MG Social at Gaydon – October 2021

With hundreds, if not thousands of Car Clubs and other groupings of enthusiasts in the UK. it is quite literally impossible to be aware of all the meets that are organised on a daily basis throughout the year. Some, especially the larger ones, do a lot to publicise at least some of their events, especially if they wish to attract an audience that goes beyond their immediate membership, but in fact almost all Clubs are only too delighted by new fans and people who may not (yet) be enthusiasts or owners. So, finding about some quite sizeable events can be somewhat hit and miss. I happened to see this one online, and immediately spotted that the date and venue worked perfectly for my diary, as I was going to be in the Midlands overnight immediately before this event and needed to head down the M40 ready for an event the following day. Unsure quite what to expect, I duly made plans, at something of the last minute, it has to be admitted, to go along and take a look. I strongly suspected that an event for MG Owners in the middle of the country would attract a lot of cars, and the fact that the weather forecast looked certain to bless the event with some glorious autumn sunshine would doubtless further encourage owners to turn out. I did discover that there had been an MG Social at Gaydon a year earlier and it had been well attended, so I was quite looking forward to what promised to be a good morning, knowing that if it turned out not to be, well there was always a museum on site and Caffeine & Machine was only up the road. I need not have worried, as I arrived at Gaydon on a very sunny morning, with barely a cloud in sight, to find the whole of the area in front of the museum reserved for themed cars, and that it was already well populated. It continued to fill up at quite a rate for some time. Here is what I saw.

THE MG CARS

L TYPE MAGNA

The L-type was made in 1933 and 1934. This 2-door sports car used a smaller version of the 6-cylinder overhead camshaft, crossflow engine which now had a capacity of 1086 cc with a bore of 57 mm and stroke of 71 mm and produced 41 bhp at 5500 rpm. It was previously fitted in the 1930 Wolseley Hornet and the 1931 MG F-type Magna. Drive was to the rear wheels through a four-speed non-synchromesh gearbox. The chassis was a narrower version of that used in the K-type with suspension by half-elliptic springs all round with rigid front and rear axles. The car had a wheelbase of 94 inches (2388 mm) and a track of 42 inches (1067 mm). The brakes, which were the same as in the J2, were cable-operated, with 12-inch (300 mm) drums all round. The body kept the sloping radiator seen on the F-Type, but the car now had sweeping wings, and the four-seater had cut-away doors. The L1 was the four-seat, coupé and saloon version and the L2 the 2-seater. The coupé, or Continental Coupé as it was called, was available in some very striking two-tone colours but was a slow seller, and the 100 that were made were available for a long time after the rest of the range had sold out. As a rarity, it is now a highly desirable car. The bodies for the small saloon or salonette version was not made by MG, but bought in from Abbey. The L-Type was a successful competition car, with victories in the 1933 Alpine Trial and Brooklands relay race. When new, a L1 tourer cost £299 and a Continental Coupé £350.

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TA – TC

The first of the T Series sports cars appeared in 1936, to replace the PB. Visually they were initially quite similar, and as was the way in the 1930s, updates came frequently, so both TA and TB models were produced before global hostilities caused production to cease. Whilst the TC, the first postwar MG and launched in 1945, was quite similar to the pre-war TB, sharing the same 1,250 cc pushrod-OHV engine, it had a slightly higher compression ratio of 7.4:1 giving 54.5 bhp at 5200 rpm. The makers also provided several alternative stages of tuning for “specific purposes”. It was exported to the United States, even though only ever built in right-hand drive. The export version had slightly smaller US specification sealed-beam headlights and larger twin rear lights, as well as turn signals and chrome-plated front and rear bumpers. The body of the TC was approximately 4 inches wider than the TB measured at the rear of the doors to give more cockpit space. The overall car width remained the same resulting in narrower running boards with two tread strips as opposed to the previous three. The tachometer was directly in front of the driver, while the speedometer was on the other side of the dash in front of the passenger. 10,001 TCs were produced, from September 1945 to Nov. 1949, more than any previous MG model. It cost £527 on the home market in 1947. Seen here were both a TA and a TC.

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TD

With the post-war TC having proved particularly popular with Americans who took the majority of production, it was natural that the car would evolve, which it did in 1950 with the release of the TD, which combined the TC’s drivetrain, a modified hypoid-geared rear axle, the MG Y-type chassis, a familiar T-type style body and independent suspension using coil springs from the MG Y-type saloon. A 1950 road-test report described as “most striking” the resulting “transformation … in the comfort of riding”. Also lifted from the company’s successful 1¼-litre YA saloon for the TD was the (still highly geared) rack and pinion steering. In addition the TD featured smaller 15-inch disc type road wheels, a left-hand drive option and standard equipment bumpers and over-riders. The car was also 5 inches wider with a track of 50 inches. For the driver the “all-weather protection” was good by the standards of the time. For night driving, instrument illumination was “effective but not dazzling, by a pale green lighting effect”. There was still no fuel gauge, but the 12 gallon tank capacity gave a range between refuelling stops of about 300 miles and a green light on the facia flashed a “warning” when the fuel level was down to about 2½ gallons. In 1950 the TD MkII Competition Model was introduced, produced alongside the standard car, with a more highly tuned engine using an 8.1:1 compression ratio giving 57 bhp at 5,500 rpm. The higher compression ratio engine was offered with export markets in mind, and would not have been suitable for the UK, where thanks to the continued operation of wartime fuel restrictions, buyers were still limited to 72 octane “Pool petrol”. The TD MkII also featured twin fuel pumps, additional Andrex dampers, and a higher ratio rear-axle. Nearly 30,000 TDs had been produced, including about 1700 Mk II models, when the series ended in 1953 with all but 1656 exported, 23,488 of them to the US alone.

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TF

Final version of the popular T Series sports car was the TF, launched on the 15 October 1953. Although it looked quite a bit different, this was really just a facelifted TD, fitted with the TD Mark II engine, headlights faired into the wings, a sloping radiator grille concealing a separate radiator, and a new pressurised cooling system along with a simulated external radiator cap. This XPAG engine’s compression ratio had been increased to 8.1:1 and extra-large valves with stronger valve springs and larger carburettors increased output to 57.5 bhp at 5,500 rpm. In mid-1954 the engine capacity was increased by 17 per cent to 1466 cc and designated XPEG. The bore was increased to 72 mm and compression raised to 8.3:1 giving 63 bhp at 5,000 rpm and a 17 per cent increase in torque. The car was now designated TF1500, and externally distinguished by a cream background enamel nameplate on both sides of the bonnet, placed just to the rear of the forward bonnet-release buttons. Production ended at chassis number TF10100 on 4 April 1955 after 9,602 TFs had been manufactured, including two prototypes and 3,400 TF1500s. A number of replica models have been built in more recent years, with the Naylor of the mid 1980s being perhaps the best known.

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YA/YB/YT

I am not sure today’s 1 or 3 Series driver would be that enamoured of the prospect of one of these YB Saloons as his or her daily driver, but the reality is that this was a sports saloon of its era which would have appealed to the same sort of buyer who wanted something that was a cut above a regular Morris, Ford or Hillman. The Y Series was conceived before the war. when MG had sought to supplement its popular range of ‘Midget’ sports cars with three saloons of various sizes and engine capacities. These were the “S”, “V” and “W” models, seen above and introduced in the mid 1930s. But these were large and costly machines with the SA and WA aimed at the Jaguar Saloons of the era and even the VA having an engine of 1,548 cc, so the next development was to produce another saloon, of smaller engine capacity than the “VA”. To keep costs down, the Cowley design office turned to Morris’s Ten-Four Series M saloon, which was introduced during 1938, and the smaller Eight Series E which was launched at the Earls Court Motor show the same year for componentry. The prototype “Y” Type was constructed in 1939 with an intended launch at the Earls Court Motor show, the following year. However, as a result of the hostilities the public had to wait a further eight years before production commenced. All prototypes originating from the MG Factory at Abingdon were allocated numbers prefixed by the letters EX; this practice continued until the mid-fifties. Although the prototype of the MG “Y” Type was primarily a Morris concept from Cowley, much of the ‘fleshing out’ was completed at Abingdon. As a result it was allocated the prototype number EX.166. When the car was launched, the MG Sales Literature stated “A brilliant new Member of the famous MG breed. This new One and a Quarter Litre car perpetuates the outstanding characteristics of its successful predecessors – virile acceleration, remarkable ‘road manner,’ instant response to controls, and superb braking. A ‘lively’ car, the new One and a Quarter Litre provides higher standards of performance.” The UK price of the car was £525.0.0 ex works plus purchase tax of £146.11.8d. Gerald Palmer was responsible for body styling and, in essence he took a Morris Eight Series E four-door bodyshell in pressed steel, added a swept tail and rear wings, and also a front-end MG identity in the shape of their well-known upright grille. The MG 1 1/4 Litre Saloon would retain the traditional feature of separately mounted headlights at a time when Morris was integrating headlamps into the front wing and it was also to have a separate chassis under this pressed-steel bodywork, even though the trend in the industry was towards ‘unitary construction’. The car featured an independent front suspension layout designed by Gerald Palmer and Jack Daniels (an MG draughtsman). Independent front suspension was very much the latest technology at the time and the “Y” Type became the first Nuffield product and one of the first British production cars with this feature. The separate chassis facilitated the ‘Jackall System’, which consisted of four hydraulically activated rams that were bolted to the chassis, two at the front and two at the rear. The jacks were connected to a Jackall Pump on the bulkhead that enabled the front, the back, or the entire car to be raised to facilitate a wheel change. The power unit was a single carburettor version of the 1,250 cc engine used in the latest MG-TB. This engine, the XPAG, went on to power both the MG-TC and MG-TD series. The MG Y Type saloon developed 46 bhp at 4,800 rpm, with 58.5 lb ft of torque at 2,400 rpm, the YT Tourer (with the higher lift camshaft and twin carburettors) develop 54 bhp. With the exception of only the Rover Ten, which managed 2 additional bhp, the “Y” Type had more power than other British saloons of similar size. Indeed at the time many manufacturers were still producing side valve engines. The MG “Y” Type had an extremely high standard of interior furnishing and finish, in accordance with the best British traditions. The facing surfaces of all seats were leather, as were the door pockets. The rear of the front seats were made from Rexine, a form of leathercloth, which matched the leather fronts, as were the door panels themselves. A roller blind was fitted to the rear window as an anti-glare mechanism (not a privacy screen as many think). Considerable use of wood was made in the internal trim of the “Y” Type. Door windows, front and rear screens were framed in burr walnut, the instrument panel set in bookmatched veneer offsetting the passenger side glove box. The speedometer, clock, and three-gauge cluster of oil pressure, fuel and ammeter, were set behind octagonal chrome frames, a subtle iteration of the MG badge theme later replicated in the MG TF. An open topped YT Tourer was produced but fewer than 1000 of these were made. Production of the Y Type ended in 1953, when the car was replaced by the ZA Magnette. Just 8336 were made over its 6 year life.

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MGA

The MGA replaced the long running T Series sports cars and presented a complete styling break from MG’s earlier sports cars. Announced on 26 September 1955, the car was officially launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show. A total of 101,081 units were sold through the end of production in July 1962, the vast majority of the 58.750 cars made were exported. Only 5869 cars were sold on the home market, the lowest percentage of any British car. It was replaced by the MGB. The MGA design dates back to 1951, when MG designer Syd Enever created a streamlined body for George Philips’ TD Le Mans car. The problem with this car was the high seating position of the driver because of the limitations of using the TD chassis. A new chassis was designed with the side members further apart and the floor attached to the bottom rather than the top of the frame sections. A prototype was built and shown to the BMC chairman Leonard Lord. He turned down the idea of producing the new car as he had just signed a deal with Donald Healey to produce Austin-Healey cars two weeks before. Falling sales of the traditional MG models caused a change of heart, and the car, initially to be called the UA-series, was brought back. As it was so different from the older MG models it was called the MGA, the “first of a new line” to quote the contemporary advertising. There was also a new engine available, therefore the car did not have the originally intended XPAG unit but was fitted with the BMC corporate B-Series type allowing a lower bonnet line. The MGA convertible had no exterior door handles, however the coupe did. It was a body-on-frame design and used the straight-4 1489cc “B series” engine from the MG Magnette saloon driving the rear wheels through a 4-speed gearbox. Suspension was independent with coil springs and wishbones at the front and a rigid axle with semi-elliptic springs at the rear. Steering was by rack and pinion. The car was available with either wire-spoked or steel-disc road wheels. The 1489 cc engine fitted with twin H4 type SU Carburettors produced 68 hp at first, but was soon uprated to 72 hp. Lockheed hydraulic drum brakes were used on all wheels. A high-performance Twin-Cam model was added for 1958. It used a high-compression (9.9:1 later 8.3:1) DOHC aluminium cylinder head version of the B-Series engine producing 108 hp. Due to detonation problems, a 100 bhp low-compression version was introduced later. Four-wheel disc brakes by Dunlop were fitted, along with Dunlop peg drive knock-off steel wheels similar to wheels used on racing Jaguars, unique to the Twin-Cam and “DeLuxe” MGA 1600 and 1600 MkII roadsters. These wheels and chassis upgrades were used on a small number of the “DeLuxe” models built after Twin-Cam production came to a halt. Aside from the wheels, the only outside identifier was a “Twin-Cam” logo near the vent aside the bonnet. A careful look at the rear wheel vents would also reveal another feature unique to Twin-Cam and DeLuxe: those 4 wheel Dunlop disc brakes . The temperamental engine was notorious for warranty problems during the course of production, and sales dropped quickly. The engine suffered from detonation and burnt oil. Most of the problems with the Twin-Cam engine were rectified with the low-compression version, but by then the damage had been done. Many restored Twin-Cams are running more reliably today than they ever did during production. The Twin-Cam was dropped in 1960 after 2,111 had been produced. Production ended in April 1960, but had slowed to a trickle long before. In May 1959 the standard cars also received an updated engine, now at 1588 cc producing 79.5 bhp . At the front disc brakes were fitted, but drums remained in the rear. Externally the car was very similar to the 1500 with differences including: amber or white (depending on market) front turn indicators shared with white parking lamps, separate stop/tail and turn lamps in the rear, and 1600 badging on the boot and the cowl. 31,501 of these were produced in less than three years. A number of 1600 De Luxe versions were produced with leftover special wheels and four-wheel disc brakes of the departed Twin-Cam, or using complete modified Twincam chassis left redundant by the discontinuance of that model. Seventy roadsters and 12 coupés were built. The engine size was increased again to 1622 cc by increasing the bore from 75.4 mm to 76.2 mm for the 1961 Mark II MGA. The cylinder head was also revised with larger valves and re-engineered combustion chambers. Horsepower increased to 90 bhp. It also had a higher ratio 4:1 rear axle, which made for more relaxed high-speed driving. An inset grille and Morris Mini tail lamps appearing horizontally below the deck lid were the most obvious visual changes. 8,198 Mark II roadsters and 521 coupés were built. As with the 1600 De Luxe, there were also some Mark II De Luxe versions; 290 roadsters and 23 coupés were produced.

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ZA/ZB MAGNETTE

For those who needed more than 2 seats, MG had the answer with their sports saloon of the day, called the Magnette. Successor to the Y Series was the Magnette ZA, announced on 15 October 1953 and debuted at the 1953 London Motor Show. Deliveries started in March 1954. Production continued until 1956, when 18,076 had been built. It was the first monocoque car to bear the MG badge. The Magnette was designed by Gerald Palmer, designer of the Jowett Javelin. It was the first appearance of the new four cylinder 1489 cc B-Series engine with twin 1¼ inch SU carburettors delivering 60 bhp driving the rear wheels through BMC’s new four speed manual gearbox with synchromesh on the top three ratios. Suspension was independent at the front using coil springs and had a live axle with half elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The steering was by rack and pinion. Hydraulically operated Lockheed 10 in (254 mm) drum brakes were fitted to front and rear wheels. When leaving the factory the Magnette ZA originally fitted the recently developed belted textile-braced, radial-ply Pirelli Cinturato 165HR14 tyres (CA67). The car had leather trimmed individual front seats and rear bench seat. The dashboard and door cappings were in polished wood. Although the heater was standard, the radio was still an optional extra. Standard body colours were black, maroon, green, and grey. The ZA was replaced by the Magnette ZB that was on announced 12 October 1956. Power was increased to 64 hp by fitting 1½ inch carburettors, increasing the compression ratio from 7.5 to 8.3, and modifying the manifold. The extra power increased the top speed to 86 mph and reduced the 0-60 mph time to 18.5 seconds. A semi-automatic transmission, marketed as Manumatic was fitted as an option on 496 1957 Magnettes. A Varitone model featured larger rear window and optional two tone paintwork, using a standard Pressed Steel body shell, the rear window opening enlarged in the Morris Motors body shop, Cowley, before painting 18,524 ZBs were built. The car seen here is one of the later ZB models.

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MGB

As one of Britain’s most popular classic cars, it was no surprise to find several examples of the MGB here, with cars from throughout the model’s long life, both in Roadster and MGB GT guise, as well as one of the short-lived V8 engined cars. Launched in October 1962, this car was produced for the next 18 years and it went on to become Britain’s best selling sports car. When first announced, the MGB was an innovative, modern design, with a monocoque structure instead of the traditional body-on-frame construction used on both the MGA and MG T-types and the MGB’s rival, the Triumph TR series, though components such as the brakes and suspension were developments of the earlier 1955 MGA and the B-Series engine had its origins back in 1947. The lightweight design reduced manufacturing costs while adding to overall vehicle strength, and with a 95hp 3-bearing 1798cc engine under the bonnet, performance was quite respectable with a 0–60 mph time of just over 11 seconds. The car was rather more civilised than its predecessor, with wind-up windows now fitted as standard, and a comfortable driver’s compartment offered plenty of legroom. The roadster was the first of the MGB range to be produced. The body was a pure two-seater but a small rear seat was a rare option at one point. By making better use of space the MGB was able to offer more passenger and luggage accommodation than the earlier MGA while being 3 inches shorter overall. The suspension was also softer, giving a smoother ride, and the larger engine gave a slightly higher top speed. The four-speed gearbox was an uprated version of the one used in the MGA with an optional (electrically activated) overdrive transmission. A five-bearing engine was introduced in 1964 and a number of other modifications crept into the specification. In late 1967, sufficient changes were introduced for the factory to define a Mark II model. Alterations included synchromesh on all 4 gears with revised ratios, an optional Borg-Warner automatic gearbox, a new rear axle, and an alternator in place of the dynamo with a change to a negative earth system. To accommodate the new gearboxes there were significant changes to the sheet metal in the floorpan, and a new flat-topped transmission tunnel. US market cars got a new safety padded dashboard, but the steel item continued for the rest of the world. Rostyle wheels were introduced to replace the previous pressed steel versions in 1969 and reclining seats were standardised. 1970 also saw a new front grille, recessed, in black aluminium. The more traditional-looking polished grille returned in 1973 with a black “honeycomb” insert. Further changes in 1972 were to the interior with a new fascia. To meet impact regulations, in late 1974, the chrome bumpers were replaced with new, steel-reinforced black rubber bumpers, the one at the front incorporating the grille area as well, giving a major restyling to the B’s nose, and a matching rear bumper completed the change. New US headlight height regulations also meant that the headlamps were now too low. Rather than redesign the front of the car, British Leyland raised the car’s suspension by 1-inch. This, in combination with the new, far heavier bumpers resulted in significantly poorer handling. For the 1975 model year only, the front anti-roll bar was deleted as a cost-saving measure (though still available as an option). The damage done by the British Leyland response to US legislation was partially alleviated by revisions to the suspension geometry in 1977, when a rear anti-roll bar was made standard equipment on all models. US emissions regulations also reduced horsepower. In March 1979 British Leyland started the production of black painted limited edition MGB roadsters for the US market, meant for a total of 500 examples, but due to a high demand, production ended with 6682 examples. The United Kingdom received bronze painted roadsters and a silver GT model limited editions. The production run of home market limited edition MGBs was split between 421 roadsters and 579 GTs. Meanwhile, the fixed-roof MGB GT had been introduced in October 1965, and production continued until 1980, although export to the US ceased in 1974. The MGB GT sported a ground-breaking greenhouse designed by Pininfarina and launched the sporty “hatchback” style. By combining the sloping rear window with the rear deck lid, the B GT offered the utility of a station wagon while retaining the style and shape of a coupe. This new configuration was a 2+2 design with a right-angled rear bench seat and far more luggage space than in the roadster. Relatively few components differed, although the MGB GT did receive different suspension springs and anti-roll bars and a different windscreen which was more easily and inexpensively serviceable. Although acceleration of the GT was slightly slower than that of the roadster, owing to its increased weight, top speed improved by 5 mph to 105 mph because of better aerodynamics. 523,826 examples of the MGB of all model types were built, and although many of these were initially sold new in North America, a lot have been repatriated here. There were several Roadsters and MGB GT.

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It was good to see this prototype Aston Martin/MGB here. The 10th September 1979 became known as “Black Monday” among MG enthusiasts around the world, because it was the date that BL finally went public with their plans to shut the Abingdon factory, after fifty successful years of sports car production. Shockwaves reverberated around the industry, and it did not take long for several influential enthusiasts to band together and formulate a plan, with which to buy the factory and (they hoped) the MG badge from BL. By October 1979, the consortium, which comprised of Alan Curtis (chairman of Aston Martin), David Wickens (BCA), Peter Cadbury, Lord George-Brown and the Norwest construction group went public with their plans to save Abingdon. The consortium had at least £30 million at their disposal, with which to buy Abingdon – but they made it clear that going into talks with BL, they wanted to acquire the rights to the MG marque name and the MGB. The reasoning was quite simple – with the factory, the car and the name, they could continue production… there would be no interregnum between BL’s disposal and their taking over of MG. With these plans very much in mind, Curtis went into what can only be described as a battle with BL in order to settle. However, there was what can only be described as a huge stumbling block; and that was the fact that BL wanted to keep the rights to the MG name, and in fact, were tentatively developing their own replacement for the MGB, closely based on the TR7. However, Curtis was adamant that he would be able to gain the marque name and the car (as well as the factory) and had already started work on the company’s own revised MGB. However, the negotiations dragged on, and finally in April 1980, a deal between the two parties had seemingly been reached. BL agreed that they would sell the Abingdon factory to the consortium, along with the rights to use (but not own) the MG name. The £30 million funding that Aston Martin used in their negotiations with BL, however, now proved a little more elusive – Aston Martin was embroiled in its own financial problems thanks exchange rates (that ironically were a reason cited by BL for the closure of Abingdon). The global recession also meant that some of the financial backers that were initially keen at the end of 1979 were not in a position to make good their promises… Undeterred, Aston Martin showed it William Towns facelifted MGB to the press in June 1980, stating that it was their intention to launch this at the ’81 model. Unfortunately, BL closed negotiations at this point, losing patience with the consortium, thanks to their inability to commit financially. That proved to be a black day in BL’s history, because it committed the company to closing Abingdon for good, after selling it off. During the negotiations, BL formulated its own plans to save Abingdon, which revolved setting up a special vehicles operation there… they came to nothing, and were dropped during the Aston Martin negotiations; probably because of the Aston Martin negotiations.
The car started off as a Russet Brown RHD, home market MGB Roadster and was first registered DOL 341V on the 13th February 1980 by BL Cars Limited (Sales & Marketing), Longbridge, Birmingham. DOL 341V remained with BL until it was sold to Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd of Newport Pagnell. The Aston Martin MGB was designed by William Towns, designer of the DBS, DBS V8 and AMV8 as well as the Aston Martin Lagonda, In June 1980 Keith Martin – Project engineer for Aston Martin was presented with DOL 341V with the instruction to build the car in just six days, with the help of Steve Hallam, Martin and a small team of trimmers and fitters set to work to transform the MGB into Williams Towns interpretation. John Symonds of Pressed Steel Fisher – where the MGB bodies were produced was placed in charge of the Aston Martin MGB project. The Aston Martin MGB had a unique specification which included – Tickford sport seats, Astrali 13″ four spoke steering wheel, GT windscreen and surround, GT side windows, Tickford hood, Black side mouldings, modified front bumper and spoiler, Small chrome grille, Rear panel with fog & reversing lights, 14″ Wolfrace alloy wheels. Just seven days later – one day over schedule – the finished car, resplendent in BL Silver Sand Metallic was wheeled out of the Aston Martin special projects workshop and the consortium launched the Aston-MGB to the press in June 1980. DOL 341V remained in storage at Newport Pagnell until it was sold to a private owner in July 1984. In August 1997 a long standing MG enthusiast purchased DOL 341V at circa 1,093 recorded miles and was committed to the continuing maintenance of the MGB’s originality and unique history. The car came up for sale again in 2011 by which time it had still only covered 6000 miles.

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MGC

The MGC was produced as a sort of replacement for the Big Healey, though apart from sharing that car’s 3 litre straight six C Series engine, the reality is that the car was quite different and generally appealed to a different sort of customer. Or, if you look at the sales figures, you could say that it did not really appeal to anyone much, as the car struggled to find favour and buyers when new. More of a lazy grand tourer than an out and out sports car, the handling characteristics were less pleasing than in the B as the heavy engine up front did the car no favours. The market now, finally, takes a different view, though and if you want an MGC, in Roadster or the MGC GT form the latter of which was to be seen here, you will have to dig surprisingly deeply into your pocket.

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Following the cessation of MGC production in 1969, London’s largest MG agent University Motors Ltd purchased 176 unsold cars and began marketing some of them as ‘University Motors MG Specials’. Various modifications were offered and no two ‘Specials’ were the same. 21 of the 176 were fitted with Downton engine modifications, conversions which gave improved power, torque and fuel economy. They sold steadily during 1969 and 1970 and are now much sought after. This car is one of the very few of those 21 to remain in existence.

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MIDGET

Resurrecting the name that was used by MG for their smallest car, the M Type, in the late 20s, was the MG Midget, announced in 1961. The new car was essentially a slightly more expensive badge-engineered version of the MkII Austin-Healey Sprite. The original ‘Frogeye’ Sprite had been introduced specifically to fill the gap in the market left by the end of production of the MG T-type Midget as its replacement, the MGA had been a significantly larger and more expensive car with greater performance. Many existing MG enthusiast and buyers turned to the Sprite to provide a modern low-cost sports car and so a badge-engineered MG version reusing the Midget name made sense. The new Midget differed from the Sprite only in its grille design, badging, colour options and having both leather seats and more external chrome trim as standard to justify its higher purchase price. Mechanically the car was identical to its Austin-Healey counterpart, retaining the rear suspension using quarter-elliptic leaf springs and trailing arms from the ‘Frogeye’. The engine was initially a 948 cc A-Series with twin SU carburettors producing 46 hp at 5500 rpm and 53 lb/ft at 3000 rpm. Brakes were 7″ drums all round. A hard top, heater, radio and luggage rack were available as factory-fitted extras. In October 1962 the engine was increased to 1098 cc, raising the output to 56 hp at 5500 rpm and 62 lb/ft at 3250 rpm, and disc brakes replaced the drums at the front. Wire spoked wheels became available. The doors had no external handles or locks and the windows were sliding Perspex side-screens. A heater was still an optional extra. The car sold well, with 16,080 of the small-engined version and 9601 of the 1098 being made before the arrival in 1964 of the Mark II. Externally the main changes were to the doors, which gained wind-up windows, swivelling quarter lights, external handles and separate locks. The windscreen also gained a slight curvature and was retained in a more substantial frame. The hood, though modified, continued to have a removable frame that had to be erected before the cover was put on. The rear springs were replaced by more conventional semi-elliptic types which gave a better ride. The engine block was strengthened and larger main bearings were fitted, increasing the power to 59 hp at 5750 rpm and torque to 65 lb/ft at 3500 rpm. A total of 26,601 were made. 1967 saw the arrival of the Mark III. The engine now grew to 1275 cc using the development seen on the Mini-Cooper ‘S’. Enthusiasts were disappointed that this was a detuned version of the 76-bhp Cooper ‘S’ engine, giving only 65 hp at 6000 rpm and 72 lbf·ft at 3000 rpm. A reduced compression ratio of 8.8:1 was used instead of the 9.75:1 employed on the Cooper S engine. The Midget used the 12G940 cylinder head casting that was common to other BMC 1300 cars, whereas the Cooper ‘S’ had a special head with not only larger inlet, but also larger exhaust valves; however, these exhaust valves caused many ‘S’ heads to fail through cracking between the valve seats. The detuned engine was used for reasons of model range placement – with the Cooper ‘S’ spec engine, the Midget would have been faster than the more expensive MGB. The hydraulic system gained a separate master cylinder for the clutch. The hood was now permanently attached to the car, with an improved mechanism making it much easier to use. Minor facelift changes were made to the body trim in late 1969 with the sills painted black, a revised recessed black grille, and squared off taillights as on the MGB. The 13″ “Rostyle” wheels were standardised, but wire-spoked ones remained an option. The square-shaped rear wheel arches became rounded in January 1972 and later that year a Triumph steering rack was fitted, giving a gearing that was somewhat lower than earlier Midgets. A second exhaust silencer was also added in 1972. Alternators were fitted instead of dynamos from 1973 onwards. Many consider the round-arch Midgets with chrome bumpers produced for model years 1972 and 1974 to be the most desirable. These round-arch cars started leaving the Abingdon factory in late 1971. Between 1966 and the 1969 face lift, 22,415 were made, and a further 77,831 up to 1974. In late 1974, to meet US federal regulations, large black plastic bumpers (usually called rubber bumpers, despite not actually being rubber) were added to the front and rear and the ride height was increased. The increased ride height affected handling, and an anti-roll bar was added to help with higher centre of gravity. The A-Series engine was replaced by the 1493 cc unit from the Triumph Spitfire with a modified Morris Marina gearbox with synchromesh on all four gears. The increased displacement of the new engine was better able to cope with the increasing emission regulations. Although the horsepower ratings were similar, at 65 bhp, the 1493 cc engine produced more torque. The increased output combined with taller gear ratios resulted in faster acceleration and a top speed of just over 100 mph. In the US market British Leyland struggled to keep engine power at acceptable levels, as the engines were loaded with air pumps, EGR valves and catalytic converters to keep up with new US and California exhaust emission control regulations. The home market’s dual SU HS4 carbs were swapped for a single Zenith-Stromberg 150 CD4 unit, and the power fell to 50 bhp at 5000 rpm and 67 lb-ft of torque at 2500 rpm. The round rear-wheel arches were now square again, to increase the body strength. The last car was made on 7 December 1979, after 73,899 of the 1500 model had been made, with the last 500 home-market cars painted black.

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1100/1300

It was good to see a trio of the MG1100 and 1300 cars, from the second of the Issigonis trio of space efficient front wheel drive ADO16 family of cars, which was first seen in August 1962 as the Morris 1100. A four door saloon, with styling that had been influenced by Pininfarina, this car applied the same principles as had been seen in the Mini of three years earlier, but in a larger package, creating plenty of space for 4 or even 5 adults and with more luggage room. Power came from a 1098cc version of the proven A Series engine, which gave it a lively (for the time!) performance and the combination of a long wheelbase and innovative hydrolastic suspension gave it a particularly comfortable ride. A sporting MG model, with twin carburettors was added to the range before the year was out. In 1963 an Austin model appeared, identical to the Morris in all but grille and tail end treatment, and then Wolseley, Riley and even Vanden Plas models were added to the range in 1965 and 1966, as well as Countryman and Traveller estate versions of the Austin and Morris. The Vanden Plas Princess model came out in the autumn of 1965, applying the sort of levels of equipment and luxury finish that were usually found on large cars to something much smaller. Despite the lofty price tag, there was a definite market for these cars, many of which had relatively gentle use when new, so there are a few survivors, including this later 1300 model. Mark 2 models were launched in 1967 with the option of a 1300 engine, and a slightly less spartan interior. The car became Britain’s best seller, a position it held until 1972, The MG models received the 1275cc engine in 1967 and with twin carburettors were quite brisk for their day. Combine that with good handling (this was an era when front wheel drive was good and rear wheel drive was not!), and the cars were popular with enthusiasts, though you do not see many these days. The MG and Riley versions were replaced by the 1300GT. Sold in Austin and Morris versions, these cars had a vinyl roof and rostyle wheels to give them the looks to match the performance delivered by the twin carburettor A Series 1275cc engine, and they were popular for a little while, with few direct rivals in the market.

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METRO

The MG Metro was launched in May 1982, to more than a few howls of protest from MG purists who decried the fact that it was not a proper sports car. It was, however, a well-considered upgrade on the more prosaic Austin models, and it proved popular from the outset. Styling touches included MG badging, liberal use of red inside – even the seat belts – and different wheel trims. Mechanically there were alterations, too. The changes between the MG engine (taken directly from the Mini Cooper) and the standard 1275 included a modified cylinder head, with larger valves and improved porting, altered cam profile and larger carburettor leading to a 20% increase in BHP to 72 bhp. At the October 1982 Birmingham Motor Show the MG Metro Turbo variant was first shown. With a quoted bhp of 93, 0–60 mph in 8.9 seconds, and top speed of 115 mph (185 km/h) this car had few direct competitors at the time, although the growing demand for “hot hatches” meant that it soon had a host of competitors including the Ford Fiesta XR2, Peugeot 205 GTI and Renault 5 GT Turbo. This model had a few addition modifications bolted on over the normally aspirated MG model to give an additional 21 bhp. Aside from the turbocharger and exhaust system itself, and what was (at the time) a relatively sophisticated boost delivery and control system, the MG Turbo variant incorporated stiffer suspension (purportedly with engineering input from Lotus), and an uprated crankshaft of nitrided steel and sodium-cooled exhaust valves. Both MG variants were given a “sporty” interior with red seat belts, red carpets and a sports-style steering wheel. The Turbo also benefitted from an LCD boost pressure gauge. The Turbo also received alloy wheels, black wheel arch extensions, blacked out trim, a rear spoiler surrounding the windshield, and prominent “TURBO” decals. While it retained rear drums, the front disc brakes were changed to ventilated units. The later MG variants were emblazoned with the MG logo both inside and out, which only served to fuel claims of badge engineering from some of the more steadfast MG enthusiasts. Others believed that this sentiment was unfounded, particularly in the case of the turbo variant, due to the undeniably increased performance and handling when compared to the non-MG models. From 1983, the MG badge also found its way onto higher performance versions of the Maestro, and shortly afterwards it was adopted for higher performance versions of the Montego. Sadly, there are relatively few survivors.

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MGR V8

It was the launch of the Mazda MX-5 in 1989 which proved that there was still a sizeable market for affordable open topped sports cars, a market which MG had once dominated with the MGB and Midget, but which they had foresaken in 1981 when the last of these sports cars had ceased production. However interest in these classic MGs had not gone away with plenty of people spending a lot of money on restoring their cars. MG decided to offer them an alternative, and in 1992 they produced new body panels for the standard MGB body shell to create an updated MGB model. The suspension was only slightly updated, sharing the leaf spring rear of the MGB. The boot lid and doors were shared with the original car, as were the rear drum brakes. The engine was the 3.9-litre version of the aluminium Rover V8, similar to the one previously used in the MGB GT V8. A limited-slip differential was also fitted. The interior featured veneered burr elm woodwork and Connolly Leather. The engine produced 190 bhp at 4,750 rpm, achieving 0–60 mph in 5.9 seconds, which was fast but lLargely due to the rear drum brakes and rear leaf springs, the RV8 was not popular with road testers at the time. A large proportion of the limited production went to Japan – 1579 of the 2000 produced. Only 330 RV8s were sold initially in the UK, but several hundred (possibly as many as 700) of these cars were re-imported back to the UK and also Australia between 2000–2010 with a peak number of 485 registered at the DVLA in the UK.

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MGF/TF

MG re-entered the sports car market in 1995 with the launch of the MGF Two versions of this mid-engined and affordable rival to the Mazda MX5 were offered: both of which used the 1.8 litre K-Series 16-valve engine. The cheaper of the two put out 118 hp and the more costly VVC model (by dint of its variable valve control) had 143 hp. Rover Special Projects had overseen the development of the F’s design and before finalising the styling bought-in outside contractors to determine the most appropriate mechanical configuration for the new car. Steve Harper of MGA Developments produced the initial design concept in January 1991 (inspired by the Jaguar XJR-15 and the Ferrari 250LM), before Rover’s in house design team refined the concept under the leadership of Gerry McGovern. The MGF used the Hydragas suspension, a system employing interconnected fluid and gas displacers, which gave the car a surprisingly compliant ride and which could be tuned to provide excellent handling characteristics. The MG F quickly shot to the top of the affordable sports car charts in Britain and remained there until the introduction of the MG TF in 2002. The MG F underwent a facelift in Autumn of 1999 which gave the car a revised interior as well as styling tweaks and fresh alloy wheels designs. There was also the introduction of a base 1.6 version and a more powerful 160 hp variant called the Trophy 160, which had a 0-60 mph time of 6.9 seconds. It was only produced for a limited time. An automatic version with a CVT called the Steptronic was also introduced. A comprehensive update in 2002 resulted in the MG TF, named after the MG TF Midget of the 1950s. Based upon the MG F platform but heavily redesigned and re-engineered, the most significant mechanical changes were the abandonment of Hydragas suspension in favour of conventional coil springs, the new design of the air-induction system that along with new camshafts produces more power than in MG F engines, and the torsional stiffness of the body increased by 20%. Various cosmetic changes included a revised grille, redesigned front headlights, bumpers, side air-intake grills and changes to the rear boot,. The car continued to sell well. Production was suspended when MG-Rover went out of business, but resumed again in 2007 when Nanjing built a number more.

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ZR

Less than a year after the Rover 25 was launched, BMW sold the Rover Group to the Phoenix consortium for a token £10. By the summer of 2001, the newly named MG Rover Group introduced a sporty version of the Rover 25: the MG ZR. It had modified interior and exterior styling, as well as sports suspension, to give the car the look of a “hot” hatchback. The largest engine in the range was the 1.8 VVC 160 PS unit, which had a top speed of 130 mph . It was frequently Britain’s best-selling “hot hatch” and there were a number of ZR models present here.

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ZS

In mid 2001, an MG version of the 45 had been launched, called the ZS, which gave MG a range of 3 different models as well as the TF sports car. The view of the press was that the suspension and steering alterations completely transformed the car, but this model was in a difficult part of the market, compared to the smaller ZR and is found fewer buyers. Those who did sample the ZS, especially in ZS 180 guise with the 2.5 litre KV6 got an absolutely cracking car though. It sported a V6 with all the aural benefits when all its rivals had 4 cylinder turbo engines. Later cars were facelifted to distinguish them more clearly from the Rover 45, with elements of the X Power bodykit being made standard.

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ZT

Among the most numerous model types here were the MG ZT and ZT-T. These were introduced three years after the Rover 75 and less than a year after the de-merger of MG Rover from BMW, the MG ZT along with the cheaper 25-based ZR and 45-based ZS models. The basic shape and styling of the MG ZT remained the same as for the Rover 75 but with changes to the front bumper, now with an integrated grille, and detail alterations including colour coding of the chromed waistline, a new bootlid plinth and different alloy wheels and tyres sizes. The interior featured revised seats and dashboard treatment with new instrument faces. Engineering changes ranged from uprated suspension and brakes to revised engine tuning for the petrol and diesel models. Development of the MG ZT was headed by Rob Oldaker, Product Development Director, with styling changes undertaken by Peter Stevens, who was previously responsible for the styling of the McLaren F1 and X180 version of the Lotus Esprit. At launch, the most potent ZT was the 190bhp petrol powered model, but in 2003, the 260 version of the car was launched, which utilised a 4.6 litre V8 from the Ford Mustang range. The model was converted from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive and was largely engineered by motorsport and engineering company Prodrive before being completed by MG. Apart from the badges, the only visual difference externally between the 260 and other ZTs are the quad exhausts. The 4.6 version is regarded as a true Q-car. and it has its own every enthusiastic and active Owners Club.

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SV

I don’t think I have ever seen so many examples of the MG SV as there were here, among the 4 of the especially rare SV-S version. This car came about after MG-Rover acquired Qvale of Italy. Taking the Qvale Mangusta as a base, a car which had been designed, but not quite made production, MG Rover allocated the project code X80 and set up a subsidiary company, MG X80 Ltd., to produce their new model. A big factor behind the project was that was seen as having the potential sales in the United States, as the Mangusta had already been homologated for the American market. The MG X80 was originally revealed as a concept car in 2001. However, the styling was considered too sedate, so when the production model, now renamed MG XPower SV, was eventually launched the following year, designer Peter Stevens had made the car’s styling more aggressive. The conversion from a clay model to a production car, including all requirements, was done in just 300 days by the Swedish company Caran. The production process was complex, partly caused by the use of carbon fibre to make the body panels. The basic body parts were made in the UK by SP Systems and then shipped to Belco Avia near Turin for assembly into body panels. These were then assembled into a complete body shell and fitted onto the box frame chassis and running gear and shipped to MG Rover’s Longbridge factory to be trimmed and finished. Several of the cars’ exterior and interior parts were borrowed from current and past Fiat models. The headlights, for example, were taken from a Punto Mk.2 and the rear lights borrowed from a Fiat Coupe. The goal had been to get a street price of under £100,000, and on launch, the base model came in well under that at £65,000, and even the uprated XPower SV-R model was priced at £83,000. Those were ambitious prices for a car bearing MG badges, though, so not surprisingly, sales were slow. It is understood that just 82 cars were produced excluding the 4 ‘XP’ pre-production prototypes. This included a few pre-production and show cars which were later dismantled, before production was stopped due to lack of sales. Most were sold to private owners, with the final ones being sold to customers in early 2008.

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MG3, MG5, MG6 and ZS

And so to the modern MGs. Although you still don’t see these cars on UK roads that often, and there are not many dealers, their numbers are steadily increasing, especially in the last year or so and it is heartening to see quite so many of them at this event. For sure these are not MGs that the purists would recognise as having any lineage with the Abingdon products of yore, but they are decent enough modern family cars that have their appeal based around peppy performance, spacious interiors and relatively low prices compared to their rivals. Autocar were very positive about their MG6 Long Termer, although the depreciation hit was not something that they would have had to fund, and whilst I could not see myself owning one, they will make sense for plenty of people. Probably more people than actually buy one. More recently, MG have followed the path of everyone else with a couple of crossovers added to the range, the mid-sized GS and the slightly smaller ZS. Whilst not exactly sporting, and with looks that are not really that memorable, these, too, are respectable offerings, and whilst they only sell in small, but growing, numbers in the UK, they are proving popular in Asia, and following the launch of an electric version of the ZS, sales have started to accelerate here. The MG5 estate car that was launched in 2020 is the market’s first all-electric estate car and has also found a market niche of its very own. It really does look like this much marque does still have a future, and for that we should be thankful.

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OTHER MARQUES

Whilst the area in front of the museum buildings was reserved fro MG cars only, there is plenty of additional parking, in a raised area off to the right of the long approach drive, where all the Abarths were parked at the recent MITCAR event. Everything that was not an MG was to be found in here, and there were plenty of classics and other interesting cars in this area throughout the morning, as this part of the report will evidence:

ABARTH

Perhaps there is not much cross-over in interest between MG and Abarth owners, as my car was the only one here. I took advantage of the setting and the glorious weather to take some more photos of the car for my photo collection.

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ASTON MARTIN

Following the unveiling of the AMV8 Vantage concept car in 2003 at the North American International Auto Show designed by Henrik Fisker, the production version, known as the V8 Vantage was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2005. The two seat, two-door coupé had a bonded aluminium structure for strength and lightness. The 172.5 inch (4.38 m) long car featured a hatchback-style tailgate for practicality, with a large luggage shelf behind the seats. In addition to the coupé, a convertible, known as the V8 Vantage Roadster, was introduced later in that year. The V8 Vantage was initially powered by a 4.3 litre quad-cam 32-valve V8 which produced 380 bhp at 7,300 rpm and 409 Nm (302 lb/ft) at 5,000 rpm. However, models produced after 2008 had a 4.7-litre V8 with 420 bhp and 470 Nm (347 lbft) of torque. Though based loosely on Jaguar’s AJ-V8 engine architecture, this engine was unique to Aston Martin and featured race-style dry-sump lubrication, which enabled it to be mounted low in the chassis for an improved centre of gravity. The cylinder block and heads, crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, camshafts, inlet and exhaust manifolds, lubrication system and engine management were all designed in house by Aston Martin and the engine was assembled by hand at the AM facility in Cologne, Germany, which also built the V12 engine for the DB9 and Vanquish. The engine was front mid-mounted with a rear-mounted transaxle, giving a 49/51 front/rear weight distribution. Slotted Brembo brakes were also standard. The original V8 Vantage could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds before topping out at 175 mph. In 2008, Aston Martin introduced an aftermarket dealer approved upgrade package for power and handling of the 4.3-litre variants that maintained the warranty with the company. The power upgrade was called the V8 Vantage Power Upgrade, creating a more potent version of the Aston Martin 4.3-litre V8 engine with an increase in peak power of 20 bhp to 400 bhp while peak torque increased by 10 Nm to 420 Nm (310 lb/ft). This consists of the fitting of the following revised components; manifold assembly (painted Crackle Black), valved air box, right and left hand side vacuum hose assemblies, engine bay fuse box link lead (ECU to fuse box), throttle body to manifold gasket, intake manifold gasket, fuel injector to manifold seal and a manifold badge. The V8 Vantage had a retail price of GB£79,000, US$110,000, or €104,000 in 2006, Aston Martin planned to build up to 3,000 per year. Included was a 6-speed manual transmission and leather-upholstery for the seats, dash board, steering-wheel, and shift-knob. A new 6-speed sequential manual transmission, similar to those produced by Ferrari and Lamborghini, called Sportshift was introduced later as an option. An open-topped model was added to the range in 2006 and then in the quest for more power a V12 Vantage joined the range not long after.

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DAIMLER

This is the first Daimler to bear the Sovereign name plate. Whereas the Daimler 2½-litre V8 released in 1962 differed from the Jaguar Mark 2 in having a genuine Daimler engine, only the Sovereign’s badging and aspects of interior trim differentiated it from the 420. The market perception of the two marques Daimler and Jaguar, which the material differences between them sought to foster, was that the Daimler represented luxury motoring for the discerning and more mature gentleman whereas the Jaguar was a sporting saloon aimed at a somewhat younger clientele. In the Daimler model range, the Sovereign filled a gap between the 2½-litre V8 and the larger and more conservatively styled 4½-litre Majestic Major. Prices in the UK of the basic 420 and Sovereign, as quoted in the Motor magazine of October 1966 were: Manual o/d – Jaguar £1615, Daimler £1724; Automatic – Jaguar £1678, Daimler £1787. In return for the 6.5% difference in price, the Daimler purchaser obtained only a few substantive advantages but would have considered the cachet of the Daimler badge to be well worth the extra money; indeed the Daimler name attracted buyers who disliked the Jaguar’s racier image. By the same token, rather than being unable to afford the difference for a Daimler, those who chose the Jaguar are unlikely to have regarded the Daimler as something they would wish to own anyway.

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JAGUAR

Few would have guessed that the XJS would run for over 20 years, but eventually it came time for its replacement, and the car charged with so doing was the XK8. Development began in 1992, with design work having starting earlier, in late 1991. By October 1992 a design was chosen and later frozen for production in 1993. Prototypes were built from December 1993 after the X100 was given formal approval and design patents were filed in June 1994. Development concluded in 1996, at which point the car was launched. The first-generation XK series shares its platform with the Aston Martin DB7, and both cars are derived from the Jaguar XJS, though the platform has been extensively changed. One of the revisions is the use of the second generation of Jaguar’s independent rear suspension unit, taken from the XJ40. The XK8 was available in coupé or convertible body styles and with the then new 4.0-litre Jaguar AJ-V8 engine. In 1998 the XKR was introduced with a supercharged version of the engine. 2003 the engines were replaced by the 4.2-litre AJ34 engines in both the normally aspirated and supercharged versions. Equipment levels were generous and there was a high standard of fit and finish. Both models came with all-leather interior, burl walnut trim, and side airbags. Jeremy Clarkson, during a Top Gear test-drive, likened the interior of the original XK8 to sitting inside Blenheim Palace. The model ran for 10 years before being replaced by the X150 model XK.

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MERCEDES-BENZ

Sometimes known as the “New Generation”, to distinguish it from predecessor with the same model names, this is an example of the W114/115 range of cars that Mercedes introduced in 1968, which were produced until 1976 when they were replaced by the W123 range. W114 models featured six-cylinder engines and were marketed as the 230, 250, and 280, while W115 models featured four-cylinder engines and were marketed as the 200, 220, 230, and 240. All were styled by Paul Bracq, featuring a three-box design. At the time, Mercedes marketed saloons in two size classes, with the W114/W115, positioned below the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The W114/W115 models were the first post-war Mercedes-Benz production car to use a newly engineered chassis, not derived from preceding models. The new chassis format of semi-trailing rear arms and ball-joint front end first displayed in the W114/W115 chassis would be used in all new Mercedes passenger car models until the development of the multi-link rear suspensions of the 1980s. The W108/109 S-Class chassis of the 280S/8, 280SE/8 and 300SEL/8 (and W113 280SL Pagoda) would be the last of the low-pivot swing axle and king pin/double wishbone front ends. The next S-Class -the W116 chassis- having the same engineering of the W114/115. Mercedes introduced a coupé variant of the W114 in 1969, featuring a longer boot and available with either a 2.5 or 2.8 litre six-cylinder engine. While a classic and understated design these generally cost less than the W113-based 280 SL model that ran through 1971, and its successor, the 3.5 or 4.5 litre V8 Mercedes SL R107/C107 (1971–1989) roadster and coupé. While a ‘hard-top’ unlike the fully convertible SL, the pillarless design allowed all the windows to be lowered completely for open air motoring. Only 67,048 coupés were manufactured from 1969 to 1976 (vs. 1.852,008 saloons). Of these 24,669 were 280C and 280CE (top of the range), and 42,379 were the lesser 250C and 250CE (A Mercedes-Benz 220D pickup on the W115 chassis was produced briefly in Argentina in the 1970s.) The W114 received a facelift in 1973 – with a lower bonnet-line, lower and broader grill, a single front bumper to replace the double bumpers, lower placement of the headlamps, A-pillar treatment for keeping the side windows clear, removal of the quarter-windows in the front doors, ribbed tail lights to minimise occlusion of the tail lights with road dirt, and larger side mirrors. The interior received inertia reel belts and a new padded steering wheel with a four-hole design. These cars were known to be extremely durable and tough, so the survival rate is quite great, especially in Germany, where they are popular classics. There are rather fewer in the UK, as the cars were fearsomely expensive when new and did not sell in large quantities.

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Mercedes-Benz introduced the W123 four-door versions on 29 January 1976. While there were some technical similarities to their predecessors, the new models were larger in wheelbase and exterior dimensions. The styling was also updated, although stylistic links with the W114 / W115 were maintained. Initially, all models except 280/280E featured quad unequal-size round headlights and the latter large rectangular units. When facelifted, these units became standard across the range. All W115 engines were carried over, with the 3-litre 5-cylinder diesel model being renamed from “240D 3.0” to “300D” (as it had already been called before in North American markets). The only new engine was the 250’s 2,525 cc inline-six (Type M123, a short-stroke version of the 2.8-litre six Type M110) that replaced the old 2,496 cc Type M114 “six”. In the spring of 1976, a Coupé version was introduced on a shorter wheelbase than the saloon (106.7 in versus 110.0 in). This W123C/CE was available as a 230C (later 230CE) and as a 280C/CE in most markets; in North America there were additional 300CD versions with naturally aspirated, later turbocharged 3-litre diesel engines. In North America, buyers favoured diesel engines for upmarket cars, while CAFE legislation meant that Mercedes-Benz North America had to lower their corporate average fuel economy. This led to the introduction of a few diesel models only sold in the United States. It is a tribute to the car’s instant popularity – and possibly to the caution built into the production schedules – that nine months after its introduction, a black market had developed in Germany for Mercedes-Benz W123s available for immediate delivery. Customers willing to order new cars from their local authorised dealer for the recommended list price faced waiting times in excess of twelve months. Meanwhile, models that were barely used and were available almost immediately commanded a premium over the new price of around DM 5,000. From August 1976, long-wheelbase versions (134.8 in) were produced. These were available as 7/8 seater saloons with works bodies or as a chassis with complete front body clip, the latter serving as the base for ambulance and hearse bodies by external suppliers like Binz or Miesen. These “Lang” versions could be ordered as 240D, 300D and 250 models. At the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, 1977 the W123T estate was introduced; the T in the model designation stood for “Touring and Transport”. All engines derivative except “200TD” were available in the range. T production began in March, 1978 in Mercedes’ Bremen factory. It was the first factory-built Mercedes-Benz estate, previous estates had been custom-built by external coachbuilders, such as Binz. In early 1979, the diesel models’ power output was increased; power rose from 54 hp to 59 hp in the 200D, from 64 hp to 71 hp in the 240D and from 79 hp to 87 hp in the 300D; at the same time, the 220D went out of production. The first Mercedes turbo diesel production W123 appeared in September, 1981. This was the 300 TD Turbodiesel, available with automatic transmission only. In most markets, the turbocharged 5-cylinder 3-litre diesel engine (Type OM617.95) was offered only in the T body style, while in North America it was also available in saloon and coupé guises. June 1980 saw the introduction of new four-cylinder petrol engines (Type M102). A new 2-litre four with shorter stroke replaced the old M115, a fuel-injected 2.3-litre version of this engine (in 230E/TE/CE) the old carburettor 230. Both engines were more powerful than their predecessors. In 1980/81, the carburettor 280 versions went out of production; the fuel-injected 280E continued to be offered. In September 1982, all models received a mild facelift. The rectangular headlights, previously fitted only to the 280/280E, were standardised across the board, as was power steering. Since February 1982, an optional five-speed manual transmission was available in all models (except the automatic-only 300 turbodiesel). W123 production ended in January, 1986 with 63 final T-models rolling out. Most popular single models were the 240D (455,000 built), the 230E (442,000 built), and the 200D (378,000 built). The W123 introduced innovations including ABS (optional from August, 1980), a retractable steering column and an airbag for the driver (optional from 1982). Power (vacuum servo) assisted disc brakes were standard on all W123s. Available options included MB-Tex (Mercedes-Benz Texturized Punctured Vinyl) upholstery or velour or leather upholstery, interior wood trim, passenger side exterior mirror (standard on T models), 5-speed manual transmission (European market only), 4-speed automatic transmission (standard in turbodiesel models), power windows with rear-seat switch cut-outs, vacuum powered central locking, rear-facing extra seats (estate only), Standheizung (prestart timer-controlled engine heating), self-locking differential, sun roof, air conditioning, climate control, “Alpine” horn (selectable quieter horn), headlamp wipers (European market only), Tempomat (cruise control), power steering (standard after 1982/08), seat heating, catalytic converter (available from 1984 for California only, from fall (autumn) 1984 also in Germany for the 230E of which one thousand were built). These days, the cars are very popular “youngtimer” classics, with all models highly rated.

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PEUGEOT

Before the 205, Peugeot was considered the most conservative of France’s “big three” car manufacturers, producing large saloons such as the 504 and 505, although it had entered the modern supermini market in 1973 with the Peugeot 104. The genesis of the 205 lay within Peugeot’s takeover in 1978 of Chrysler’s European divisions Simca and the former Rootes Group, which had the necessary expertise in making small cars including the Simca 1100 in France and Hillman Imp in Britain. It was around this time that Peugeot began to work on the development of a new supermini for the 1980s. It was launched on 24 February 1983, and was launched in right-hand drive form for the UK market in September that year. Shortly after its launch, it was narrowly pipped to the European Car of the Year award by the similar sized Fiat Uno, but ultimately (according to the award organizers) it would enjoy a better image and a longer high market demand than its Italian competitor. It was one of five important small cars to be launched onto the European market within a year of each other: the other four were the Uno, the second generation Ford Fiesta, the original Opel Corsa (sold as the Vauxhall Nova on the British market) and the original Nissan Micra. Its launch also closely followed that of the Austin Metro and Volkswagen Polo Mk2. The styling of the 205 is often thought to be a Pininfarina design, although Gerard Welter claims that it is an in-house design; Pininfarina only styled the Cabriolet. It is often credited as the car that turned Peugeot’s fortunes around. The fully independent suspension used the now standard PSA Peugeot Citroën layout that had debuted in the Peugeot 305 estate. A key ingredient of the success of the 205, it had MacPherson struts at the front and trailing arms with torsion bars at the rear. The rear suspension was very compact, designed to minimise suspension intrusion into the boot, giving a wide flat loadspace, while providing excellent ride and handling. Early 205s used the X petrol engine [n 1] from the older Peugeot 104, although these were later (1987–1988) replaced with the newer XU and TU-series engines, which were of PSA design. Engines ranged in displacement from 954 cc to 1905 cc, in carburettor or fuel injected versions. The diesel models employed the PSA XUD engine, lifted from the Citroën BX which was introduced in September 1982. These engines had a capacity of 1769 cc (XUD7) and 1905 cc (XUD9) and are closely related to the XU5 and XU9 petrol engines in the BX16 and BX19 of the time. The diesel engines were world-beating and so petrol-like that many buyers were won over by petrol car performance combined with diesel economy. For instance, the 205 GRD (1.8 Diesel, 59 bhp, 78 lb/ft (105.8 Nm)) was as fast as, yet smoother than, the 205 GR (1.4 Petrol, 59 bhp, 78 lb/ft (105.8 Nm)), due to the engine developing peak torque at much lower rpm, while using much less fuel. There were various versions intended for commercial use, such as the two-seater XA-series. There was also the “205 Multi”, a tall-bodied special version on XA or XE-basis built by independent coachbuilders like Gruau and Durisotti. Gruau called their XA-based two-seater version the “VU”, while the five-seat XE-based version was called the “VP”. Durisotti began building the 205 Multi in 1986; it was called the “205 Multi New Look”. The 205 was an instant hit, and its styling was echoed in every Peugeot model that was to follow. The exterior styling was never facelifted or significantly altered in its 15-year production run. There was a dashboard redesign for the 1988 model year, and in late 1990 the 205 received new door design and cards, clear front indicators, new ‘smoked’ rear light clusters, single point petrol injection and catalytic converters were introduced, to meet the new 1992 pollution limits. These updates came at a crucial time, as 1990 also saw the arrival of a completely new French competitor, the Renault Clio, while the Rover Metro and Volkswagen Polo were also heavily updated, and Ford had already replaced its Fiesta with a third generation model. Still, the 205 was still widely regarded in the motoring press as the benchmark car in this sector by 1990. At the beginning of 1993, Peugeot launched the 306, which officially replaced the 309; the arrival of this car also diminished the 205’s role (and its sales figures) in the Peugeot range, as had the arrival of the smaller 106 in September 1991 – although the final demise of the 205 was still some years away. The engines were continuously updated, with the new TU engines introduced in 1988. In 1991, the 205 dTurbo was launched with a powerful turbocharged version of the 1,769 cc xud diesel engine. After several years of gradually declining sales, the Peugeot 205 was discontinued in the United Kingdom in 1996. The Peugeot 205 was still offered in the “Sacré Numéro” and “Génération” models until the end of the production in 1998. The last models were GLD 1.8 configuration and were sold in Argentina. Most of the later European versions were only sold in France. Due to the pressure from the market, with buyers wanting a Peugeot supermini in the mould of the 205 again, the company finally built a direct replacement in the 206, which was launched in 1998. 5,278,050 Peugeot 205s have been sold, and a significant percentage of them were still in circulation as of 2009. By 2014, there were still as many as 14,000 on the road in the United Kingdom, compared to the peak high of 374,773 in 1994. With potentially as many 400,000 sales in the UK, it became the best selling car ever sold by Peugeot in the UK – although its success was emulated a few years later by the larger 306 and later by the 206. It also helped boost the popularity of the Peugeot brand there, and was at least a factor in Peugeot’s decision to phase out the Talbot brand in the mid 1980s when launching new models to be built at the former Rootes Group plant near Coventry and the former Simca plant at Poissy.

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PORSCHE

During the 1990s, Porsche was facing financial troubles and rumours of a proposed takeover were being spread. The signature air-cooled flat-6 of the 911 was reaching the limits of its potential as made evident by the 993. Stricter emissions regulations world wide further forced Porsche to think of a replacement of the air-cooled unit. In order to improve manufacturing processes, Porsche took the aid of leading Japanese car manufacturer Toyota whose consultants would assist in the overhaul of the Zuffenhausen manufacturing facility introducing mass production techniques which would allow Porsche to carry out production processes more efficiently. Porsche had realised that in order to keep the 911 in production, it would need radical changes. This led to the development of the 996. The sharing of development between the new 911 and the entry level Boxster model allowed Porsche to save development costs. This move also resulted in interchangeable parts between the two models bringing down maintenance costs. The Porsche 996 was a new design developed by Pinky Lai under Porsche design chief Harm Lagaay from 1992 to 1994; it was the first 911 that was completely redesigned, and carried over little from its predecessor as Porsche wanted the design team to design a 911 for the next millennium. Featuring an all new body work, interior, and the first water-cooled engine, the 996 replaced the 993 from which only the front suspension, rear multi-link suspension, and a 6-speed manual transmission were retained in revised form. The 996 had a drag coefficient of Cd=0.30 resulting from hours spent in the wind tunnel. The 996 is 185 mm (7 in) longer and 40 mm (2 in) wider than its predecessor. It is also 45% stiffer courtesy of a chassis formed from high-strength steel. Additionally, it is 50 kg (110 lb) lighter despite having additional radiators and coolant. All of the M96 engines offered in the 996 (except for the variants fitted to the Turbo and GT2/GT3 models) are susceptible to the Porsche Intermediate Shaft Bearing issue which can potentially cause serious engine failure if not addressed via a retrofit. The 996 was initially available in a coupé or a cabriolet (Convertible) bodystyle with rear-wheel drive, and later with four-wheel drive, utilising a 3.4 litre flat-6 engine generating a maximum power output of 296 bhp. The 996 had the same front end as the entry-level Boxster. After requests from the Carrera owners about their premium cars looking like a “lower priced car that looked just like theirs did”, Porsche redesigned the headlamps of the Carrera in 2002 similar to the high performance Turbo’s headlamps. The design for the initial “fried egg” shaped headlamps could be traced back to the 1997 911 GT1 race car. In 2000, Porsche introduced the 996 Turbo, equipped with a four-wheel-drive system and a 3.6-litre, twin-turbocharged and intercooled flat-six engine generating a maximum power output of 420 bhp, making the car capable of accelerating from 0–60 mph in 4.2 seconds. An X50 option which included larger turbochargers and intercoolers along with revised engine control software became available from the factory in 2002, increasing power output to 451 bhp. In 2005, Porsche introduced the Turbo S, which had the X50 option included as standard equipment, with the formerly optional Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) composite ceramic brakes (PCCB) also included as standard. In 2000, power output on the base Carrera model was increased to 300 bhp. 2001 marked the final year of production for the base Carrera 4 Coupé in narrow body format. In 2002, the standard Carrera models underwent the above-mentioned facelift. In addition, engine capacity was also increased to 3.6-litres across the range, yielding gains of 15 bhp for the naturally aspirated models. 2002 also marked the start of the production of the 996 based Targa model, with a sliding glass “green house” roof system as introduced on its predecessor. It also features a rear glass hatch which gave the driver access to the storage compartment. Also in 2002, the Carrera 4S model was first introduced.

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Also here was the latest version of the 911, the model often referred to as the 992.

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ROVER

When news of Project YY, a new mid-sized car started to filter out, another joint Honda-Rover development, it was assumed that once again each would adopt their own body style. Honda was first to market, by some months, with their Concerto, and when the Rover 200 Series as the new 5 door hatch models were called, were then revealed in the autumn of 1989, there was much disappointment expressed that it seemed that Rover had merely changed the details of lights, bumpers and grille, as well putting their own touches to the interior. They had also put their brand new K Series 1.4 litre engine under the bonnet, though, and once the press and then the public got to drive the new car, any thoughts that this might be another dull Japanese car were dispelled, as it was evident that this was a cracking new car in every respect. Only high prices counted against it, but look past that, and the choice between a Rover 214 with a 92 bhp engine and sweet five speed gearbox and a quality interior, or a Ford Escort 1.4 saddled with the rough and crude 75 1.4 litre CVH engine and a decidedly mass-market feeling interior pointed in the Rover’s favour every time. The 216 model retained a Honda engine, but with 125 bhp, this was unbelievably rapid for the class. The 4 door saloon version, the 400, followed a few months later, and then Rover added their own unique 3 door body style, as well as the option of a 2 litre model for a hot hatch to rival the Golf GTi and 309 GTi. Seen here were a couple of examples of the 200, both of them later model cars.

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Although the Rover 800 had sold well, by the mid 90s, it was in need of replacement. The relationship with Honda, which had helped to create it, as well as the slightly smaller and cheaper Honda 600 was over, as new owners BMW had their own ideas of what to do with the marque that it is alleged that they sometimes referred rather unkindly to as “The English Patient”. Three new designs were produced under the guidance of Richard Woolley; a large saloon codenamed Flagship, a smaller vehicle (with the codename of Eric), and the 75. Of these only the 75 concept progressed. The initial aim had been to re-skin the Rover 600, but following the BMW takeover it was quickly decided that this platform would not be re-used but replaced by an entirely new model. Work on the new model, codenamed R40, progressed well with little operational interference from BMW; the styling received an enthusiastic response from the management and both companies believed the classical look would be the ideal direction for Rover. Revolutionary new design processes were adopted, including the 3D virtual reality assembly simulation “ebuild” techniques, ensuring the car would achieve class leading build quality when series production started. Under the lauded styling were to be a range of petrol and diesel engines from 1.8- to 2.5-litre sizes. Petrol engines would use the much praised Rover 4-cylinder K series in 1.8-litre guise and the quad cam KV6, offered in either short-stroke 2.0 or revised 2.5-litre formats. The 2.0-litre was later dropped on introduction of the 1.8-litre turbo for emissions purposes. Transmissions on all models would be either the Getrag 283 5-speed manual, supplied from the company’s new facility in Bari, Italy, or the JATCO 5-speed automatic unit—one of the first transverse engine deployments made with this feature. Braking would be in the form of all-round discs, complemented with a Bosch 5.7 4-channel ABS system and electronic brake force distribution. The parking brake was a cable operated drum integral within the rear discs. Suspension was to be a MacPherson strut arrangement at the front, anchored by lower alloy L-arms. The wide spacing of the mounting points, compliant bushings and a perimeter subframe gave the model a cushioned yet precise ride with relaxed handling that could be tuned for different markets or model derivatives such as the later MG ZT. The rear suspension, after a period of uncertainty during development, was eventually a version of BMW’s Z-Axle arrangement first featured on the 1988 Z1 sports car. At the time of the launch, there had been speculation within the media that the Rover 75 used the BMW 5-Series platform, perhaps due to the overall size of the model, the apparent presence of a transmission tunnel and the use of the parent company’s rear suspension system, but this was in fact not the case: Rover engineers had used the concept of incorporating a central tunnel which had been explored by BMW as part of their own research into front-wheel-drive chassis design. As the 75 took shape, this core engineering was passed over to Rover and evolved into the Rover 75 structure. The tunnel concept, along with the rear suspension system, was also used by the Rover engineers for the design of the Mini. The Rover 75 was premiered at the 1998 British Motor Show, and it attracted praise for its styling and design integrity. Although some labelled its styling as too “retro”, suggesting it had been designed with an older buyer in mind, and was not sporting enough when compared to the competition, it received far more praise than the Jaguar S Type which debuted at the same time. The 75 went on to win a series of international awards including various “most beautiful car” awards, including one in Italy. Assembly originally took place at Cowley but in 2000, following the sale of the company by BMW to Phoenix Venture Holdings, production was moved to Longbridge. 2001 saw the introduction of the Rover 75 Tourer (developed alongside the saloon but never authorised for production by BMW), swiftly followed by the MG ZT and MG ZT-T, more sporting interpretations of the model, differentiated by modified, sporting chassis settings and colour and trim derivatives. Between 2000 and 2003, there were few changes to the range: the most significant was the replacement of the 2-litre V6 engine by a low-pressure-turbocharged version of the 1.8-litre 4-cylinder engine, which benefited British company car drivers, taxed on carbon dioxide emissions. A customisation programme, Monogram, was launched, allowing buyers to order their car in a wider range of exterior paint colours and finishes, different interior trims and with optional extras installed during production In early 2004 Rover facelifted the design of the 75 to look less retro and more European. Changes were restricted to bolt-on components and some technical upgrades. At the front was a new, more angular bumper fitted with a mesh lower grille, bigger door mirrors, one-piece headlights with halogen projectors fitted as standard, revamped front and side indicators and fog lights as well as a larger yet sleeker chrome grille on top. The rear also featured a more modern bumper with a new chrome boot handle. The middle-specification Club trim was dropped, and on Connoisseur trim light oak wood took the place of the original walnut, which remained standard fitment on the entry-level Classic trim. Rover also added a new trim to the range called Contemporary which featured revised fittings such as larger alloy wheels, body colour exterior accents, black oak wood trim and sports seats as well as an altered equipment tally. The instrumentation and its back-lighting were modernised, the console texture finish was upgraded and the seat bolsters revised to offer more support. Access to the rear seats was improved and leg-room increased. Production of this range continued until the collapse of MG-Rover in April 2005. The 75 developed an almost fanatical following among many of its owners, and although even the newest model is now over 10 years old, many have hung onto their cars. They were well built, and have proved reliable and long-lasting, so there are still plenty around. Several examples of both the Saloon and the Tourer were here.

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SAAB

Once quite a common sight on our roads, there was an example of the now rare 96 here, this being the car of well-known journalist John Simister. SAAB produced the 96 from 1960 until 1980, though UK sales ended a bit before that. The car was an evolution of the earlier 93, which could trace its roots back all the way to the very first SAAB model of 1948. The model continued to evolve, with frequent changes made to the styling details and trim. Mechanically the most significant alteration came in 1967 when the traditional two stroke in-house engine was replaced by Ford’s V4 unit that was also used in German Ford Taunus cars, a four-stroke 1498 cc V4 unit, originally developed for the 1962 Ford Taunus 15M. Saab’s project to source a four-stroke engine was dubbed ‘Operation Kajsa’. The two-stroke option was offered until 1968. Four-stroke engines had been tested before, between 1962 and 1964 Kjell Knutsson and Ingvar Andersson under Rolf Mellde tested three different engines: a 45 hp Lloyd Arabella 897cc; a 33 hp BMC A-Series 848cc engine and a Lancia Appia engine of 1089cc and 48 hp. However Rolf Mellde’s view that Saab needed to switch to a four-stroke engine was stopped higher up by CEO Tryggve Holm. Mellde then went behind the back of Holm and made contact with Marc Wallenberg, son of Marcus Wallenberg, Saab’s major stockholder. The coup succeeded and testing could begin. The tested engines were Volvo B18, Ford V4, Triumph 1300, Lancia V4 engine, Opel, Volkswagen and Hillman Imp. Whilst the Volvo unit proved the most reliable, the Ford V4 was not far behind and was significantly easier to fit into the engine bay of the 96. The testing was done in secrecy. Rolf Mellde took a leave of absence and said he was going to run his father’s paint shop. In reality he went to Desenzano in northern Italy with a 96V4 prototype for testing. With five months to go before production only seven people knew about the new engine. To maintain secrecy they rented a house west of Kristinehamn. To keep purchases of V4 specific parts secret they started the company Maskinverktyg AB. The ordinary purchase department at Saab was oblivious to what was going on, something that caused an incident when Rune Ahlberg cancelled the orders for cables for the two-stroke engine and the purchase department called the supplier and sharply told them to keep their deliveries. In the last week of July, just before the summer holidays, information about the new engine was released to further people and they were informed that full-scale production would start in four weeks. To keep secrecy, 40 of the ordinary staff were told to report to work to fix a problem with the disc brakes. Just prior to the official introduction, a journalist noticed a lorry loaded with 96s with V4 stickers on the front bumpers. The ordinary V4 engines produced between 1967 and 1976 had 65 hp. For the 1976 model, known as the 96L, power was reduced to 62 hp due to new Swedish emission regulations. However, the 1977-1980 models had 68 hp due to a two-stage Solex 32TDID carburettor. The V4 96 managed 0–100 km/h in 16 seconds. The car was tough, and although by the 1970s it was old fashioned in many respects, but it had plenty of fans, who only started to desert the model as the decade ran its course.

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SUNBEAM-TALBOT

The Sunbeam-Talbot 90 was a compact executive car produced and built by Sunbeam-Talbot from 1948 to 1954 and continued as the Sunbeam Mk III from 1954 to 1957. The car was launched in 1948 along with the smaller-engined Sunbeam-Talbot 80 but many features dated back to the pre war Sunbeam-Talbot 2 Litre. The body was completely new and available as a 4-door saloon or 2-door drophead coupe. The saloon featured a “pillarless” join between the glass on the rear door and the rear quarter window. The car went through three versions before the name was changed to Sunbeam Mk III (without “Talbot”) in 1954. The original version had a 64 bhp 1,944 cc side-valve four-cylinder engine derived from a pre-war Humber unit carried over from the Sunbeam-Talbot 2-Litre. The chassis was derived from the Ten model but with wider track and had beam axles front and rear and leaf springs. The brakes were updated to have hydraulic operation. Saloon and Drophead coupé bodies were fitted to the chassis and the rear wheel openings were covered by metal “spats”. 4000 were made. The Mk II got a new chassis with independent front suspension using coil springs. The engine was enlarged to 2267 cc. The increased engine block capacity was shared with the company’s 1950 Humber Hawk, but in the cylinder head the Humber retained (until 1954) the old side-valve arrangement. The Sunbeam’s cylinder head was changed to incorporate overhead valves, giving rise to a claimed power output of 70 bhp compared with only 58 bhp for the Humber. The favourable power-to-weight ratio meant that the Talbot could be “geared quite high” and still provide impressive acceleration where needed for “quick overtaking”.The front of the Talbot 90 body was modified; the headlights were higher and there were air inlet grilles on either side of the radiator. 5493 were made. Clming in 1952, the Mk IIA had a higher compression engine raising output to 77 bhp. To cater for the higher speeds the car was now capable of, the brakes were enlarged and to improve brake cooling the wheels were pierced. The Talbot MkIIA coupe/convertible is regarded as the rarest of the Sunbeam Talbots. The rear wheel spats were no longer fitted. 10,888 were made. From 1954 to 1957 the car continued, but without the Talbot name and was marketed as the Sunbeam MkIII and badged on the radiator shell as Sunbeam Supreme. The drophead coupé was not made after 1955. There were some minor styling changes to the front with enlarged air intakes on each side of the radiator shell and three small portholes just below each side of the bonnet near to the windscreen. Duo-tone paint schemes were also available. Engine power was increased to 80 bhp and overdrive became an option. Approximately 2250 were made.

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VAUXHALL

Once a common sight, eve the third generation Cavalier is quite a rarity these days. By the mid-1980s, General Motors had started developing a new model to replace the J-Car models in Europe (its American, Australian and Japanese divisions would instead be replaced by different designs in due course) by the end of the decade. The new model would retain the Cavalier nameplate for the Vauxhall version on the UK market, but elsewhere in Europe the car would be sold as the Opel Vectra – spelling the end for the long-running Ascona nameplate. Soon afterwards, development also began on a new coupe which would share the same underpinnings as the hatchbacks and saloons, but would use a different nameplate and feature completely different styling. The final generation Cavalier went on sale on 14 October 1988, being Vauxhall’s version of the Opel Vectra “A”, again available as a saloon and hatchback. There was no estate version in the Opel line-up, and as this design was not going to be sold in Australia, there was no prospect of Vauxhall turning to Holden for a replacement. Early plans for an estate model exclusive to Europe to be developed never materialised. During 1989, however, the Cavalier’s floorpan did spawn a new coupe – the Calibra, the first Vauxhall coupe since the original Cavalier coupe was discontinued in 1981. The Calibra was the official replacement for the Opel Manta, which had been discontinued in 1988, and was also sold on continental Europe under the Opel Brand. Plans for the Calibra to be imported to the USA under the Saab brand never materialised. The Vectra name was not adopted at this model change as Vauxhall feared reviving memories of the much-maligned Vauxhall Victor, whereas the Cavalier was a generally well received product and had helped boost Vauxhall’s sales and reputation. Early Victors had been viewed in some quarters as excessively corrosion prone, but the Victor was becoming a very distant memory by this stage: the Vectra name would eventually appear on a Vauxhall in 1995, when the Cavalier was finally replaced. In place of the Mark II Cavalier’s angular exterior was a more rounded appearance, reflecting the change in styling tastes throughout Europe at this time. There was also a new economical 1.4 L petrol engine. The biggest changes to the range were the addition of 2.0 L sixteen valve engines, better known as the “red top” or XE. This was fitted to the GSi 2000 and later SRis. Also made available was a four-wheel drive system, fitted to a 2.0iL model (8 valve SRi spec) and on a version of the GSi 2000. There were two diesels available: a 1.7 L, 60 hp from launch, and an 82 hp 1.7-litre Isuzu-engined lightly blown turbodiesel from 1992. The early SRis were fitted with the 2.0-liter eight-valve engine from the previous Cavalier model, which produced 130 hp. Despite the lack of an estate body style, the Cavalier topped the large medium family car sales charts in Britain in 1990, narrowly outselling the Ford Sierra, while Rover was beginning to phase out its Montego in favour of the new Rover 400 Series and later the more upmarket 600 Series. Other strong contenders in this sector included the long-running Citroën BX and Peugeot’s highly regarded 405. Having first outsold the Sierra in Britain in 1990, it was Britain’s second best selling car behind the Ford Escort in 1992. It did not lose top spot in its sector until it was overtaken by the Sierra’s successor, the Mondeo, in 1994. The Calibra, launched in 1989, was well received, notably for its sporty although cramped interior (largely based on the interior of the Cavalier) and its streamlined styling which in turn enabled the Calibra to have the lowest drag coefficient of the period at 0.26 for the 8v model (0.29 for the rest) – a record it held for the next 10 years. A few variants were made: the 2.0 litre eight valve, 2.0 L sixteen valve (the same engine found in the proven Cavalier GSi 2000), the turbo version (again, the same engine used in the very successful Cavalier Turbo), the 2.5 L V6 (with a top speed of around 145 mph) and finally the 2.0 L 16-valve “Ecotec”. A facelift in the autumn of 1992 for the 1993 model year saw the Cavalier’s 1.4 L engine dropped and the 167 bhp 2.5 L V6 added to the range. At this time the GSi 2000 was replaced by a new four wheel drive version badged simply “Cavalier Turbo”, with a turbocharged version of the sixteen valve engine producing over 200 bhp. The Vauxhall logo was added to the centre of the boot. Most of the range now had airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard (the first car in its class to do so) and all models were fitted with a toughened safety cage, side impact beams (providing additional longitudinal load paths) and front seatbelt pretensioners. This version of the Cavalier was the first Vauxhall to feature a drivers airbag, with a passenger one being optional; this feature soon became available across the rest of the company’s range. The exterior design was also freshened up, with a new look grille, headlights, rear lights and bumper mouldings and an increase in sound insulation, especially in GLS and higher models making the Cavalier a quiet place to travel in. In late 1994, the new 2.0L Ecotec engine was launched replacing both the popular eight valve C20NE and high performance sixteen valve “redtop” engine. The new engine had improved fuel economy and low end torque at the cost of maximum power output, 136 hp compared to 150 hp for the “redtop” that it replaced. After twenty years and three generations, the Cavalier came to an end in October 1995 when it was replaced by the Vectra, though sales continued for about a year afterwards and several P registered versions (August 1996 to July 1997 period) were sold. The third and final incarnation of the Cavalier was a big improvement over its predecessors (and most earlier Vauxhalls) in terms of durability, with the rust problems that had plagued Vauxhall for years finally being conquered. This was reflected by the fact that Mark III Cavaliers were a common sight on British roads for well over a decade after the end of production. The demise of the Cavalier name marked a significant moment for the Luton-based company, as it would be the last of its main models with a distinct name from its Opel counterparts until the rebadging of the Opel Speedster as the Vauxhall VX220 and the Opel Karl as the Vauxhall Viva. All future Vauxhall models would share their names with those of Opel, or in the case of the 2004 Vauxhall Monaro, with Holden. However, the Astra nameplate was chosen by Vauxhall at the beginning of 1980 for its version of the first front-wheel drive Opel Kadett, and from 1991 General Motors decided to sell the Opel version of the car as the Astra. This version of the Cavalier shared its chassis with the Saab 900 that was produced from 1993 until 1998, and continued until 2002 as the Saab 9-3, due to Saab also being within the General Motors combine at the time.

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VOLKSWAGEN

VW launched the second generation Golf in August of 1983, nearly 9 years after production of the first model to bear the name had begun. This time, a GTi version was included in the product plans from the start, and the new GTi was announced in May 1984. Like the regular Golf 2, it was almost 7″ longer than the Mark 1, with 3″ extra in the wheelbase and a 2″ wider track. It was also 10% heavier, but with significantly improved aerodynamics, resulting from attention to detail which included integrated gutters and flush glass as well as more rounded styling, the cd fell from 0.42 to 0.34. Initially it was powered by the same 1781cc fuel injected engine, but there were all round disc brakes and longer suspension travel improved the ride. Competitors came snapping at its heels, though, so after 2/5 years, VW responded by giving the car 24% more power, achieved by doubling the number of valves to 16. Lower stiffer suspension and bigger front brakes were also fitted, all of which restored the Golf GTi 16V to the top of the Hot Hatch pile. For most people that is, though the 8v car retained a following thanks to its broader torque spread. This less powerful car changed from a mechanical K-Jetronic injection system to a new Digifant electronic set up in 1987 at which point the front quarterlights were deleted, and a digital instrument pack became an option on the 16v car. Power steering became standard in late 1990 and the 8v gained the interior from the 16v model. Production ran through to February 1992, by which time the Mark 3 GTi was waiting in the wings. over 600,000 were built over an 8 year period, around 10% of all Mark 2 Golf production.

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This really was a most enjoyable event, significantly exceeding my expectations. Perhaps I should have guessed that this would actually have turned out to the case, though the sunny weather was a real bonus that was only confirmable on the day as the forecast had changed somewhat in the days leading up to the weekend, as so often happens. MG Owners are a friendly lot and are very enthusiastic about their cars and many of them were only too happy to talk about their car, its history, its restoration and some of the adventures they have had. It’s certainly one of those events now to go and search out, as if the diary permits, I would definitely choose to attend again.

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