In 1932, MG came up with the car that would help define the marque for the next 20 years – the J2 Midget. The ‘Midget’ moniker had been introduced in 1929 on the newly- founded Abingdon marque’s M-type, which helped establish MG as Britain’s leading manufacturer of small sports cars that the masses could afford. And the masses were frankly delighted about this, and started to buy these diminutive machines in ever-increasing numbers.
It did not matter that what lurked beneath the M-type’s rakish bodywork was effectively a Morris Minor with a tiny 847cc 20bhp engine that was shared with the Minor and Wolseley 10. The car looked lovely, offered 65mph performance, and cost just £185. The magazine Light Car and Cyclecar summed It up nicely as ‘cheap speed, indeed’.
The M-type gave way to the J-type in 1932, but kept the ‘Midget’ title – why change a good thing? There were four variations. The J1 was a four-seater, while the J3 and J4 were supercharged racing versions. And then there was the J2. By far the most popular model with buyers, it was a very pretty little open two-seater that, with its slab fuel tank, spare wheel mounted on the tail, up-swept scuttle and cutaway doors, set a template that MG would adhere to right the way through to 1955. The cycle type wings were replaced by flowing full-length items in 1933, which cemented the archetypal MG style even more.
The £199 10s J2 was much loved by the press and public alike, even if quite a few drivers did end up breaking theirs by attempting to reach the 82mph that Autocar had achieved when testing one. It transpired that the magazine had been given a specially-tweaked vehicle – naughty MG! – and 65mph was still the most likely maximum velocity. But that was still plenty in a pre-war Britain where there were very few fast roads and most other cars were content to amble around at much less than that speed. And on highways and byways that were often bendy and narrow, the J2’s light weight, compact size and excellent handling were far more important qualities.
The J-type was superseded in the MG line-up by the P-type from 1934, but these kept the same basic appearance, albeit with mechanical upgrades. The J2 had made its mark on the, um, marque and is now one of the most sought-after of all pre-war MG sports cars. And rightly so.
What a story this MG has to tell. Put together in July 1932, it was delivered down under to Lanes Motors in Australia as a rolling chassis (number J2 4211). Once there, it went off to the coachbuilder Aspinall’s, where it was fitted with one of the firm’s all-metal racing bodies. Suitably outfitted for action, it roared into battle with the Britannia Motors Race Team (BMRT), as one of eight J-types supplied by Lanes. Among its exploits were entries in the 1934 and 1935 Australian Grands Prix, Phillip Island races plus assorted trials.
After the cars period racing exploits during the 1930’s, the car was shipped to New Zealand at which point the Aspinal racing body was removed and replaced with a reproduction body to original ‘J2’ specification. At the same time, the engine was rebuilt before the car was placed in a Museum for 27 years. The mechanical work undertaken around this time included a strengthened Gordon Allen steel crank and con rods with Mini Cooper bearings which, being better quality, make it somewhat tougher than standard spec.
We believe a further restoration of the rest of the car follow in the 1980s. It travelled through a few more hands in New Zealand. However, it was very little-used, and during its first 27 years in the country, it covered a mere 162 miles. A decade or so was spent on display in a private collection.
When it was acquired by another owner in 2007, it finally got the use it probably craved; after some light recommissioning, it took part in an MG Car Club’s Pre-56 group event and, by doing 175 miles, managed to cover more miles in one weekend than it had done in the previous quarter of a century. 4211 was back!
The MG was repatriated to its homeland in 2013, and was acquired by its current owner, Mike, in 2017. He was looking for an Austin Chummy to buy, but when he went to look at one for sale, he found himself also very taken by the MG J2 – this one – up for grabs alongside it. He ultimately ended up buying both. Since then, it has been a regular show-goer in the UK, often picking up awards at shows; photos of its many achievements are included in its history file. Its smart Oxford and Cambridge Blue colours have obviously impressed both enthusiasts and judges alike. The paperwork folder also shows that its maintenance has been kept on top of since its British return. The jobs that Mike has had carried out include some brake work by Blue Diamond at Bicester Heritage – the brakes are now hydraulic incidentally, rather than the original Bowden cables – as well as some engine attention to rectify timing and a weeping head gasket. The gearbox was also removed to have new oil seals fitted.
The current odometer reading is 4254 miles, but it has stopped functioning. However, comparatively little distance has been covered since the MG’s renovation. And, looking at it, it’s hard to believe that the restoration was around 40 years ago. It’s in lovely order and the work could have been done just a few years ago, such is its condition. But let’s take a closer look…
On the Outside
This really is very handsome-looking car. The ‘sports car in miniature’ appearance could almost be called cute – but it seems somehow wrong to use that word for any car that once competed in national Grands Prix. However, it does project a very cheerful, happy persona, with its two-tone blue livery – the colours of Oxford and Cambridge – being very eye-catching. We wonder who it would support in the Boat Race?
The restoration back in the 1980s must have been a good one. Well, we say restoration but, of course, the body was a completely fresh one, albeit faithful to to the design of the cars that left Abingdon half a century earlier. Stand back to admire the car as a whole, and everything just fits together so well. On cars where there are issues with the ash frame below the metal, you often find that panels sag and the car looks a bit uneven. That’s not the case here; it all hangs together so very well.
The exterior is very good. There are, inevitably, a few areas that show the passage of the decades, in the form of very minor stonechips and small scratches here and there, but you need to go in close to find them. It’s obviously been cherished. There’s are small scrapes – about an inch long at best – just underneath the bonnet securing catches, plus another on the nearside wing. Both rear wings have a peppering of stonechips – something that does affect MGs with separate cycle wings. In an effort to minimise this in the future, small rubber mudflaps have recently been fitted at the base of the front ones.
The canvas hood is black, and looks like new; Mike had it installed around two years ago at a cost of £1500. It looks like it has rarely been used since then. It fits well and very tightly, as does the full tonneau cover with centre zip and rear storage area cover that will also come with the car. The chrome is in very good order, especially that substantial upright radiator grille which, aside from a few polishing swirls, is otherwise unmarked. The windscreen is decorated with a variety of MG club stickers plus, as reminders of the J2’s past life down under, New Zealand licence and Warranty of Fitness notifications. The bonnet doors are additionally secured by a brown leather belt, which looks like it could just have been added yesterday, such is its condition. Upgraded brake lights plus indicators have been installed for safety’s sake, but Mike took care to go for ones that didn’t clash with the car’s pre-war appearance.
The wire wheels are painted Oxford Blue rather than being chromed. All are in good order; there are some scrapes from kerbing, with some of the scratches touched up with blue paint that doesn’t quite match the shade of blue around them. There’s no looseness to the spokes. Longstone 4.00/4.50-19 tyres are fitted all around; they display no sidewall damage and there’s plenty of tread left. The rear-mounted spare wheel is of the same make as the road wheels, and in similarly fine fettle.
On the Inside
Being a Midget, it’s no surprise that it’s the cockpit is very snug. The interior is finished in dark blue leather, with carpeting in black. There’s minimal wear to the seats, with just superficial creasing and cracking, all of which adds to the somewhat cosy feel to the cockpit. The driver’s side shows a little more evidence of use than its passenger counterpart. The fitted carpets are in fine nick and extend to the storage area behind the seats. Rubber mats are fitted under the foot pedals, which have traces of red paint on them. Two-seater Midgets had their pedals painted in this shade, four-seaters adopted green instead.
The gauges are set into an aluminium panel rather than a wooden one. The passenger side of the dash is occupied by ammeter and oil pressure dials (with the latter looking somewhat newer than its counterparts), while beyond the sprung steering wheel is the 90mph speedometer and a temperature. Mike reports that all of the gauges function as they should (aside from the odometer, as already mentioned), with a healthy 60psi plus of oil pressure being recorded. What few controls there are have DIY Dymo embossed labels for easy identification; these can be simply removed for anybody wanting a real period look. A departure from standard is the ‘Kenlow’ (it should be ‘Kenlowe’) fan switch set into the aluminium panel – a wise fitment given today’s busy traffic conditions. There’s a dash-mounted indicator toggle as well. The steering wheel looks like it could well be the original item; if it is, it has survived well.
Lift the centre-hinged bonnet doors, and you’ll find a very tidy engine bay. While, being a working environment, there is some oil and grime, but overall, it’s nicely detailed and very presentable. Although few engines of this era are completely oil-tight, Mike has put effort into making sure this one is, as much as possible. The rocker cover still has its ‘The M G Car Company Ltd, Abingdon’ brass data plates, giving vital information and ordering you, in no uncertain terms, not to ‘attempt to remove or adjust cylinder head without reference to instruction book’. You have been warned! Around the scuttle, the rubber weatherstrip exhibits some light perishing in places, but not enough to compromise sealing or require replacement.
Underneath, the chassis looks extremely solid. There is the expected surface rust on some of the metal areas, but none of it is remotely structure-threatening. The wooden areas are similarly sound. These MGs are quite low to the ground, but there are no hints of any underbody damage.
The engine starts easily and behaves itself as Abingdon intended nearly a century ago. Check out our video for a demonstration of just how healthy it sounds. Mike’s assessment is that it “runs beautifully”, and as the car is with us at The Market, we’d completely concur with that. The effectiveness of the hydraulic brakes compared to the usual cable items found on MGs of this era is particularly noticeable.
While a chunk of the car’s earlier history from the late 1930s through to the 1970s is absent, there’s quite a substantial amount of stuff from then onwards. This includes bills from its New Zealand life, plus invoices for parts and jobs done after it returned to the UK. The copies of historical photos include pictures of the car in racing trim, with its original Aspinall body, and of it taking part in the Australian Grands Prix. There are also magazines and other publications featuring the car, plus records of the awards and prizes won during its time with current owner Mike.
It all adds up to a car that has been well-looked after over many decades, and received attention, time and money when required. We hope that whoever becomes the car’s new custodian continues to look after it as well as its previous ones have.
What We Think
This is a charming pre-war MG – and one with such a fascinating back story, as a Grand Prix competitor many, many thousands of miles away from where it was born. As Mike says, “It’s the history that really sells it”. So it’s just a further bonus that it’s also in such terrific condition and drives so impeccably. While its restoration may have been some time ago, it’s received comparatively little use since, and obviously been attentively cared for. It is, quite simply, delightful. And, it’s also rare too; just 2083 were built between 89 and 87 years ago. Survivors are scarce and sought-after.
This wonderful J2 also provides an ticket into events run by the very active MGCC ‘Triple-M Register’. These include a very successful racing series with full ‘Triple-M’ only grids at Vintage Sports Car Club and MGCC events.
We’ve put an estimate of between £30,000 and £40,000 on this car. It’s one of the most desirable of all pre-war MGs, and one that helped set the marque on a path it would follow until well after World War Two, ending with the final MG TF 1500 of 1955. This Midget is a machine that proves that the best things really do come in small packages.
Inspection is always encouraged (within government guidelines of course), and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon – yes, it’s returned to its town of birth! To arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing, we are open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
Bidders MUST ensure they are aware of the registration situation of a car in auction, and whether it will be possible to export/register a vehicle in their country BEFORE they bid.
All vehicles MUST BE COLLECTED WITHIN 7-DAYS of the auction end. Storage fees of £180 + VAT apply (per week) thereafter without exception.
If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage can offer you options, plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping both domestic and international.
BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we always encourage bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.
Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.
Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using basic cameras which often result in ‘average’ sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.
Please note that this is sold as seen (Caveat Emptor) and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, a return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.
Want to know how The Market auctions work? Take a look at our FAQ’s