By Ken Smith
For five days this summer, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota came alive with the sound of MGs. Over 800 MG cars of all models and years attended the largest MG meeting held in the U.S. in the past five years.
Not since MG Indy at Indianapolis in 1996 has such an illustrious meeting of Abingdon’s finest automobiles been gathered in one place. The meet, organized by the MG Council of North America, attracted entrants from 42 states and nine countries. Jointly sponsored by the New England MGT Register, the North American MGB Register, the North American MGA Register, the American MGC Register, and the North American Triple M Register, the event was held in brilliant weather at the Minnesota State fairgrounds. The picturesque tree-lined setting provided ample room to accommodate all the cars.
One of the highlights of the event was the appearance of two new MG/Rover models flown over especially for the occasion. This was the first time either of these cars has been in North America. The MG ZT and the MG ZTT attracted a great deal of attention and comments. The Rover personnel in attendance were kept busy answering innumerable questions and distributing survey forms, completion of which entitled one to a sample of the latest MG goodies.
For the duration of the meet, the fairgrounds were transformed into Abingdon village—even the street names were changed to reflect the history and pedigree of the octagonal marquee. Thus, we were able to drive down Eyston Way and Thornley Avenue on our way to Kimber Hall to attend one of the many technical sessions conducted during the week.
Overseas dignitaries attending included Mr. Jim Simpson, now 86 years young, who worked at the MG factory in England for over 40 years. He regaled the audience with stories of long ago when MGs were first being produced. Mr. Norman Ewing from South Africa, an MG enthusiast for over 30 years, presented a well-received slideshow of his devotion to the hobby. Also welcomed were several honored guests from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, and, of course, England. Truly an international meet of quality.
Proceedings on the first day got underway as the many vendors set up in the works, a huge hall outside which an “autojumble” was also staged. Attendees were able to undertake driving tours around the beautiful Minneapolis/St. Paul area, while others visited the fabulous Mall of America.
July 4th saw a fantastic car show on the streets of Abingdon village, with each model having its own area to present the finest MGs in North America. People voted for their favorite cars, while the more serious contenders entered the concours judged by experts. The evening saw a British Invasion talent show, followed by a trip to the spectacular fireworks display downtown.
The following day, a Best of Show car display in Piccadilly Circus was followed by the ever-popular valve cover races and a racecar display in the paddock. This proved significant, as it gave visitors the opportunity to examine some of the historic MGs that were to be featured in the vintage races the following day. These were held at the “Brooklands” race track (actually the Minnesota Motor Speedway adjacent to the fairgrounds).
Bright and early on the final day, hundreds of cars assembled for a huge panoramic photo shoot. It was rather odd to see a 1930 Double Twelve M-Type posing between the latest 2001 offerings from the MG/Rover Group. Then, onto the speedway, where spirited, fast laps were undertaken by all the competition cars, who acquitted themselves very well. Highlights included runs by Group 44 SCCA national champion Paul Brand, who put his long-retired MGB through its paces to the delight of the grandstand crowd. Denver Cornett was another, driving his 1948 MG TC that competed in the very first race at Watkins Glen over 50 years ago.
A nostalgic sight to see were the C-Types of 1930s vintage, the J2s, and a 1934 NA run against a gaggle of T-Types, MGAs, and MGBs. A final triumphant procession by all the racers around the track, headed by the new 2001 MGs, brought the competitive proceedings to a close.
A superb banquet was held the final evening. Over 600 people dined with the Best of Show cars on display as a centerpiece in the huge hall, while well-deserved awards and tributes were presented. Accolades to the organizers and guests were interspersed with grand prizes, such as a round trip to England, an original painting by artist Kevin Walsh, and other fine MG-related items.
All in all, this was a most successful MG International 2001. For our part, we were privileged to be there to witness a truly grand display of octagonal spirit and enthusiasm.