1931 MG M Type Midget Boat-Tail - www.mister-cars.com

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» Home » Articles » Classic Car Reviews » Add - Classic Car Reviews » 1931 MG M Type Midget (Boat-Tail)

1931 MG M Type Midget (Boat-Tail)

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15/08/2009   By MURRAY HUBBARD  

When you see the solar cars race across Australia each year they just about all have one thing in common: a sleek tail designed to reduce drag. The tails go by various names, but are basically a teardrop shape. The tapered rear end allows the car the slip through the air without creating a vacuum, which tends to hold the car back.

Vauxhall boat-tail

There's nothing new about this type of design, although it now goes under a different name and the technology is more advanced and the shape more defined. Our featured cars, a 1931 MG and a Vauxhall show the beginnings of cars designed to slipstream. Both are `boat-tail' cars which were highly fashionable in the late 1920s right through to the mid to late 1930s.

The boat-tail car was probably invented by Frenchman Jean Henri-Labourdette, a coachbuilder, who in 1912 was designing race cars. They were torpedo-like at the front and the smooth, round body style continued past the cockpit and came to a pointy end. He finished his boat-tails in mahogany to save weight, and secondly, for appearance. They looked nautical and when polished the timber added class. Our featured Vauxhall uses this type of finish.

1931 MG M Type Midget boat-tail

While the style started on the race track, by the late 1920s it was becoming mainstream and car manufacturers had production model boat-tail cars. No just any old makes either. Names like Auburn, Dusenberg, Rolls-Royce and Packard. As our pictures testify Vauxhall and MG flew the flag for the working-man's car in Britain. Generally, these cars were called speedsters. What that means of course is they were the forefathers of what we now know as sports cars.

In Australia one of the first cars to use this streamlining technology was a 1916 Studebaker Six which raced against the clock on Surfers Paradise beach on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, 1916. The car had a cowling with an opening fitted to the nose to reduce resistance against the upright radiator and a tapered teardrop cowling fitted to the rear of the car. It is likely the design for these two additions was simply copied from newspaper photographs of similar cars trying to set speed records on US beaches at that time. (Murray Hubbard is writing a book on this speed record attempt)

1931 MG Type M Midget boat-tail rear view

Anyone could fit a boat-tail to many a car, so there were plenty of automobiles streamlined in this way in the late 1920s and early 1930s. No doubt the manufacturers saw an opportunity with the design and thus went into production models, cars that are today some of the most sought-after collector cars around ... and undoubtedly some of the most beautiful cars ever produced.

The boat-tail in this format did not survive past the late 1930s and was briefly revived by GM with the Corvette Sting Ray in the early 1960s and later in the early 1970s in the Buick Riviera. (See articles and images on these cars under Chevrolet and Buick in our classic cars section). But, these were not true boat-tails, designed for low drag, but merely styling cues for aesthetic purposes.

Vauxhall boat-tail front view

Like all great ideas, the boat-tail design will not go away. As mentioned it is used extensively in solar concept cars and even modern hybrid cars have the beginnings of a boat-tail in their rear-end design. Both the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight have the tapering rear end for aerodynamic purposes. Boat-tail designs are also being investigated by the trucking industry, where it is believed a better design could reduce drag and therefore improve fuel consumption by as much as 10 per cent. While that might not sound much, remember it can cost $700-$800 to fill one of these monoliths, so 10 per cent becomes a significant saving.

The 1931 MG M Type Midget featured here is a factory production model boat-tail. MG launched the MG Midget at the 1928 Olympia Motor Show. This car has an all-metal body, unlike earlier timber models. It is powered by a 847cc engine sourced from Wolseley, a company taken over by William Morris in 1927. Cecil Kimber founded MG (Morris Garage) in 1923. The MG featured a Morris Minor chassis.

1931 MG M Type Midget front view

The body was built by Carbodies, a Coventry-based coachbuilder, and the engine plate reads `The 8/33 MG Midget Engine' and was built as Abingdon on Thames. The car's overwhelming feature though is the boat-tail, but it has a number of other interesting features including the V-Shape windscreen, cycle-type mudguards and a significant radiator. Spoke-wire wheels were standard.

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