Me and My MGs (Part 2, 1976 – 1999) by Adrian Bennett
My Relationship with MG
This month sees the second instalment of my article in the series about us and our MGs.
In 1976, Jackie and I were posted to the Army’s Supply Computer Directorate at the Ordnance Depot in Bicester to join the team of systems analysts working on the replacement logistics system. It took a year to sell our house in Luton (the local manufacturing industry was in recession, and there were dozens of houses for sale in our street), so for 12 months we drove to Bicester and back to work in our yellow B roadster. The road across the Downs was pretty rough, and Jackie frequently suffered from travel sickness, so the MG had to go, in favour of an Opel Manta Coupe – but I still had the TD, which I continued to work on. Eventually we moved to Bicester, and the TD was trailered up to join us. It blew its core plugs over the winter, I lost interest (well actually, I ran short of funds) and sold it a year later to a chap who owned a motor museum. I made a handsome profit, but I was without an MG for the next few years, purchasing another Manta and an Alfa Romeo duirng this time until, in 1983, I purchased an MG which still holds a warm place in my memory. This was a bright red and black MG Metro Turbo. Jackie hated it, but I loved it. She complained about the lack of performance when she drove it – she never got the hang of the turbo. Right in front of you was a row of LEDs, which indicated the rate of turbo boost, and when these were all lit up, so were the tyres. Jackie never managed to light up more than the first couple. It was a hooligan’s car – big acceleration and huge roadholding! I am ashamed to say poor old Jackie was often terrified when I was driving it exuberantly on country roads – I probably frightened myself a few times too, if I am honest.
In 1984 I took over as computer operations shift manager at Bicester, working shifts and loads of overtime, because we were staffed for 5-day, 3-shift working, but were pretty much permanently working every weekend too. With 20% shift allowance and double time at weekends, I had enough money coming in to think about acquiring another MG. I had always wanted an MGB GTV8, so I looked around to see what was on the market. At East Hanney in Oxfordshire I found a company (Abingdon Classics) who restored MGs. They worked on customer’s cars over the summer months, and when showing their work at local meets would buy up cars ripe for restoration to work on and sell over winter. This was one of them, and so I picked up the Turbo’s stable mate in October 1985, a beautiful damask red 1973 factory V8.
Our son Andrew was born in 1979, and it soon became apparent that he would be a tall lad – by 1986 he was struggling to get into either the Metro or the V8 comfortably, so we needed a more practical family car – so the Metro Turbo was replaced in 1987 with a VW Golf. The V8 I kept for 13 years – the longest I have ever kept a car. Of all the cars I have owned, this was the one to which I was the most attached, but eventually, for reasons that to this day I don’t fully understand, I sold it in 1997 – I occasionally see it at events organised by the Abingdon Works Centre of the MG Car Club – a couple who were members of the AWC bought it. So I was again without an MG for a while – a year in fact. By now I had moved on – very occasionally the Treasury organises a promotion pool, offering a number of significant vacancies in government departments. The one that caught my eye was a post as project manager at the International Development Wing of the Foreign Office, who had decided to break away from using the Diplomatic Wing’s computer systems, and to set up an IT directorate of their own, and I was duly appointed to set up the computer operations for them. This entailed travelling to Central London each day – by train, not MG! By this time my Golf had been replaced by first a Golf GTi mk2 (another great car), and then a bright red Golf GTi mk3 (a heap of junk, not helped by a faded front end paint job courtesy of an ancient Ford Fiesta pulling out in front of me in Swindon and being well land truly T-boned by my VW).
By 1998 I had a hankering for an MGF – I had been captivated by its good looks. So one day I detoured on the way back from a meeting with a supplier in Bracknell to the MG dealer in Newbury, who had a superb MGF Abingdon Limited Edition sitting in the showroom. But it had been sold to another customer, and anyway was a bit outside of my budget. So I took the brochure and price list away to study. A couple of days later, while I was still musing on colour schemes and specifications, the dealer rang to tell me the Abingdon’s customer had decided to cancel, and did I want to buy it? Is the Pope Catholic? After some wrangling, we came up with a price I could afford, and she was mine for the next 4 years.
She was a beauty – Brooklands green, with walnut hood, stone leather upholstery and walnut cappings in the cabin. A real eye-catcher. But whilst I loved driving it, it was a bit modern – if you know what I mean. I had meanwhile been promoted to Communications Manager to network our 88 overseas offices, located mainly in High Commissions and Embassies, so I was financially secure again, and began to look around for an older MG. MGBs appealed, but I had had 3 of these, and I remebered that MG TF in the Crawley Green Road. My search eventually unearthed a 1953 TF 1250, which, by stretching the resources I could persuade Jackie that it was a good deal that we could afford. So, in 1999 it became my 7th MG. The TF was a bit of a mongrel – having been an American dry-state car, restored and converted to right-hand drive with a TD 2-bow hood, a replacement gold seal engine and some instruments from a YB. I eventually worked through these issues to bring it up to spec. One issue was very interesting – the chassis VIN plate gave the vehicle a number nothing like it should be – but the correct number was stamped on the chassis leg. So I arranged to inspect the factory records which are held in the archive at Gaydon – the entry for each car off the line was in a hand-written ledger!
I discovered the correct details, and after an inspection by the DVLA in Launton Road, Bicester, I produced a new Commision plate and had the V5 corrected.