- - Friday, December 24, 2004

When Bill Demarest first saw the 1952 MG TD, it was a Maryland barn — in pieces.

MG produced the popular TD model from Nov. 10, 1949, until Aug. 17, 1953. Mr. Demarest’s blue one left the factory in England destined for sale in the United States.

Over the next 29 years, the 12-foot-1-inch-long sports car had several owners and accumulated 93,000 miles. At that point its owner decided to restore the MG. He got as far as dismantling most of the vehicle when he discovered that cars come apart easier than they go back together. He lost interest and that’s where Mr. Demarest entered the picture.

When Mr. Demarest first saw the dismantled MG, he could envision what it could be. In early spring of 1981 he returned with a tow bar and bought the car. Boxes of parts and pieces were loaded into the car for the trip to Mr. Demarest’s Vienna home.

The cylinder head had been removed, allowing Mr. Demarest to look down into the 76-cubic-inch, four-cylinder overhead-valve engine. There, on the top edge of one of the pistons was stamped the word “FRONT.”

Of course, that edge was installed toward the rear.

It was then that Mr. Demarest pulled the engine from the car and proceeded to take the car completely apart, down to the last nut and bolt. When it went back together, he wanted to be certain that everything would be as it should be.

During the next 12 years Mr. Demarest scoured the country — and beyond — for needed parts. “I had the body tub reskinned,” he says. “All of the wear items were replaced, as well as all the bearings and seals,” he reports.

He says most of the restoration work was accomplished in the basement. His wife, Donna, was thrilled.

Mr. Demarest wanted this restoration to be as authentic as possible but he drew the line when he learned that the original color had been blue. “It had to be Coventry red,” he says and it is.

He found evidence in the car that at one time it had been owned by a Virginia Beach woman.

The original standard disc wheels were replaced with flashier 60-spoke wire wheels and a new Lecarra wood-rimmed steering wheel on a telescopic column improves the appearance of the cockpit. The dashboard is covered with a walnut veneer.

A pair of very desirable “King of the Road” headlamps were on the MG but the buckets housing the lights had been dented by years of carelessly dropping the 21-louvered engine hood on them. New ones are unattainable, Mr. Demarest reports, so he set about to repair his.

The solution he found was melting lead wheel-balancing weights and shaping the lead to fill the holes and dents to match the outside contours of the lamps. With that tedious task completed, he sent the headlamps off to be replated with chrome. The original candlepower of the headlamps is augmented by a pair of “Lucas Flamethrowers.”

The bucket seats and door panels are covered in biscuit-colored leather. A matching convertible top is stretched over the top rails and bows. With the top raised, the MG stands at 4 feet, 5 inches. When lowered, the top is covered by a boot of the same fabric, secured by 10 snaps.

The 15-gallon gasoline tank is secured between the rear of the car and the spare tire. The engine requires 6 quarts of coolant and 4.5 quarts of oil.

Directly in front of the driver are two large dials, a 6,000-rpm tachometer beside a 100-mph speedometer. “It tops out at about 70 mph,” Mr. Demarest says. “It’s very comfortable between 60 and 65 mph.”

As for amenities, Mr. Demarest points out there is no heater, no air conditioning, no turn signals, no air bags, no radio, no roll-up windows, But, there are side curtains and a single electric one-speed wiper on the driver’s side of the windshield.

The original 5.50x15-inch tires have been superceded by 165R15 86S radials. The nimble little car on its 94-inch wheelbase can be turned in 31 feet, 4 inches.

A dozen years have passed since the completion of the restoration and the odometer has passed the 105,000-mile mark.

If possible, Mr. Demarest enjoys his sparkling MG now more than ever before. “It has a very nice tone to the engine,” he says, “There’s just enough valve train noise to be interesting.”

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