In our last issue, we gave you some idea of what to try and see should you be able to travel to England this past spring, and we received many inquiries for further information on visiting the U.K. However, there’s nothing like actually being there, and I was fortunate enough to experience British hospitality first hand during the last two weeks in May.
First, let me give an unashamed plug to Virgin Atlantic Airways, which is the only way to cross the pond in my opinion! First rate service, individual TV in the seat-back in front of you, and you can keep everything they hand you, including the headphones, the socks for walking around the 747, the toothbrush set, etc.—they’re all free!
Virgin deposited us at Heathrow where we emerged all wrapped up against the expected typical English weather (You know…fog, rain, snow in the middle of May, eternal darkness even in summer) to find ourselves sweltering in 75 degree weather!
Our first port of call was to Moss Europe H.Q. in Richmond, Surrey, where we acquired a rather different kind of MG from what has been seen here in the U.S.. Our MG Maestro 2.0 liter EFI saloon was extremely quick and comfortable, as well as being a gas miser, which was no bad thing with petrol at $4.25 per gallon! Then on just round the corner to the British Motor Heritage Museum at Syon Park where a whole range of classic British cars are housed. Old No. 1. and the last MGB were on display, but many of the cars had been moved, for in 1993, the Heritage Collection will move to its new custom-built home at Gaydon in Warwickshire, which is currently under construction.
After a day spent sightseeing in London, it was time to change vehicles and, through the courtesy of Adam Blackaby, Marketing Manager for Moss Europe, we took possession of a rather cute 1974 MG Midget with all the bells and whistles on it! Minilite wheels made a particularly fine addition to this car, which had been entered for us to drive in the 8th Annual MG Regency Run from the historic site of Brooklands, down to the Sussex coast, to the Edwardian Regency resort of Brighton.
More and more club events are being staged at or from Brooklands and this activity is assisting the Brooklands Society in preserving the site for the benefit of all sports car enthusiasts. On the Sunday morning when we started the run, there were no less than 320 MGs taking part in what was basically a fun run to the seaside! A beautiful day spent alongside some exotic machinery, snaking through the delightful Surrey and Sussex countryside, to a final parking place overlooking the English Channel—what more could one ask?
The next week was spent visiting various Moss locations throughout the British Isles. Back at Richmond, we had our first look at the MG and Triumph diagnostic complex, which undertakes anything from a tune-up to a complete rebuild, under the direction of Graham Paddy and Alan Sinclair. And, talking of rebuilds we wondered what the rather tatty pale blue TR6was doing in the corner of the workshop, but more on this later! As usual, the Triumph and MG counters were doing a roaring trade. In England, most enthusiasts visit the shop personally, with mail order a vital but secondary part of the business. Most of the work is face-to-face with the customer—you!
Up in Yorkshire, at Naylor Bros, we almost fell over dozens of Heritage MGB body shells which are still big business in Europe—over 1800 have been produced, as well as many Midget shells, in addition to a new masterpiece (but more on that later)! Here again, the counter was a hive of mid-week activity, and even the Managing Director had to lend a hand to stem the flow of customers (but Phil Richmond, “Mr. T. Type”, is well used to that).
We headed the Maestro over the Pennines in the beautiful May sunshine, through Heriot and Bronte Country and down into Lancashire to visit with the MG Parts Center, headed by Shirley Stafford. Here we saw the latest developments in the Moss Special Tuning program, which is under the direction of Rick Hockney (no mean racer himself). We can promise there are some exciting things for you Triumph and MG competition people in the Moss pipeline!
Met up with Rick again the following weekend at the giant MG Car Club Festival at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit, where he was on the pit crew for Mark Ashworth, racing one of the Moss MGs. In a round of the Moss Europe B. C. V8 Championship. Moss sponsors each round of these races, and to see some 40 MGs on the grid, some 16 times through the year, is a sight worth traveling a long way for. As for the rest of the festival, it was estimated that there were over 5,000 MGs attending! For under $10.00, you got 11 all-MG races on the Saturday, including entry to the pits, a full blown Concours on the Sunday, the California Cup driving tests, and the finish of the Norwich Union Classic Rally with over 2,000 classic sports cars taking part. What a bargain!
Tired but happy, we made our way to Birmingham for the Classic & Sportscar Show at the National Exhibition Center, and met up with our old friend, the pale blue tatty TR6. Over the weekend, the guys from Moss Europe had completely transformed the car by giving it a new TR6 body shell! Yes, Heritage under David Bishop has done it again! The car was completed in time for the end of the show, and started at a turn of the key, despite a bit of trouble with the wiring and lilting of the front grille!
Moss Europe, under the direction of Peter Buckles, took delivery of the very first TR6 shell, which was only fitting, as Pete, with his extensive Triumph knowledge, had made tremendous input to the eventual production of the body shells. The rebuild was so successful that the Moss Team was awarded a beautiful trophy for the most interesting exhibit at the show. This was no mean feat, considering Hitler’s Mercedes was also on display! The rest of the show was a superb collection of classic cars including wonderful Austin-Healeys, and of course, the perpetual MGs.
So there you have it—14 days in England where the sun shone every day, the temperature was a steady 72 degrees the whole time, and precipitation was nil! We flew back home convinced that the future of our classics is in very good hands, while enthusiasts and specialists have the best interests of the movement at heart, for we both need each other. Without the owners, the specialist suppliers would have no market, without specialists such as Moss, the cars would wither and die for ever.
I haven’t had time to mention the food (superb!) the pubs (beer and vitals as good as they ever were, if not better!), the dozens of British sports cars we saw being driven in everyday use…but hey! Why not call Virgin and go and see for yourself next year?
By Ken Smith