By Ken Tanner
My MG number 1 is a 1951 MG TD. I started to rebuild it in 1962 at the age of 15 when my Dad said, “If you can fix it, it is yours”. Unfortunately, my brother had a minor accident and damaged the front-right section of the car. It was in pieces in our back yard for a year. I remember my uncle helping me find parts, and as they came in, I started putting them together.
In 1963, the family was on vacation when we heard about a local road race at the Santa Barbara Airport. It was not far from the Moss Motors facility. This was my first exposure to Sports Car Racing, and these little cars amazed me. I remember seeing Ronnie Bucknam driving a sharp looking MGB. Little did I know, he would be one of several California drivers headed for Formula 1 in the near future! The winner of the A Production race went to Allen Grant in the newly developed Cobra.
I kept plugging away at my rebuild project. In August of 1964, I decided to take a vacation with one of my friends in my Dad’s VW bug. As my interest in the sports car racing scene developed, we drove to San Luis Obispo to watch the 7th Annual Sports Car Road Races at the local airport. I was excited to see a white MG-TD that was just like mine. It really looked professionally done and gave me the inspiration to finish what I had started.
One of the participants was Charlie Gates who drove a Kas Kasner prepared TR4!
In 1964, I was a Junior in High School. I had played football and baseball as most kids wanted to do. During this time, I met some friends from another High School who had organized a Sports Car Club at their school. One of the fellow’s Dad was racing a Lotus S7 in Regional and National level SCCA races in the Southwest Region. Obviously, all of us were young. Younger than the 21 year age-limit required to race. But any kid with a driver’s license could compete in the local SCCA gymkhana events. These kids were able to convince the Arizona Region SCCA members to adopt a SCCA Juniors group devoted to young sports car enthusiasts.
My interest in sports cars had grown. For my senior year, I elected the SCCA Junior program instead of choosing to play football. At that time, the SCCA Arizona Region held monthly meetings on a Friday evening in a Downtown Phoenix high-rise building. These meetings were held on the floor just beneath the Playboy Club! It was easy for us “Juniors” to select the wrong button on the elevator, then apologize when the door opened, and then hit the correct floor number to meet all the SCCA members on the right floor.
In November of 1964, several of the SCCA Junior members drove to Riverside California to watch the first ever SCCA American Road Race of Champions at Riverside International Raceway. It was here that I saw the car of my dreams. The Hollywood Sports Cars MGB driven by Jim Adams with Lew Spencer as mechanic.
When we returned home, I was just putting the finishing touches on the TD when I became the 3rd President of the SCCA Juniors. I then decided it was time to try my hand at a gymkhana at the newly completed Phoenix International Raceway.
My results were not very good as the TD was vastly underpowered. But, it was so much fun!
In September of 1965, I found myself back in Santa Barbara for the 25th Anniversary Road Races at the local airport. There I quickly snapped a picture of Jerry Titus getting in a little wake up yawn.
I drove the car to High School in my Senior year and then to Arizona State University (ASU) in 1966. There, I enrolled in the Engineering Department as a Mechanical Engineering student after reading an article in Car and Driver about “How Race Cars Handle” by Jim Hall. I figured if he was a Mechanical Engineer, then that was to be my goal.
When I was a student at ASU, I purchased a 1964 Lotus S7 from Ian Raby in England. Since I wasn’t old enough to race, I competed in the SCCA Slalom Series which had some very open tracks. I was able to win the 1967 Arizona Region SCCA Slalom Championship in C production beating some of the older SCCA member competition drivers.
During my Junior and Senior year at ASU, I was racking my brains to get this Engineering stuff figured out. I was working as a Student Aid at Airesearch and participating in SCCA events at Phoenix International Raceway, Tucson Raceway, Willow Springs Raceway, and Riverside International Raceway. After graduating from ASU, I was lucky enough to get a permanent job with AiResearch. I was working on the Concorde Thrust Reverser System.
However, my activities with the SCCA all came to an end. My job got me to France for five years where I was supporting the Concorde Flight Test Program. This assignment was over in 1975. I returned home with a charming French girl as my wife and a 1970 Porsche 911T purchased in 1974 from an American journalist living in Paris.
Fast forward to 2012.
From 1975 to 2012, the MG had stayed in the family but was in quite a state of repair. After retirement, I decided to give it a complete restoration. I disassembled the car down to the frame and made Moss Motors my go to shop. Lots of parts! I stripped the car of paint and repainted it to the original cream exterior color and red interior. The engine was rebuilt with new parts from Moss Motors and the car is now in mint condition under wraps.
My MG Number 2 is a 1964 MGB. When I was driving my 51 MG TD to High School, I saw one of my classmates with a brand new 1965 MGB. Boy, did I envy him!
In 1985 my brother needed to sell his 1964 MGB. So, I decided to buy it and start another restoration project. Once again, I tore it down to rebuild it. I finished the project in 1998. During this time, my job took me to Montreal for two years to work on another aircraft Flight Test Program. Another two years went by in Wichita before I was able to return home. I did not drive the car for the next 16 years.
Since the paint job was not what I really wanted, and retirement afforded me time to work on another project, I decided to start all over. I also undertook a second more complete rebuild. Once again, Moss Motors found me to be a very good customer. The engine was rebuilt and the old four speed gearbox was replaced with a rebuilt four speed with an overdrive unit. Larger 1¾“ SU carburetors, a new electronics system, and front coil over springs were installed. A roll bar was fitted.
If you recall the Hollywood Sports Car MGB that I referenced before, I was so impressed with their paint scheme that I did the same on mine. The exterior color is a Viper Blue, the engine compartment is a light blue, and the fender wells are red. I picked a tan interior to compliment the blue exterior. As with the TD, the MGB is now in mint condition and also under wraps.
As you can see, after some 61 years, I still have my first car, the MG-TD. And after 36 years, I still have my High School car of my dreams, the MGB. However, as age seems to creep up on us, it’s time to find a new home for these two MGs.
Thanks to Moss Motors for having parts available to support those who are willing to restore older classic cars.