Rare thirties MG Discovered by Archaeologists on Salisbury Plain


A rare 1932 MG J2 has proven an intriguing find for both archaeologists and motoring enthusiasts alike after being discovered during excavation work on Salisbury Plain in the UK. The MG motorcar was discovered by a team of archaeologists on the military site of Larkhill and is believed to have been abandoned and subsequently buried within a disused WW2 weapons pit.

The uncovered J2, a model commonly regarded as a trendsetter within the MG marque, was a surprising artifact for the team from Wessex Archaeology. Speaking on their unusual find Steve Thompson, Fieldwork Director for the Larkhill site at Wessex Archaeology, said “When we saw the first two tires sticking out the ground we thought that it was perhaps the remains of a motorbike as we had found the remains of a 1930s Aerial motorbike a few weeks earlier. However as we stripped the whole area and we saw that we had all four wheels in alignment, we realized we had a car in situ. Initially, we thought it was going to be an army vehicle as there are so many rumors and tales of the military burying bits of machinery and old vehicles when they no longer needed them but when we saw the red paint we realized it was something much more interesting.”

Manufactured between 1932-1934, a total of 2,083 MG J2’s were unleashed onto the road back in the 1930s, and they came fitted with an 847cc cross-flow engine and twin SU carburetors that gave out 36 bhp at 5,500rpm. The J2 was capable of reaching a top speed of 65 mph whilst delivering a respectable mpg of 35. Power was transferred through a 4-speed non-synchromesh gearbox, of which first and second gear were aimed low enough to make the J2 an ideal choice for trial competition. Combined with a classic two-humped scuttle, low cut-away doors, and a minimalistic yet smart dashboard, it is easy to see how this small sports car would have sold well at the price of £199 when new.

“We were amazed and also very excited about the challenge of excavating and recording such an intricate and tangible part of our heritage. I’ve been working in archaeology for nearly 20 years and it’s the first time that I’ve ever found a buried car. I know that no one else in the team had seen one either so there has been great interest in the MG.” explained Steve Thompson.

As would be expected after six decades underground, little of the vintage 2-seater remains beyond the chassis, steering rack and column, wheel hubs, brakes, axle hubs, swivel hubs, wire wheels and tires. However, the team was able to identify the car thanks to J2 owner and enthusiast Jeremy Hawke who was able to confirm the vehicle’s identity and serial number of J2192.

Also found sitting alongside the MG, was an engine from a different manufacturer, which suggests that the car was being fitted with donor parts from other cars to help keep it running. The tire patterns indicate that the J2 was in use up until the early 1960s and was most likely being used as a pool car for troops on the Larkhill site. Damien Campbell-Bell of Wessex Archaeology said, “The MG is a particularly exciting find in that it shows the unrecorded side to life on an army camp.”

Using photogrammetric modeling techniques, the archaeological team have now produced a 3D model of the J2 as it was found at the excavation site. The MG is now stored with the Ministry of Defence to ensure its preservation whilst Wessex Archaeology are keen to continue piecing together the car’s history.

“One of the owners was a Mr. Howard from Retford, Nottinghamshire who owned the car in 1934. Unfortunately, he is the only known owner of the car that we have been able to trace and so we have no idea who owned it when it was at Larkhill. We would love to hear from anyone who thinks they may know more.” said Steve Thompson.

View the 3D model and find details of Wessex Archaeology online at:

Words by Gillian Carmoodie. Images courtesy of Wessex Archaeology & Jaimie Wilson.

Published: Tuesday October 3rd, 2017


  • Interesting find! However I doubt A J2 was ever a "pool car"! More likely the transport of an impecunious Young Officer either stationed at Larkhill or on a Course there. J2's were popular as they were cheap & with a Ford 10 engine , reasonably reliable. Among the cars on my Y.O course in 1957/8 had at least one pre-war MG, no less than two Austin 10/4 Cliftons (1934 & 35) a Ford 10, a big smoky old Daimler, a (modern!)Tiger 110 motor bike & an A35.
    There were always a selection of Bangers at (or behind) Durrington Service Station, and this one may have been even too knackered for them! That said to take the trouble to take it out and bury it would have taken some effort...most cars would have just been abandoned in a quiet part of the camp & eventually dragged away for scrap!
    The engine with this car doesn't appear to be the ubiquitous Ford 10 though.

  • bresdominique@orange.fr

    "You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.”


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