M.G. is a British motor sport marque established by Cecil Kimber in the late 1920s, and the company was the first British sports car maker to make the brand known. Best known for their high performance two-seater sports coupettes, M.G. also made small coupes and sedans, with capacity up to two litres. All of this is on the basis of the “MG car” name which has been adopted by the rest of the world.
The original version of the “MG car” was a joint project between the Rover Group and the newly formed M.G. The result was an ultra sports model, which used a two-stroke, straight-line engine developing 140 hp. The Rover Group was interested in building a car that could surpass the high performance of M.G. and hence conceived the concept of building a car that could out perform the more established M.G.
So the two companies teamed up and worked on the development of the M.G. Two versions of the two-seater were launched in the UK, one was to be an import/export sports car, and the other was to be a domestic, British automobile. Both were successful, and a further model was launched in the U.S.A under the name of “GT”. This would, however, be the last of the “MGs” in the U.S., and production moved across to Europe. The “GT” designation was retained in order to allow collectors to distinguish these models from the “GT” versions that were produced elsewhere.
The “MG Midget” was introduced to the U.S. market by Mercury Maratz in 1947. It was powered by a six-cylinder engine developed by Rover, but adapted to meet the specifications of the British Motor Corporation “M.G.” In the U.S. it was simply known as the “Mugen.”
The new Mercury Grand Marquis was powered by a bi-axial converter fitted to the flat-six cylinder engine developing 140 hp. Power was sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission, whilst the vehicle’s four-wheel drive was handled mechanically by a set of front rollers with rear suspension. It also featured a magnesium-alloy chassis and front and rear bumpers to toughen up the bodywork. Despite its impressive appearance, the Brits soon discovered that the interior of the midget was cramped for two people, and to this end the “Mingo” was redesigned to feature a sloping roof, which helped to improve the boot space.
The new “Mingo” was also to become the vehicle upon which the Rover Group developed its popular Grand Marquis range. It retained many of the styling elements of the earlier Grand Marquis models, such as the full hood, V-shaped headlamp, long front overhang and straight, slender rear corners. To accommodate these new dimensions, the Rover Group made use of a special three-piece roof, which enabled the roof to fold down in a forward position. Despite this innovation, however, the “Mingo” retained much of the old styling, including its square headlights and soft top. Rover also changed the air-cooled combustion engine to a “T” shaped one, replacing the old “GR1” with a more powerful air-cooled unit fitted behind the cockpit.
Following the design changes, which reduced the size of the “Mingo,” demand for the GR1 was low. This meant that the Chinese automotive company could concentrate on refining the design of the “Bulldog.” The new Bulldog was designed to measure 40 inches from wheel to wheel, and weighed in at approximately 2,000 pounds. Although it was not the official “Bulldog” of Rover, it was conceived by Rover and its joint venture partner, the Chinese automotive company HAIER, as an “improvement” to the already successful “Bulldog.”
As it became clear that the Chinese market was unlikely to be interested in the “Bulldog,” Rover and HAIER decided to release the “Abingdon” model in the United States. Although the name was changed to reflect the model’s intended use – a small sedan based SUV – the body was largely similar to the “Bulldog.” The major departure was in the color scheme. While the “Abingdon” remained white in all but a few select exterior colors, the “Mingo” was changed to a ruddy red, to better meet the demands from the Chinese market.