Bath Concours d'elegance and impressions of the MG Magnette Mk 3

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A splendid variety of veteran, Edwardian, vintage and pvt cars assembled under showery conditions in the elegant Recreation Ground in Bath on July 30th for a Concours d’Elegance in aid of that thoroughly deserving cause, the Bath Round Table for the foundation of the first Cheshire Home for Incurables in Somerset. Polly Elwes and her husband Peter Dimmock were present to autograph programmes, and for Polly to present the prizes; and approximately £500 was collected from the considerable crowd of spectators, who divided their attention between Miss Elwes and the ancient motor cars,

There was much of interest amongst over one hundred cars in the competition, which kept the judges, Messers WL Thomas, ET Damas-Longworth and W Boddy busy for some 21 hours. For instance, Rob Walker had brought two vehicles, a 1924 Austin Seven Chummy with its body finished in basketwork and his 1913 2.6-litre Mercedes Landaulette which, he explained, was original even to the dirt. It says a great deal for Mr. Walker’s enthusiasm that the man who runs a racing stable with Stirling Moss as his driver should not be above coming to this comparatively tame event and, moreover, he remained the entire afternoon and himself drove away in the Mercedes.

There was one car Dames-Longworth didn’t judge, and that was his own very handsome E-type 30/98 Vauxhall with Grosvenor two-seater sports body. GE Milligen’s 1904 Gardner Serpollet steamer was very popular and took Polly Elwes for rides to amuse the crowd while the results of the Concours were being worked out. Runners-up in this class were an 1899 Beeston quadricycle and a 1901 Riley tri-car, which however came on a trailer, so that some sympathy goes out to others, particularly to AC Simons whose 1900 Daimler was on solid tyres and had hot-tube ignition.

The Edwardian category was won by W Vaux’s impressive 1911 Daimler shooting brake, complete with guns, but the 1911 Brennabor two-seater and big 1913 30-hp Wolseley tourer of JS Scott came very close to it, the former immaculate but in modern paint and the Wolseley, with its compressed-air engine starter having the dreaded aluminium paint on its exhaust manifold. There was in this class one of the remarkable engine-amidships 20-hp Austin landaulettes and a nice single-cylinder Swift, but JF Fry’s 1912 Roll-Royce had a body that defied comment.

Of the vintage saloons, Capt Axford’s 1922 40/50 Napier, the one preserved by the makers was dignified, there were some good Rolls-Royces including Major Lambton’s 1930 14/50 with a complete tool set in its luggage trunk, and a nice 14/10 Humber, but the scintillating and spotlessly-clean 1927 Morris-Oxford saloon of KH Spong took top honours, the entry being judged, incidentally, on presentation. cleanliness, originality and elegance. The very fine Speed Six Bentley saloon of Parry was second, third place going to Mrs Harwich’s sober but very clean 20/69 Vauxhall saloon.

By far the best supported class was that for open vintage cars. It was a pity that both the locally-built cars, two Horstmans, were impossible, SA Horstman’s 1922 tourer being original but dirty and Goodenough’s 1925 version having a too-recent trials body. JC Broadhead’s now well-known OE 30/98 Vauxhall Wensum could not be faulted but the runners-up were more difficult to judge. AE Albon’s 1927 Austin Seven Chummy in glistening dark blue paint being placed second. The other Chummys were nothing like so original, one rather nice 1924 version being too low and having a remote gear-lever and a modern umbrella-handle, hand-brake. Most of the Bentleys had non-standard detractions but GW Sudlow’s nice 1927 3-litre was original and deserved its third place. A particularly clean 1919 Sunbeam tourer, one of those vast cars with which Louis Coatalen launched his post-Armistice programme, won TA Braid fourth prize. Mrs. Rippon’s 1925 CGS Amilcar took the eye and it was pleasing to find four Bugattis present, a Type 23, Type 40, Rippon’s Type 37A—but can you call a GP Bugatti elegant ?—and JJ Virr’s Type 57S Atlantic coupe, a truly elegant car but not quite as pristine as in its heyday, which, as time has a habit of taking toll, is understandable. Air Commr Buckle’s Lancia Lambda was anything but original, this make suffering with Bentley from the activities of would-be “boy-racers,” Norton’s Riley was only just discernible as a “Brooklands” model, and small items just spoilt  Lester’s smart open 1928 2-litre Lagonda. Two open Armstrong Siddeleys were present, a 1925 four-cylinder Fourteen and a 1931 six-cylinder 11/2-litre—undistinguished, but sound original cars. There was also a very splendidly rebuilt AV cyclecar. with vee-twin air-cooled engine outboard of the back wheels and wire-and-bobbin steering a commendable effort but no cyclecar was ever elegant, or intended to be. A vintage Standard Nine “Teignmouth” salloon was also present and if these are undistinguished vintage small cars they have a few interesting aspects and run well.

In the pvt section the judges passed quickly from a very scruffy D8 Delage, had to dock the Cavendish’s two big Mercedes-Benz of “originality” marks as both have 4.7-litre diesel engines and concidered that these and Kennard’s 500K Mercedes-Benz are impressive but just miss being elegant. FW Joyce’s 1933 Sunbeam Speed Twenty saloon took the prize, being especially commendable because here is an elegant, beautifully-kept saloon in daily use. A Lomas’ very clean 1935 Riley Imp was second, and third prize was awarded to the Hon Mrs Victor Bruce’s 1938 P III Rolls-Royce, and how nice to see this great lady record-breaker, rally driver and aviator, still active in motoring circles.

ARP Durnford’s1925 14/40 Sunbeam tourer took the award for the best car which was the sole vehicle belonging to the entrant, and GE House’s 1924 Austin Seven Chummy that for a car which hadn’t won a Concours d’Elegance award previously. It was all great fun in spite of the inevitable rain, and Polly Elwes, who had given her services voluntarily, was a great attraction. She arrived with Peter Dimmock in their Mercedes-Benz 190SL, about which the BBC Sportsviewer is very enthusiastic: not the least of the car’s merits in his eyes being its excellent petrol consumption of 27 mpg.

If Peter Dirmnock uses a Mercedes-Benz 190SL we spent the August Bank Holiday week-end in a less distinguished but thoroughly satisfactory car, an MG Magnette.

I would prefer this to be called a BMC Mk3, because I do not consider it altogether in the MG tradition, although it has to be conceded that fairly sober saloon versions of the Magnette were made in the past, not all of them outstanding.

The remarks made in favour of the Morris-Oxford in the July Motor Sport (page 522) apply with equal force to the modern Magnette. There has heen a very successful attempt to build an air of quality into this £1,012 saloon, the polished wooden facia, leather upholstery. nicely-acting tumbler-switches, separate ammeter, fuel gauge; thermometer and oil gauge dials, the Jaeger instruments, and quarter-windows for the rear passengers, being examples. 

The road-holding is reasonable, and the Girling brakes work well, but the car rides heavily and I was not altogether impressed by the rather vague, heavy steering with thick-rimmed wheel set too high. The gear-change is a delight, even if the remote-control lever is a bit too far back for drivers who like to sit close to the wheel and pedals, and there is the embarrassment of trying to engage silently BMC bottom gear. In traffic the long dwell pedal travel and lost-movement on the throttles-linkage make the driver’s task somewhat tedious. On initial acquaintance, and the screen pillars are too thick and the back-seat cushion was in the habit of sliding forward.

The twin-SU engine (661/2 bhp at 5.200 rpm) gives a deceptively brisk performance, speedometer speeds of 28. 46, and 76 mph, respectively, being attainable in the indirect gears. Top speed exceeds 85 mph. The Magnette is essentially a four-seater; a third passenger occupying the centre of the back seat finds the cushion hard where it rests on the transmission tunnel. This MG differs from its smaller relations, the Riley 1.5 and Wolseley 1500, in having a sensible fuel-range, the absolute mileage on a tankful being a useful 285. Petrol consumption worked out at fractionally better than 29 mpg inclusive of the Bank Holiday crawl to Brands Hatch and back, which was very wasteful on fuel, and in 240 miles no oil was required.

The MG Magnette Mk3 is an “old-fashioned car” on which Issigonis must itch to lay his hands on but it is a well-equipped saloon, which is just what many British sporting families.crave. The minor engine controls are nicely arranged, although I found myself fumblittg with the two right-hand tumbler-switches, one of which controls the lamps and the other the sibdued facia lighting which can illuminate the speedometer only or all the dials at the driver’s bidding. This Magnette then served us satisfactorily over the holiday and is good value-for-money, and a car you respect more the further you drive it. It has wide doors which make entry and exit easy. The lockable and very spacious cubby hole is lined only with a plastic material which detracts faintly from the car’s luxury demeanor, while the direction-indicator stalk slightly defeats its object by being just too short and too far from the wheel rim, and it terminates in one of those obscene looking flashing knobs; the door handles are of safety type but can pinch your fingers.

That such minor irritations are remembered are in the MG’s favour, for generally it is a pleasing, but not outstanding car, in which hereditary traces of the earlier MG Magnette are just discernible. The Mk3 scores in respect of a very big unobstructed luggage boot and is a notably roomy four-seater. Leaving the Bath Concours d• Elegance we drove in the MG to Castle Combe circuit, where some splendid race meetings were held after the war. Do you remember when Bob Gerard’s ERA vanquished a V16 BRM in a race as noiseworthy and exciting as any we have had recently. Alas, the RAC will no longer allow car racing there. A safety bank would have to be raised all round the circuit, which as the place is farmed is impractical. However, some motorcycle racing has been held at this West Country circuit and it is the headquarters of the flourishing West of England Go-Kart Club. The owner of Castle Combe circuit will be remembered for her handsome Frazer Nash coupe. Today she and her husband are small-car enthusiasts for she uses a Weslake-tuned, very “hot” Renault Dauphine, salloon with Porsehe driving-seat, while her husband thoroughly enjoys his blue twin-cylinder Fiat 500.