A Run of Luck by Peter Shipside – South Australia

This is the story of research into the history of my 1955 MG TF 1500 (TF8931).

The first piece of luck was that a set of registration plates YTU 890 came with the car which I had purchased, sight unseen, from The Perth MG Centre in 1985.  This MG arrived in Clare, SA, on top of a loaded interstate truck.  Were these Western Australian plates?  Or maybe UK plates?  They had the look of UK plates – aluminium letters and numerals on a black background.  Who knows? I put them in the shed and forgot about them for 30 plus years.

I knew from the body plate on the bulkhead that this car was an export model built in January 1955.  The big question was, “To which country was it exported?”  Australia was looking unlikely according to TF historian Matthew Magilton of Melbourne.  He had no record of its chassis number 8931 as having been exported. 

Knowing that the last two letters of UK plates in the fifties were allocated to specific Licensing Authorities, I decided to pay a visit to the Chester Records Office when next in England as the letters TU were used by them at that time.  They brought out the ledger for 1957 when I was expecting the one from 1955.  I could see the registration details for YTU 890 which appeared to be for a Vespa scooter.  Little did I know at the time that I had misread this detail.  And so, I dismissed the theory that this was a UK registration for my car.  It just did not add up.

My research went on hold for a year or two.

And then came my second lucky break.  The “Totally T-type 2” online magazine recently had a list of TF1500s recorded as thought to be in the UK.  Why was my car’s chassis number 8931 on that list? It was an export model.  I contacted the editor, John James, and he was as puzzled as I was!  However, he got to work on the case and with the help of Barrie Jones, registrar for TFs for the MGCC he established that the car must have come back from the country to which it was exported because it was at one time registered at an address in The Wirral, Cheshire. 

Meanwhile, a second approach to the Chester Records Office gave me details I had overlooked.    These were chassis and engine numbers, the name and address of whom I presume was the first owner, and registration details around the UK showing where the car was based between 1957 and 1969.  Most importantly of all, the previous plate was listed, namely BY 7939 [WAN].  What on earth did WAN represent?  John had no answer but this was my third lucky break.

I thought that WAN may be short for the Wanaka region in New Zealand but enquiries to MG Clubs in ‘the land of the long white cloud’ led nowhere.  As a last resort I emailed the NZ national archives.  This drew an immediate response by an employee who stated that while his was not the right department, he had an interest in number plates from around the world and that WAN may refer to a country identification plate, similar to an AUS or GB plate attached to the rear of a vehicle.  And that such letters may well stand for “West Africa – Nigeria.”  He also told me that in the mid-fifties Nigeria was a British colony which a few years later became independent.  This leads me to believe that my TF was exported to Nigeria in 1955 and purchased by the first owner who was working there and whose job subsequently came to an end, necessitating his return to England with the car.  [I have yet to contact members of his family to confirm this]

As previously mentioned, the car, when I bought it in 1985, was in Western Australia. Its registration number at the time was XKB 771. According to Western Australian records the registration letters XKB were only issued between 1969 and 1979.  This means that this TF arrived there in this period, likely brought out by an emigrant from the UK, possibly a ‘Ten Pound Pom’ like myself!   I know from invoices I received when I bought it that the previous owner was a Mr. Jones of Kalgoorlie.

I consider myself lucky to have discovered this information and even luckier to enjoy owning an MG TF 1500.

Editor’s notes

The front cover picture shows Peter holding the UK plate YTU 890 which came with the car. The plate on the car (UJS 102) is a South Australian one.

TF8931 has therefore carried four different plates:

  1. BY 7939 when in Nigeria
  2. YTU 890 when in the UK
  3. XKB 771 when in Western Australia
  4. UJS 102 now in South Australia

The country identification plate, more properly known as the International Licence Plate Country Code first appeared on vehicles in the UK in 1910 as GB, in Nigeria in 1937 as WAN and in Australia in 1954 as AUS.

T. Shipside was a car dealership, opened in Nottingham by Tom Shipside (Peter’s grandfather) as a Morris dealership in 1913. It closed early ‘60s.

Ten Pound Pom is a colloquial term used in Australia and New Zealand to describe British citizens who migrated to those countries after the Second World War under an assisted passage scheme, giving free passage. The £10 was said to be the administration fee.