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SNAPSHOT 297: 1951 MG YA

The words written in pencil on the back of this Snapshot give no more than a few facts about this MG – but somehow they seem to say more:

“1951 – Series Y M.G.  22,000 miles.  Bronze.  Loose covers.  Heater.  Twin horns.”

Perhaps this was the image sent to a classified car sales weekly, with just enough detail for a small advert.  Perhaps it had been the pride and joy of a family, taking them on picnics at the weekends but now to be replaced by something a little more modern.

This car would certainly have done its job well.  The MG Y series was built from 1947 to 1953, mainly as a four-door saloon but also as a limited production open four-seat tourer.  It was a well-appointed car with a fine interior in a traditional British style.  Facing surfaces of all seats, and door pockets, were in leather.  The rear window was fitted with an anti-glare roller blind.  Door windows and front and rear screens were framed in burr walnut, and the instrument panel was set in a veneered panel.  The instruments were behind octagonal chrome frames, replicating the form of the MG badge. The car was powered by a single carburettor version of the 1,250 cc XPAG engine used in the 1939 MG TB sports car.  In the MG Y saloon it developed 46 bhp at 4,800 rpm.  The YA was superseded in 1951 by the improved YB with smaller 15-inch wheels, a new braking system, front anti-roll bar and a hypoid rear axle, but our picture seems to show the earlier YA with its taller 16-inch wheels.

In 1947, the same year as the launch of the streamlined and totally modern unitary-construction Jowett Javelin, the MG Y’s separate wings and headlights were distinctly old fashioned, as was its separate chassis.  And yet both cars were designed by Gerald Palmer.  The reason lies at least partially in the pre-war origins of the MG Y; its prototype was built in 1939.  But one aspect of the MG Y was up to date: independent front suspension.

A report in The Autocar in 1949 touched upon the outdated look of the car, but in a diplomatic way: “still offering the form of external appearance to which many keener motorists still cling, in spite of the wider acceptance of shapes that have come to be called modern”.

The Y Series was a successful car for MG.  6,131 YA models, 904 YT open tourers and 1,301 of the later YB (1951-1953) were built, until the Y was replaced by the monocoque ZA Magnette, again designed by Gerald Palmer.

Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive


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