MG Special Breaks Records at Bonneville 1957

Here's a short clip showing the MG EX-181 at the Bonneville Salt Flats as begins to break records.

Phil Hill and Stirling Moss were hired to drive.

Here's a great story from the Times of London by Bill Vance.

MG returned to Utah’s high desert in 1957 to pursue the class F record with a new, fully enclosed, teardrop-shaped MG, the EX-181, hoping to reach 400 km/h (250 mph).

The EX-181 was very small at only 972 millimetres high, 4,610 mm long and 1,632 mm wide with a 2,438-mm wheelbase. The front track was 1,067 mm and rear a much narrower 781 mm, to fit the wheels within the tapered aluminum body.

A central rear fin aided high-speed stability, and the coefficient of aerodynamic drag was said to be an extraordinary 0.12 (modern passenger cars are 0.25 to 0.30).

The coil-spring front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering were from the MGA, with the rear axle replaced by a de Dion type on quarter elliptic springs. Final drive ratio was 1.94:1. Braking was a single, rear axle-mounted disc requiring up to 5.0 km to stop from high speed. Rolling resistance was reduced by smooth 450x15 tires inflated to 60 pounds per square inch.

The BMC B series, 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine had twin overhead camshafts replacing the pushrods. A gear-driven Shorrock vane-type supercharger breathed through two SU carburetors and pumped air into the cylinders at boost reaching 32 psi at 7,000 engine rpm, giving 290 horsepower.

The engine was mounted amidships in the tubular steel frame. Unlike the EX-135 in which Gardner sat behind the engine, EX-181’s semi-reclining driver was in the very front. Engine cooling was by small aircraft type radiators on each side just behind the driver.

Gardner was unavailable due to ill health, so BMC hired outstanding drivers. Stirling Moss, one of Britain’s best ever, was the main driver, with the alternate being American Phil Hill, who would win the World Driving Championship in 1961.

Hill took the EX-181 for a test run on Sunday, Aug. 18, 1957, and although it was the first time at speed, he found it satisfactory except for gasoline fumes in the cabin. Moss arrived the following Tuesday for a Wednesday run but rain washed it out.

Thursday’s weather was better, but problems delayed the run until 5 p.m. Although it was late in the day, Moss insisted on going. It took a couple of tries due to the loss of third gear, but before the sun had set he covered a measured mile at an astounding 395 km/h (245.11 mph), close to the target. Even though he was an experienced Grand Prix racer, it was the fastest Moss had ever driven.

It was a tremendous speed for a 1.5-litre car, and provided wonderful publicity for MG, which trailed the competition in performance. MG addressed the performance deficit with the 1959 MG Twin Cam model, but it came with problems and was short-lived.

The MGB arrived as a 1963 model and was carried on until 1980 by British Leyland Corp., as the company was now called. The MG name would continue in sports sedans, and then in the early 1990s in the MG RV8 and MGF sports cars that were not exported to North America.

MG Rover (yet another new name) returned to the salt in 2003 with an MG station wagon (!) and went 362 km/h (225 mph), claiming to be the world’s fastest station wagon. But those 1951, ’52 and ’57 records were still MG’s finest high-speed hours.