Ultra-Rare Tojeiro-MG

By Howard Koby
Photography by the author

Life was different in 1952. A third of the families in the U.S. had no telephone, and just three out of five owned a car. A couple of big newsmakers that year were Dwight D. Eisenhower’s election as president of the United States and the maiden voyage of Britain’s De Havilland Comet 1, the first commercial jet liner.

Some big news for car enthusiasts also took place in 1952, as Carroll Shelby ran his first road race that May. He drove a dark green 1949 MG TC to a first-place finish at an event in Norman, Oklahoma.

John Tojeiro, whose name eventually became tied to Shelby’s, was also launching a career during the early ’50s. Tojeiro was born in Portugal, but brought up in England. After serving as an aircraft engineer with the British Fleet Air Arm during World War II, he began building cars in 1950. One of his first customers was Brian Lister, who later created his own Lister-Bristol and Lister-Jaguar sports and racing cars.

In 1952, a significant event occurred in Tojeiro’s life: He built No. LOW 77, the car that would become known as the Tojeiro-MG. Constructed at Tojeiro Cars, located in the village of Barkway about 35 miles outside London, LOW 77 was part of a three-car run. All of the cars were sports racers featuring one-off body styles similar to the Ferrari Barchetta; the other two examples were LOY 501—which, like LOW 77, was MG-powered—and LOY 500, which was Bristol-powered.

LOW 77 was first registered on September 17, 1953. Although Reg Bicknell had originally ordered the car, Ormsby Issard-Davies took ownership in 1954. Allan Moore drove the car for Issard-Davies, entering events at Silverstone, Crystal Palace and other tracks.

The car was powered by a 1.5-liter MG TD XPAG engine, while the aluminum bodywork was made by Eric Gray of Gray and Rich Panelcraft. This London firm built a number of bodies for Tojeiro.

The frame employed a classic Tojeiro design featuring large-diameter tubes tied together at either end by pyramidal bridge structures intended to carry Fiat/Cooper-type transverse upper leaf springs and lower wishbones. Drum brakes were used front and rear.

The 1952 Tojeiro-MG is an early example of John Tojeiro’s talents as a race car chassis constructor, and it deserves a place in the annals of automotive history. Fortunately, the car hasn’t been lost to time or hidden away from view, as it has participated in several recent rallies.

A few years ago, Rick and Nancy Rome had a hankering for something suitable for rallies and tours. “After doing the Colorado Grand with a friend in a Bugatti Type 37, I had the urge to find a unique car that would qualify for events like the Grand and possibly the Mille Miglia,” Rick explains. “I looked at Astons and other cars of that type, but they didn’t have the unique quality that I was searching for. When I finally ran across the Tojeiro, I knew it had not only the unique quality to it, but that the car could serve the multiple purposes of a rally car and a vintage racing car as well.”

After Bill Jacobs sold the car to Rick and Nancy, the Tojeiro-MG went through an extensive restoration that ran from December 2006 through June 2007. The car was complete when purchased, but racing and life itself had taken a toll. The bonnet, for example, was bent and had been gratuitously ventilated.

“Skip McCabe out of Chicago did all of the alloy work and got it back in primo condition, while not one section of the body had to be discarded,” Rick explains. Brown & Gammons, a British MG tuning house, handled the engine work.

The car’s public debut came during the 2008 Copperstate 1000, a vintage car rally that snakes through Arizona. “There was a little anxiety on the first day of the rally, particularly when it involved a 1952 British car that was built for racing rather than long-distance driving,” Rick admits. “She handled it like a champ, though, with no issues.”

They packed some spare parts just in case—a distributor cap, condenser, wheel bearing kit and so on—but luckily never had to use any of it. Just a couple of quarts of oil brought them to the finish line after about 1100 miles of delightful touring.

While the rather small engine had trouble climbing some of the mountains, there was always a payoff waiting on the other side of the summit. “I stuck to the road fabulously and felt like a kid on a skateboard again,” Rick says with a big grin.

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

A Small, Sad Postscript

The Romes weren’t the only ones to enjoy the restored Tojeiro-MG. They sold it back to Bill Jacobs, a big-time Chicago car dealer. Jacobs didn’t let the car sit idle, as he also drove it during the Copperstate 1000.

Sadly, though, while preparing for the September 2010 running of the Colorado Grand, Bill Jacobs died following a seven-year battle with a rare form of lung cancer. He was passionate about his cars and about life. The Tojeiro-MG will remain in the family for now. Hopefully it will soon return to the road, where it was intended to be.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more MG articles.
View comments on the CMS forums
TeamEvil Dork
5/16/17 4:52 p.m.

Neat nose treatment, at first glance has a little AC Ace to it . . . maybe just a smidge.

LOVE to maybe duplicate that nose in fiberglass for my MGA project.

wheelsmithy Dork
5/16/17 5:28 p.m.


frenchyd Reader
5/21/17 10:05 a.m.

In reply to The Staff of Motorsport Marketing: I believe I saw this car (pre-restoration) racing with myself and Sir Stirling Moss in the 1986 Bahama vintage event with it's then 87 year old owner. He did a magnificent job of avoiding the massively faster cars and yet getting everything he could out of that little XPAG engine.. I'll have to find my video to confirm details..

If it was this one he drove the car from New England (in the very late fall) to the Bahama's raced and returned.. A proper vintage racer!

759NRNG Reader
5/22/17 5:41 p.m.

Just recently viewed a repeat of 'chasing classic cars' where Wayne C is running the elegant 1958 Tojeiro Climax in a hill climb event in Pennsylvania. John T definitely had the eye for that special 'look'.

Our Preferred Partners