- the car that changed automobile history
John Thornley OBE
John Thornleys first MG was an M-Type he bought in 1930, and
soon after he met with two other enthusiasts and they formed the MG
Car Club. At the time he was an accountant in London, but he then
persuaded Cecil Kimber to give him an office at the MG Factory to
run the fledgling Club and he moved to Abingdon. But another part
of the job at MG was assistant to the service manager, John Temple,
who was shortly afterwards appointed competitions manager following
which John inherited the Service Managers position. During the
war John served the army and attained the rank of Lt. Colonel and
on returning to Abingdon in 1945 he became Sales and Service Manager
In 1952 he was appointed General Manager He was clearly a plain speaking
enthusiast who battled against the corporate hierarchy of BMC and
later BL. He handpicked his staff and encouraged them them with his
sense of humour and as a team they achieved so much at Abingdon that
no other small auto factory could ever have dreamed of. Known as "Mr
MG" he envisaged the MGB and saw into production. Subsequently
the MGB GT was designed and built, a car John calle the poor
During his time as head of the company, the MG Factory became the
Worlds largest producer of sports cars with 80% of MGB production
heading for the USA.
In retirement, Thornley retained a great interest in MG and the MG
Car Club. His book "Maintaining The Breed: The Saga of MG Racing
Cars" is well worth tracking down a copy so you can read it.
The book focuses mainly on MG competition history but also covers
how competition developments fed back into the production cars. There
is also a biography of John Thornley, written by his son Peter Thornley,
titled simply "Mr. MG"
John Thornley passed away in 1994 and has been much missed. At that
time the RV8 production run at Cowley was well underway.
an interview with John Thornley
MGB - the car that changed automobile history
The video runs for 54 minutes and is a wonderful look back at the
time when the MGB was in production with fascinating comments from
John Thornley and Don Hayter, the sad closure of the MG Plant and
then the emergence of the Heritage Body Plant at Faringdon with details
of how David Bishop tracked down the moulds and equipment to enable
the plant to make MGB bodies and then play a major part, with John
Yea, in the development of the RV8 and the production of the RV8 bodies
See the video
John Thornley -
his first MG was an M-Type in 1930 and soon after he formed
the MG Car Club with two other members. As General Manager of
MG, the company became the Worlds largest producer of
- the British sports car which changed automobile history in
both production numbers and popularity with enthusiasts around
the World, with some 80% of production going to the USA.
joined the design office at MG in 1956 at a time when the MG
Factory was producing MGAs. He was closely involved in the MGB
as Design Engineer, and later the MGBGTV8, until August 1979
when the plant finally closed.
MGB Roadster was
developed by the MG team - a design which has a timeless
quality and attraction for sports car enthusiasts.
MGB Roadster -
Don Hayter mentions in the video how the rear end had to be
extended to enable the spare wheel to lie flat in the boot which
involved him in considerable reprofiling work - but the result
the MGB Roadster and was the car John Thornley called the "poor
man's E-Type". It is still today a very attractive car.
MGBGTV8 - following
BL approval to develop and produce a V8 powered MGBGT in Autumn
1972, the MG Plant moved rapidly so the model was launched at
the Earls Court motor show in August 1973. With BL supplying
only 48 V8 engines a week it was a constraint on production.
British Motor Heritage
body plant was originally at Faringdon but was later moved
from Faringdon to Witney where it continues to provide good
quality bodyshells, panels and parts for MGB restorations and
former Executive Director of British Motor Heritage who tracked
down the moulds and equipment to enable the plant to make MGB
bodies and panels.
RV8 seen at
a motor show in 1992 and launched in 1993 which has become a
very popular V8 powered MG with a luxury trim and driver comforts.