MG K3 Magnette

In 1932, MG’s model range was already quite diverse when several new models were introduced at the Motor Show that year. The already successful Magna series was complemented by the so-called Magnettes of the K series. These cars followed logically on the heels of the very popular J-Types, and the K1 and K2 used the now familiar and well-established conventional MG chassis layout.

The K-types were initially available in two chassis lengths, the K1 having a wheelbase of 2.70 metres and the K2 one of 2.38 metres, with a track width of 1.21 cm in both cases. 13-inch drum brakes provided the necessary stopping power, and although the engine was 1087 cc, it had more power than its larger predecessors, the Magnas.

The K1 was offered either as a very attractive four-door, four-seat sedan without pillars or, a little later, as an open four-seater. This car was available with either a four-speed crash gearbox or a Wilson preselector gearbox. The K2 was a two-seater only, its chassis and body being essentially a widened version of the J2 with the classic gullwing doors, the curved front wings completing the package.

The MG model range was particularly confusing at this time, with the K-series having three different chassis, four different engines, three gearboxes and five body styles, and with only a small number of each model being produced, no two cars were alike! Despite this increasingly confusing range of cars, Abingdon recorded very good sales figures during this period, which undoubtedly helped to justify what was probably the most famous Magnette of all time, the racing K3.

In the winter of 1932, the racing department at the Abingdon factory produced two K3 prototypes with turbocharged 1100cc engines on purpose-built chassis to which modified C-type racing bodies were fitted. One of the cars took part in the Monte Carlo Rally and proved to be the fastest car on the Mont des Mules mountain track, where it easily broke the class record.

George Eyston und Graf Luro Lurani in their MG K3 Magnette, Mille Miglia 1933

The other car, accompanied by Reg Jackson and a team of drivers, went to Italy to compete in the Mille Miglia. This was a gruelling 1000-mile race on public roads, always dominated by domestic teams such as Maserati. The prototype was taken on a reconnaissance drive over parts of the Mille Miglia circuit before the event to reveal any weaknesses in the car, which it did. The preselector gearbox had to be reworked as it was too low geared and also consumed too much oil. The wheels and hubs were redesigned, as were the brake drums, which failed during the gruelling two months of testing.

Back in Abingdon, three crew cars were prepared and shipped to Genoa in early March 1933 to tackle the Mille Miglia. At the wheel were Earl Howe and Hugh Hamilton, George Eyston and Count Lurani, the third car was crewed by Henry Birkin and Bernard Rubin. Birkin’s K3 had to retire with a broken valve, but the other two K3s broke all existing class records, finishing first and second in their class and also winning the team prize. This great victory in an event that was known as the toughest in the world of racing formed the basis for countless other successes on race tracks all over the world. In its class, the K3 remained at the top for almost two years and became one of the most successful racing cars of all time.

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