To say that Cecil Kimber is famous for his role in the formation and growth of the MG Car Company would be a bit of an understatement. To title him as just an “automotive engineer” would be even more so. Cecil Kimber was the creator and driving force behind what would become one of the best-loved car brands of all time. Cecil Kimber will be inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame this June.
Cecil Kimber was born in South London on April 12, 1888. At a young age, he became interested in vehicles and motorsport. He attention was originally drawn to motorcycles, but after an accident that badly damaged his right leg, Kimber made the switch from two wheels to four wheels.
A career in the motor industry soon beckoned and after a few other stops along the way, including a brief stint with AC Cars, Kimber went to work for William Morris to take on the role of Sales Manager. While working for Morris, Kimber developed a range of special cars based on Morris bodies, and in 1924 the MG marque, for Morris Garages, was born. From the start, the MG specialty was sports cars. Cars with flair. The new company, still under William Morris’s personal ownership, moved from Oxford to Abingdon in 1929 and Kimber became managing director in July 1930.
In 1935 William Morris formally sold MG to Morris Motors company. This meant Kimber was no longer in sole control of the company and had to take instructions from head office. This lead to disagreements about management and direction but also personal matters. With this Kimber became increasingly disillusioned with his role at MG, and the dissatisfaction was mutual. In 1941 Cecil Kimber, the creator of the MG brand was out of the company. His tenure was a mere 17 years.
Five years later, on February 4, 1946, Cecil Kimber died in a train accident at the age of 56. Cecil Kimber’s daughter, Jean Cook, remembers the cruel irony of that train wreck:
The only reason he was on that train was because he couldn’t get the petrol coupons to drive to Peterborough in his own MG. His death was nobody’s fault, but MG had been his be-all and end-all. It was almost a merciful release – he never quite got over being fired.
Though the man was dead, and arguably many of MGs most famous cars came after his departure, his legacy has never been forgotten. There are plaques honoring where he lived, societies and awards named after him, and of course books and countless articles devoted to him. He remains, to this day, a revered figure in the annals of MG history.
Note: This is part of an ongoing series focusing on the 23 individuals who will be inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame in ceremonies on June 2nd, 2017, at the Hall of Fame in Petersburg, VA.