Unraveling a Volvo-powered MG mystery

Photograph Courtesy Emery DeWitt

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Classic Motorsports.]

Sometimes a restoration becomes a detective’s quest, something worthy of Sherlock Holmes, Jessica Fletcher or even Lieutenant Columbo. Emery DeWitt recently encountered such a mystery. 

About a month ago, I bought a stalled project,” he wrote us, referring to this MG TD fitted with a Volvo engine. The MG sported Beck’s Brewery livery and some racing equipment. He wondered, was it a famed racer from back in the day?

[That engine swap] gained some fame when John and Elaine Bond, the founders of Road & Track magazine, did such a conversion and prepared it for SCCA competition,” he continued. “My car has a B18 engine and four-speed trans that appears to have come from a PV544, based on engine number and the style of the trans mount.”

He enlisted our help in uncovering the car’s provenance, but some sleuthing on his end uncovered more details. Since the car wears a sticker for the South Jersey Region of the SCCA, he contacted their newsletter editor, but a mention in that publication didn’t provide any leads.

Before the case could go cold, however, DeWitt remembered something that the previous owner had mentioned: The car had been serviced at Sports Car Haven in Danville, Pennsylvania. 

A call to the shop yielded a solid lead: Not only did the folks there remember the car, but they had the contact info for the person who added the livery. It was journeyman racer Steve Fox.

It turns out that Steve had a deal with a huge beer distributor in Northeastern Pennsylvania to provide them with a display car each year to use at their headquarters,” DeWitt explains on his own website. “The Beck’s TD was displayed for about six months sometime in the 2010-’12 timeframe, and then the car was returned to Steve. He drove it a couple more years, and then sold it on.”

While DeWitt learned that he didn’t buy a car with a bonafide racing history, one more mystery still remains: Who converted the car to Volvo power? You can glean details, offer answers, and follow the project by checking out DeWitt’s website at emz3cp.blogspot.com.

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maseratiguy Reader
10/11/17 9:13 p.m.

Why not? Marcos used them, (the car not the dictator..though he may have too). Great durable motors with great bottom ends.

Woody MegaDork
10/11/17 9:17 p.m.

I looked at a barn find MGTD a few years ago that had the same swap done many, many years ago.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
10/12/17 6:10 a.m.

In reply to Woody:

There have been a lot of different engines stuffed into T Series MGs over the years. This one would be one of the easier ones.

Woody MegaDork
10/12/17 6:36 a.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard :

The Volvo engine seems like a pretty smart choice for the time too.

frenchyd HalfDork
10/13/17 10:19 a.m.

In reply to The Staff of Motorsport Marketing : yes there are plenty of engines that will fit in a MGTD  

including an MG 

i got my first MGTD in 1962 the one I have now I got in 1968  estimated miles based on owner written data is near 300,000 miles since then I've put another 50,000 including about 50 vintage races.  Yes it's been rebuilt I d guess three times in fact. I did it once and it could use another.  

They are worth more with an original engine.  Or if power is your thing a MGB engine will produce about what the Volvo  does


spitfirebill UltimaDork
10/16/17 10:32 a.m.

In reply to frenchyd:

A friend of mine did this years ago.  IIRC, the carbs and exhaust are on the opporsite sides of the XPAG engine.     I'm not an MG guru.     

frenchyd HalfDork
10/25/17 3:51 p.m.

In reply to spitfirebill : that's not hard to deal with.  Look at a Jaguar XKE for your solution to throttle linkage   A couple of bell cranks and Bobs your uncle  


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