FAREWELL OLD FRIEND – PLEASE KEEP IN TOUCH!

1 Sep

I bought my MG PB in September 1998, so it’s been a ‘love affair’ for nearly 21 years. 

The picture opposite was taken by my son, Stephen just before setting off from our hotel for Goodwood Revival 4 years ago. 

Following purchase, I was disappointed to learn that there was no documented history of the car for the period between 1936 and 1945, and subsequent enquiries of the DVLA ran into the sand. 

The sales advice which was completed at Abingdon for every finished car, records, on signing out from the Despatch Department, that chassis number PB0722 was delivered on 26th March 1936 to the Main Agent, University Motors.

The sales advice recorded such details as vehicle type, chassis, engine, gearbox, rear axle and body numbers and even dynamo and starter numbers. Also recorded were body, upholstery and wheel colours. 

My car was original in all respects, apart from the rear axle number and I put that down to transposition of numbers – well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Although the car was built on 27th January 1936 (Source: Production Records) and delivered to the Main Agent by the end of March, it was not sold until 23rd May. The selling garage was Chesterfield Motors of London NW 1, who would have been supplied with the car via the Main Agent. 

The first owner was a Mr Cyril Wentworth Hogg of Clarendon Mansions, Brighton. Even if Mr Hogg purchased the car at the tender age of twenty, he would be a centenarian now; possible, but unlikely.

As first owner of the car, Mr Cyril Wentworth Hogg’s name appears on the returned Guarantee card. 

A Guarantee card was sent with each new car to the supplying dealer, who was responsible for handing it to the purchaser. He or she (yes, some ladies bought these cars!) then needed to sign the card and return it to Abingdon for the guarantee to become operative. Not all cards were returned. 

It is not known how long Mr Hogg kept the car, for as mentioned previously, there is no documentation between 1936 and 1945. However, it is possible that he owned the car immediately prior to it passing on to (what might have been) the next owner, Mr L J Cato of Taunton. There is a letter in PB0722’s file to Mr Cato, from Mr Haddock of Abingdon’s Service Department dated 14th August 1945. This letter gave a diagnosis, in response to the symptoms described by Mr Cato, of wear on the shoulder of the nearside front hub, and suggested the fitting of shims between the inner bearing race and the hub. However, it was regretted that Abingdon could not supply the necessary shims!

I saw the car advertised in the MG Octagon Car Club ‘Bulletin’ (of which I was then editor) for £18,500. At the time, money from a redundancy settlement was ‘burning a hole in my pocket’ and I simply had to buy the car. I paid the full asking price, which on reflection was a tad too much – but the amount overpaid, amortised over a period of twenty-one years is of little consequence (or so I tell myself!). 

The previous owner had restored the car and had a pile of bills in support. He had bought the car from Geoffrey Jennings (now deceased). There is an entry in Geoffrey’s name, dated 1959 in the continuation log book (the original is missing) and it looks as though he sold the car in 1968. 

Geoffrey’s brother Phil, is the co-author of Oxford to Abingdon, that wonderful tome that catalogues the early days of MG. 

I’m not sure whether Geoffrey managed to completely restore the car – he certainly seems more than a little fed up with it in this action shot!

From the look of the following picture taken around 1956 at either Boreham or Fairlop aerodrome, Essex, the car appears to be in reasonable condition. However, appearances can deceive as I discovered when I removed thebody tub from my J2 which before its body was taken off, looked to be a very nice ‘up together’ car: it literally fell apart, a victim of woodworm.

However, PB0722’s original body was found on close examination to be sound with new timbers having been skilfully let in under the running boards.

Soon after I bought the car, I took it for MoT – it failed! The most serious failure point was kingpins and I had these renewed and also fitted new front springs. 

I decided to have the engine rebuilt in 2006/7. This was a wise (but expensive!) move because, when the engine was stripped down, I was advised that the white metal conrod bearings were starting to break up. 

My engine builder, Brian Taylor of Hopton Heath in Shropshire, was none too keen to use a 70+ year old crankshaft in the rebuild, so I had one specially made with uprated conrods. Shell bearings were used for the conrods and the centre main was adapted to take shell bearings, with the rear main retaining the white metal. 

During the lengthy period of the engine rebuild I became aware of the possibility of fitting an overdrive to the car. I bought an early MGB unit from a retired Laycock engineer in Sheffield and took it with the PB gearbox to Barrie Dean in Nottingham. Barrie weaved his magic and I was pleased with the result. 

The early MGB overdrive mated to the PB gearbox prior to installation in the car.

The overdrive installed in the car. A shortened propshaft was required and it was a relief to find that the unit just cleared the fly-off handbrake (by about an inch).

The fitting of the overdrive (frowned on by some owners of the overhead camshaft MGs) is easily the best modification I have done. It helps to make the car so much more relaxing to drive on a long journey…and we’ve done quite a few over the years, including motoring in France. 

Ed’s note: Overdrive is fitted to some other 4-cylinder MGs, including my J2, and also to some 6-cylinder models.

The last journey in PB0722 was on the annual T-Type weekend that I organise every August. We had a wonderful few days in The Cotswolds in the company of 37 other MGs – mainly T-Types, but also a couple of RV8s. 

The next picture was taken on arrival home from The Cotswolds. Under the black polythene is a large box containing two new TA/TB/TC/Triple-M roof racks.

The last pic comes as I wipe away a tear – you’ve been a wonderful little car, but all good times must come to an end – farewell old friend, please keep in touch!

PB0722 being loaded into Steve Baker’s van for its journey to Lincolnshire and thereafter to Italy.

Postscript: As I conclude this article the car now has FIA papers and it has been exported to Italy, where it is eligible for the Mille Miglia – only two pre-war “standard” – exotica apart – MG models are eligible for this iconic motoring event; the L2 and the PB. Of the T-types, only the TB is eligible.

Ed’s note: Readers maywonder what happened to the T-Type records.

Most of the Triple-M records (in the form of a chassis file for each car) have survived, thanks to the vigilance of Mike Allison, who saved them from destruction. Unfortunately, the T chassis files, numbering over 50,000 (5 times as many as the Triple-M) were unable to be saved, as the time window for saving them was relatively short, and all were destroyed, probably around the late 1960s/early 1970s. 

The ‘Build Books’ which list chassis number, engine number and date of build (in effect, the Production Record) have, fortunately, survived and are held in the offices of the MG Car Club in Kimber House, Abingdon.


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