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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK—HISTORY OF THE MG MARQUE—All ABOUT WILLIAM R MORRIS

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I have promised our MGB customers some stories about the origins of the MG marque and so I began researching them. The one thing I learned about the development of the MG was that it seemed to just sort of grow out of one man’s desire to make a better car than his employer made! Today it would be odd indeed if, for instance, Ford or GM would allow their Sales Manager at one of their car dealerships to purchase a factory-made chassis and then put a body that he or she had designed on the chassis, and then sell the remodeled car. I was not able to determine whether or not Morris got the profit from these cars, or if Cecil Kimber made the profit from them, or if they split the profit. Another thing I learned during my research was that there were some differences in versions of how the development of the MG marque came about, and there is no clear timeline. But here is my effort to explain how the MG was developed. Because it is such a complicated story, I am going to have to do it in installments. I have also included a list of books and web links that I used for research, so you can read more about the subject.

Installment 1. Background to the MG

Installment 2. The Evolution of the MG and Old Number One—Please use this link to jump to Installment 2. or scroll down the page.

Installment 3. All About William R. Morris, Viscount Nuffield—Use this link to jump to Installment 3. or scroll down the page.

The history of MG cars began in the early 1920s as a sideline sales promotion business of Morris Garages. William Richard Morris (later 1st Viscount Nuffield) started a garage in Oxford in the early 1900s and by 1910 the name was known as Morris Garages, Limited. At that time, Morris Garages began to produce the Morris Oxford, a series of models which included the 1913 Bullnose Oxford, and continued through 1935 with the Farina Oxfords V and VI.

The Oxford Bullnose was designed in 1912, and produced in March 1913. It was a small car with a White and Poppe 1018 cc four-cylinder, side-valve engine with fixed cylinder head. It had a distinctive radiator with a bullet-nose rounded top, sort of like the front of many farm tractors. It was an open-tourer, two-seat car, but they also made a van version. No four-seat versions were made as the chassis was too short and not strong enough. The Bullnose de luxe had a longer chassis with different body versions and it became available in November 1913. The body versions included limousines, sporting cars, and vans.

In 1915, Morris developed the Continental Cowley, and it included an engine from the United States made by the Continental Motor Manufacturing Company of Detroit. This 1495 cc engine was 50 percent larger than the 1018 cc engines previously used, and the car was also longer, wider and featured other components from the United States. Some of the other parts from America included the clutch and three-speed gearbox from Detroit Gear & Machine Co. The front and back axles and steering gear also came from America. The car design still had the Bullnose radiator, and because it had a larger and stronger chassis, it was available in a two-seater body with occasional seats at the rear, which I believe in America we might have called “Rumble Seats”, but in England they were called “Dickie Seats”. Dickie seats were sometimes called “mother-in-law seats” and they originated from horse-drawn carriages. Their purpose was as a place for servants or guards to ride. Or children would ride in the Dickie seat.

The Cowley was also the first Morris car that included electric lighting as a standard feature on the cars, but lighting was not provided as standard on Cowley delivery vans. Lucas was, of course, the lighting supplier. Production halted during WWI because it became difficult to get the parts from America, and the factory was used to make munitions. Several Continental engines were lost at sea during the war. The last Continental Cowley was made in 1920, and used the last of the American engines.

After the war, in 1919, the Morris Cowley was updated and called the Cowley Bullnose. The engine was switched to a Hotchkiss & Cie French engine, that was manufactured at the Hotchkiss branch factory in Coventry, England. Morris would end up buying the Hotchkiss works around May of 1923, and it became known as the Morris engine branch. From 1919 on, the Cowley was what we would call the “Economy Model”, and was only available in a two-seater model with smaller, lighter tires. You can read more about the Cowley on this wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Cowley. This article gives detailed specifications for the cars and the engines.

In addition to the Cowley Bullnose, Morris continued development of the Oxford Bullnose. It was modified to have a longer wheelbase and stronger construction, and could carry up to five passengers. It featured a self-starter and had a better electrical system than the Cowley. It was what we would call, the “Deluxe Model”. It featured the Hotchkiss 11.9 fiscal horsepower 1548 cc engine. The Oxford Bullnose was admired because the transmission and everything that revolved, except the fan belt, was fully enclosed in an oil bath.

One notable thing about William Morris was that he introduced the techniques of mass production to England by using the assembly line processes that Henry Ford had been successful with in America. Prior to this, most automobiles had been built one-at-a-time. The Cowley and the Oxford became mass produced cars. From 1919–1925 Morris expanded his production from Oxford into factories at Abingdon, Birmingham, and Swindon.

We will leave the development of the Morris Cowley and Oxford cars, and for the next installment, I hope to be able to cover the beginnings of the MG, Cecil Kimber, and Old Number One. In my research, I came across an English group of pre-1930 Morris car owners called the Morris Bullnose Club. Here is a link to their web page: http://www.bullnose.org.uk/. They have several photo galleries on the website which you might like to view. At the end of this letter is a list of the sources that I used and I am including this installment of the story and some photos on our Photos of the Week page. I welcome any comments or corrections to this series on the MG. Please send your comments and edits to trfpublications@aol.com.

There are just two more days to take advantage of the TR4/TR4A and MGB/MGB-GT Featured Model Sale Catalogues. I am glad that I could start writing about the MG cars before the sale expires. If you need parts for your MGB car, we have the sale catalogue mentioned in our headlines, and we also have the MGB/MGB-GT Glove Box Companion catalogue on our website. Sale prices appear in the MGB Glove Box catalogue. The Glove Box is a wonderful catalogue full of information about parts for your MGB/MGB-GT.

 

Photo of a 1913 Morris Oxford car with William Morris and passenger

1913 Morris Oxford - Wikipedia - public domain
Oxford 2-seater 1913
W R Morris and passenger

English: Morris Cowley, Continental engine, 1916.
source of information: ANZAC Day Parade 2013 in Melbourne.
Now the oldest Morris Cowley commercial in existence as
well as the fourth oldest Morris Cowley
Wikipedia
Date 25 April 2013, 09:36:21
Author PreciousBytes

Bullnose Morris Cowley
DVLA 1466cc, made 1922, first registered 7 March 1922
Wikipedia
Date Uploaded on September 17, 2006
Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/nakedcharlton/245215252/
Author Jon's pics

1922 Bullnose Morris Cowley Tourer.
Source https://www.prewarcar.com/283192-1922-bullnose-morris-cowley-tourer
The daily Magazine & Marketplace dedicated to the pre-war cars!

 

10-2-19

Today I am continuing the History of the MG Marque with the second installment, which describes the Evolution of the MG Marque and Old Number One.

Installment 2. The Evolution of the MG and Old Number One

Cecil Kimber (1888 - 1945) was born in Dulwich, South London, and he is credited with being the driving force behind the creation of the MG sports car. In 1921, he became the Sales Manager for Morris Garages in Queen Street in Oxford. Morris Garages was a sales and service center for Morris Motors, Limited, and included the main sales facility in Queen Street, a repair garage at Longwall Street and Holywell, and workshops in Cornmarket Street. William Morris also owned a manufacturing facility in Cowley where the Morris Oxford and Cowley cars were made. In 1922, Kimber became the general manager of Morris Motors after the resignation of Edward Armstead, and was then responsible for managing the sales office, the repair garage, and the workshops.

Kimber was aware that many people wanted cars that looked and performed more like sports cars than the cars that Morris offered, and he knew that people would pay a premium for them, thus increasing the profit for the business. He began promoting sales by producing his own special versions of Morris cars to appeal to people who wanted a custom or sporting car. In addition to being a sales manager and general manager, Kimber was also a visionary, and he and his wife, Irene, drew and designed custom body coaches. To build the cars that would eventually become the MG, Kimber first used the Morris Bullnose Cowley chassis and running gear from the Morris factory, and then he added his custom coachwork which he had produced by Carbodies of Coventry. The suspension was lowered and the high steering components were modified and lowered (raked). The car colours were pastel and they were two-seaters with leather seats and with the “Dicky Seat” (occasional seat) behind. The hood was unique because it covered the front seats as well as the occasional seat at the back. The car was nicknamed a “Chummy” which might have been because the hood covered all of the passengers and not just the two in front. One source called these cars “Kimber Specials”. The cars were originally assembled at the Longwall Street repair garage, but in 1923, they needed more room. They moved to an old stabling yard in Alfred Lane which Morris had used to store used vehicles. The assembly staff consisted of Cecil Cousins and his assistant, Stan Saunders, Jack Lowndes and George Morris.

Eager to prove that his cars were true sport cars, Kimber entered a Chummy with a race-tuned engine in a road race. In March 1923, Kimber won a gold medal in the London-to-Land’s End-Trial. He celebrated his win by designing and ordering six two-seater coaches from Raworth of Oxford. These bodies featured yacht-like scuttle ventilators and rakishly slanted windscreens braced on the sides by triangular glass supports. These 11.9 hp Raworth Chummies were probably the first cars to be referred to as an M.G. However, sales were slow because the cars were twice as expensive as a Morris Cowley.

William Morris, seeing an opportunity for profit, created his own version of a “Chummy,” called the “Occasional Four”, and priced it lower than Kimber’s Chummies. Knowing that he had to make a distinction between his Chummies and the Occasional Four, Kimber next tried the Chummy coach on the Morris Oxford chassis and added a more powerful 14 hp engine later in 1923. Sales of this car were not too successful, so in 1924, Kimber tried a more elegant saloon body, designed by G.S. (Jack) Gardiner who was one of Kimber’s sales team, on the Morris 14/28 Bullnose radiator, Oxford chassis. This car body was of polished aluminum and may have been fabricated by Clary Hughes of Birmingham. Gardiner’s car was so distinctive that Kimber created a similar one with a coach from Carbodies for Billy Cooper who was a timekeeper at the Brooklands track. His car attracted a lot of attention when drivers and spectators saw it parked at the track entrance.

Morris Motors made some changes to the Oxford chassis in September 1924, which included a nine-foot long wheelbase. Kimber took the longer chassis and designed an all aluminium, four-seater open tourer with optional two colour paint on the bonnet, boot, and wings to go with the polished aluminium side panels. He dropped the Morris Motor name and advertised them as the M.G. 14/28 Super Sports, “our popular M.G. Saloon”. At least four different versions of the 14/28 Super Sport were offered at the 1924 Motor Show, including an open two-seater, open 4-seater tourer, and a vee-front saloon. The car badge was still the Morris Oxford badge that was used on all of the Morris cars, but a separate MG octagon badge, “MG Super Sports”, was added to the last of the 14/28 cars built. The cars featured artillery-style wheels in 1924-1925, and then in 1925-1926 they had bolt on wire wheels. Some experts feel that the 1924 Morris 14/28 was the first car to be called the M.G. instead of the 11.9 hp Raworth Chummy. Here is a YouTube video link about the 14/28 Super Sports: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8TCxKrr-gw

In 1925, Morris Garages moved from Alfred Lane, Oxford to a larger place on Bainton Road, which shared space with the Morris radiator works. Also in 1925, Hubert Charles, a Morris engineer, began working in his spare time fitting the MG bodies to the new Bullnose Morris Oxford chassis, and he also worked with Kimber on engine tuning and experimental work. He officially joined MG in 1928 as Chief Draughtsman. Continuing expansion meant another move in 1927 to a separate factory in Edmund Road, Cowley, Oxford, near the main Morris factory and for the first time it was possible to include a production line.

There are several points of view about the MG octagon badge and the official registration date of the M.G. Car Company. The logo appeared in Oxford newspaper ads as early as November 1923, and some sources say it was registered as a Morris Garages trademark on May 1, 1924. Other sources say that it was not a registered trademark until 1925. The exact date when the M.G. Car Company was officially formed also varies between sources. Most sources say it formed in March 1928, and they had their very own stand at the London Motor Show in October 1928.

Old Number One.

Kimber was still interested in garnering racing credentials for his cars. In 1924, he had a special racing car built on a modified Bullnose Cowley chassis and fitted with the Hotchkiss (now owned by Morris) 11.9 hp, 1548cc overhead valve engine. The lightweight, two-seater body was built by Carbodies of Coventry, and had a boat-shaped tail. The rear was modified by cutting the chassis frame and welding new rails which curved up and over the rear axle to secure the rear springs. The engine was tuned and it had a standard Morris 3-speed gearbox. As with all the Kimber Chummies, the high Cowley steering column was lowered. The dash was fitted with a tachometer, fuel and oil gauges, in addition to the standard speedometer and ammeter. Lighting was provided by two small sidelights on each side of the scuttle and a single headlight. The headlight was removed at some unspecified time and is not on the car at the present time. The car was originally painted in plain grey primer, but its current color is red. It was originally registered FC 7900 on March 27, 1925. In March 1950, it was registered under a new number—FMO 842 after a restoration, however in 1959 the car was given back its original registration number.

Kimber drove this car and won a gold medal in the Light Car Class in the 1925 London-to-Land’s End-Trial. The car was then sold to one of Cecil Kimber’s friends. It was offered back to Kimber but he did not purchase it at the time. It was used to haul food for pigs for a while, and then it was purchased in 1932 by a MG employee after he recognized it in a scrap yard in Manchester. He bought the car for £15. The car was restored in the Abingdon factory in 1933 and was used for sales promotions. The Nuffield Organization (formerly Morris Motors) officially christened the car “Old Number One”. It was described as being, “The First M.G., Built in 1923,” even though it was built in 1924. Many people feel it was not the very first MG car as that honor should go to either one of the 11.9 hp Raworth Chummies or one of the 1924 Morris 14/28 cars. It has been exhibited at many events and shows in England and it was sent to the United States for the 50th anniversary celebration of the MG. Old Number One is currently on permanent display in the Historic Vehicle Collection at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon and is still kept drivable. Here is a link to the British Motor Museum: https://www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk/ You can view a video about Old Number One at this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfZKfbfMviw

Sources Used: The websites listed here provide more in-depth information and are worth the time to read!
https://www.mgownersclub.co.uk/mg-guides/pre-war/old-number-one
https://www.namgar.com/articles/article/mga_history/mg_-_early_days/
https://www.mgownersclub.co.uk/mg-guides/pre-war/1440-tourer
https://www.namgar.com/articles/article/mga_history/mg_-_early_days/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Oxford_bullnose
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Cowley
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris,_1st_Viscount_Nuffield
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_Cars
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_14/28
http://www.bullnose.org.uk/
Video about the Bullnose 14/28: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8TCxKrr-gw
Video about Old Number One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfZKfbfMviw
Great Marques M.G., by Chris Harvey, 1983
MG Past & Present, by Rivers Fletcher, 1985
MG by McComb, by F. Wilson McComb, Revised Edition by Jonathan Wood, 2004

 

Morris Oxford 14-28 open two-seater 1926
Spencer Wright - Flickr: Morris Oxford (RK 6284)
Morris Oxford 14-28 (DVLA) manufactured 1926, 1802cc "MG Super Sports 14/28
(a bullnose motorcar) Late 1924 – late 1926 (Approx 400 were made, approx 10 exist)
These cars have a 1802cc four cyclinder side valve engine and had a single carburettor,
which could be a Smith, SU or Solex. A wet cork clutch and a three speed manual crash gearbox,
1/2 elliptic front springs and 3/4 elliptic rear springs, in 1924/5 bolt on artillery
wheels with Ace discs and in 1925/6 bolt on wire spoke wheels, 12″ drum brakes,
the wheel base was 8′ – 6″ and later 9′ – 0″, the track was 4′ – 0″."
The MG Car Club—Model Information
Permission details
Checked copyright icon.svg This image, which was originally posted to Flickr,
was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 3 December 2013, 07:19 by Eddaido.
On that date, it was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the license indicated.
w:en:Creative Commons
attribution This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

1925 MG Morris Oxford 4-seater tourer (DVLA) first registered 25 February
1925 on Madeira Drive at the finish of the 2011 MG Regency Run.
rhino not for sale - Flickr: 100_1940
Permission details
Checked copyright icon.svg This image, which was originally posted to Flickr,
was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 4 December 2013, 23:04 by Eddaido.
On that date, it was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the license indicated.
w:en:Creative Commons
attribution This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The 1925 MG 'Old Number One'. This car, with registration mark FC 7900,
is now kept at the British Motor Museum, Gaydon, UK.
Date 2 February 2018
Source Own work
Author DeFacto
https://www.mgownersclub.co.uk/mg-guides/pre-war/old-number-one

Wikimedia Commons
File:MG 'Old Number One' 1925.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Cecil Kimber in Old Number One

File:MG 'Old Number One' 1925.jpg
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

 

INSTALLMENT NO. 3—All About William R. Morris, Viscount Nuffield

William Richard Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield, GBE, CH, FRS was born on October 10, 1877 in Worcester, and he was the founder of Morris Motors Limited. He was also a philanthropist and founded the charitable institutions of the Nuffield Foundation, the Nuffield Trust, and Nuffield College, Oxford. Morris married Elizabeth Anstey on April 9, 1903, and they did not have any children.

In his teens, Morris worked as an apprentice to a local bicycle dealer who sold and repaired bicycles. When he turned 16, he began his own repair business in a shed behind his parents’ house in Oxford. He was successful and opened a shop to assemble and repair bicycles at 48 High Street, Oxford. He had his own badge, a gold cycle wheel with “The Morris” words. He was a bicycle racer, and raced his own bicycles in races that varied in distance between one and fifty miles.

He began to build motorcycles in 1901 in a partnership as Morris-Cooper which produced the Morris Motor Cycle. In 1902, after dissolving the partnership, he bought a disused horse stable in Longwall Street, Oxford where he operated several businesses under the name of The Oxford Garage. He still repaired bicycles and sold, repaired, and hired cars, and operated a taxi service there. He demolished the stables in 1909, and built a new building with a Neo-Georgian facade. It was so fancy it was called “Oxford’s New Motor Palace.” The car dealership sold several different makes of cars including Arrol-Johnston, Belsize, Humber, Hupmobile, Singer, Standard, and Wolseley cars. By 1910 he found that he needed more room, so he built new buildings on Longwall Street and acquired more space on Queen Street. He officially changed the name of his business to Morris Garages.

In 1912, Morris designed the Morris “Bullnose” Oxford car and built them in a factory in Cowley, Oxford. To read more about the cars he designed and built, please scroll to the top of this article and read, “Background to the MG”.

During World War I the factory stopped producing cars and produced munitions, which included over 50,000 mines for the North Sea Minefields and hand grenades. Automobile production began again in 1919 after the war. Morris brought the mass production techniques of Henry Ford from America to England and production soared from 400 cars in 1919 to 56,000 by 1925. Morris expanded by buying competitors and suppliers. He purchased Wolseley Motors Limited, Hotchkiss Engines, E. G. Wrigley and Company who made rear axles, and the bankrupt Riley (Coventry) and Autovia car companies.

Problems set in during World War II. Morris offered to build a large factory in Castle Bromwich to build the Supermarine Spitfire aircraft. He claimed that this custom-designed, modern factory would be able to build four times as many planes as any other existing factory in Great Britain. This project, The Nuffield Project, was approved, although with misgivings by the Treasury Department, and construction of the factory began in 1939. However one year later, construction was still not finished because the design and site layout of the factory kept changing, and this put it over budget. The factory building also began to have structural problems that caused cracks in the brick walls because different kinds of bricks had been used in the construction. By May 1940, no aircraft had been completed. All of this was happening while the British government was going through a crisis with the fall of the government of Neville Chamberlain and the rise of the new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Churchill appointed press tycoon Lord Beaverbrook as the Minister of Aircraft Production, and Beaverbrook promptly fired William Morris. The contract was awarded to Vickers-Armstrong, the Supermarine aircraft’s parent company. After Vickers took over, production began and by June 1940, ten Spitfire Mk IIs were made. Castle Bromwich became the largest and most successful plant, and by the time production ended in June 1945, it had built over 23,000 Spitfire airplanes.

Morris Motors merged with the Austin Motor Company in 1952 and formed a new holding company named the British Motor Corporation (BMC). Morris was the chairman for a short while and retired on December 17, 1952 at the age of 75. He was named an Honorary President and he continued to be involved in the company’s progress. After British Motor Corporation, the company changed names several times to British Leyland and Austin Rover. The factory at Cowley is now owned by BMW, and they make the new Mini there.

We know about famous industrialists in America such as Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, but we may not realize that Morris was considered the most famous industrialist in England. He was awarded several titles and honors over the years. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1918. In 1929, he was created a Baronet of Nuffield in the County of Oxford. He took his title from the village of Nuffield in Oxfordshire, where he lived. He was raised to the peerage as Baron Nuffield in 1934 and made Viscount Nuffield, of Nuffield in 1938.

In case you were wondering what all the acronyms after his name were in the opening paragraph, they are honors that he was awarded over the years. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1939, a Knight Grand Cross (GBE) of the Order of the British Empire in 1941, and a Companion of Honour (CH) in 1958. He was appointed Honorary Colonel of 52nd (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery on June 4, 1937 and continued that role with its postwar successor, 452 HAA Regiment.

As a philanthropist, Morris donated to the Sea Cadet Corps, and he built a building at Birmingham University to house a cyclotron, which was an early type of particle accelerator invented in 1929-1930. He also founded the Nuffield Foundation in 1943 and founded Nuffield College in Oxford. The donation that most impressed me the most was that Morris offered to give an iron lung made in his factory to any hospital in England and the British Empire that requested one. Over 1,700 were made and distributed. Morris died on August 22, 1963. He lived through both World Wars and it is amazing to dwell on the things he saw changing in the world around him and the contributions he made to those very changes.

I hope you take the time to click on the links for the sources I used in creating this installment. There is a video at the top of the list that is interesting and which I had never seen before.

Sources:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-british-motor-car-aka-william-morris This is a interesting video about the Morris car production and it is worth watching in spite of the music in the background.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris,_1st_Viscount_Nuffield

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire#Manufacturing_at_Castle_Bromwich,_Birmingham

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Bromwich_Assembly

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/oxford/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8354000/8354459.stm

 

Photo of WM

William Richard Morris, Viscount Nuffield (1877–1963)
by Walter Stoneman, 1934

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Photo of the Longwall Garages

Morris garage, Longwall Street This building started life in 1910 as the
Morris Cycle Works, where William Morris (1877-1963) who had been apprenticed
to a bicycle seller at the age of 15, moved on to working with motorcycles
and then cars. His operation soon outgrew the premises and he started making
the Bullnose Morris at a factory in Cowley. This was the start of a huge car
manufacturing empire. He was made Viscount Nuffield in 1938 and became a
major benefactor to Oxford.
Morris_garage,_Longwall_Street_-_geograph.org.uk_-_721833.jpg
‎(640 × 480 pixels, file size: 64 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Date 6 March 2008
Source From geograph.org.uk
Author ceridwen
Attribution
(required by the license) ceridwen / Morris garage, Longwall Street / CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo of an iron lung manufactured by William Morris

Diorama of Both-Nuffield iron lung assembly at Morris Motors Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds

Both-Nuffield iron lung display at the Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds.
The display recounts and shows how the equipment was manufactured in
large numbers at low cost using the production line of Morris Motors at
Cowley, UK, and some of the design features of car bodies.
9 June 2016, 13:04:44
Source Own work
Author Chemical Engineer

Various Morris badges. Note the M.G. Super Sports in the middle.