The car is a re-creation of a unique, and rather odd looking, 1947 MG TC racing special commissioned by George Phillips (Autosport’s chief snapper of the day) to compete at Le Mans. Before it enjoyed its French moment of glory, however, it raced at Goodwood at the first meeting in September 1948. Where it won its race.
So the fact that 67-years later, in reborn form, the car will again be on the grid for the Fordwater Trophy at Revival is poignant indeed – something not lost on its owner and driver, Simon Evans, and the man who made it, the noted vintage MG restorer Phil Cornut.
‘I like prewar MGs and wanted something interesting to go racing with after I sold my MG C-type Montlhery,’ Simon tells GRR. The lawyer from Oundle, Northants., began racing only last year, in Formula Vee, and wanted something that could get him on the grid at the two events he dreamed of competing in: Revival of course and the Le Mans Classic.
‘Phil said he’d always wanted to build a Phillips TC Special and that it would be perfect for those events, so here we are. I haven’t driven at Revival before, so today is very much a first for me and for the car.’
Chances are you will not miss Simon and his MG. It has a certain presence, around the front especially. Says Simon: ‘I love the rear of the car and the sides, but I am not so keen on the front. People say it’s ugly but at least the car is very easy to spot.’
This one-off of a one-off, finished only a few months ago after a year-long build, can claim to be as authentic as was George Phillips’ car in 1947. Then as now, you take a base TC and reclothe it with a lighter, more aerodynamic body made out of hand-beaten aluminium. Phillips’ donor car in 1947 was a factory-fresh TC provided by MG; Simon’s arrived as a restoration case that needed a new body anyway.
Phillips, the amateur driver and Autosport staffer, must have been very determined about taking his new TC racing. In 1947 the car’s prewar design was showing and the car was outpowered and out-tyred by more modern rivals. MG refused to help so Phillips had one body made – the car that ran at Goodwood in 1948 – before scrapping that and going to the full Le Mans spec with a body designed by Ted Goodwin.
They undoubtedly knew what they were doing for, in 1950, the MG Special came 18th overall, and second in class, at Le Mans. And Phillips drove the car there and back from England. It might have done just as well the previous year too had it not been disqualified after Phillips gave his mechanic a lift during the race.
The car raced a little more in 1951 but after that it disappeared, believed destroyed in a crash.
But the photographs survived and it was those that allowed Phil Cornut to make this re-creation. The design sticks to the original with only a couple of exceptions: the one-piece windscreen has been replaced by more pleasing twin aeroscreens, and the bench seat was ditched for two shapely buckets – actually from an MG J2, and complete with welcome patina. Even the paint is a match for the original colour: the light green is an Aston Martin hue.
Mechanically it’s all standard 1947 TC, powered by the correct 1250cc XPAG pushrod overhead valve engine with around 98bhp, making the little MG good for 100mph according to Simon. Like the chassis, the shocks, brakes and axle are all original.
‘It behaves very differently from what I am used to, and you have to be a little careful with it,’ adds Simon. ‘I am looking forward to the race. But I will be at the back of the grid. I am one of those guys who looks forward to getting lapped then the spectators don’t realise how bad I am…’
Wherever in the field it is, the car will surely be a delight to see.