By Greg Prehodka
Where have the years gone!? I purchased my (not running) MG TD (in sad shape) in 1967 for $350 while I was in college. My dad predicted it would end up in a junkyard – but he let me pursue my dream! As I restored it over the next nine years, it became a learning experience.
Since 1976, I’ve raced this MG TD in over 100 events, rallied it, street driven it, and showed it. There were many wonderful adventures along the way as I made many new friends. I thought it might be interesting to reflect on my “best memories” from those years. It was hard to select the “most significant” ones. Each has a special personal reason to rise to the top. The adventures and opportunities just sort of came along, and sometimes my timing was just plain old “luck”. So as the dust settles, here are my choices along with a few comments.
New England MG ‘T’ Register’s “Bicentennial Rallye of the Colonial Capitals”, July 1976.
This was the first adventure with my MGTD after the nine-year (slow) restoration of it. A weeklong Rallye for MG ‘T’ types through the 13 original colonies, in celebration of our country’s bicentennial. So, I painted it red, white, and blue! Some 40 MGs participated. There were many interesting facets to it. It was the first time I got my MG on the road and up to speed. My navigator Jim Finne and I won its spare tire changing contest within the event! The winner of the Rallye won the brand new One Millionth MG made – (an MGB – British Leyland supported promotion). Rest of us received these cute little liberty bells. But looking at the big picture, we were all winners!
New England MG ‘T’ Register’s “Double Three” MG endurance race at Lime Rock Park, Ct., 1977.
The ‘T’ Register held this event for ‘T’ types, modeled after the old “Double Twelve” races that were held at the Brookland’s race track in England in the 1930s. Format was race for three hours, park the cars for an hour, have lunch, and then race for another three hours.
At this point in time, the MGTD was not an eligible racecar in the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA). So, this was my initiation into racing. From the summer of 1976 to summer of 1977, I disassembled my MG (again) from a stock car and rebuilt it as an appropriate period MG racecar of the early 1950s, with cycle fenders. My brother Barry and I had never raced before and this would be our entry into racing – starting with a six-hour race! I recruited “Team 53” to support my effort. The only requirements for the race: a helmet, seat belt, wheels not falling off, and a $35 entry fee! This was FUN! My brother and I shared the driving chores and by the end of the day we had completed 173 laps of Lime Rock’s 1.52 mile track. “MY addiction had begun!”
Mt. Equinox Hillclimb, Manchester Vermont, 1978
Originally run by the SCCA until 1974 when the VSCCA took over its annual running. A seriously challenging timed race up the hill against the clock (like they do at Pike’s Peak). 5.2 miles long, with 41 turns and a vertical change in elevation of 3,140 ft. base to summit. The road up the mountain is unforgiving if you err! Into the woods or over cliffs. It takes several years just to remember all the approaches to the 41 turns and how to take them at speed! I ran it for five years, and my daughter Rachel raced it one year. I managed to have the first MG to break the six-minute mark: 5:58. The view from the summit is awesome!
Bryar, NH, EMRA NIGHT Race, 1981
This was a shared race weekend between the Eastern Motor Racing Association (EMRA) and the VSCCA on the 1½ mile course. EMRA included a special 100 lap tag-team handicap night race for Saturday night. There were four cars per team, each car doing 10 laps at a time, and then tagging off to the next team car in the pitts, until 100 laps were completed. EMRA invited us to enter a vintage team. So, we did – with my MG TD, a Lester MG, a Turner, and a Formula Junior!
It was an exciting 2½ hours of racing, with action both on the track and in the pits. Then I took the checkered flag for our “Queen’s Colors” team around 11 PM for us to win the race by a margin of victory of just 11 seconds. Lesson learned: be sure all your car’s lights are working and adjusted properly before entering a night race. (no stadium lights at this track)
Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix
Run by the city of Pittsburgh as a charity fund raiser since 1983 this true street racing event has raised over five million dollars for local charities. The 2.33 mile, 23 turn road course on public roads, is not for the faint of heart! I raced in its inaugural race and a number of following years. For 1991 they chose MG ‘T’ as their featured marque. With MGVR’s support, a record breaking 20 MG ‘T’s entered. WOW! It got the nickname “The MOTHER of all MG ‘T’ Races”.
We also had some great MG parties there at night (thanks Andy McSwigan) But tragedy would strike in 1993 when David Kuhn died in a freak solo accident racing his MGTD, as it rolled over a stone wall and into the woods. – It was later believed that Dave just passed out while racing on this hot July day and drifted off course. No skid marks, no mechanical failure. Saddest drive back home I ever had, as I pondered Dave and why I race. This would influence some MG racers to give up racing. Was it worth the risk? The event is still being run.
MG Vintage Racers’ Newsletter (MGVR) Is Founded, 1981
I had been vintage racing my MGTD since 1977 at a number of different venues, with several different racing organizations, and had met a number of other MG racers along the way. I surveyed all whom I could contact about creating a newsletter just for MG vintage racers, so as to stay in touch with each other. The response was very positive, so I founded the “MG Vintage Racers Newsletter” in December 1981 with 40 MG racers and served as its editor until 1995 (when it won the Moss Motors Journalism Award for the best small club newsletter).
It has bonded us for years and has grown to over 200 subscribers who race MGs. It also successfully influenced race organizers to include “all MG races” within their events. Mark Palmer took over its reins in 1995, then Chris Meyers in 2005, and Dave Nicholas in 2019. Check it out at: mgvr.org.
VARAC Vintage Festival, Shannonville, Ontario, Canada, 1982
The Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada (VARAC) had been holding annual vintage races at the Shannonville, Ontario race track. A short flat one-mile track, where spectators could see the whole racecourse from the grandstands. For 1982 their invited guest of honor was famous racer Stirling Moss. I met him and got a of photo of him with me and my MG! After the races I wrote a letter to him and received a nice personal letter in which he described the first MG he ever drove. It was a 1940 MG-TB coupe that he used for some “very important dates”! Hummmm?
Bryar, N.H. Vintage Races, 1983
This was a shared race weekend between the VSCCA and the New England MG ‘T’ Register. Being a member of both organizations, I could race with each. Wanting to share racing my MG with 3 of my friends, I let them have a stint behind the wheel of ol’53 in different classes. I raced the scratch race, Jim Finne raced novice race, Roy Jacobson raced the handicap race, and Mary Jacobson raced the Ladies Race. Talk about sharing your MG FUN!
Bahamas Vintage Grand Prix, 1984
What can be better than racing and partying in the Bahamas in December, especially when it is snowing back home! This was an independent event run by Bill Lutwack. Cars and rigs went via cruise ship from Port of Miami to Freeport. This weeklong event included racing on public streets and parties every night! As we arrived, we were greeted by a steel band playing and complimentary Bahama-Mama drinks! I know – that’s tough stuff to take in December. “California Coolers” had just hit the market place and were a sponsor of the event. There were barrels of free “coolers” for us to consume every night at parties – or on the beach!
Bill tried to repeat this event for 1985. I mailed in my entry fee, but then he absconded with everyone’s money, the event did not happen, and no one knows what ever happened to him or our money!
SVRA’s MG “Collier Cup” 1985
In 1985, the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association (SVRA), with the support of Miles Collier Jr. and me representing MGVR, formulated the “Collier Cup race for vintage MGs” at Watkins Glen. I influenced them to award their “Vintage Collier Cup” to an MG racer in the race, who best represented the spirit of MG and vintage racing – as determined by a vote of everyone’s peers in the race. I was most fortunate to have one of the eight MGs in this inaugural race and raced in it a number of following years, being co-awarded the Collier Cup in 1994.
There were two significant years for this event. In 1994, SVRA considered dropping it due to some low entries from previous years. So, with special efforts of Joe Tierno (MGA racer) and MGVR, 60 MGs showed up to compete. A record at the time! Then for 2004, which also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Collier Brothers Memorial Trophy (an SCCA event) – a committee of four MGVR members (Mark Palmer, Bill Hollingsworth, Dick Powers, myself) worked for a year and a half promoting it to make it an outstanding success. 134 MGs showed up to race! A record, which may never be broken. NAMGAR and The NEMG’T’ Register also designated it as their special event gathering!
One Lap of Great Britain, 1990
Although not a race, this was a dream come true for many. Organized by the New England MG ‘T’ Register, its logistics were staggering! How do you bring 89 MGs with their drivers and navigators from North America to England for a three-week rally/tour, and then return! Travel, lodging, meals, shipping, documents, insurance, customs, support, routes, visits, etc. Bless those who undertook this mammoth challenging adventure!
The “MG Car Club” in England was also most helpful with the event. I converted my TD vintage racecar back to a street car for it. MGs were loaded on a ship and sailed from Newark, NJ to Liverpool England. Entrants flew on British Air to England and picked up their MGs at the docks. Driving on the other side of the road was challenging. Gasoline (petrol) was expensive. For part of it, we went to Abingdon – where our MGs were made – and shared in the MG Abingdon Works Center Diamond Jubilee International celebration.
Then for another leg of our journey we went to the Bugatti Club’s Prescott Hillclimb course to have a go racing up their hill. Nothing compared to the big hill-climbs here in the states, but it was fun. I managed to get the fastest time of day (FTD) racing up the hill with my TD. Our tour also made us realize what MGs were designed for. Not for interstate US highways, but for lovely winding country roads! We stopped at their Donington National Auto Museum, which was amazing, and on another day drove a bit on the old historic Brooklands race track.
All MG Race Weekend at Hallett, Oklahoma, 2006
An MG racer’s dream finally happened! MGVR worked with the Hallett, Oklahoma racetrack (a private racetrack) to stage an all-MG race weekend in the middle of the country! It was just one MG race after another – all weekend long! Al Moss even joined us. MG racers came from all over the US and Canada to compete. No one complained about not having enough track time. After racing ended for the day, we all partied into the evening!
A unique independent vintage race event held annually out on an island on Lake Erie. It is something like the “Jersey Shore on fresh water.” It’s a party island! You get there via a short ferry ride from the mainland. Racing was run on the island’s airport runways, but we also did police escorted tours on the island roads, which the original races were run on back in the 50s.
My daughter Rachel had started racing my MG TD in 2007, but this was the first event where we both raced at the same event! She raced it in one class and me in another. We had to quickly re-adjust the seat-belts between driver changes. And except for her just kissing a hay bale slightly with the MG, it was a wonderful sharing and bonding weekend with her!
These memories give me comfort as I reflect on them. It has been a wonderful journey. I’ve hung up my nomex driver’s suit. Plus, I still have my 1971 street MGB for occasional driving fun and car events! Do you think today’s kids know how to “double clutch”? Ha!
Am I glad I did it – you bet ya!
Safety Fast Always!