1394 MG L-Type – Offenhauser
In the first of what is hoped will become a regular segment on the Historic Racing Australia web site, Charles Rogers recently met up with the owner of this fabulous pre-war MG.
This car originally left the factory at Abingdon, UK as a spritely two-seater sportscar in 1934, classed as an L-Type with a 6-clyinder motor. In the 1950s this car was first stripped-down into a ‘racer’ in South Australia by Don Shivrers – ie cut ‘n’ shut. The current owner, Warwick Anderson acquired the car from the estate of the late Don Shivrers.
Q: The car when you acquired it?
It was a chassis with a TF motor in it. The chassis had being cut down to the size of a g-kart. I had the chassis put back to L-Type spec, strengthened and then commenced with an entire re-build of the car with the Offy motor I already had.
Q: What got you into the car scene?
My father was a keen enthusiast which led him to drive for other people including Tim Joshua. Amongst others at the time, he drove Joshua’s chain-drive a single-seater Frazer Nash at the 1939 AGP at Lobethal. Growing up around cars we purchased my first car when I was in my teens. It was a supercharged MG PA – which I still have today.
Q: Warwick, what led you to purchase this car?
I was inspired by Frank Klenig who converted a saloon-bodied L-Type MG in the 1930s and installed a straight-8 Miller engine in it. They are extremely rare and I managed to acquire a midget Offenhauser instead.
Q: Now that’s unique – Offy in an MG?
I have always had a great interest in the Offy engine. Its engineering way ahead of its time, and the history of Harry Miller who built engines that dominated dirt track and oval racing in the USA in the 1920s and 1930s, the business went bankrupt in the Depression and his foreman, Fred Offenhauser purchased it and initially had a request to build a smaller 4-cylinder engine for a boat. This took out water speed records and many had interest in him building a car based 4-clyinder speedway racing engine because of the torque. This engine is one of those built for the midget speedway dirt track class pre-WWII (post war they went on to develop larger capacity and ultimately larger cylinder Offy engines with had tremendous success for decades at the Indy 500).
It is a 1,500cc (92 cubic inch) twin-overhead camshaft engine, Barrell crankcase, gear driven timing chest – all the essentials of a pure racing motor.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about other components in the car?
Yes, well the gearbox – I started with a Lancia Lambda gearbox. That worked for a while, but the casing started to crack. We think I was putting too much power through it. So we swapped that over for a pre-war Riley box, which is very similar to an MG TC gearbox.
I originally ran it on alcohol, but that proved not a success. I researched that in period the midgets would either run on alcohol or gas. They would change the piston crown size by lifting off the block, which you could do fairly easily without affecting the timing as the timing was separate at the front. So they pulled off the block, changed the pistons to another set of low-compression pistons. With the work of Greg Smith (who does all the mechanical work on the car), that’s what I did and now run it on petrol.
Q: The aluminium body is cut off at the back….
Yes, its inspriation came from a body that was put on an MG K3 (chassis K3-011)in period by a well-known racer, Whitney Straight. That body was built by Thompson & Taylor at Brooklands. The MG-Offy body was built by Dune Body Works of Carrum, DownsTT , Victoria. They are one of the surviving firms who build in the black art of the traditional English wheel form.
Q: The number 13, is that a homage back to your father?
Yes, well funnily it is. When he raced the single-seat Frazer Nash at Lobethal he was given this number. I learnt later it was given as his handicap start time – 13 minutes off scratch.
Q: The twin-rear wheels….
It’s back to the pre-war era when Raymond Mays started off the use of twin-rear wheels at Shelsley Wash Hillclimb in his TT Vauxhall. The set on the Offy were made locally. At the time we put them side-by-side with a set of original dual wheels that were on Tony Gaze’s Alta and they were identical. The wheels were made by Greg Smith with lacing and finish by David at Newey Wheels.
In practicality though I have found them to put down too much grip which makes it hard to get off the startline at a hillclimb.
By: Charles Rogers 30 May 2020