Pre-War MGs at Silverstone From 50 Years Ago

I got an email from Evan Gamblin from the Ottawa area of Ontario.  Evan spent considerable time in the UK and is very knowledgeable about English cars.  My recent post about the MG J2 that I saw at Thompson Speedway got Evan thinking about the day he attended the MG Car Club races at the Silverstone race track in England 50 years ago in 1964.  He sent me some photographs that he took that day and I am pleased that Evan allowed me to share them with viewers of this site.  I posted my initial story about the photos, but then I got a comment note from David Allison of the UK who had specific information and corrections to my post.  As a result, I decided to edit the post with David Allison’s comments and corrections rather than have any readers of the post have to follow the comment trail.  I’ll take the responsibility for the initial incorrect information.

Not only are the photos of the featured cars interesting, but it is also interesting to look at the cars and activities going on in the background.  For example, in the picture of the MG M type special below there is an interesting transporter in the background.

IMG0090-M-spl

 The Late Stuart Milton’s MG M Special Now Owned By Clive Sheriff

The photo below shows a standard Type M MG Midget.  The MG Midget M Special shown above is at the very least a re-bodied MG Midget.  I assume that the owner also made some improvements to the engine.

Standard MG Midget M

Standard MG Type M Midget

The MG Midgets only had 847cc engines and produced 20 horsepower at 4,000 rpms.  The car had a three-speed transmission.  Not much power, but the car only had a 78-inch wheelbase and a 42-inch track, so it was a small car.

IMG0088-M

Peter Thornley’s  MG Type M Midget 

In an amazing coincidence, Evan pointed out that the gent in plimsolls/sneakers squatting near the front of the M-type is Peter Ross.  Evan met him only about 20 years after this picture was taken in the 1980s at the Lime Rock race track in Connecticut, and said that Peter is now living in New England and is still racing the same MG-TC that he had that day at Silverstone in 1964.  I pointed out to Evan that it is the same Peter Ross actually also owns the MG J2 that I photographed at the Thompson Speedway which had initially caught Evan’s attention.  Small world!

IMG0016

Peter Ross In His MG TC Many Years Later

My initial story was about a MG J2 car at the Thompson Speedway and Evan forwarded some photos of MG J2s that were at Silverstone that day.

IMG0093-J2

Mike Hawkes’ MG J2

In the picture above you can see a commonly used performance improvement of that era where the standard 19-inch wire wheels are exchanged for 16-inch wire wheels which permits bigger and better Dunlop racing tires to be used.  I think that the holes in the brake drums were made to improve brake cooling.  This car also has the small “Brooklands” windscreen.

IMG0104-J2

Tony Miles’ MG PA (ex-Dorothy Stanley Turner LeMans car)

Note that in the MG PA shown above and in many of the cars shown in these photos that most of the cars have temporary racing numbers, but road registration numbers.  I mentioned this to Evan and he said that most of the cars were driven to and from the race track.

As I noted in my previous post about the MG J2, the MG J2 was one model of a four model series:

  • J1 – Four-seat touring model with 36 horsepower 847cc engine
  • J2 – Two-seat sports model with 36 horsepower 847cc engine
  • J3 – Two-seat sports model with a supercharged 746cc destroked 847cc engine
  • J4 – Two seat sports model with 72 horsepower 746cc destroked 847cc engine

Now, thanks to Evan, I can show an image of both the MG J3 and MG J4 cars in addition to the J2 cars.

IMG0096-J3

An MG J4 Owned By Geoff Coles

Note that the MG J4 shown above also has the 16-inch wheels and the “Brooklands” windscreens.

IMG0091-J4

A MG J2 Built And Run By Mel Jones

The MG J4 was really the racing version of the J-Series and a MG J4 finished 6th Overall in the 1934 LeMans race.

IMG0092-J4-spl

A MG J3 Special Run By Malcolm Beer

The MG J3 shown above is a special race prepared car as the original body has been removed and replaced with a single seater racing body.  This is getting to be a very serious race car.

Also, note the cars in the background.  The red car on the right looks like a Lotus Cortina, Car #20 is a Lotus Elite, but Car #118 is a WSM MGB which was a special car built by Tony Wilson-Spratt.

I appreciate Evan Gamblin sharing these photos.  I am still astonished that a picture of a car would remind someone of an event 50 years ago and that one picture from that event 50 years ago in a country across the ocean happens to include a picture of the owner of the car that triggered the memory.   I have no way of contacting Peter Ross, but if a reader of this website knows how to contact Peter Ross, please advise him of the photo of him at Silverstone 50 years ago.

I contacted Evan about David Allison’s comments.  Evan noted that David Allison was likely the son of Mike Allison who also was at Silverstone that day in 1964 racing a single seat K3.  The following is a picture that Evan took of Mike Allison’s car that day.

IMG0102-K3-spl

 Mike Allison’s K3

I want to thank David Allison for his contributions to this post.  I hope that I’ve got it correct.

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15 Responses to Pre-War MGs at Silverstone From 50 Years Ago

  1. greg g says:

    MG is the honored marque at the Watkins Glenn Vintage Weekend this year. Sept 5,6,7 Perhaps some interesting examples and specials will be in attendance.

  2. EVan Gamblin says:

    Hi Steve:
    Thanks for your interest in the photos.
    Car #118 I always thought was a Reliant Scimitar of some kind. But I haven’t been able to find an exact match online.
    Cars in the background:
    – In the M-Special photo, the red single-seater visible just above its cockpit is a very rare MG Q-type racer. Parked ahead of it is one of the larger MGs – possibly a WA – that competed in the market with Jaguar’s SS models.
    – In the M-type tailview, the red Lotus is a 7/20 – a Formula Junior wearing a Seven body.
    Also competing that day, but not seen in any of these shots was John Gott in one of the factory Healey 3000 rally cars.
    Finally to clarify: I lived in England several times, but mostly grew up in Canada.

    • Hi Evan,
      The red-single seater that you referred to initially looked a little out of place to me. I thought, until you clarified it, that it was an American midget circle track racer that somehow ended up in England, not the rare car it actually is. The large MG WA is quite a car. I have not been able to see a WA in person – probably because I’m on the wrong side of the Atlantic.

      Sorry about not realizing that you are a full-blown Canadian. Your knowledge of British cars had lead me to believe that you were a native Englishmen before you came to Canada.

      Thanks for the photos!
      Steve McKelvie

  3. Merrill Smith says:

    Could 118 have been a Gilbern?

    • Hi Merrill,
      I can’t say if it’s a Gilbern or not. Gilbern GTs were available during this time period, but I could not find an image of one in my reference books.
      Steve McKelvie

  4. David Allison says:

    The red car is the late Stuart Milton’s M type special – now owned by Clive Sherrif
    The second car is Peter Thornleys M Type.
    Next is Mike Hawkes J2 – the next is stated as a J2 but I dont recognise it I will ask my Dad.
    The next car is stated as a J3 – it is in fact a J4 – this is one of two cars run by Geoff Coles and it was very rapid.
    The next is stated as a J4 – it is in fact a J2 built and run by Mel Jones.
    The last car is stated a J4 special – it is actually a J3 – run at this meeting by Malcolm Beer and he still has it.
    Car 118 is a WSM MGB – these were built by Tony Wilson-Spratt for sports cars racing, they had a lightweight coupe body and predated the MGB GT by a couple of years – WSM also built a couple of Sprite and Midget based MG specials too.

    • Hi David,
      Thank you very much for the informative comment. You have provided a great deal of information. I will contact Evan to get his input and I make any necessary updates and corrections to the original post and acknowledge your input.
      Thanks again,
      Steve McKelvie

  5. EVan Gamblin says:

    David:

    Thank you for the corrections and updates.
    My best regards to your Dad, Mike.

  6. David Allison says:

    Dad and Mum spent yesterday afternoon with us 🙂 – they even came along in NA 0307 (which he has owned since 1961).
    Dad says that the car number 52 is Tony Miles’ PA (ex Dorothy Stanley Turner Le-Mans team car – often called “Eystons Dancing Daughters Team”) – they were the precursor to the PB with the larger engine.
    Tony Miles sold the car and it now resides in the USA

  7. David Allison says:

    Steve you are correct I am guilty as charged 🙂
    The K3 was at that time owned by Don Pitt who due to ill health allowed Dad to drive it for a while.
    The car is K3021 and is owned by Malcolm Beer.

  8. David Allison says:

    Evan mentions a Q type in the background – this car is the the one used by George Harvey Noble to take the Class H (upto 750 cc) outer circuit lap record at Brooklands (which I suppose it still holds).
    At this meeting it was probably owned by Tony Statham – it is now also owned by Malcolm Beer who credits the car for his current lack of hearing (it was by all accounts a noisy beggar).

  9. Peter Ross says:

    Hi,
    I stumbled into this very interesting blog and noticed a comment that you couldn’t contact me! I tend to keep my head down since following such blogs and forums sucks away my time like a vacuum cleaner. I have too many MG projects to complete and to many activities to participate in while I am able, including vintage racing. Yes, I am active with my TC and J2 you mention. The first time I raced the TC was Silverstone 1963 and the most recent was at Thompson in June 2015. We have just got back from GOF Central in Indianapolis where the J2 ran its tyres on the Indy oval for a couple of dreadfully slow parade laps, much less invigorating, I am sure than when it was raced at Brooklands in 1933 by its first owner Archie Langley. BTW, it ran much better last year in the Collier Cup race at Watkins Glen in 2014 that earlier at Thompson.

    If you want to know more about J2 history in America, I have written an article recently published in the 2014 Triple-M Year Book.

    I have found a few moments spare in Dulveron, Somerset, while visiting family, but we have lived in Bolton, Massachusetts for the last 37 years with my email being boltonmg@comcast.net.

    Cheers,
    Peter

  10. Evan Gamblin says:

    Steve:

    My B&W photos from this event recently turned up, and
    I’ve posted them online:

    MG J2, J3, J4, K3 and Q-type are in:
    http://evanseangamblin1568.zenfolio.com/p995256356

    The Austin-Healey 3000 rally car (SMO 746), Lotus 7/20 and others are in:
    http://evanseangamblin1568.zenfolio.com/p348027399

    Best,
    Evan

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