Peter Brock: My First Car


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Story by Peter Brock • Photo by Tim Suddard

Classic design never fades. It may take some time for that truth to sink in, ’specially if you’re a 14-year-old kid searching for his first set of wheels. But scoring your dream and getting it right the first time is something that stays with you forever, because there’s no room for compromise after that.

My first car was a ’49 MG TC.

It set an aesthetic standard that introduced me to a world of fine automobiles, incredibly interesting people, and a design ethic that would affect and influence the rest of my life. My TC didn’t run when I bought it because it had a blown engine that made the price affordable. Its condition hardly mattered–just that I’d somehow managed to acquire it.

There was nothing in the world as beautiful or more important than the mechanical freedom that I knew it would someday deliver. I wouldn’t drive it on the street until I was 16, but just having it to study and work on was an incredibly satisfying experience.

Its mere presence in my life became a silent introduction to a welcoming community with common interests. My new mentors graciously overlooked my age and mechanical naiveté, sharing their knowledge and considerable skills to help me learn and make my car run.

That static interim also gave me an unexpected gift: the many hours of silent contemplation that allowed me to absorb and mentally replay every line and mechanical detail of my TC by just closing my eyes. Its perfect stance and proportions, even though I had no idea then what those terms meant, imprinted themselves in my mind’s eye and provided a solid foundation for every design I’ve evaluated or created since.

Even though MG TCs were the only variants of that famed marque when they first became available in America, their classic lines provided an elegant aesthetic anchor from which I judged a whole new world of wheels. (Later, the iconic lines of a beautifully crafted Ford ’32 hotrod served as a similar reference point in that separate, wonderful world of hand-built cars.)

I knew absolutely nothing about cars at the time, but I was lucky enough to have a next-door neighbor who owned and raced an MG. Just seeing and hearing it for the first time was a revelation. Its tall, 19-inch wire wheels and sweeping, full-fendered lines, combined with the ripping cadence of its race-prepped engine when it fired up, were instantly imbedded in my psyche. I’d never seen or heard anything like it, but knew instantly that I wanted more.

Eventually there were great rides through the twisting, tree-lined back roads of Marin County. There were fast, cross-country caravans with other racers to events that really opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed. I couldn’t get enough then, and still can’t; fine automobiles became a way of life for me that persists to this day.

I had no idea then that MG had previously built a PA or the handsome, supercharged TA before the war. I also didn’t know that still more beautifully designed and built SS Jags, Rileys and ERAs–and the supremely proportioned Vanden Plas Squire–even existed. There was so much to learn!

I was so disappointed when I saw my first MG TD. How could they possibly compromise the TC’s handsome lines?

That’s when a stopwatch gave me a whole new understanding of the importance of improved engineering. My previous standard of exterior beauty was only part of the total package. Better brakes, steering and suspension provided safer speed and extra comfort.

The TD, with its softer lines, was the transition to the handsome new TF, which somehow comfortably combined the TC’s classic prewar appearance with the future. The realities of cost, production and changing priorities in a constantly changing market all combined to affect design and taste.

That all changed with the MGA, of course, which marked the emergence of a whole new era of English design. Aerodynamics had become an important factor. The T era had passed. The MGA was a better-engineered car in almost every way–except it didn’t have that exceptional, stunning quality of design that the TC etched in my mind. First impressions teach and affect your life forever.


This story ran in an old issue of Classic Motorsports. Want to make sure you’re reading all the latest stories? Subscribe now.

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frenchyd
frenchyd UltraDork
10/10/18 6:33 a.m.

I wish I could write as well as Peter Brock.  His clarity and brevity really sum up my life.  I feel sorry for today’s youth  who won’t be able to enjoy  the simple pleasures of open air motoring like MG T-Series provide.  

Stuffed into the highly protected and electronically numbing cacoons that modern cars are. Absolutely they are more efficient and safer.  A feeling so highly prized children seek out safe, smooth, and efficient rides at amusement parks.  

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