- 1934 MG K3 Sports Racing Two-Seater
- K3015, one of the 1934 Mille Miglia Team Cars
- Fully documented history, 2nd in class 1934 MM
- Chassis raced by ‘Goldie’ Gardner and Count Lurani in period
- Mille Miglia-spec supercharged engine
This motor car
The guarantee plate for K3015 was issued on 2 November 1933 and it was first registered in February of the following year. It featured the standard ‘slab tank’ body but the later Marshall supercharger, and was retained as a works car throughout the 1934 season. Its maiden outing was the Mille Miglia on 8 April, Count Lurani and Clifton Penn-Hughes finishing in 11th place overall and second in the 1100cc class.
After returning to Abingdon following its Italian adventure, K3015 was given the latest ‘pointed tail’ body and the brakes were upgraded to 1934 specification. It was then raced on three occasions by Major Alfred Thomas ‘Goldie’ Gardner – a significant figure in MG history who would go on to establish a number of speed records for the marque either side of World War Two in the K3-based EX-135.
On 21 May, Gardner drove K3015 at Brooklands as part of his return to motor racing following a serious accident in the 1932 Ulster TT. He was back at the famous banked circuit for the August Bank Holiday meeting and finished third in the Esher Senior Short Handicap race on the Outer Circuit, before teaming up with former ‘Bentley Boy’ and Le Mans winner Dudley Benjafield for the BRDC 500 Miles on 22 September. The duo managed third place overall and first in class at this prestigious race, which turned out to be the final outing for K3015 as a works car.
At the end of 1934, the K3 was sold to John Henry Tomson Smith after being test-driven for him by the famed ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson of Bellevue Garage. Wilkinson looked after Smith’s Midget and gave his seal of approval to the K3, which would be raced by its new owner during the 1935 season at both Brooklands and Donington Park.
Smith had the bodywork, radiator and cowl lowered for 1936, and a new alloy fuel tank made. He again raced it extensively, scoring a third place in the March BARC meeting at Brooklands. ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson then took the wheel at the June Whitsun meeting and won the Fifth Mountain Handicap at more than 70mph.
Ahead of the 1937 season, Smith looked at taking the next step in terms of performance and decided to convert his K3 into single-seater form. To do so, he acquired a new chassis from the factory, plus a new engine block, cylinder head and crankshaft. He sold the existing body, then set about building the single-seater – in the process transferring some of the mechanical components from K3015.
The single-seater was subsequently raced by Smith until the outbreak of war and lived on in that form until 2000, when its chassis was used as the basis for a 1934 Mille Miglia-style two-seater. That chassis is now designated K3015-2 by the MG Car Club in order to differentiate it from the original 1934 Mille Miglia chassis, the history of which has been painstakingly established and documented by marque experts…
Having been stripped by Smith while he was building his single-seater, it was sold during 1937 to AP MacArthur, who was based in Ireland and who also owned K3006. Various spare parts were supplied, too. These – along with the chassis – ended up with renowned MG specialist Syd Beer in 1961 and stored by friend Dickie Lovell-Butt. It was Beer who put them all back together into the car that you see here, a long process that lasted from the 1960s until 2002!
As well as being built on the chassis that took part in the 1934 Mille Miglia, it features the unique gear selector that was original to K3015, and the front axle and steering box are also believed to be original to K3015. The rear axle, brakes, supercharger and gearbox are all original K3 items, while the engine is a period unit rebuilt to the correct Mille Miglia specification.
The result is a K3 that is recognised by the MG Car Club as being K3015, one of the 1934 works-entered Mille Miglia team cars. Offered with a FIVA identity card and an extensive file documenting its history, this rare British sports car is eligible for blue-riband international events such as the Mille Miglia, on which it would be easy to evoke the intrepid efforts of Lurani and Penn-Hughes as they battled the rival Maseratis during the 1930s.
The K3 is one of MG’s most iconic competition models and was campaigned by some of the most famous names of the 1930s. Designed to take on the likes of Maserati in the 1100cc class of international racing, it was a highly developed version of the K-series Magnette, which had been introduced at the 1932 Olympia Motor Show.
Available in either long- or short-wheelbase form, the K-series was powered by a 1087cc, overhead-camshaft, six-cylinder engine with a crossflow cylinder head. While the four-seater K1 and the two-seater K2 were very much road cars, the K3 was designed with motorsport and record-breaking in mind. A Powerplus supercharger was added to the exquisite little ‘six’, helping to boost output to almost 120bhp at 6000rpm.
Two prototype K3s were built during the winter of 1932-’33. One was entered in the 1933 Rallye Monte-Carlo, a few days after which it set Best Time of the Day at the Mont des Mules hillclimb. The other was sent to do a reconnaissance for the Mille Miglia, and the lessons learned were applied to the three cars that were subsequently shipped to Italy for the great road race. Earl Howe and Hugh Hamilton would drive K3001, ‘Tim’ Birkin and Bernard Rubin were in K3002, and George Eyston and Count ‘Johnny’ Lurani were in K3003.
Birkin set the early pace before being forced to retire with a broken valve near Siena. Eyston and Lurani were both tiring as the gruelling event wound its way through the Italian countryside, but they kept pressing on. After just over 18 hours, they crossed the line in Brescia to win their class and defeat the Maseratis. Howe and Hamilton made it a British one-two, and MG claimed the team prize.
There was more success for the K3 later that year, when the great Tazio Nuvolari took victory in the Tourist Trophy. The Flying Mantuan soon got to grips with the MG and its pre-selector gearbox around the fast Ards circuit in Northern Ireland, and in the race itself he overcame the challenge of Hugh Hamilton in a J4 Midget. Matters were settled only when Hamilton had to make a last-minute stop for fuel.
For the 1934 season, the K3’s original ‘slab tank’ body was refined into the ‘pointed tail’ shape and a Marshall blower replaced the Powerplus unit. Along with modifications to the cylinder head, the new Roots-type supercharger helped to smooth out the power band. The K3 continued to bolster MG’s sporting reputation that year, Charles Martin and Roy Eccles finishing a superb fourth overall in the Le Mans 24 Hours – and once again claiming top honours in the 1100cc class.
Between late 1932 and August 1934, only 33 K3s – including the prototypes – left the factory, and they were still turning up in one form or another at motorsport events until well into the 1950s. That enduring appeal had one inevitable consequence: in the 1975 Triple-M Register Yearbook, it was written of the surviving K3s that ‘engines, bodies and accessories of these cars have been swapped about considerably. VERY few of them can claim to be [a] TRULY ORIGINAL combination of chassis, body and engine.’