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A tale of an M.G. enthusiasts on/off love affair with the Marque spanning 38 years across 3 Continents
The story starts in the UK during 1956, whilst serving in the British Army as an Artillery Surveyor, I was attending a course at the School of Artillery, Larkhill, Wilts. Being a rugby union fanatic I was required to meet commitments with a club in London as well as playing for the Army School team. Looking around for suitable affordable transport complete with an appropriate image, I was introduced to a fellow student who had an M.G. and wanted to sell a share! After much haggling £32 was handed over for a third share in an ‘M’ Type complete with fish tail bodywork, raucous exhaust and permanent leaking oil seal from the front of the OHC cover, down into the vertical generator. This problem required a second battery to be carried as the incumbent battery never received any charge. The car also had several stripped wheel nuts which had a happy knack of falling off at the most inconvenient moments. I had to chase a lost wheel on more than one occasion, actually losing the rear left one dark rainy night on a country back road returning from Aldershot. It took nearly an hour to find the wheel in the adjacent field. Courting antics with my future wife if the tiny confines of the interior defy description, however, the car was quite capable of carrying 4 people into Salisbury on a Saturday night. Girlfriend of colleague sitting on his lap, passengers side, with future spouse crouched in the recess cut out behind the two bucket seats. Heady days!
On completing my course and exams, it was time to find another eager share holder as I was to be based with the BAOR in West Germany. The car left a lasting impression. The recovery of £24 of my initial investment also prompted a personal promise to return to the Marque at the first available opportunity.
That promise was realised earlier than I had imagined. An officer colleague had bought his M.G. ZA Magnette over to Celle, where I was stationed, I travelled many hundreds of kilometres in the saloon to rugby fixtures. As a result of the experience I decided to look for an M.G. during my first leave in UK. So it was no surprise to my long suffering intended, that a near concours M.G. TA 1938 was purchased from performance Cars Ltd. In London, in 1958 for £295. The money was all of my leave pay plus a £100 loan from my grandmother! The first trip on the day of purchase was from the premises of Performance Cars, via Paddington Station to pick up Ann, having arrived from Liverpool, and then 7 hours nonstop to Pembroke Dock where my parents were stationed.
The car was never taken to W. Germany as the weather and road conditions were not considered suitable but remained in the UK, housed in my grandmothers garage in between twice annual leaves. During those leave breaks the M.G. was used extensively on trips to Liverpool and Pembroke Dock and included memorable trips through SW England and the Lake District. We travelled on our honeymoon in the car through Wales and the West Country in 1959. The car by now was garaged with my parents in SW Wales, unfortunately my father was also transferred to W. Germany, so my mother sold the car for £95! In 1961 to a local garage proprietor!
(As a sequel, this TA was bought by Peter Howland, my best school friend from days that started at St Faiths School, Cambridge in 1947. The previous photo of CNX 325 was taken in your Editor-to-be’s parent’s drive in Cambridge in 1962 - what would life be without coincidence? APW)
Many years passed before I was able to reassociate with the Marque, by now 3 children had grown into adulthood and a second marriage had begun, whilst living and working in South Africa.
The long nurtured desire to own another M.G. was fulfilled with the purchase of a 1967 MGB GT for R2800 from a prominent SA athletics sprinter, who had owned the car for 13 years, since new. The Teal blue paint work was faded and the interior had seen better days, the engine was tired but everything was original and complete. I ran the car for a couple of months before it became obvious that a fairly serious upgrade was required. Roger Pearce, the local M.G. guru, rebuilt the engine and the body work was stripped to bare metal for a respray. Initially I did the work myself, being a corporate commercial pilot at the time, I used the aircraft hangar as a workshop. However, once the painting sequence had arrived I decided wisely to seek outside professional assistance, more in respect for the protection of the bosses incumbent Propjets pristine paint work. I was fortunate to meet two exceptional Portuguese craftsman who on sighting the body filler on several areas of the car raised their hands in horror. Thus it was that the car was again stripped of the offending material and the dents etc, were hand beaten and leaded. The finished paintjob in a shade of Royal Blue was magnificent.
During a trip to the UK, several replacement items, including a full set of chrome wire wheel spokes was purchased. In order to avoid possible import tariffs I decided to bring the spares back into RSA in a carry on board holdall. The bag weighed a tonne. The effort of trying to look normal whilst passing through customs was nearly scuttled, for as the doors closed behind me in the arrivals hall of Jan Smuts airport the holdall gave up the waiting relatives and friends of other passengers! Picture the scene as yours truly scrambled in between the massed legs recovering loose spokes spread over a wide area of the floor. Miraculously none of the spokes were lost.
The car was finally finished in 1981 in time for a trip to attend an inter-car club Motorkhana challenge event to be held in Lesotho. We literally ran the engine in by driving the car for 5 hours nonstop, straight out of the carport, the day it was finished, from Johannesburg direct to the Hotel in Maseru with no problems. Incidentally the M.G.C.C. B team won that event and I was a member. The car placed 3rd in the concours D’Elegance at the Provincial Indaba held at Bapsfonetin near Johannesburg, that year. It also presented wifey with her first ever speeding fine and provided many kilometres of fun driving in the company of members of the M.G.C.C. Jo’burg Centre, of which we were by now, members.
The car was sold in 1982 to an SAA Jumbo Jet Captain whose wife wanted the image of something different for Sandton! (The elite area of Jo’burg!) The money, including a modest profit, provided the deposit on a house, required by No2!
to be continued in October
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