1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race Track

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We recently celebrated a “Classic Car Track Day” at the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) near Sriperumbudur, with Chennai-based car collector Ranjit Pratap. Ranjit very kindly brought five fabulous cars from his extensive car collection onto the 3.71 km long MMRT race track, and generously allowed me to do some spirited laps and tackle the twelve corners in his very nice old beauties.

Ranjit Pratap has restored his MG superbly and it runs like new

Ranjit, “A big thank you for letting me drive your superbly maintained cars, and sorry if I pushed your MG a little too hard, I let myself be carried away by the sheer elation of the engaging driving experience. And of course, it’s only because you keep your cars in such good shape that I’ve been able to drive them with such confidence and explore their performance capabilities.”

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackDrive a classic MG on a race track. Sweet dreams are made of this

As I roamed the racetrack in the five cars Ranjit brought, this MG-TD is the one I picked for some “Hot Laps.” It was my choice despite being the oldest and least powerful. The fact that Ranjit restored it beautifully and has it running like new was obviously a factor, but what sealed the deal was how fun and fun it is to drive.

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackMemories of this MG’s hot laps will forever be etched in the heart

In fact, I fell completely in love with this alluring and extremely satisfying car. It has no power steering, no power windows or central locking, no driver aids, no advanced electronics and not much power either. It’s just the really nice mechanical feel and response that makes it so endearing.

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackExploring its limits has been richly rewarding

The MG-TD is powered by a 1250cc four-cylinder OHV (Over Head Valve) engine which is fed fuel by two semi-downdraft SU carburettors. It produces 54 bhp at 5200 rpm and 87 Nm of torque with a top speed of 128 km/h and claims a 0-100 km/h in around 20 seconds. Not impressive numbers, even by 1950s standards. But the fun factor is surely 100 out of 100.

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackIt may be a small engine, but it has a huge heart

The four-speed manual gearbox has short strokes and although it meshes well, while shifting quickly and driving hard, I clutched the clutch twice and pressed the accelerator between shifts, for me ensure that they went smoothly and without any shock of speeds. Every shift was rewarding, and every time I touched the wooden gear knob, I could feel the shafts and gears move.

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackTouch that gear knob and it says what’s going on in the gearbox

Yes, the MG-TD steering, pedals and all controls communicate with you like an old trusted friend. Everything is so human. Some vibes are reassuring, the harshness keeps you connected, and the sound is all-encompassing.

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackThe dashboard is a work of art and the massive steering an eloquent speaker

By comparison, modern cars are so disconnected. You hardly feel anything in them. You don’t even need a key to start them anymore. So I enjoyed driving that old MG-TD much more than any new super car.

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackThe MG-TD looks great in all directions, with the top up or down

I’ve always believed that speed and acceleration numbers aren’t everything; and it’s the feel and the driving experience that are more important. This is where the MG-TD wins. It was awesome on the track and I really savored every moment behind the wheel of it.

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackThe design is simple, but so well done that it is timeless

The MG-TD was only produced for 3 years during which some 30,000 units rolled out of the factory in England. Most made their way to the United States, where they garnered a large following. With its independent front suspension, hydraulic brakes, rack-and-pinion steering and four-speed manual gearbox, the MG-TD Roadster was quite modern for its time, and the fact that it looked so good and doesn’t cost too much, made it a hot seller.

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackBob and Ranjit (right) discussing the extra headlights on this meticulously restored MG

1952 MG-TD takes on the Madras Motor Race TrackAs in the original, one light is a scatter and the other clear glass is a smudge

Stay tuned for detailed driving impressions of the other cars we drove on the “Classic Track Day at Madras Motor Racing Circuit”.

Anis Cheikh Photography

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