THE STORY of the MG badge begins, naturally enough, with the birth of a distinct business as part of the portfolio of Sir William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, who owned the "Morris Garages" as a business separate from his principal Morris Motors car-making concern. At the start of the 1920s, Morris Garages was trading in Morris and other makes of motor car in the City of Oxford, with a healthy business.
From 1923, Morris Garages energetic salesman Cecil Kimber began to offer customised Morris cars, reworked on the premises to distinguish them from standard offerings in effect, these were some of the first limited editions, a theme that MG has always done rather better than most. Before long, as these cars became more and more unique, the Morris Garages Specials graduated to become MG cars in their own right, and before long MG would become synonymous with sports cars.
To set these cars apart, Kimber wanted his own badge, and he settled on a stylish octagon logo which had formed part of Morris Garages advertising from early in 1923, pure art deco in its inspiration. Kimber himself never gave direct credit to the person who created the design, but historians generally accept the testimony of Ted Lee, an accountant at Morris Garages, as the creator of the MG badge.
Of course using a stylish logo as part of advertising is one thing: mounting it on the nose of a car is another, and for Cecil Kimber this was arguably something of a risky gamble, for removing all reference to the Morris parentage of these cars could well have led to a clash of egos between Kimber and his patron, Sir William. Perhaps partly for that reason alongside the evolution of the MG sports car species the MG badge did not appear prominently on the nose of a car until 1927.
By this time, the colour scheme for the MG badge as well as for factory-sponsored racing MGs and the inside of the factory where the cars were built had been determined as brown and cream, not only distinctly of the period but also doubtless inspired by the distinctive livery of the Great Western Railway, headquartered at Swindon, just a few miles from Oxford. From 1929, MG's home was in an new factory at Abingdon-on-Thames, just south of Oxford.
The 1930s saw MG development reach fever pitch, and although there were many changes of direction along the way, the MG badge remained largely unchanged until 1952. In that year when Morris merged with Austin of Longbridge - MG launched a new version of the TD Midget, known as the Series II, and the MG badge was changed from brown and cream to black and white, a subtle change that is easily overlooked by MG fans. The new black and white colour was retained with the introduction of the MG TF Midget in1953 and for the dramatically new MG Series MGA of 1955, as well as the MG Magnette in its various post-war guises.
From 1961, simplified version of the MG badge appeared on the grille of the new MG Midget and, from 1962, the MG1100 and MGB which comprised a black and chrome MG logo on a red shield-shaped background. Elsewhere on MG bodywork the MG badge sometimes appeared as a simple chrome octagonal ring and letters set against the painted bodywork simple and stylish, but a pain to clean!
Between 1970 and 1974, the background of the MG badge was red, before reverting to black in 1975. For a short time, the chrome finish was changed for gold - intended to celebrate fifty years since the first MG - and for a brief sojourn at the end of MGB production, the red background returned once more for the final limited edition versions of that classic sports car.
When MG came back again, on the MG Metro of 1982, the logo was red and chrome once more, and that is how the logo stayed through to the end of the MG saloons and hatchbacks in the mid-1980s.
When plans were being formulated to launch a new MG sports car at the start of the 1990s, MG's owners decided to return to the elegance of the original brown and cream badge, but with a modern twist in the form of three-dimensional curves, resulting in the elegant but subtly rounded MG badge that we know today. So successful was this reinvention of the badge that it was used for the MG RV8, MGF, original MG TF and the various MG saloon and hatchback models produced from the start of the new millennium.
For the current renaissance of MG, it was obvious that neither the badge nor the basic colour theme needed much attention, although there has been a move to ensure that the MG badge itself is a quality item, glinting jewel-like on the nose of every new MG which emerges pristine from the end of the Nanjing and Longbridge production lines.
For the launch of the new generation MG TF, with the legion changes made to it, MG has decided that for the MG TF LE500, there was again an opportunity to do something special in the greatest MG limited editiontradition. Look closely, and you'll see that the badges on the TF LE500 are black and silver, a subtle message that these cars are themselves rather special. But you probably knew that already...