"MG - Past & Present"

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“MG — Past & Present” by Rivers Fletcher. 240 pp. 9 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ (Gentry Books Ltd., 15, Pont Street, London, SW1Y SEll. £9.95).

This is a most entertaining and jolly book, all about the MGs with which that well-known motor-racing character, A. F. Rivers Fletcher, who carries his 70 years so remarkably and who bases his intense and undying enthusiasm for racing how it was in pre-war times, has been associated. Rivers believes in the immaculate turn-oui, the primer approach to motoring eompetitions that was a hallmark of the days of the wealthy amateur drivers. He has decided to set out in print and picture. those memories ethos own activities in a rather later period and he has hit upon the excellent idea of doing this make-by-make, instead of all in one book.

So “MG” is his first reminiscence, hull am sure it will be followed by equally delightful bmks about Rivers Fletcher’s fun with Bentley, ERA, BRM, and perhaps with other makes of cars. This one is about MG, because Rivers started off his enthusiastic driving career with the sports-cars from Abingdon-on-Thlunes. His first serious road-car, indeed, was a 1932 metal-bodied M-type MG Midget provided by the Central Motor Institute when Rivers commenced working for them as a salesman. This was followed by his own secondhand M-type MG coupe, which he found more useful for “an ever increasing amount of snogging”. I like his hasty explanation of this, “Don’t misunderstand me, it was not the permissive age in the 1990, (in our set anyway,. Anyhow I felt (come to think of it, that’s about all I did do, that I should buy this Midget coupe.” Rivers had at least an eye for the girls!

So that’s how it began for him and after a rather laborious description of how he had his ftrst experience of driving in a bull-nose Morris-Cowley Chummy which might just have been an MG — his brief reference to the school train which failed to stop as he was awaiting it at Totteridge Station. because the tank engine pulling it had caught fire, 1 found much more exciting — we are launched into Rivers’ personal memories in MGs. It is a fascinating account, embracing an encounter at Brcioklands with the first Mk. III 18/100 Double-Twelve MG Tigress, now owned by Christopher Barker, driving bull-nosed MG Sports but weren’t all MGs of that period intended to be sports-cars?i, and close association with the famous racing K3s on up to the T-types, the TB, TD, and TF MGs, 1)tigdale’s N-type MG, racing his own single-seater N-type, concluding with memories 01 modern MGs. Rivers having acquired an MGB-GT to replace his MG-A.

The great attraction of this book is that. although it is devoted mainly to the MG, in it one meets all manner of motor-racing personalities, starling with Sir Malcolm Campbell. Viscount Curzon Omer Lord Howe, “the old man”,, George Eyston. John Thorn!, the Evans family and the MG boys in particular, Cecil Kimber. and others whom the youthful Rivers made a point of meeting. This adds much colour um the story, and of course there is much about the Monaco Motor St Engineering Co. of Watford and George Monkhouse. Ian Connell and Jim Elwes. It’s not only racing; speed-trials and mud trials come into it, and it is essential to recognise that this is not another .MG history t because, as Rivers says, this has been so well covered by other writers, but his personal recolkctions of Wis, from 1930 to the present day.

In fact, in some ways this is a superficial book naive in places. It covers a very limited amount of personal MG competition work and surely it is not necessary to tell the reader of the importance of re-tightening shock-absorbers which have been loosened to prevent mudguards shaking off on the road (as on Rivers’ Sprint N-type MG) before a hill-cllinb, or that Pen, Rivers Fletcher insists on a bath before dinner! So why did I like this book? It must be the author’s infectious enthusiasm, even though he has one chapter about a fictinous MG owner (a warning against buying a used MG too casually) and uses his final chapter to plead the case of non-original cars in today’s Concours d’Elegance.

Some errors have crept in, too, and the impression remains that the job was done hurriedly, perhaps taped. It was EX 127 that was presumably intended, not EX 120, “as taking all its long-distance records at over 100 m.p.h.,” Lord Brabazon’s “FLY I” was an aerodynamic Fiat not a Lancia, it was the RAC Rally surely, not a mud-trial, that Rivers saw start from the RAC in London, the fuel-mix for his single-seater N-type Magnette seems incomplete on page 165 but is given in full elsewhere, and after saying that all Lord March’s Relay-Race MGs had slabtails, there is a picture of 3C with a pointed tail. And, from memory, I think the pre-war BOC hill-climbs took place at Chalfont Sr. Peter, not Chalfont St. Giles. But don’t let that spoil the book for you. Iris enhanced by James Peacop cartoons as its end-papers.

What helps the story is the very large number of excellent photographs the book contains, over 200 of them, mostly from the author’s own archives, so not seen previously. Many of these capture exactly the atmosphere of amateur participation at events like Prescott, Great Auclum, Lychett Minster, Elstree. etc. There are pictures of racing cars being tested on the road, such as on the Watford bypass, with accompanying stories of thr then co-operative Police, etc., that now smack very much of the past, of that golden-age, so much of which Rivers is concerned with.

So here is another book I do recommend — even though the printers have been a bit unkind to the author over punctuation, and have mis-spelt T & Ts as was made to happen to me a short time ago) and HRG, which is rendered as HRC. It is a light-hearted, yet somehow intense, look-back at the happier days of motoring sport, from Brooklands onwards, with the girls as well as the boys seen competing. Rivers even includes pictures of how not to take some of Shelsley Walsh’s corners, using himself as the “victim” — altogether, a book to enjoy on a winter’s afternoon, before the next competition season commences, — W.B.

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