The name Cecil Kimber might mean very little to the casual auto observer, but the man’s contribution to the world of cars is a major reason why we have iconic machines such as the Mazda MX-5, and in general, any small, affordable sportscar.
Kimber founded MG — or Morris Garages — mostly for the purpose of racing, and MG in turn inspired countless other manufacturers to fight back with lightweight, simple sportscars.
The Englishman was born in London in 1888, and by 18 he was racing his bicycle and maintaining it himself. A humble beginning, sure, but after a cycling accident he swapped two wheels for four and his fate was sealed. After skipping through some jobs and getting his hands dirty with mechanical work, Kimber ended up at a garage, where he quickly gained a reputation for meticulous work and tidiness.
William Morris of Morris Motors appointed Kimber to put his organisational touch to
the car factory, and before long in 1922, the 34-year old became manager of a new division called Morris Garages.
Kimber’s love of motorsport and passion for racing had him toiling away with standard Morris models and modifying them for road racing, with lighter bodies, lowered chassis and tuned engines.
In the beginning MG was purely a racing pursuit, but in 1935 the marque had to start looking for market success in terms of road car sales.
The result was extensive modifying of Morris’ staid but cheap road cars, with MG’s hotter engines, transmissions, hydraulic brakes and stiffer chassis.
The enthusiasts loved the little MGs — their affordable price, plentiful parts supply and huge club-racing community.
Kimber was killed in a railway accident in 1945, but the company and cars he helped create went on into the Nineties, with most models the brand ever produced now considered valued and appreciated classics.