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MG Made a Spectacular Entrance at the 2024 Beijing International Auto Show

The MG brand made a spectacular entrance at the recent 2024 Beijing International Auto Show with the global debut of its electric concept supercar, the EXE181, which linked back to the marque’s proud reputation for setting speed records in years gone by.

The concept displayed in Beijing bridged the future MG EXE181 (EXE standing for Experimental Electric) with previous heritage in the form of the MG EX181 which set a speed record of 410.5 km/h 65 years ago, in 1959, driven by American F1 World Champion Phil Hill. The legendary “Roaring Raindrop” MG EX181 was an iconic vehicle, known for setting an unparalleled speed record which it held until 2014 before the record was broken by Bugatti.

MG, which is now owned by SAIC of China, has a long-standing history of racing and record breaking, from its early successes on racetracks and setting speed records in the 1920s and ‘30s, to defining the roadster in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and inspiring innovation with its mid-rear engine MG F and TF roadsters at the century’s turn.

Commemorating its historical achievements in land speed records, the launch of the MG EXE181 electric supercar at the Beijing Show by MG’s London Advanced Design Centre represents both a monumental tribute and a pivotal step into the electrified frontier, embodying the brand’s enduring pursuit of speed and marking a new chapter in its legacy.

Engineered to defy limits, the EXE181 aims for a top speed of 415 km/h, coupled with a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.181, underscoring MG’s commitment to redefine velocity in the electric era. This ambition catapults the EXE181 into the elite “Sub-1 second 0-100 km/h Club”, bridging MG’s storied history with the promise of a future where innovation and speed converge.

With its cutting-edge technology and aerodynamic prowess, this electric supercar made its mark at the global debut at the Beijing Auto Show and this unveiling will be followed by an anticipated appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July 2024 when MG will be the featured brand.

MG’s record breaking goes back to 1930 when the MG M-Type sports car was used as the basis for the EX120, or Magic Midget, powered by a supercharged 750cc engine. It was the first 750cc car to exceed 100 mph at the Montlhery track in France, driven by George Eyston. Next step was EX127, which was more aerodynamic due to the use of a wind tunnel and lifted the 750cc record to 120 mph.

Eyston set his sights on the 1 100cc class record in 1934 and based his new record breaker on the MG K-Type sports car, naming it the EX135, nicknamed the Humbug for its cream striped green livery. It reached 120 mph. A few years later the EX135 was revised by another famous British engineer, Reid Railton, getting a lower, sleeker body for a new record attempt with racing driver Goldie Gardner at the wheel. It took the 1 100cc and 1 500cc records past 200 mph on a straight stretch of a German autobahn in May 1939.

The versatile EX135 was further revised after World War II and eventually it broke records in the 350cc, 500cc and 750cc capacity classes too. The next step was to build EX179 in 1954, with Eyston as project leader. It used a modified version of the 948cc A-Series engine from a Morris Minor but proved disappointing.

This prompted MG to develop an all-new record contender in 1957. Named the EX181, its objective was to improve on the 1 500cc record set by Gardner in 1939. The EX181’s engine was based on the MGA’s 1 489cc four-cylinder B-Series power unit, upgraded with twin overhead camshafts and a huge Shorrock supercharger boosting at 32 lb/in2. Fuel was an 86% methanol/nitrobenzene mix. Power output was 290 bhp @ 7 000r/min.

The car was shipped from MG’s Abington factory, in England, to the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States. The driver was Stirling Moss, who flew to the US from Italy, where he had just won the Pescara Grand Prix in a Vanwall. It all came together for MG on the last afternoon of the record attempt when Moss was clocked at 246 mph (396 km/h), which was 14 mph faster than the previous record.

Two years later, in 1979, the EX181 was revised further, with the engine capacity increased to 1 506 cc and output rising to more than 300 bhp at 7 300r/min. This time Phil Hill was behind the wheel, and he lifted the speed to 255 mph (410.23 km/h).

This 250 mph record stood until 2014 when it was broken by a Bugatti Veyron, fitted with an 8-litre W16 engine producing 1 001 bhp, which clocked 431 km/h.


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