BEING PART OF THE MARQUE OF FRIENDSHIP
By Neil Brant
Neil at MGLive! in 2022, preparing the display of MGBs
By Neil Brant
Neil at MGLive! in 2022, preparing the display of MGBs
My story of ownership of an MG and membership of the MGCC starts quite recently, going back to only August 2020, as we all collectively and tentatively re-emerged from the first National Lockdown. For the preceding eight months I had been trawling the internet advertisements and articles, researching classic cars, I have always got satisfaction from the extended research and the process of buying something special, as opposed to an impulse buy. From the outset, my childhood (1970s and 1980s) appreciation of MGBS put the model at the forefront of my list, but I kept an open mind to others, such as a TR4A or TR6.
After much research and thought about what I wanted and what purpose it would serve, I located exactly the car for me, and it was local, being at Mike Rolls Services for MGs at Fifehead Magdalen in Dorset. The car in question was, and still is, a 1969 MGB GT finished in Midnight Blue and looking every part the gleaming, chrome embellished, iconic model of my childhood memories. However, subtly underneath it was a partial resto-mod, not to everybody’s liking, but what I specifically was looking for. I had not driven a car of that era since the late ’80s, but found that, like a favourite pair of old shoes, the drive was familiar and comfortable immediately
Ollie preparing an MGB Coune Berlinette for display on the MGB Register display at the British Motor Show, Farnborough in 2021
MGB Register Spring Run to Broughton Castle
Over the following 12 months, lockdowns allowing, I ventured out seeking events and meets with likeminded owners and enthusiasts, but became disillusioned, feeling that actually it was a ‘closed shop’ of long-established cliques of marques. I started to question the value I was getting from the car insomuch as it wasn’t opening up a new social circle or delivering new experiences, beyond the pleasurable drives out in a two seat sports car. Then, by chance, John Watson of the MGB Register put out a request for members to display their MGB at the British Motor Show at Farnborough airfield, to which I responded and was duly invited. My MGB would be displayed on the Saturday of the three-day show, and my then 10-year-old son Ollie and myself drove up at first light. At the MGB Register display we were met by John, as well as other committee members Mike Barclay and Neil Hyett, and soon roped in to duties of parking and preparing the cars for display. Other committee members joined the entourage across the day, and a very pleasurable time was spent chatting with members of the public about our cars and most importantly their memories and associations with MGBs ‘back in the day’. Mike and Ollie took the MGB Marathon car in to the arena where Mike Brewer, of Wheeler Dealer fame, introduced the car to the massed public and regaled its London- to-Sydney rally exploits. This was my first experience of being invited into, and being accepted into, the fold of a car club environment, after 12 months of stand-off attitudes elsewhere; it was exactly what I had been looking for, and the contact had been made to grow it further.
Our first South West event, the MGB Register area at the Wheels and Wings, Army Air Corps Middle Wallop
Part of the MGB parade returning down the famous Shelsley Walsh hill at the Shelsley Walsh Classic 2022
Soon after the British Motor Show I was contacted by the MGB Register Registrar Andrew Vigor, asking if I would be prepared to bring my GT to the MGB60 celebrations at Gaydon the following year. Without hesitation I agreed. Over the course of the following months I increasingly became involved in MGB Register matters and attended events with them. My level of involvement progressed from being an attendee to being a volunteer, with various duties from marshalling car parking at events to engaging with members and the public. Naturally, the friendship grew, across the committee and with members that regularly help out.
In 2022, I put myself forward to volunteer as a committee member of the MGB Register, and specifically representing an increased presence across the South West. That year I attended my first MGLive! at Silverstone, and straight in as a member of the considerable team of volunteers. I can say that the overall MGLive! experience, for me, will have been massively enhanced by being part of the team and the camaraderie that comes with that, and on the Sunday evening I left tired, but with an immense buzz. Wow!! what a weekend.
Ollie inspecting the Paddy Hopkirk works MGB as it arrives for display at MGB60
An early start at MGB60, as we distribute the information sheets to the Timeline and Special MGB’s
Stoneleigh MG & Triumph Spares Day 2023 and Ollie joins the MGB Register team to greet John Twist
The MGB Register had its own special event in 2022, MGB60 at Gaydon, and whilst I had not been part of the long- running two to three years of preparation, Ollie and I volunteered to play our part in the weekend’s set-up and running. The usual friendly banter amongst the volunteering team kept spirits and energy levels up as we prepared Gaydon for the event, with gazebos and tents erected, and the Timeline marked out using Mike’s regularly help out. ‘tomato plant cold frame’ contraption as a template. How many MGB owners does it take to count 60 parking spaces without missing a number out? – a whole committee, apparently! being an example of the leg-pulling as we found out we had missed out car number 13. That evening we dined together at the hotel and chatted about all things automotive, before being not too late to bed for an early start. Before first light on the Sunday morning, the sound of MGBs warming up in the September chill air could be heard across the hotel car parks, and before too long 30 to 40 MGBS trickled out towards Gaydon. The hard work the day before was rewarded with only last minute preparations being required before we took to our varied duties, myself on parking marshal duty and Ollie distributing the correct car history sheets to the arriving Timeline and Special MGBs. I don’t have a great number of photos from our special day at Gaydon; the experiences were lived and will be remembered in the first person and not via gigapixels on a camera or phone memory card. When the day drew to a close and the owners and members had left, we disassembled the various displays and gazebos before setting off home. For us, that was a straightforward drive down the Fosseway back towards Somerset. Halfway, we stopped at Cirencester services for a break and burger, and upon driving into the car park could see half a dozen MGBs already there. Ollie turned to me and commented, ‘We did that, they’re out in their MGBs because we gave them somewhere to go’; quite a moment for me, and salient words from a 12-year-old. Whilst our part in MGB60 was so small compared to those that had worked on the project for a good number of years, the collective pride and enjoyment was considerable. We could have attended as members and thoroughly enjoyed it, but we got so much more from being a part of it. Post MGB60, former committee member Clive Wilday, a Jubilee GT owner, kindly sent a bundle of MGB and Midget books to Ollie, appreciating that the quest for knowledge of a 12-year- old would see him read them cover to cover, and hopefully make good use of that knowledge going forward as he aspires to buy a Midget as his first car.
Some of the MGBs that attended the Atwell-Wilson Motor Museum tour, another MGB Register South West event in 2023
Ollie posing in the MGB Register gazebo at the start of another busy day at MG & Triumph 100 at Silverstone
Ollie’s and my volunteering has continued into the 2023 show season with participation and volunteering at many events attended by the MGB Register. In addition, we have started to organise our own events for MGB Register members across the South West, from a group visit to the Atwell-Wilson Motor Museum to Club display areas at several local shows, including the prestigious Sherborne Classic & Supercar Show in Dorset.
All of this has introduced us to other MGB owners and extended our friendship circle, increasingly bumping into acquaintances at various MGCC events. Our experiences and memories are in the first person, as father and son, and across the friends we have already made in such a short time within the MGCC, those memories translate into funny anecdotes regaled of wrong turns on the MG100 Abingdon-Gaydon road run or Mike’s tomato plant contraption to mark out parking spaces. Then there’s the sight, sound and smell of the Triple M racing at MG & Triumph 100, an opportunity to parade MGBs up the famous Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb, or display the Marathon MGB in the arena at various shows.
For me, my MGCC story is short, just three years so far, so the opportunity to get the maximum value out of that time has come about by being part of the MG Marque of Friendship. In that time I have had opportunity to do so much more, on a different plane of experience, that has enriched my MGB ownership and MGCC membership experience. No doubt that Club membership is changing, and will change, as the purpose of classic car ownership changes, but as I said at the outset of this brief story, there is no single mould, but there is a shared passion.
The MGB Register Club display area at the Popham Classic and Vintage Aircraft show 2023
Volunteering with the MGB Register
If you would like to volunteer or maybe join the committee please complete the form below.