MGs at play

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The recently-formed Early MG Society (Secretary Peter Mace, Kimber House, Hurston Lane, Storrington, W Sussex), which already has a magazine and had access to the MG archives of the late Wilson McComb, rallied to Mid-Wales over the weekend of September 19/20. It was mainly an 18/80 occasion and when we caught up with them at the Lakeside Restaurant at Llandrindod Wells on the Sunday, eleven of them were present and it would have been a round dozen had not one driver suffered the misfortune of a broken crown-wheel and pinion at Crickhowell.

These big MGs are among the most handsome of the Abingdon breed. They were supported by two 14/40 MGs, Phil Jennings’ boat-tailed two-seater, and a more standard two-seater with dickey. Also present, as a reminder of MG origins, was an upright Morris Six saloon — but I was assured that it has an 18/80 MG engine — and a “gate-crashing” Vauxhall 14/6 convertible, and Mrs Cook, daughter of Cecil Kimber, was happily recalling the past of the marque her father created.

The next Sunday more MGs were at play, on Pendine sands. This “Pendine Dash”, ably organised by Geoff Shirt of Cambridge, commemorated G E T Eyston’s Class H 118.39mph two-way mile record with the MG Ex 127 “Magic Midget” in February 1932. The MG Roadrunner Club had, remarkably, got seven miles of the famous S Wales beach closed by permission of the Commandant of the MoD establishment, for record attempts officially timed by the RAC MSA. To emphasise Eyston’s two-miles-a-minute run with a 750cc MG, 118 of these cars, in date formation, converged on Pendine from Glamorgan, to be greeted by Cecil Kimber’s daughter, Jean Cook, in her MG Metro. Unfortunately, John Thornley was not well enough to attend.

In all Geoff Shirt reckoned that perhaps 500 MGs, from J2s to MGB V8s lined the sands. The record-bidders were led by John Banwell’s J2 single-seater with engine shortstroked to put it in class 1 for cars of 350 to 500cc. He shared it with Mike Hawke, who set 22 records in this category in 1989 at Millbrook. It was hoped to improve on these figures and establish a f s mile record. The engine will run to 9000rpm, encouraged by a belt-driven Marshall supercharger. Piston speed is comparatively low but, to keep the valves seated, MGB valve springs are fitted. The chassis had a propshaft set to the near-side and angled, to give a low seating position, using a transverse chaindrive behind the bell-housing. In third gear 8000rpm equals 90mph. The John Burgoyne body is attached by six quickaction clips and small wheels were used for the attempts.

Another contender was Barry Foster’s 1931 C-type Montlhery MG Midget, out after short-distance class H targets. In the morning the special Bengry diesel-Peugeot 205 did a two-way 95mph, and the odd 3.6-litre VM turbo-diesel Ibex was after its own Elvington records. It was a great occasion, centred on the historic Beach Hotel. The records established set were, subject to official confirmation: Class-H Half-Kilometre (f.s.): Barry Foster (MG Montlhéry Midget C-type): 93.32 mph. British Class-1 One mile (s.s.): Mike Hawke (MG J2 Special): 39.67.

(Before the war International Class-1 (s.s.) mile record was held by Count Lurani’s 494 cc Nibbio, at 76.0 mph).

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