Cecil Kimber was the important general manager who used his experience at Morris Garages to start the MG car company and direct it from small scale vehicle tuning to development of their own race cars. Despite William Morris’ distaste for racing, Kimber drove during MG’s first sporting event, taking his ‘Old Number One’ to victory at the 1935 Land’s End Trial in London
Like Kimber’s race car, the very first MGs were rebodied Morris Oxfords or Morris Cowleys, and because of their distinctive custom bodies, matched with the Morris ‘bullnose’ front radiator, they often took on the appearance of a scaled-down Bentleys. The bulk of MG’s business came from customers wanting a specially bodied or equipped Morris for road use. However, Cecil Kimber applied the MG formula to his first race car, a one-of special built around a well hacked Morris Cowley chassis.
Called ‘Old Number One’, the first racing MG used a specially prepared OHV Hotchkiss engine and many special Morris components. The rear section of the Cowley chassis was refabricated to sweep over the rear axle and support semi-elliptic springs. Carbodies of Coventry completed the narrow, twin seat body which was painted grey, like many experimental MGs of the period.
During the Land’s End Trial, Kimber drove the car to one of the top 53 positions, securing a gold medal and the first MG victory in motor sport. ‘Old Number One’ was in important car becuase it started MG’s motor sports campaign from the inception of the company. After the victory, MG’s road car sales had finally blossomed and warranted a move into the factories owned by Morris.