Vintage Postbag, April 1979

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“Goff” Imhof’s Trials MG

Sir,

After some 15 years of not reading Motor Sport, purely because I preferred not to be tempted into motoring experiences which I could not afford, I have recently returned to the fold and was delighted to find the vintage and sporting mixture as interesting as ever. Long may you remain at the editorial desk.

In the December 1978 issue you published an erudite letter from Mr. F. Wilson McComb regarding the MG EX models, or, more correctly, the allocation of EX numbers, which apparently was sometimes to an individual car and sometimes to a design concept for a production run.

May I enquire about a number which chronologically appears to come between the TA and SA in 1936 but if I remember rightly was on a car first registered in 1938? In about 1958 I was selling MGs for Cockshoots of Manchester and a wily ‘bomb site pitch” car salesman who sometimes bought bangers from the firm inveigled me into buying an extremely scruffy MG sports. The log book described it as an MG tourer, its chassis No. was EX 155, registration No. BBL 81. It appeared to be a longer and wider edition of a TA, had an o.h.v. engine of about 1,500 c.c. with twin SUs and Scintilla Vertex magneto. Most of the bodywork appeared to be aluminium, the chassis had been extensively damaged and one front member was still cracked. The dashboard had the largest collection of dials I remember seeing on any car and, if one could believe the speedo I was able to “do the ton” without trying too hard. Indeed the powerhouse must have worked well because on one occasion I was trickling up to a junction in second gear, clutch fully engaged, saw a gap in the traffic, stepped on the accelerator and sheared BOTH half-shafts.

Cockshoot’s foreman mechanic would not believe that both half-shafts had gone until I produced the two sheared spline sections from the differential housing and if my memory is correct the replacements which we obtained were designed for an Austin Heavy Twelve.

When I obtained very frequent use of the firm’s demonstration MG-A I unloaded EX 155 for about £40 on somebody in London. The actual sale was arranged by a friend which relieved my conscience, for if ever a car was needed to demonstrate the advisability of MOT tests that was the prime example.

Incidentally the annual insurance premium I paid was about £9 third party, fire and theft and I had no no claims discount because until then had always used other people’s cars.

Southport. R. G. Rigg

Mr. Wilson McComb replies: Between 1959 and 1962 I did a lot of research on the MG “Cream Cracker” and “Three Musketeer” trials cars for an article I never got around to writing. Obviously I can’t go into full details now, but the point is that they were, as you know, perhaps the most famous and successful mud-plugging team cars ever built. Contrary to popular belief, there were not just two teams each of three cars, but whole collection produced between 1934/5 and 1938/9; either modified production MGs, or specials built from various production components. The 1937 Musketeer cars, three red-painted TA Midgets, also won the Team Prize in the 12-Hour Donington Sports Car Race of that year.

For 1938 the Three Musketeers (Macdermid, Bastock and Langley) had new TA Midgets of the usual 1,292 c.c. capacity, but their engines were supercharged. They bore normal TA-series chassis numbers, and their registration numbers were BBL 82, BBL 83 and BBL 84. The Cream Crackers (Toulmin, Crawford and Jones) had what looked like ordinary unsupercharged TA Midgets, but in fact they were fitted with VA (1,548 c.c.) engines and were allocated chassis numbers EX155/2, EX155/3 and EX155/4. Their registration numbers were BBL 78, BBL 79 and BBL 80. Since these VA-engined cars seemed to lack power, they were soon bored out to make the capacity 1,708 c.c. This certainly did the trick, as they won the MCC Team Championship for the year.

The “missing number” between the Crackers and Musketeers is accounted for by Godfrey (“Goff”) Imhof’s 1938 trials car, BBL 81, referred to in Mr. Rigg’s extremely interesting letter. The full chassis number was in fact FX155/5, for Goff, given the choice between small supercharged or large unsupercharged engine, had plumped for the latter. He also asked Abingdon to fit a twin spare wheel mounting on the front of his car as well as the back, so that he could alter its weight distribution at will. For trials he put both spares on the back; for driving tests he fitted them both in front, ahead of the radiator. The car cost him £210, and at the end of the 1938 season he was required to sell it back to the MG Car Company for £170.

At least one each of the 1938 Cream Crackers and Three Musketeers team cars is still in existence. Nancy Imhof, who always passengered her husband in trials, will be remembered for her enthusiastic secretaryship of the London MC in the Fifties. I enclose two pictures of Imhof’s car – one taken in a trial, one in a driving test.

The present whereabouts of the car I do not know, alas, but more than a dozen of the actual team cars (1934 to 1939) have been accounted for, so it may still survive. Mr. Rigg’s anecdote of the simultaneous half-shaft destruction is delightful, and when you consider how fatigued those shafts must have been after 20 years, transmitting the b.h.p. of an engine one-third greater in capacity than the standard TA, it is perfectly credible. The chassis number EX155/1 was presumably unused because Project EX155 was the development of the production TA.

There are lots of other points that could be made about the trials cars. For instance, the Crackers and Musketeers weren’t the only MG teams by a long chalk (not to mention the Singer Conquistadores or was it “Candidi Provocatores”?, Austin Grasshoppers and others) there were the now-forgotten “Norwesters” in the Manchester/Liverpool area, and the “Highlanders” (Keith Elliott with ex-Toulmin Cream Cracker, Norman Gibson with ex-J. E. S. (“Jesus”) Jones Cream Cracker, and Murray Frame with Imhof’s old 1937 TA, registration JB 9445), I see from the latest MGCC magazine that Jesus Jones received a presentation at an MGCC dinner-dance not so long ago. Maurice Toulmin, it should be recorded some day somewhere, had NO connection with Toulmin’s the MG specialists (as they once claimed in a letter to me). “Mac” Macdermid jumped out of a hotel bedroom window. One of Langley’s old cars is still winning awards today, and Steve Dear has one of Toulmin’s (later owned by C. A. N. May).

One could go on for ever like this.

Chichester. F. Wilson McComb

The Alfa-Aitken

Sir,

The recent article in Motor Sport on the “Bimotore” Alfa Romeo was most interesting.

The Alfa-Aitken recently acquired by Tom Wheatcroft: I remember well competing in early post-war events against it with my Bugatti. The car was then owned and driven by Tony Rolt, with Freddy Dixon in attendance; it then had eight SUs and always ran very well. Full marks to Mr. Wheatcroft on bringing it back to England, when so many cars are leaving! I often wonder what has happened to my many cars after all these years, my M.P.H. Riley BLN 39, and my ex-Arthur Baron Bugatti in particular, the latter being the car made up by Baron from a type 35B chassis, but with large brake drums, r/w 16″ wheels, and the much modified and supercharged Brescia engine. This was a very fast car, would rev. to over 6,000 r.p.m. and run on an “exotic fuel” made up for me by the late Peter Monkhouse, wonderful days. I now run an early E-Type and a 1959 100-6 AH. The American VSCC is a very good club and some very fine cars turn up at the meets and events attended by very enthusiastic people. The events are very impromptu and remind me of the early post-war meets at home. Being so far from home I rely so much on Motor Sport to keep me “in touch”. Keep up the good work. Best wishes.

Holliston, USA. R. C. Foster

The RFC Flying Schools

Sir,

We have been readers of Motor Sport for many years. Looking through a 1975 issue, I came across a letter from Mr. Grenville Manton. In it he wrote about the Flying Schools that provided training for RFC Officers, also the RNAS, at Hendon in 1914. Amongst the schools mentioned, with the distinguished Grahame-White, was the Warren School. The Warrens were relatives of mine. The father ran the school, and the two sons joined the RFC on passing their training, at the tender ages of 16 years and four months. They were known as the World’s Youngest Aviators. I would dearly love to hear from anyone who knew of them. All I have is some newspaper cuttings, and photographs.

Cookham. Mrs. P. Latchford