History of J2 4138

Establishing the car’s identity

As a starting point to researching a car’s history, it is important to understand its technical specification as it originally left the factory. The single most important piece of information to this effect is the car’s chassis number. An MG J2 left the factory in Abingdon with its chassis number imprinted in three places: the forward right hand side of the chassis, the guarantee plate and the bonnet hinge.
The number im- printed on the chassis itself is widely  accepted as the car’s legal identity, and you can find it here >

On this J2, it reads:

So now that we have established this car’s identity, let’s see if the other numbers check with this number. The guarantee plate should list the chassis number as well as the original engine number. It can normally be found on the firewall - in this case it was still there, hanging on by just two screws and bent out of shape to make way for the substituted Morris Minor engine, as shown on the left.
The car number listed on the plate is /J2/ 4138 as expected, and the engine number (as installed by the factory) is 2817 AJ. This original engine is no longer with the car ( instead I have an earlier J type engine which will be installed in due course - see Engine). The third place where the chassis number 4138 is found, is shown below: it is punched into the stainless steel piano hinge of the bonnet. A small detail which proves that this is the original bonnet installed when the car left the factory.

Also mounted to the firewall, above the guarantee plate, is the body number plate which provides some additional information on the car’s identity. It lists the Body Type as B 225 and the Body Number as 301/1873. The body number 1873 can also be found embossed on the inside of the forward bulkhead of the body (left), which proves that this is the original body installed when the car left the factory.

These pictures of the firewall plates to the right were taken in May 2006. They were in a bad shape, and nicely made reproductions are available at a modest price. It is probably wise the buy a new set of plates and to punch in the right numbers,
but fortunately I new a silver smith who doesn’t mind a little challenge. He restored the plates for me and they are now patiently awaiting installation on a new firewall, when the time comes to convert back to Triple M power. The restored plates are shown below.

1933: J2 4138 is manufactured at the MG Car Company in Abingdon-on-Thames.

In April 2006, I contacted Bob Clare, registrar of the Triple M register. Although there are no surviving Service Records for MG J2 4138, the Triple M register lists some useful information on the car (see below), including the Date of Manufacture, 9 October 1933, and the original engine number, 2718A (this engine number  is confirmed by the firewall plate shown above).

Summary of Information Held on J 4138, Register Number 2208

By the Triple-M Register as on 1st. May 2006

We have a note in the files that this car was assigned as a spare practice for the Monte Carlo Rally in 1934.  Mike Hawke may have more information on this and can be reached at 117 Upper Westwood, Bradford –on-Avon, Wiltshire BA15 2DN.  tel: 01225 863801.

    A.R. Clare 1/5/06

Bob Clare’s suggestion to contact the East Riding of Yorkshire Archive actually led to a contact with the first owner’s family, as described below. First though, we will take a look at the best surviving record on the car’s identy, a letter from the British Motor Corporation dated 2 September 1964 (one day after I was born!). The letter is a reply to an enquiry from Robin Campell, who acquired the car around this time. It states that the car was sold on 7 November 1933, that the colour of the body, wheels and upholstery was green at that time, and that the gearbox number was 2227. Enclosed in the letter was a “Technical Data Sheet J1&J2”, which provided technical and servicing information to help Mr. Campbell with the servicing of his car. If you are interested in downloading a legible photograph of the Data Sheet, click this link:       

J2 data sheet.jpg

So the car’s original colour, as recorded in the 1964 BMC letter, was green. The first owner’s granddaughter remembers the colour was green, and the original paint survives in one particular spot, carefully hidden away from dirt and sunlight for the last 75 years:

One small bit of bright green (“apple green”) upholstery was also found on the original woodwork of the body in 2006. The car would have looked much like J2 4225 shown below, which was built just a few weeks later.


J2 4396 however (shown below), appears to be much nearer the original colour on 4138. This car would have been built later again, and differs in small details such as having only two strips on the running boards.


       Photo: Richard Hardy, vintagemgparts.com

So what did it really look like when it left the factory? Fortunately, we have this original black and white picture of the car, provided by the first owner’s granddaughter:


The picture reveals that the car was originally fitted with the optional “Brooklands” type of steering wheel (still present and rapidly deteriorating in 2005), but without the optional extra clock and temperature gauge on the dashboard. Otherwise it shows the car to have the standard “swept wing” bodywork customary in late 1933, with the headlights and sidelights painted rather than chrome plated (except for the rims, which are chrome).

1933: First Owner and registration WF 6049

The car has kept its original registration from 1933 until it was put up for sale in 2005. Ian Campbell, who sold the car to me in October 2005, said it was originally bought new in Sheffield as an 18th birthday present for a daughter in a fairly wealthy family.

The East Riding Archive of Yorkshire was able to provide the following information on registration WF 6049 and its first owner:

        Name         Mabel H. Cheesman
        Address     Bridlington
        Make         M.G.
        Class         Private
        H.P.           8.05
        Date          1.11.33

An internet search for Mabel H. Cheesman of Bridlington easily led to Mr Edward Rushworth, on whose web site the name appears. Edward Rushworth writes:

Mabel Helen Cheesman (nee Jackson)  was born on 11 February 1885. She was a motor cycle dispatch rider in the First World War, based at Montrose in Scotland. She rode a Scott motorbike in a long skirt! She resided at Rosebury Avenue between 1930 and 1950 in Bridlington [in the bungalow behind the car in the picture above]. She owned several MGs over the years. She died on 30 Jan 1953 in Bridlington. She was cremated in Bridlington Crematorium. Her only daughter Phyllis Mary Booth (nee Cheesman) was born on 4 November 1908 and died 21 July 2003. [She] may have had an MG for her 18th birthday which would have been in 1926, but we don't know if that was so or not.

So, if the story of an 18th birthday present holds any truth, it is quite likely that it was a present to Phyllis, who turned twenty-five on 4 November 1933, just three days after the car’s first registration date! Phyllis’two daughters, Anne (Edward Rushworth’s wife) and Elaine Mary (who remembers the car being green) are still alive today (May 2006). But they were not aware that the car was a birthday gift. Edward Rushworth’s son John writes about his grandmother Phyllis [Email dated 20 May 2006]:

Of course I heard many stories from my Grannie about her Mum, motorbikes and MG's. And as you know my Aunt [Elaine- ed.] shares a love of MG's and had a an A and a B. and a GT.

I remember Grannie told me she drove an MG when she was 9 years old - which is probably how she came to get such a wonderful present. She told me she had to have wooden blocks put on the pedals for her feet to reach! Phyllis also liked  her Karmen Ghia VW and most cars.

I recall all sorts of interesting cars and tales from my Grandparents. MGs, Alvis, Mercedes, Rovers, Volvo P1800 and goodness knows what others. I remember when she was 60 some and had a Range Rover, she delighted in suddenly turning up a dirt track to prove to her Grandson she could still drive fast and well. Grannie also liked watching F1 racing well into her 80s.

Edward Rushworth provided the picture below of Phyllis’ wedding. Mabel Cheesman is at the back left.


1934: The Monte Carlo Rally?

The Registrar of the MG MMM register, Bob Clare, writes: We have a note in the files that this car was assigned as a spare practice for the Monte Carlo Rally in 1934. 

Evidently, Robin Campbell, who owned the car for some forty years, was also aware of this. His son Ian writes: Sometime after [the first registration]  we believe that it took part in the Monte Carlo Rally on at least two occasions. Indeed it has a special carrier fitted to accomodate an extra spare wheel for this purpose.

The pictures below show the carrier mentioned. The towing hook was added by Robin Campbell, to tow a small trailer for camping gear and such.

Mike Hawke is a well-known, long time member of the MG Car Club who is an authority on the history of the J2. He has been very helpful in pointing towards the East Riding Archives to trace the first owner’s name. In connection with J2 4138 and the Monte Carlo Rally, he writes:


One or two of these drivers’ names were recognised by Phyllis Booth’s daughter as being rally drivers, but unfortunately the family has no knowledge of any connection between the car and the rally.

1934 – 1963: History unkown

Only a few things are known of the car’s history during this period. It must have been involved in a serious accident, judging by repaired damage on the off side of the car. In fact it looks so serious that I’m afraid that the driver must have been badly hurt or even killed.

By 1963, the car had been fitted with a PA engine, a PA gearbox and a Bishop cam steering gear from a PA, including the matching gearbox support brackets and the engine/radiator/steering gear mounting tube from a PA. Hydraulic brakes had been fitted, with 9” brake drums. The central chassis lubrication system had been replaced by individual grease nipples. The body tub had been repaired extensively on the off side, using some fibre glass here and there. The petrol tank was a non-original item of unknown origin. The rear wings and the wind screen were items from, possibly, a Singer Le Mans, and the head and side lights had been replaced by items from an MG TC. The car had been painted red and the upholstery was an improvised affair of a reddish brown colour. As mentioned above, a chassis extension was bolted to the rear of the car, possibly for the purpose of carrying an extra spare wheel. A fabricated spare wheel carrier carried a single spare.

In 1963, the car ended up in Ballater in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Clearly, some people must have loved this car very much to go through all this trouble to keep it running! If you have any information leading to previous owners of this car, please send me an E-mail and let me know.

1963 – 2005: With the Campbells

J2 4138 has spent most of its life so far in Scotland in the care of Robin Campbell, who acquired it from the Postmaster of the Ballater village, whose name was Jamieson. Robin Campbell passed away in 2004, but his son Ian has lots of memories of the car. When I met Ian in Scotland in October 2005 to buy it, he told me that during WWII, his father had been a Flight Mechanic on Lancaster bombers in the RAF. During this time, he got interested in MG sports cars, which were popular among the pilots of those days. After the war he became a mathematics teacher and enjoyed having quite a few different cars, although the J2 was clearly his favourite.

In several E-mails he sent to me, Ian tells the following story.

When my father obtained this car in c 1963, we were living in Ballater in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Obviously, with my father not being here, he cannot tell me the name of the previous owner, but I do know that he was the Postmaster in the village [Ian has since discovered that the Postmaster’s name was Jamieson - note from Frank van Dalen].

The car has been in the family since 1964, when my father bought it off of a friend.

[When they were small kids, Ian and his two sisters would sit in the tiny back of the car. Robin fitted a towing hook so that they could bring some camping gear in a small trailer. Ian and his father made quite a few holiday trips in the car - note from Frank van Dalen.]

When he got it, it had been fitted with a PB head etc. He ran the car like this until the early '70's when he decided to take out the engine and do it up [Mike Hawke told me at Silverstone 2006 that the car had been fitted with a P type engine. Mike helped Robin find a J2 engine for his car].

However, he did not want to be without the car, and over the winter months he adapted a Morris Minor 948cc engine and gearbox to fit the MG. This particular engine was termed the A series.

He was so pleased with his efforts that he decided to leave the Morris running gear in situ as it provided reliable motoring and spares were easy to get for this particular engine. Over the years, he also gathered original parts for the J2 engine  and then put it together. So this is available along with the gearbox should the purchaser wish to put it back in. He has had it running on the bench.

Unfortunately in 2000 my father lost his sight unexpectedly, virtually overnight, and that meant a rather sudden end to the Rallys and gatherings. This also meant that the MG was in storage long term.

Eventually, my father decided that the best option was to sell the car, and reluctantly I made the preliminary moves to get it ready for sale. However, shortly after this my father suffered a fatal heart attack and this was put on hold.

The car has been stored in a garage for some 5 years. The original registration is being kept by the family for sentimental reasons and DVLA have issued a time related registration of  LAS 476. It is MOT'd until December 2005.Unfortunately it is not possible for the family to retain, as it was my late fathers wish that it be sold, otherwise it would not be on the market.

In October 2005, Ian Campbell put the car up for sale on Prewarcar.com.

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Chassis number

Manufactured on

Original engine fitted

Original body style and colour scheme

Supplied ex factory to


Sold to


First recorded UK Road registration


Other owners known

J 4138


2718AJ – This would have appeared as 2718A on


the original block, 117 (rather than 72) being the product code for later J engines which had the extra front out-rigger crankshaft bearing.  This, largely unsuccessful, mod was introduced in an attempt to reduce the number of crankshaft breakages.

2 seat sports, colour scheme not recorded

Not recorded.

Not recorded

Not recorded

Not recorded

WF 6049  - WF is a letter sequence for Yorkshire (ER) licensing district from1932-76. Any surviving records from this period are held by the East Riding of Yorkshire Archive Office, County Hall, Beverley HU17 9BA. Tel. 0044 1482 887700  Fax 0044 1481 871277.  It may be worth contacting them.

None other than Robin Campbell.