Cecil Kimber and how it all started
Cecil Kimber was born on 12 April 1888 in south London during a time when the
world had just discovered the combustion engine and realised its possibilities.
Cecil's father owned a company in the printing business in Manchester and his first job was with this company. However, his main interest was motor bicycles and he bought his first, a 1906 Rex, at the age of 18. According to Cecil's daughter, Jean Cook, he started early to join in meetings and racing competitions with Warrington and District Motor Cycle Club where he learnt to save money by repairing his cycle himself.
In 1909 he changed to a 1907 Twin Rex and continued trying to race. The following year his right knee-cap was completely wrecked in a serious traffic accident and two years of convalescence followed. The surgeons despaired and started to plan for the amputation of his leg. When the doctor finally decided to go ahead Cecil's knee fortunately started to mend. He could walk and even dance and learnt also to ski but, above all, he could drive a car!
With the insurance money from the accident Cecil bought a Singer 10 which he used for his work selling printer's ink. When his father wanted Cecil to contribute his compensation money into the family business Cecil refused and they became enemies for the rest of their lives. His father got so furious that he died without ever talking to his son again. In 1914 Cecil left the family company to do his own career.
In 1915 Cecil was hired at Sheffield-Simplex as assistant to the chief engineer. He now switched his Singer 10 to a Singer 14, formerly raced at Brooklands several times reaching 80 mph.
In 1916 he switched job and began working for AC Cars in Thames Ditton but he didn't stay long. His daughter Jean remembers many years later that her father was dissatisfied with the job at AC. In anger he made up a plan how the enterprise should be reorganised but when the plan was presented to the management it was returned with "What is this?" which is why Cecil left AC.
From AC he moved to Martynside Aircraft at Weybridge, Surrey, close to the Brooklands. He was now married and the newlywed stayed in a hotel there.
In 1919 the Kimbers moved on to Birmingham where Cecil got a job at E.G. Wrigley. He met Frank Woollard who later helped Cecil to establish the M.G. as a car marque of its own. Cecil's assignment at Wrigleys was as supervisor and Jean remembers that Frank once mentioned that "it was so clean in the machinery hall that you could have dinner underneath the machines".
Through his work at Wrigleys, that manufactured shafts for the Morris cars, Cecil early on got in touch with William Morris. So in 1921 Cecil got a job at Morris Garages where he as sales manager soon got everybody enthusiastic. According to Jean her father had a magic ability to make the simplest task into a fantastic campaign. What Cecil lacked in engineering he compensated for in enthusiasm. He had a way of working methodically which showed in his smart and purposeful way of organising the factory often through easy ways like colour coding the separate working processes. Cecil was an energetic and skilful administrator way ahead of his time.
In 1922 Cecil became manager of Morris Garages
William Morris approved that Cecil modified the Morris car by using lighter and
more racing adopted body. The springs were flattened to lower the cars and the engines
disassembled and balanced. Sometime during winter 1923-24 it's said that the first M.G.
car was manufactured but the difference between the M.G. and the Morris was very small.
The important thing is that the M.G. became more and more like a racing car while the
Morris stayed the same old car.
Of course, Cecil Kimber was really interested in racing and was convinced that successes at racing, especially on the continent, should make a small car manufacturer famous world wide. Not as enthusiastic was Cecil when clients returned to his factory to have their racing cars repaired. This problem was left to others
During the following years until World War One a lot of different M.G. models ware produced. Several winning cars at the racing courts made the M.G. known all over the world. But, of course, success has to be paid, and the profit from the factory was not so brilliant.
In 1935 William Morris, now made Baron Nuffield, sold his enterprise M.G. Car Company Ltd. to Morris Motors Ltd and as a start M.G. had to quit all factory racing to instead earn money. Even the development department was moved to Morris which was considered a blow.
The following M.G. types contained more details compatible with other parts within the Morris group like engines, gear boxes, shafts and brakes. The specialised M.G. engines with overhead camshaft was to give way for ordinary push rod engines and the mechanical brakes was replaced by hydraulic ones, in which Cecil didn't believe. But in spite of all outcries from M.G. enthusiasts the new cars was sold well even better than the old ones and the M.G. factory profit increased.
Repairing Matilda tanks
When war broke out in1939 the M.G. factory was made into a war machine factory.
One of the first assignments was repairing and maintaining the Matilda tanks. Modifying
existing cars into light lorries was also done.
However, Cecil had big plans for the factory, which was not considered well by his employers. In 1941 Cecil had secured a contract on assembling the cockpit for the bomb aircraft Albemarle. During the following years the M.G. factory made more that 900 cockpits which was a fantastic achievement. This contract, however, got Cecil fired from the M.G. factory in November 1941. He who had created the M.G. 17 years earlier was now fired.
Cecil soon enough got a job with Charlesworth in Clouchester, the company that manufactured the open bodies for M.G. SA and WA. From there he went on to Specialloid Pistons in London where he became the factory manager.
Cecil never took part in the peace process and he never saw his car develop. He was tragically killed 56 years old, in a train accident on 4 February 1945.
A sportscar should look fast, even when it is standing still
Cecil may be dead but his spirit still hovers over the M.G. One of his sayings
was a sports car should look fast, even when it is standing still and that is
I do believe he is satisfied with what he can see from his octagonal heaven. M.G. is today a sports car for everybody, not only the rich, who wants to experience the thrill of driving.
Sources: M.G. The Untold Story by David Knowles
Great Marques M.G. by Chris Harvey