1977 Queens Silver Jubilee Special

This is the story, as best as I can tell it, of the special edition, one-off 1977 Silver Jubilee MG BGT.

My connection with the car is purely one of circumstance, when in 2020 my late father-in-law signed the vehicle over to his daughter and my wife Doreen, now the registered keeper.  Hence it’s become my job to polish the chrome, spared only by black rubber bumpers, with a custodial view to keep the car in its original condition and good running order.

As an eleven-year-old in 1977, my lasting memory of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebration was of a large scoop of red, white and almost fluorescent blue ‘Jubilee trifle’, un-ceremonially dolloped onto my plate by a rather fierce looking school dinner lady.  Whilst barely out of shorts and still causing trouble in the playground, feverishly patriotic plans were afoot all around the country to mark this very special occasion.

As the sizzlingly hot year of ‘76 rolled into ’77, a bright spark within the Vale of White Horse District Council approached the MG Car Company Ltd. at Abingdon, proposing an MG be built with a special finish to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.  It was put to the board that the car be raffled in support of the Vale’s contribution to the Prince Charles Jubilee Appeal, a fund that today, operating simply as The Queen’s Trust, has since made grants of over £80m towards projects helping young people in low-income communities across the UK.

Thankfully, the then MG’s board agreed to the idea, and on 5th April 1977 took a car offline to be built and finished in the Rectification Shop.  Within a month the MG BGT was ready, finished in a striking Tahiti Blue, with silver-grey trim and silver stripes, the only one of its kind to leave the factory. Special Jubilee commemorative badges were fixed over the silver stripes, with waistline strips, wind screen liners and wing mirrors all in chrome, plus Rostyle wheels fitted with chrome rims, making this an altogether very special looking car.

In this Oxford Times newspaper clipping the car receives a final polish, admired by mechanics and managers, before being delivered to Hartwells in Kidlington, Oxfordshire on 11th May to be displayed as first prize in the Vale Jubilee Raffle.

Following the raffle on 11th August 1977, the anonymous lady winner decided to sell the car a year later in September 1978 to an Oxford gent, who kept it for just over 7 years, clocking up a modest 1,800 miles.  From January 1986 onwards, despite a succession of owners, very few additional miles were put on the clock. When eventually in July 1999 my father-in-law Bob Ffrench and his neighbour John became joint-owners. The car was subsequently shown at selected events, perhaps most notably the ‘Silverstone 2000 50th Anniversary’.

Bob and Doreen

In the Spring of 2006 Bob became sole owner and moved the car to his home town of Bexhill-on-Sea, keeping it in a dry, safe storage unit away from the seafront and extremely corrosive sea air.  Bob and his friend Chris kept the car running with short forays around Sussex country lanes, but essentially very few miles were added to the clock. They took particular care to keep it dry and salt free, protecting bodywork and moving parts, so thankfully the car remains in very good condition.

As many enthusiasts will know, the first ever competitive British motor races took place during May 1902, back and forth along the seafront of Bexhill-on-Sea.  The races were inspired by the Eight Earl De La Warr, with assistance from the ‘Automobile Club’, now known as the RAC. Over 200 cars from all over the continent entered these races, travelling at high speeds, taking in tight corners it must have felt better than Monaco! Thousands of people came to watch, in their absolute amazement, burning rubber and roaring engines of the like they had never seen before.

Bexhill100 car rally June 2021

Bob and I often talked about joining the ‘Bexhill 100 Motoring Club’, established in 1999 celebrating Bexhill’s unique place in British motor racing history.  It’s a superb local club of avid enthusiasts with a broad church of vintage cars, often being proudly shown along the seafront promenade.  But with one thing and another, a combination of a very busy work life and various health complications, Bob simply wasn’t able to get involved.

In 2020 Bob decided to sign the car over to his only daughter and my wife Doreen, knowing that we would take good care of it. Within the keeper’s folder we found a near full-service history, MOT certificates, old magazines, news clippings and private letters from officials at MG Motor Company Ltd, all adding to the potted history of this wonderful car. We want to thank Chris, a professional mechanic himself, for taking time to prepare the MG for transportation back to Oxfordshire, near to Abingdon where it all began.

Very sadly Bob passed away aged 82, during the Covid lockdowns of 2020, a truly horrendous time for so many families losing our loved ones; and we miss him an awful lot. Bob Ffrench was a senior development engineer working as an innovator in the car industry for over 25 years. He was generous to a fault; a dedicated family man and he loved his cars. We drove everything and anything from Citroen 2CVs to GT40s, tho’ his penchant was for rare Jags. But the one car he wouldn’t let go of was his beloved blue and silver striped Jubilee Special.

Doreen and the Blue Bullet are ready to go!

For these various reasons the car hasn’t been seen in public for over a decade, but as custodians next in line and with the help of the MG Car Club, we hope to have it on show for everyone to see and enjoy later this summer, on each day of the National Motor Show at Farnborough.  You’ll be please to know the car is in great shape for a 44-year-old with just 4,000 miles on the clock. I certainly wish I looked as good, but then we’ve all been around the block a few times haven’t we.

Mike getting his hands dirty!

We especially want to thank John Watson and Mike Barclay at the car club for their enormous generosity, good humour and great knowledge, helping us return the car to good running order ready for the summer. So, look out for the bright blue bullet – it’s primed and ready to go!

Matt Carter

Matt brings the Blue Bullet to the MGB Register display at the British Motor Show 2021.

It’s the first time the car has been on show for 16 years.

On the last day Matt was invited into the arena for a chat with Mike Brewer.