Reports from England

Moss Motoring Fall 1988

Just give me an excuse and I’m off to England. Not for the weather perhaps, but the prospect of a national car show sounded rather intriguing and combined with a few other activities would justify a trip. The National Classic Motor Show, held at the Na­tional Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, has in a few short years become the major all-marque car show in England. This year’s show had an extra special event thrown in. British Motor Heritage (BMH) introduced the new MGB body shell by building an MGB during the three-day show. I’ve been to many car shows in the States, but never have I seen such a diversity of automobiles, displays and people in one place.

The hottest news in the industry this year has to be the the body shell introduction. The project required a considerable amount of time and money. Much of the original tooling had been thrown out in a field with little more than tarpaulins to pro­tect the tools from the infamous English weather. The facility in which the shells are built didn’t have the necessary electrical power available to operate the equipment, so a portable generating station has been installed outside the factory building. All the money and effort would have been wasted were it not for the efforts of British Motor Heritage’s David Bishop, who brought all the elements together.

The first few shells were delivered only weeks before the show opened, and the at­tempt to build a car over the three-day show represented a considerable risk. What if things didn’t fit? The construction team hardly had time available to hammer things in place, and how would it look to the huge crowds constantly gathered around watch­ing if the front crossmember wouldn’t fit? Fortunately, everything went as planned, and the completed car drove off the stand as scheduled.

The Heritage organization put on quite a display with dealers located around the central area in trade show fashion. Moss Spares was a highlight in itself with a freshly completed MGA Twin Cam body shell as the feature attraction. We felt justifiably proud of Adrian Wood and his crew as they are building new MGAs without the benefit of factory tooling. One question often asked was, “How close is the Moss Spares shell to the original?” Considering that it’s made almost entirely from off-the-shelf rust repair panels, we’d say our repro is exactly like an original.

At one point during the show, a gentleman seemed to be inspecting our MGA with par­ticular care. I said hello and we got to talking about his days on the body assembly line. He re­galed me with stories of the first MGA bodies built during 1955. At that time, the doors didn’t fit properly so he and a co-worker had to physically bend each door to make it align at the bottom. He also remembered the trial fitting and hammering needed to fit fenders. His con­clusion – our car looked awfully nice, espe­cially considering it was hand built.

Of course, there were many other attrac­tions to be seen in addition to Moss and the Heritage people. There were more car clubs than you could shake a stick at. Owners, drivers, enthusiasts, enthusiastic drivers, drivers’ owners; about any combination you can think of was posted somewhere as a type of club.

The stands varied from a few cars roped off from the mobs of spectators to a highly sophisticated Mini Cooper club. These guys had a mountain, complete with snow, with a Cooper parked up top. The structure was lighted from an overhead framework and there were display boards, video monitors and club members scattered all around. Every British sports car I have ever seen, plus a number I’d never heard of were repre­sented. The only types conspicuous in their absence were Morgan and TVR.

To round out the whole affair, a number of restoration firms were represented. One company was actually building a Jaguar C-type body from scratch at the show. They started with a wooden body form, a wheeling machine and a bunch of flat aluminum stock. I could have spent hours watching as a craftsman slowly formed the various panels on the wheel, but there was still the auto jumble to check out. I bought a couple bits for an old MG and an American book entitled How to Fly. It was published in 1910 and contains lots of factual information which has since been proven incorrect. Remember, the Frenchman Beleriot had not yet made his epic 22-mile flight across the English Channel at that time. The authors weren’t even aware that the Wright Brothers had made their first powered flight in late 1903.1 like to imagine what all the old parts and books have seen in their lives before going home with a happy new owner from the auto jumble.

As with any show, it had to end. As quickly as everything went together, it all came apart. The giant exhibition halls had gone from empty to full in an afternoon, then back into the flurry of activity from which they had come, the orderly displays melted within a few hours. Only memories remain of the 1988 National Classic Motor Show. If you ever have a chance to be in England at the be­ginning of May, take a drive to Birmingham. Spend a day or two at the show, then treat yourself to a walk through the National Motorcycle Museum located right next door. England has more than its share of history and charm to offer the curious trav­eler.

By Robert Goldman


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