Last week we left off with an arcane reference to Michael Sherrill’s book “TC’s Forever“, and although it’s been around for 20 years now, I couldn’t seem to pull up a useful review for you to see, so I decided that maybe I’d better write one. Better late than never, and all that.
I’ll go out on a limb and posulate that there are essentially three milestone Post-War british cars (four if you include the MGB, which took it all to the masses and is now known as the Mazda Miata), the TC, the XK 120 and the E-type. TC’s are unique in this group because they were Pre-War cars with enough shelf life left to get the MG Car Company (division of Morris Motors) out of hock and back in the sports car business. The XK 120, which overlapped in production was a blinding flash of light, and the E-type, as memorably described by former Hemmings Sports & Exotics editor Craig Fitzgerald, was a fighter jet in a piston aircraft era.
The first time I took the wheel of a TC my startled reaction was ‘Oh My Gawd ! the shocks are frozen, all the suspension compliance is in the tires !’. In fact, all TC’s are that way. Their charm, apart from their looks, is in learning how to handle them, no two of them handling exactly the same.
A lot like an XK 120 in 1949, Sherrill’s book was a bolt out of the blue. In 1990 when TC’s Forever was published I’d already served my apprenticeship of sorts at Abingdon Spares and had set up shop a few years previously. While I had an understanding of why they worked, now the book had magically appeared that explained the wherefore.
By the time the 60’s had arrived, Sherrill and his buddies in Australia had already thrashed their TC’s to the point they had to completely rebuild them, but by the the 80’s, when they’d worn them out again, they began to be interested in the authenticity of their restoration work, and this is what renders TC’s Forever as the Holy Grail.
There are three distinct periods of the TC beginning with an obvious early period and concluding with an obvious late period. In between is a murky middle period which is much less well documented and is challenge to the serious restorer. Sherrill and his cohorts seemed to have solved the end pieces of this puzzle early on, and the research into the great middle is fascinating, if you like getting deep into the weeds with this kind of stuff. Click the picture on the left a couple of times and delve into the Pre-War, pre-hydraulic design of the TC handbrake, as elegant a mechanical device as ever there was.
While not intended as an assembly manual, it’s more a zen meditation, Sherrill has provided page after page after page of detailed mechanical drawings. Study them for a while and head out to the next British Car Show and pick apart the TC’s. When I told Larry Perry a couple of years ago that the TC’s we had for sale were essentially trash, it wasn’t that they wern’t shiny and didn’t drive well, they just needed new and sympathetic restorations which were not in the cards at the asking prices.
While I remain in awe of Bernard Viart’s achievement in producing his magnum opus “Jaguar XK 140 Explored” and the sequel, “XK 120 Explored” which I haven’t begun to digest yet, they are both technical masterpieces, but they are not “TC’s Forever“.
Here’s my advice: buy the best basket-case TC you can find, and the book, and get into your restoration zen-zone.
All illustrations from TC’s Forever; copywrite Michael Sherrill