. Up to that time, MG was a somewhat of a pet project of W.R. Morris, who had given Cecil Kimber a great deal of creative leeway in developing his world-class sports cars and racers. However, in 1935, Morris sold his interest in MG to the parent company Morris Motors, who had previously taken a rather dim view of sports cars and motor racing in general. Thankfully, Kimber managed to maintain enough control over operations, to continue developing vehicles in his unique style, though now with a few “corporate” restrictions.

The first model produced under the guise of the new leadership was the T-Type. The most significant change was under the bonnet. Gone where Kimber’s advanced overhead cam engines, replaced with a simpler, cheaper Wolseley 10/40-derived 1,292 cc pushrod four-cylinder. While it may have seemed like a downgrade to some MG loyalists, the new TA could outperform the overhead-cam PB in most areas, while offering more space and comfort to passengers. The TA was very successful in the home market, and it would set the pattern for MG’s future success through the 1940s and beyond, particularly for the TC in the all-important American market. Following the TA came the TB of 1939, which introduced several improvements. The TB marked the first appearance of the now-legendary 1,250 c.c. XPAG pushrod engine. Derived from the Morris Ten, the MG unit had a higher state of tune and wore dual carburetors. As with the TA, the TB was available as a standard roadster or with the luxurious, coachbuilt Tickford drophead coupe body by Salmons & Sons. However, Britain’s involvement in World War II meant production ended after just 379 TBs. Of those 379 cars, a mere 57 received the handsome Tickford drophead coachwork.

We are delighted to offer this gorgeous 1939 TB Tickford, one of approximately thirty known examples of its kind. This charming and desirable pre-war MG features a Pebble Beach award-winning restoration finished in period-correct colors and with a host of period-correct accessories. According to the previous owners, chassis TB0335 was first registered in England on July 10, 1939. It remained in the UK until the late 1970s, when it was sold by MG specialists Octagon Sports Cars of Kent to an American from Castro Valley, California. At the time, the car was purported to have its original engine and coachwork but in need of refurbishment. The new owner set about restoring the car in the early 1980s but passed away midway through the project. Mr. Neal Kirkham purchased the TB from the estate and spent the better part of a decade carefully researching and collecting rare parts and accessories in anticipation of a comprehensive restoration.

Mr. Kirkham was the ideal person to restore the MG, as he happened to be a long-time Pebble Beach participant and an experienced concours judge. He set out to make the MG as authentic as possible and worthy of the most prestigious shows in the world. The original Salmson & Sons coachwork is fastidiously restored and painted in a beautiful, period-correct shade of dark green, accented with a dark green top, silver-painted wire wheels, and a subtle tan coach stripe. The restoration included the addition of an impressive number of period-correct MG Approved Extra Equipment, including a Lucas dip-beam headlamps, fog lamp, trafficators, and a Marshall-Nordec under-bonnet supercharger. In 1999, the meticulously-restored MG debuted at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it scored an impressive 3rd in class (J-1) against some serious competition from the likes of Delageand Hispano-Suiza. Two decades have passed since the restoration, yet this MG remains in marvelous condition inside and out. As a testament to the quality of the work, the paint is still lovely, with only a minor touchup or two found on close inspection. Likewise, the chrome plating on the bumpers, lamps, and accessories is excellent.

Pairing with the handsome green exterior, the restorers chose an attractive light tan leather and oatmeal carpets. The luxurious cabin is a far cry from the spartan accommodations typically found on standard MG roadsters. Beautiful burl wood trim features on the dash and door caps, and the three-position soft top is lined for all-weather comfort. The workmanship is first-rate, with beautifully stitched seats, door panels, and rugs. Overall, there is a gentle mellowing with age and light use, yet the presentation remains superb. Along with the exterior accessories, the owner also sourced a Bluemels-Brooklandssteering wheel, Lucas rearview mirror, factory boost gauge, and water temperature gauge.

The superb detailing continues under the bonnet, with a fully-accessorized 1,250 c.c. XPAG inline-four beautifully presented in proper MG red and equipped with a full array of period accessories. In addition to the Marshall blower, it also features a polished alloy valve cover, spark plug carrier, original inspection lamp, and a comprehensive set of hand tools, including the grease gun, jack, and tire pump. To better handle the healthy boost of power from the supercharger, the restorers fitted a taller rear axle ratio that vastly improves high-speed cruising ability. The undercarriage shows signs of light use and is fully detailed with correct plumbing paint finishes, leather spring gaiters, and stainless exhaust.

Marque experts estimate that approximately 30 TB TickfordDropheads exist, and it is safe to say that precious few are restored with such meticulous attention to detail. This superb example proved its mettle in the world’s most prestigious concours, and thanks to meticulous care in the time since its restoration, it remains in beautiful condition today. Slightly mellowed, it is still well-suited to regional concours and club events, and the welcome power from the under-bonnet blower makes touring an exciting proposition. The sale of TB0335 represents an exceptional opportunity to acquire a well-known, expertly restored example of MG’s sporty and elegant pre-war touring car.


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