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  MG Magnette K3

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1933 - 1934
Numbers built:33
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 19, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAfter Bentley withdrew from motor racing in the early 1930s Britain's presence in international events was very modest. Back in England the tiny MG Midgets were racking up victory after victory in minor races, but the four cylinder engined machine was believed to be no match for the French, Italian and German competition. There were nevertheless several British racing drivers that were interested in representing their country in a homebuilt machine. Most prominent among them was Lord Howe, who had previously competed in Bugattis. He offered Sir William Morris a great deal, where he would pay for a three-car entry into the 1933 Mille Miglia if Morris could provide him with a suitable MG racer.

The newly introduced K-series Magnette was chosen as the basis for the new MG racing car. With a displacement of 1087cc, the Magnette's six cylinder engine was perfect for the popular Class G for up to 1100 cc sports cars. Based on a Wolseley design, the standard engine featured a single overhead camshaft and produced 41 bhp. For competition purposes, it was equipped with a Powerplus No 9 eccentric-vane type Supercharger. This literally boosted the power to a very healthy 120 bhp. Power was transferred to the rear wheels through a Wilson pre-selector gearbox.

The road going Magnettes were available the long wheelbase 'K1' and short wheelbase 'K2' specification. The 'K3' competition used the same 2.4 metre chassis of the K2 road car. Like all contemporary MGs, the Magnette K3 used a boxed steel frame with tubular cross-members. Underslung at the rear, suspension was by live axles with two longitudinal leaf springs at the front and a single transverse leaf spring at the back. Weight was saved throughout to get the weight down to an impressive 686 kg for the bare chassis. A very minimalistic aluminium body with cycle wing fenders added another 200 kg.

On his way to Italy, Lord Howe stopped in Molsheim to have his friend Ettore Bugatti take a look at the MG Magnette K3 prototype. His only concern was the front axle, which he deemed too weak. The team cars were immediately fitted with stronger axles. Bugatti's expert opinion proved to be absolutely correct as not much later one of the original axles failed on a production car. Three cars were ready in time for the 1933 Mille Miglia and greatly impressed the locals by taking a one-two victory in the 1100 cc class. The MG team also became the first foreign team to win the prestigious Gran Premio Brescia team prize.

Back in England the international racing successes sparked great attention and many prominent privateers bought a Magnette K3. Among them was Richard 'Dick' Seaman, who raced his MG extensively in 1934. The Mille Miglia performance also attracted the interest of Italian racing legend Tazio Nuvolari, who agreed to drive a Magnette K3 in the Ulster TT. Despite having limited time to get used to the car and particularly the pre-selector gearbox and wearing the unlucky number 17, the 'Flying Mantuan' absolutely dominated the event, setting a lap record that would stand until 1951 when Stirling Moss broke it in a Jaguar C-Type.

Between 1933 and 1934 a total of 33 examples were built including the prototypes. They were raced with great success in sports car events. Several were modified for single seater racing as well as speed trials. The most extreme of these was a single seater extensively developed by Reg Parnell, which eventually even featured fully independent front suspension. For many enthusiasts the Magnette K3 is the definitive (pre-War) MG and undoubtedly the marque's most successful racing car. Its replacements could not match the K3's success and by 1936 the company withdrew from racing completely.

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