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From on Wednesday, June 26th, to Sunday, June 30th there was only one place any fun loving MG owner in North America (or for that matter the world) should have been, and that was the MG '96 at Indianapolis, Indiana with the headquarters at The Holiday Inn North. This was perhaps the largest gathering ever of MG motorcars in North America.
For the first time on a national scale all of the various registers worked together over a three year period to organize and promote this mega event. This was the brainchild of Jerome Rosenberger and was nurtured along by the MG Council, a loosely knit group of MG car clubs), and other diehard enthusiasts too numerous to mention without the possibility of leaving someone out for lack of space.
The major national MG Car Clubs were present. In addition they also held their annual conventions in conjunction with MG International - Indy 96, along with the various affiliated local MG car clubs of the national registers converged on Indianapolis with over 1000 cars, representing all of the various MG models made over the years.
Wednesday was the start of the activities with a class on auto cross starting at 8:00 am. and the guest registration beginning at 10:00 am. Also at 10:00 the funkhana, sponsored by The Chicagoland MG Club, started. This was truly a unique event. The club had assembled a formula type car and as part of the event the driver and navigator had to change a tire and install the spark plug wires, all while being timed. If you got the plug wires on correctly a tape would play the sound of the engine starting. The parking lot at the headquarters hotel started to look like a car show by about 3:00 p.m. as the participants started to arrive in great numbers. The back side of the lot was blocked off for "MG PARKING ONLY" and this area quickly filled and overflowed to the front and sides of the building. At 7:00 p.m. the parking lot party got rolling. MG parts and regalia vendors set up along the outer edge of the lot and a DJ played "British Invasion" tunes of the 60s along with two versions of a song about an MGB-GT. Beer was provided courtesy of the Minnesota MG Group while the participants mingled and looked the cars over.
Thursday started with a breakfast at the Conner Prairie, a restored mid-nineteenth century Midwest town. This was followed by a trouble shooting tech-session, the Funkhana, self guided tours of the area, safety fast inspection of the cars by The New England MG T Register. A car balance beam contest was run by the Michigan Rowdies chapter of The MGA Register, with the object being to balance car on the beam while being timed. A book signing session, a talk by Don Davidson the Indy Track Historian, and a talk by Anders Clausager, Archivist, BMHIT was held at the host hotel. The evening was capped off with another parking lot party where the owners gathered to compare notes and kick a few tires.
Friday was car show day at the Ropke Armor Museum. Here each of the registers sponsored a car show open only to the models of that particular register. The Ropke Armor Museum provided a backdrop of what might be the largest privately owned collection of its kind. There are dozens of tanks, jeeps, personnel carriers, staff cars, motor cycles and even planes from WW II to Vietnam on display. The show featured a Concours and a popular vote contest with awards going to the top three in each class.
Friday evening, The "Old Speckled Hen" MGCC held an auction for the benefit of the Registers at the headquarters hotel. Here items donated by the various MG local clubs, MG parts suppliers, and the national and international MG Car Clubs were auctioned off to the highest bidder.
On Saturday morning the time had come for what I think we were all waiting for, The Cavalcade of MGs and the lap around the Indy 500 Track. The Cavalcade was organized by Ron Embling of The New England MG T Register. It consisted of almost every MG model ever made from an M type roadster to an MG 1100. The MGBs were there in every form from the chrome bumper roadsters to rubber bumper MGB-GT and even the factory V-8 was present. A total of 40 cars took part in this initial parade of MGs around the track and then they lined up in a semicircle for a photo shoot. Right behind them were the rest of the approximately 1000 cars to run a lap. It took about an hour for all of the cars complete this history making trip around the track.
Once all of the cars were parked on the field adjacent to the track a group photo was taken. After this, the registers gave out awards to the winners in the previous day's car show. The participants were then free to tour the Indy 500 Museum and other points of interest on the tracks grounds. Saturday evening the event moved to the Indianapolis Zoo where entertainment was provided by the Drums of Africa Band and a dolphin show. This was followed by a buffet dinner. The zoo was open to the MG '96 participants only after the dinner and one could leisurely visit the many wildlife attractions. Back at the Holiday Inn parking lot another gathering of MG owners was taking place for the last time as the participants looked the cars over once more and talk amongst themselves. Some members of the Old Speckled Hen MGCC even performed native dances like the chicken dance into the wee hours (performed to the sound of polka music)
Sunday was the last day The party was over and the time had come to say farewell to those old friends and the new found ones alike. The hotel lot was alive with the sound and smell of all of those MGAs, MGBs, and MGTs firing up their engines and getting ready to head home. This concluded the first all register event in North America and from the looks of things it was a big success. Hopefully another gathering of this nature can be organized in the future.