The MG Y is ‘sporting’ in the 1950s sense. We guide you around this thoroughly charming saloon...
If the MG Y looks like a pre-World War 2 design then that’s because it is. Penned for a 1939 launch, the War got in the way. The Y (its first series was retrospectively called the YA) used the MG XPAG engine, independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. A total of 6158 YAs were built, 1301 YBs (from 1951) and 877 YT four-seater convertibles. The MG Car Club Y Register believes more than 1000 of all types remain.
Power (bhp@rpm) 46bhp@4800rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 56lb ft@2400rpm
Top speed 71mph
Gearbox 4-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Corrosion is the enemy here. The bodyshell is developed from the Morris Eight, hence a cramped interior. Check the chassis carefully, especially at the underslung rear end. The front is usually protected by in-built anti-corrosion protection in the form of oil leaks. Check the sills – it doesn’t make sense to buy a car with rot and watch for blocked drain tubes from the sunroof. Explore all the panels, but especially door bottoms, boot floor, spare wheel cover, bootlid and rear wheel arches. Watch for leaks via the sunroof and windscreen and as the floors are plywood it can rot if left wet. On a YT, check the hood and weather gear.
The engine has a hard time of it, lugging around a tonne of car with just 46bhp. Watch the oil gauge – it’s not unusual for it to take time to build pressure up, so avoid revving when first started. Check that the pressure stays steady once built up, though it will drop at warm tickover. Listen for bottom end knocks and watch the exhaust for blue smoke. Watch the temperature too as the block and radiator can silt up. With the engine hot but turned off, feel the radiator for cold spots. Engine parts are easy to find, but gearbox internals are trickier. Make sure it isn’t too noisy and that the synchromesh operates in 2nd, 3rd and 4th.
Check the front coils for damage/corrosion and make sure the trunnions have been well lubricated. Are the grease nipples clean, as if regularly used? Jack up each front wheel and check for play in the hub and steering components by trying to wiggle the wheel. A test drive might also reveal wear as the car should be easy to direct. At the rear, check the spring hangers for corrosion and the leaf springs for any cracks. Half shafts can break easily on the YA and YT. Some people are fitting modern five-speed gearboxes.
Make sure all the dash instruments work, as they’re specific to the Y. The car uses a 12V system, but some vehicles upgrade to an alternator if modern ‘toys’, like an electric cooling fan, have been fitted. Inspect as much wiring as you can to check the state of the loom as it can degrade with time. Check the trim for condition as replacements are hard to find.
The MG Y manages to drive much more sweetly than its pre-WW2 looks might suggest. It’s charming, however it’s no sports car – 50mph is considered a safe cruising speed. Today it is a reminder of a time before motorways and a desperate rush to be nowhere in particular.
That said, in its day it was a lively and fine-handling saloon – even MG sports cars of the time were not exactly fast. The YT with low-cut sides makes you feel open to the elements and like all Ys, they’re good fun to drive, if a little stately. YTs command a significant premium over saloons – £27,000 or more for the very best, £15,000-20,000 for good.