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This car is one of two specially built by MG at Abingdon for the 1930 Le Mans 24 Hours race. Based on the 'Double Twelve' M-Type Midget, it is reputed to be the earliest 'works' racing MG in existence and is featured in most books on the marque.
With the introduction of the M-Type Midget at the 1928 Olympia Motor Show, Cecil Kimber had single-handedly created the market for small, cheap sports cars. Selling for £175, Kimber's new baby was based on the contemporary Morris Minor and featured pretty, boat-tailed, fabric coachwork by Carbodies. The 847cc, overhead-camshaft, four-cylinder engine derived from Wolseley aero engine experience via the Wolseley Ten, and mated to this little gem of a power unit was a three-speed 'crash' gearbox. Produced initially at Cowley, the Midget proved to be a strong seller and production transferred to Abingdon when the MG factory moved there in the autumn of 1929. M-Types were awarded the Team Prize in the 1930 'Double Twelve' 24-hour race at Brooklands, and this success provided a welcome boost to sales, which amounted to 3,253 cars by the time production ceased in 1933.
Capitalising on its Brooklands success, MG produced 30 Double Twelve Replicas, which featured many of the modifications made to the team cars including altered bodywork and deeper door cutaways, while the racer's different valve timing found its way onto the production M-Type for 1931. The Le Mans cars differed from the standard M-Types and 'Double Twelve' Replicas in having more powerful engines; long range fuel and oil tanks; reinforced wheels with extra spokes; an upswept scuttle; extra instrumentation; a pressurised fuel tank; a unique under-body exhaust system incorporating a Brooklands silencer; and an externally mounted spare wheel, many of these modifications made to meet the Le Mans regulations.
'RX 6796' was driven at Le Mans by Sir Francis Samuelson and Fred Kindell (an MG employee) but retired after a fractured oil pipe led to damaged bearings. The second car driven by Murton-Neale and Jack Hicks also retired. Undeterred, Samuelson obtained an entry for the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race to be held a fortnight later and set off for Abingdon in his Talbot, taking the MG's engine with him. Back in France the rebuilt motor was soon reinstalled and the MG was then 'run in' by being driven north to Belgium. 'RX 6796' was the only British entry at Spa and finished 5th in class, hampered by severe clutch slip.
This car is believed to have had continuing competition usage during the 1930s but the details are not known. It is reputed to have been supercharged at one time and it is likely that the car's hydraulic brakes and J2 four-speed gearbox were fitted during this period. The Midget was purchased by the previous owner's father-in-law, Lewin Spittle, in Newmarket in 1943 for £17 10s (£17.50) with three gallons of 'unobtainable' petrol in the (enlarged) Le Mans tank. He wrote: 'It looked somehow different and had the largest SU I had seen on an engine of that size together with a fishtail exhaust which would not have disgraced a Bentley.'
As the little MG would not accommodate his growing family, Spittle sold it in 1948 to an undergraduate who took it to Spain. He saw the car again in Piccadilly in 1950 and by the mid-1960s had traced it to Oxford where it was owned by Dr Stuart Milton, who was very well known in MG circles and owned the ex-Nuvolari K3. Spittle and Milton agreed jointly to restore the car to original Le Mans specification, where necessary using parts from the second Le Mans car of Murton-Neale, the remains of which Milton also owned. Milton died in 1971 before the rebuild was completed.
During the restoration, drawings of the Le Mans body were obtained from Abingdon and an accurate replica made, but the rest of the car including the engine (with the exception of the carburettor, which is of the correct downdraft configuration but of a different model) is believed to be original. The MG was the subject of a feature by Bill Boddy in the June 1976 issue of Motor Sport.
'RX 6796' remained in single family ownership for almost 50 years and saw limited use in this time. The engine was rebuilt, it being noted that the special cylinder head had the copper plating which was typical of MG racing practice of the period. The Midget has appeared regularly at special MG occasions, most recently at the demonstration of significant MG competition cars at the 1999 Goodwood Revival meeting, and was invited to attend the 2014 'MG90' celebrations at Silverstone.
Offered with V5 registration document, the sporting MG is now offered from a prominent collector of special interest collector cars and has been looked after by John Lomas of Blue Diamond Riley Services Ltd while retained at Bicester Heritage. A wonderful opportunity to acquire a unique and historically significant part of the MG legend.
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