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Not many people will have realised that the 22nd September 1996 was a landmark in MG history! Unless of course you happened to be one of the first MG enthusiasts to take delivery of your brand new MGF exactly one year ago. Rover Group's, MG Car Company took the initiative to celebrate the first birthday party of their hugely successful MGF at the Heritage Motor Centre Museum at Gaydon in Warwickshire. What a brilliant idea and as evidenced by the 2,000 vehicle plus turnout, it was a clear demonstration of the camaraderie and interest that the hallowed marque of MG instills in it's owners.
MGF owners came from far and wide by personal invitation and also included those not yet owners who were eagerly awaiting delivery of a 1.8i or the VVC version. Free entry to the Museum complex was just the start for what promised to be an entertaining and action packed day. On arrival owners were encouraged to park in colour specific sections and by mid morning the whole area at the front of the impressive Museum complex was packed solid with swathes of British Racing Green Amaranth, White Diamond, Flame Red and Charcoal MGF's. A very unusual sight and I suppose if you have seen one MGF then you have seen them all, but what was fascinating was the array of personalised number plates adorning the cars. Ingenuity abounded with MGF plates, VVC plates and other nicknames such as P1 LKY who owner's surname was no doubt Pilkington!
Plenty was planned for the visitors both inside and outside, with early arrivals sampling the most welcome free Heritage Coffee which was on tap all day. Others visited the museum display area which houses the most comprehensive collection of historic British cars worldwide, with nearly 300 beautifully preserved vehicles on view. A fair percentage are MGs and these were supplemented for the day by three fascinating MGF prototypes loaned by Rover Group. A cunningly disguised Metro van was the mule for testing the MGF mid-engine configuration and a bogus 24 hour express delivery sign on the driver and passenger doors was designed to throw prying eyes off the scent when the mule was out on public roads. The two other prototypes, again heavily disguised, showed the lengths that manufactures have to go to road test their new products on public roads, without the motoring press blowing the gaff before the official launch.
MGF owner and TV celebrity Anthea Turner was in attendance with her one off non-metallic British Racing Green example. She was Rover's guest, there to officiate at prize draws and generally to be scared to death by Russ Swift, Rover's Driving Display supremo, who took her for a hair raising ride on two wheels during one of his three scheduled stunt displays. Other outside activities included archery, 4 x 4 off-road driving and a quad bike course. Rover Motor Sport Division also mounted a display with experts on hand to inform about competing with an MGF.
If visitors had taken in too much fresh air with the outside activities, then there was much to see and do inside the museum. Gerry McGovern, Rover Group's Chief Designer, presented three very informative lectures on the evolution of the MGF and on each occasion there was standing room only for this fascinating insight into the MGF story. Both the MG Owner's Club and MG Car Club had information stands to meet and greet both existing and potential MGF Members and our staff were kept busy all day dealing with enquiries from enthusiastic owners. In fact a quote from one of the visitors to me very aptly described the atmosphere of the day and the magic attraction of the MG marque. He said Little did I realise what I was getting into when I purchased my MGF. I have never owned an MG before and have had such fun in the few months I have owned it. MG is much more than just owning a sports car, it has opened up a whole new source of pleasure for me .
Before departure each owner received a miniature first birthday cake, suitably iced with MGF logos and in many cases this will become a never to be eaten collectors' item! Moving outside once again, Rover's Aerobatic Display team were booked for a grand finale aerial show at 4.30pm. Brian Lecomber and Alan Wade performed spectacular aerobatic manoeuvres in their Extra 300 state-of-the-art flying machines to an awe-struck neck-craned audience. A fitting end to great day, no doubt many will look forward to the second Birthday Party!
Many of the MGF owners present at this event use the MGF Bulletin Board. More information about the MGF is available here.
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