Abingdon Secret Uncovered In 1949 MG TC ‘EXU’ Restoration


The stylish MG TC was one of Britain’s first post-war ‘export or die’ automotive solutions but this rare 1949 EXU was hiding one of Abingdon’s secrets behind its fuel tank…

Following the end of WWII, the Americans were hell-bent on driving anything that resembled a sports car, hence the MG TC fast became a popular choice of wheels over the pond. Classic body lines and decent performance gave Abingdon’s TB revamp a head start on its lagging competitors with around 10,000 TCs sold during its production run at the Oxfordshire factory.

So popular was the TC, MG decided it was time for a TC roadster variant specifically targetting the lucrative American market. The first MG TC ‘EXU’ (export unit) Roadster was delivered in December 1948 with only 494 ever being built on an ‘as-required’ basis.


It’s worth remembering the stylish TC EXU boasted a whole raft of unique features including full-width bumpers, centrally mounted MG medallion on the rear bumper, a pair of Lucas ‘Windtone’ horns located under the bonnet, laminated windscreen glass, central license-plate mounts, and US-spec Lucas head / tail-lights.

Steven Constantine:
I saw what looked like scratch marks in the plywood back of the body tub

The interior wasn’t such a bad place to find yourself either with a gold pearl finish on the steering wheel as opposed to the traditional black, two map lights, rearview mirror mounted above the dashboard, and gauges repositioned for a more distinguished look. Superchargers were often fitted to add power to satisfy American tastes, boosting the power output to around 70 bhp and increasing torque as well.

Abingdon factory

Abingdon Secret?

Fast forward to Autumn 1971 and our story contributor, Steven Constantine makes the long trek over to London where he remains for about 9 months, visiting several car and motorcycle factories as well as visiting some of the museums, private collections, and even the legendary Earl’s Court Motor Show.

While in the capital Steven decided to purchase a 1949 MG TC which turns out to be a rare EXU version that was originally sold in the US and, according to the MOT logbook, re-patriated in 1952.


Keen to bring the old girl back to her former glory, Constantine begins the lengthy process of restoring the MG TC EXU. As with all painstaking full restorations, the process involved the vehicle being completely dismantled and given a meticulous ‘nut and bolt’ rebuild.


Part of the dismantling process involved removing the fuel tank at the rear of the car. After carefully unbolting the straps and lifting the tank off Steven said, “I saw what looked like scratch marks in the plywood back of the body tub” which, on closer inspection, looked remarkably like the profile of a woman with sweeping curls smoking a cigarette engraved into the wood.


Given the car had never been restored or stripped previously, it’s suspected that it was created by a worker at the Abingdon factory, possibly on a lunch break or when a stoppage occurred in the production line.

MG TC EXU – Mysterious Woman

So who was the mysterious woman? Colleague, cleaner, or even lover… That much we shall never know, but the characteristics of the carving are without a doubt consistent of an era that not only accepted smoking as being ‘cool’ but also saw women pushing the inequality envelope with a new sense of post-war belief in themselves.

MG TC Etching

The troubled Abingdon factory finally closed its doors on 24 October 1980 in a bid to steer BL’s fortune in a more positive direction – the rest, as they say, is history…

If you have an MG with some additional ‘factory artwork’ shoot us an email via this link.

Images courtesy Steven Constantine

You may also like:
A Journey From Restoration To Perfection

1 Comment

  1. Ros King said:

    “Nuffield employed ex-servicemen ‘on the cheap’, training them to build the new MG line (actually a crib of the ’33 Riley Lynx). Due to the high number of returns and poor quality, the Riley workforce relocating from Coventry were put in the same Abingdon building rather than Cowley.

    “They then ran parallel construction lines for the Riley engineers to show the untrained MG workers how things were to be done correctly. This went on for a few years to improve the build quality. The Riley of the time was priced in the thousands and the MG in the hundreds making present RM’s way under-priced. Few people seem to know this, and stories from the old ‘Riley boys’ way back stunned MG quality control such as using the inner bores as ashtrays.”

    “Their stories from way back were somewhat illuminating. Nuffield did a tax + cash deal for so many ex-servicemen to be ‘trained’ and employed to help post-war numbers. He also did a deal with Oxfordshire council that any qualified Riley workers wishing to move to Abingdon got a subsidised new house or council house. They then built the new houses on the old tip that was reclaimed land as being outsiders they did not know. . . . nice man Nuffield.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.