A Special Breed – 1953 MG TD Motto

The MG TD Motto was the result an effort by John Inskip and David Ash to create a car that could compete against the increasingly successful Porsche 550 Spyder and OSCA MT4 in the SCCA’s F-modified racing class. Inskip was the son of a renowned evangelical preacher who eschewed the church in favor of a career in automobiles. Working as a salesman at the successful New York City Rolls-Royce dealership he eventually became the distributor for MG in the Northeast after the war and was one of the most important sports car dealers in the early postwar era. Ash was a noted amateur driver who competed in various MG products and the two determined that the sturdy and reliable Abingdon-sourced mechanicals could be more successful if put to use in a more aerodynamic body.

Image by John Riley

Image by John Riley

The pair approached Carrozzeria Motto in Turin, Italy that had produced bodies for Cisitalia, Delahaye, Ferrari, Lancia, Siata and Stanguellini. Rocco Motto had first established his own workshop in 1932 manufacturing bodies for some of the leading coachworks and builders of the era including Pinin Farina, Ghia and Lancia. Following the end of hostilities in World War II he established his own coachworks and focused on bespoke bodies for cars based on Lancia and Cisitalia.

1953 MG TD Motto at the New York Concours

1953 MG TD Motto at the New York Concours

At the request of Inskip and Ash, Motto created three open bodies for the MG TD in 1953 that were formed over mechanicals supplied by Syd Enever at the MG Competitions Department. Two cars were built on a tube frame chassis designed by Gilberto Colombo with the final car using an improved TD chassis supplied by Abingdon. The bodies were hand formed from aluminum and resembled the contemporary sports racers from Ferrari and Maserati.

Cockpit of the MG TD Motto resembled many of the car's Italian contemporaries

Cockpit of the MG TD Motto resembled many of the car’s Italian contemporaries

With lighter weight and better aerodynamics, the MG TD Motto was successful in limited competition at the national and international levels. Drivers Fred Allen and Martin Block used the cars to good effect at regional races throughout the East Coast and Midwest with the car able to do battle against the more technologically advanced OSCAs and Porsches. At the highest levels of competition, the cars acquitted themselves well with Fred Allen and Gus Ehrman finishing 11th overall and 5th in class at the 1954 12 Hours of Sebring. The event (and class) was won by Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd in an OSCA MT4 but the MG TD Motto was able to finish ahead of another pair of MT4s and two 550 Spyders.

Is this the missing Motto MG? Image courtesy of Matt Tupman

This Godmanini uses the same Motto body (designed by Michelotti) with high performance Fiat running gear for G-Modified racing

It is believed that 2 cars of the original 3 have survived, but a recent tip on Facebook shows a third complete car in England that may prove that all are alive and well into the 21st Century.


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