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So you want to buy a ‘Y’ Type

There are three versions of the little MG sports saloon, the ‘Y’ Type. The first is the YA, which uses a single carburettor version of the MG TC engine, and the same single-leading-shoe brakes, gearbox, electrics and spiral-bevel rear axle. The main difference is the fact the YA has a very rigid, fully boxed in, underslung chassis; independent front suspension and rack and pinion steering. The car is a four door, six light sports saloon with an opening windscreen and a sun roof.


The YT was an open two-door version of the YA, using twin carburettors.


The YAs chassis was modified, and used on the TD. MG took the opportunity to update the ‘T’ series with the TD fitting a more modern Nuffield hypoid rear axle, twin-leading-shoe front brakes, updated electrics, improved front suspension geometry and smaller wheels. The YB is a YA with the modifications of the TD fitted. This meant the TD and YB could be assembled on the same production line, as many identical items were used on both.


So you have the ‘YA’, basically a late 1930s sports saloon. Then the ‘YT’, an open topped, slightly more powerful version of the YA, both using TC bits. These were followed by the ‘YB’ with better brakes, modern electrics, smaller wheels, etc, from the TD. The most common is the YA, the YT and YB are the rarer cars, (see  the June 2007 issue of SF page 15 for more info on model numbers.) How do you tell a YA from a YB? The easiest way is to look at the rear wings, the YB’s are much deeper to cover the smaller wheels. The manufacturer’s plate on the side of the battery box will confirm this, if the chassis number begins with a Y, it is a YA, if it begins with YB, it’s obvious. A YT is rather obvious, there is no roof. You can get a rough date of manufacture for your car from the Ledger Records on the website.


The ‘YA’


Graham Bushnell recently purchased his YA, it was a Mot’d and taxed car, ready for use on the road. Graham will take you through his adventures.


‘MG cars commenced production in the 1920s when Morris Garages refined and assembled Morris parts and added a sporty body. Demand for these vehicles was so high that they outgrew three factory premises in Oxford before settling into the MG works at Abingdon. Their overhead camshaft race-winning sports cars of the thirties made the name of ‘MG’ famous and successful. To extend their range of products they introduced 1.5, 2, and 2.5 litre saloon cars in the late thirties, to compete with the successful ‘SS’ Jaguar. To complete this saloon range with a smaller car they designed a MG Ten, 1.25 litre saloon in 1938 for production in 1940. It was designed in the Nuffield Organisation central drawing office at Morris Motors, Cowley. The design team included the brilliant Alec Issigonis and practical MG engineer, Jack Daniels who created the first Nuffield independent front suspension (ifs), and rack and pinion steering system. To this was added the body tub from the Morris Eight, series ‘E’, an updated engine from the Morris Ten, series ‘M’ with its gearbox and back axle. The car was given a separate MG chassis, bonnet, grill and front wings, with a stylish boot to produce the MG Y Type ‘One and a Quarter Litre’ saloon. Due to WW2 this was first produced for sale in March 1947.


It is a pretty car with a late 1930s styling which was time locked in the 1940s. The ifs gives the car a ride and handling characteristics in advance of its time, and the race-bred 1250cc ohv engine provided a sporty performance for the period. Although a basic Morris body the car is given upmarket luxury with leather seats, door pockets, varnished wood trim, a built in Jackall system, a battery box with a lid and lavish use of chromium plating. The car sells itself to you when you first ride in it. The road holding and comfortable seats give an immediate impression of luxury. The car will cruise at 50mph and happily go faster if required. The drum brakes have good stopping power though not servo assisted. For night use the lights are good for the speed range and with about a 28mpg fuel consumption. The eight gallon fuel tank gives a range well over 200 miles. The boot and spare-wheel locker have useful space for tools and will carry a small amount of luggage, although for a greater amount the boot lid can be folded out flat and items held on with leather straps. The car is not fitted with a heater but one can be added and the small saloon body get quite warm from the engine. (Note the floor is wooden, Ed.)  Hot weather ventilation is by the four door windows, the opening windscreen and the sliding sun roof.


Now that you have convinced yourself a Y Type is for you, here are some pointers when you go to see the car being advertised;-

Stand back and look how the car stands, is it level on all springs? Eye up the panels, are there any ripples or signs of accident repairs? Try all the doors, do they shut nicely? Are the weather seals in place and do the windows work properly? Do the windscreen and sun roof open and their water seals work? Is the roof headlining clean and unmarked by water ingress? A leaking roof will fill the car with water.  Lift out the rear seat squab and check the boot and wheel locker for rusting. Are the leather seats and door trim in good order? Start the engine, it should fire up immediately. When it has warmed up it should have an oil pressure of about 50psi at 30mph in top gear. No blue smoke should be blowing from the exhaust once warm, there might be a little upon initial starting up. There should not be any blue smoke blowing from the oil filler cap on the rocker box cover, with the cap removed. Drive the car, the clutch should work well and the clutch pedal should not cause the brake pedal to move, and visa-versa.  First gear is non-synchromesh and noisy but changing between 2nd, 3rd, and top is smooth and easy both up and down. There should be no excessive transmission noise or clonks. Apply the brakes hard and you should pull up in a straight line, the pedal remaining firm. Brakes are not servo assisted. Test all the electrical equipment, it should all work if the car passed its Mot. Rust is the car enemy, and attacks the foot boards, the sills, the boot floor and sides, rear wings, door bottoms and the windscreen pillars. Get the car up onto a ramp or a lift and carefully check all the underside, chassis, brake pipes, king pins, leaf springs, dampers, steering joints, rack gaiters, exhaust system, gearbox rubber mountings, universal joints in the prop-shaft, inner sill panels, and the chassis where it goes under the rear axle. This is about the only place it rusts, other than around the rear spring shackles.


Our Y Type sold itself to my wife and I, with its comfortable ride, its good looks, and its very attractive red/black colour scheme. The price at £4000 (in 2005) I considered a littler high for the tlc it needed, but it was near my home and with its new Mot we bought it. I wish now that I had spent more money on buying a lower mileage, less owners car. Sadly our car has been in the hands of Mr. Bodger and time has revealed his work, which had to be rectified together with the shoddy Mot pass. However help is at hand from many sources. NTG of Ipswich produce an excellent catalogue and sell most parts by post, closely followed by the spares available from the MG Octagon Car Club. I am still a member of the Morris Register from my previous cars and here is a source of reasonably priced authentic body parts. Workshop manuals, drivers handbooks, the ‘Let There Be Y’s’, ‘Living With The Y Type’, Living With The XPAG Engine’ books and technical leaflets can be had from the MG Car Clubs ‘Y Register’, (contact Mike & Sue Silk +44(0)1924 373866 Ed), so your Y Type will not be short of spares or knowledge to keep it running.

Graham Bushnell article supplied by Neil Cairns


The ‘YB’


The next model is dealt with by Ian Hopkins, who has driven his YB every day for more years than he cares to remember.

‘I had always liked the look of pre-war cars, but did not have the bottle to actually purchase one. Here was a post war car with the looks that I liked and it had an engine small enough for me to afford to run it. I contacted David Washbourne who owned one and he offered a test drive. He phoned some weeks later to see if I was still interested, as he knew of one for sale. The lady who was selling the car explained that her husband had inherited several tea-chests of Austin Sevens and there wasn’t any room for the YB. Her eight year old son couldn’t understand why I would want to buy it! It was very nearly the shortest time I owned a car. The drive from the estate went down a steep hill at the bottom of which was a T-junction. In theory you are supposed to stop at the white lines. Indeed the Ford Sierra coming from the right expected me to. I am not quite sure how I missed it because I came to a halt on the grass verge opposite. The car was carefully driven round to a friend’s house where we found that it had managed to put almost the entire oil in the back axle into the rear brake drums.

The car performed very well and was used for my commute keeping up with the London traffic. I did have a few entertaining moments. Such as when the slip-ring disintegrated on the A316 one morning. This little bonfire put paid to the horn button and the indicator operating ring. This was the start of a series of small modifications that have been undertaken over the years. When I bought the car it already had flashing indicators, the front ones being a pair of yellow spot lights. The rear ones being round Morris Minor ones. I restored the trafficators, but be warned they are not that visible to modern drivers, except at night when the glow nicely. If you can, have flashing indicators fitted for safety.

As you can see the car is not exactly a concourse winner. It has to work as my only vehicle. As a result I experiment with things every now and then. The ignition system has been tinkered with over the years. One of the difficulties of running a car with a dynamo and having to park it outside, often in another street, is the battery goes flat! The dynamo has had several replacements, the last one being intended for a Land Rover. The fitting of an alternator solved that problem. Also the distributor had become so worn that no matter how it was set it would wander about causing all sorts of running problems. The installation of electronic ignition was the cure to that little difficulty. The ignition now works wonderfully with the car running well and starting first or second pull.

The lights were soon fitted with Mini 40W/60W ones and I can now actually see the road in the dark. It is all very well seeing of course, but being seen is just as important. I fitted a narrow High Visibility brake light in the rear window. (One of the long thin ones with lots of bulbs.) In wet weather, with the spray thrown up by cars a Y type can become almost invisible on fast roads. These alterations should not detract from the car too much, but I have found it made it safer and easier to use. That is after all what the car is intended for.

When new or recently rebuilt the car is very sprightly and quite fleet of foot. You will find engine needs a rebuild every eighty thousand miles or so. This will not be cheap. Mine has now covered sixty thousand and has lost that edge. On long journeys it will lose most of the oil as well.

I have found that the YB is still reasonably economical to drive. I have been putting in £10 of fuel, about ten litres, and am getting a return of 37 miles in heavy traffic to 84 miles bumbling about at 30 to 40 mph. A rough idea of the work done is given here:-

  • 1988-94775 miles. New regulator box & dynamo
  • 1990-5533 miles. Replacement speedometer cable. Two more since then.
  • 1992-13277 miles. Respray & rewire
  • 1993-22904 miles. New clutch & rear springs (it didn’t like speed humps)
  • 1996-50670 miles. Engine rebuild for unleaded fuel
  • 2004-84747 miles. Electronic ignition fitted & carburettor rebuilt. Back end of car rebuilt & replacement rear axle
  • 2005-88749 miles. New water pump & starter motor
  • 2006-89475 miles. Replacement radiator as original furred up & overheating
  • 2007-Anybodies guess!

The car gets a service once a year when it is M.O.T. time. On average it costs about £300 per year on garage bills. The more you do yourself the cheaper it will be. I normally undertake all light day to day servicing. The front suspension needs a regular greasing.  My YB has some nifty little design features, like the oil filter. Mine is a bomb shaped one held in place with a long threaded rod. By undoing the retaining nut you can with care deposit the content all over your shoes. My YB retains the original air filter (silencer) which is fine for excluding leaves, twigs and small animals that may find their way into the engine bay. I occasionally soak this item in a bucket of paraffin to remove these items.

What little ploys do you need to drive a YB like mine. It has a heater, this being a device to circulate the cold air in the car. In really cold weather you can remove your gloves and grip the heater pipes. (On the other hand the main aim of heater is to act as another radiator in hot weather. Allowing the driver and passengers to dehydrate on long journeys. On one Summer trip to Abingdon, the fire wall got so hot, the soul of one of my shoes became unglued.)


The car does have a tendency to mist up inside. During heavy rain, water seeps through the top of the windscreen, where the hinges are located. In heavy persistent rain you will become familiar with ‘soggy-leg syndrome’, and all Y types get this! To overcome the misting up you can open the windscreen. This causes the internal temperature to drop further as you benefit from the gale and rain whipped up from the bonnet.


A couple of tips when driving Y’s. The engine is small, so give it plenty of welly before changing up a gear as this prevents the engine from struggling. Obviously you don’t ‘rev the nuts off it’ When putting the car into first or reverse, to help to prevent crunching the gears, put the car into second before selecting these gears. I know this sounds weird, but it allows the engine and gearbox to catch up. One other thing you will find is that if you are a tall driver and pull up at traffic lights. Do not pull up too close to the white line, as the shallow windscreen will prevent you from seeing the red light. This is quite important at major road junctions.


I actual fact I have found the YB to be a joy to drive. The gearbox is nice and crisp and the steering is very positive. You just point the car and steer. I have found that it takes corners better than some modern cars. Remember the car was designed before the motorways were built. It will happily cruise at 45 to 55 mph, so leave plenty of time for your journey. You will need to anticipate other driver’s actions as the car decelerates or gathers momentum at rates different to modern cars.


The car possesses all the styling of a classic British sports saloon. It handles well and has good looks. The driving position is a bit ‘sit-up-and-beg’ but the seats are comfortable and seem quite good for my posture! The car is great fun to drive and you do get a lot of admiring looks, even in it’s current condition.


Ian Hopkins article supplied by Neil Cairns


This section is dedicated to articles which may be of use to the prospective Y Type owner.




Supplied by Permission of James Page, Deputy Editor, Classics Monthly magazine