Cover Story

Malcolm Sayers must surely be in the top ten of owners who use their car – read on…

I was reading a classic car magazine one day towards the end of 1997 when from the pages something jumped out at me; a 1951 MG TD was for sale at a garage in a village near High Wycombe. So I went to have a look at it. The car was in need of some very serious restoration but it looked all there. So after some haggling over the next week on the telephone I became the proud new owner of my very first M.G. and I brought it home on a trailer just after Christmas 1997.

I had owned and restored 3 other vehicles before buying the TD so I knew what to expect, and I really looked forward to the task ahead.

The car was exported by the Factory to Trinidad so it was a right hand drive, The previous owner was sent from the U.K. to Trinidad with his work and purchased the car there in 1970; when he retired in 1984 he brought the car back to the U.K.

The restoration took me 6 months from start to finish doing nothing else but the MG, (I could put all this time in because I had just retired).

I have made many changes to the car since the restoration. I chose to make the car as adaptable as I could, because doing long distance touring was going to be my main object. However the modifications have always been carried out so they can be put back to standard again if a future owner so desires.

I remember doing the first test run after finishing the restoration and being utterly disappointed with the low gearing of the car. So it was back in the garage with the car to carry out the first major modification.

By the summer of 1998 we were taking part in MG runs in the UK to get used to the car. The spring of 1999 saw us out and about doing lots of day runs; the Kimber Run, Daffodil Run, Octagon Wings Run, to name but a few.

We were trying to build our confidence up as well as our confidence in the car. The TD was now starting to feel right so we thought how nice it would be to take the car on the Continent.

In 1999 I was reading through the Safety Fast magazine and saw an advert for The Prix Des Alpes rally, which sounded very interesting. This particular year it started in Annecy and finished in St Morritz. After a lot of discussion and nervous trepidation we decided to give it a go. We did the rally and thoroughly enjoyed it. This particular rally took us up and over The Gavia and Stelvio passes with many hairpin bends and steep climbs. At that time I was running a 3.9 diff but the TD got over them with no problems. At this time the engine was bored to 1350 with a crane fast road cam fitted. We participated in this particular rally many times since then until its demise, enjoying going over some of the very best routes in the Alpes. That was the start of our exploration of Europe in the TD.

The rest of 1999 was spent doing various day rallies/ road runs organized by the MG clubs in the U.K. Whilst we enjoy these very much we had been ‘bitten by the bug’ for the continental rallies and have visited many places in Western Europe, meeting many people and making lots of friends. We have found that the MG people are a “friendly bunch” always willing to help you or knowing someone who can help in your moment of need.

During the year 2000 we did the usual MG rallies in the UK plus the Prix Des Alpes rally, which started in Chantilly near Paris and ended in Aix Les Bains – again we had another fabulous time. Then after the rally, we visited our daughter, who was in her 3rd year at university and working for Daimler Chrysler in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance for 9 months. So we toured around the Bodensee for about 10 days with our daughter sat crossways in the back of the TD. It is a very nice area of Southern Germany.

In 2001 the European Event of the Year was in Gabbice Mare on the Italian Adriatic. It was a long way from England and we wondered if the TD was up to the task, but over the years we had gained confidence in the car. I remember that the Mont Blanc tunnel was still closed after the horrific fire, and we went into Italy through the Frejus tunnel. Then on to Gabbice Mare where we found a wonderful friendly organised rally. This was our first encounter with the renowned Italian hospitality. After the rally Linda and I took the TD to Venice for another week. We booked a week in a Eurocamp tent near to Venice so we could park the TD near our tent for security. It was only a 30 minute walk to the ferry from the camp site which took us over to Venice. We returned back to the UK via Lake Como and the Gotthard tunnel and the Bugatti museum in Mulhouse.

Later in that year we also did The Prix Des Alpes rally which started in Besancon and finishing in Monte Carlo, taking in a lot of the high cols. After the rally we spent another week in the Ardeche near Vallon-Pont-d’Arc. We then returned to the UK via Calais.

In 2002 we applied and were accepted for a rally in Sicily, organised by a member of the MG Car Club in Italy. We drove to Genoa on the Italian Mediterranean to catch the ferry to Palermo. I remembered that the Mont Blanc Tunnel was now open so that made the drive down to Genoa a lot easier, but finding the ferry terminal in Genoa was a complete nightmare, you could see it, but you just couldn’t get to it. The ferry had engine problems which meant that we arrived in Palermo at about midnight. We thought it would be quiet at that time of the night but oh no! The place was buzzing with people and cars, copious amounts of horn blowing as we all tried to follow my leader out of Palermo to our hotel, where Linda and I had actually spent a holiday 30 years before.

The rally again was very well organized and the people very friendly. Naturally, the weather was excellent for a circular tour of the Island, visiting a lot of the hilltop towns and sites of historic interest. We returned back to the UK via the Aosta valley which is a really beautiful valley; then, through the Mont Blanc Tunnel overnight, stopping at Chamonix and Chaumont before catching the ferry from Calais.

Later that year we attended the European event in Belgium and we stayed on for a few days after with a group of T-Types from the UK visiting Ghent and Brugge. There was no Prix Des Alpes for us this year because it clashed with our daughter’s graduation from university, so we spent the rest of the summer in the UK doing the MG runs.

It was about this time, the end of 2002, that the TD gearbox was starting to get very noisy again (I had rebuilt it in 1997), so I decided to fit a Hi-gear 5 speed conversion, and change the rear axle ratio to 4.5-1 which was carried out in the winter of 02/03. What a difference this mod makes, it totally transforms the car!

2003 saw us back in Gabbice Mare in May for another excellent rally. The Prix Des Alpes rally this year started in Reims and finished in Aix en Provence, then after the rally we drove up through Germany to attend the European Event of the Year in Viborg, Denmark. Stopping off at Belsen, the infamous concentration camp on the way. We then drove back around to Calais for the boat after the event.

August saw us in Zug Switzerland for another excellent rally; it was extremely hot I remember. The car has only let me down once terminally in all that time. (I say “me” because I was with a group of friends going to Angouleme for a ‘boys’ weekend to the Circuit des Remparts racing.) The crank broke about 30 miles from Angouleme, so we were towed into Angouleme by a B GT on a length of rope.

To this day, Linda is adamant that the crank would not have broken if she was there! So she has always accompanied me since then to Angouleme.

In 2004 The Prix des Alpes started in Beaune and finished in Annecy. We also went to the Isle of Man with a group of T-Types and afterwards took in trip to Ireland, covering both North and South. There was also a very enjoyable trip to Sardinia where the weather was hot. The crystal blue waters off the Island of Maddalena are still deep in my memory, and also Piero, the rally organiser, placing giant bottles of white wine in the sea to try and keep them cool for our BBQ.

2005 we went to the Peloponnese in Greece (see photo below) visiting the Corinth canal, Athens, Olympia and the Southern Cape of Europe, catching the ferry from Ancona to Patra.

2006 This is the summer we never seemed to be in the UK. In May we went to the MG event in Gabbice Mare, then back to the UK. At the end of June we attended the European event in Clermont France and on to Umbria in Italy (pic below) for another event via the Millau Bridge, returning to the UK mid July. The middle of August saw us departing the UK for Berlin for another MG event and driving down to Colditz to look over the castle, before returning to France to take part in the Prix des Alpes rally starting in Beaune and finishing in Monaco. Then driving to Angouleme for the Circuit des Remparts racing weekend before returning to the UK at the end of September via Calais.

I can remember this is the summer when the TD never missed a beat and it was being driven quite hard most of the time and covering a lot of miles. It seemed every time we returned to the UK I had to give the car an oil change. The engine by this time had done a good mileage and I felt it was time to get another engine ready to put in over the winter, so I set about getting another engine prepared. I started to ask questions to various people whether it was possible to bore an XPAG/XPAW to make it 1466cc.The general opinion was that if you are lucky you might get a XPAW block to bore out to 1466cc, but it’s more than likely to break through the cylinder wall.

So I decided to go and get the XPAW block bored right out and then fit liners, but then the problem is you loose the rigidity in the block. So what I did then was to use a block filler in the base of the block around the liners. Since 2007 I have used the car with the 1466cc engine without problems. I have done a good 35,000 miles now. It does seem a lot of work for the extra cc, but the extra torque of the engine is noticeable.

2007 We went to Speyer in Germany for the European event in May, where I remember I had to fit a water pump on our arrival. After the event we returned to the UK. Early July we were on the boat again heading for Salzburg to start another rally which was going to take us to Budapest and around Lake Balaton and back into Austria. This was another excellent trip.

2008 In May we did two rallies in Ireland one in the South and one in the North – always good fun! The North was around the Glens of Antrim and the South was around Dublin. Afterwards we stayed on and did our own tour.

In August we were in Zug Switzerland for another rally. We took a birthday cake that Linda had cooked in the shape of a rocker cover for a friend who was 70.

In September we attended a rally in Umbria Italy and returned via Angouleme for the racing.

In 2009 In May we returned to Sicily sailing from Civitavecchia to Palermo which was a longer drive down through Italy but it gave us the opportunity to visit Pisa on the way. This time we visited the North East area of the island, including a visit by boat to the island of Stromboli to watch the volcano do its bit after dark. The only problem was that the wind blew up and the ride back to port, which was about 3 hours, was very bumpy indeed and a lot of people were looking and feeling the worse for wear.

In June we went to Norway for the European event. We caught a freight boat from Immingham to Brevik it took 32 hours and there were only 8 passengers on board. After the event we stayed on for another week touring around. Norway is a nice place with scenery similar to the South Island of New Zealand. We happened to talk to an English ‘white van man’ who had just been fined the equivalent of £600 for speeding, he was not best pleased!

In September we visited the Dolomites, with a Swiss group. Each day the owner of the hotel that we stayed at would lead us on his motor bike around various places of interest, stopping for lunch and coffee en route.

This year has been a quiet year for our MG travels because we were expecting our first grandchild, and Linda did not want to travel too far around its birth date, which was mid July. In May we were in Scotland for the Caledonian 3 day rally. Then to Gabicce Mare at the end of May for the European event.

Gabbice Mare in 2006

I can now report that we have had our first grandson born on July 17th – a healthy chap called “Arthur” – I am trying to get him interested in MGs but his feet won’t reach the pedals yet.

Over the years my memory has faded a little, perhaps a lot, to the places and exact dates where we have visited, but I can say in this time we have always found the MG fraternity kind and helpful.

I now have a TC which is helping the TD with the mileage we cover each year.

Over the last 10 years we have covered between 10-12000 miles per year, with 15000 miles the record for any one year.

Malcolm Sayers

Editor’s Note: Malcolm mentioned his TC (pictured above). The car was finished in mid January 2009, and he left for a holiday in New Zealand. While Malcolm was away his son arranged for the car to be MoT tested and on his return at the end of March he drove it locally to put about 3,000 miles on the clock to make sure it was OK. Then in early May he and Linda set off to Sicily for a rally with Piero Fusaroli from the MG Car Club of Italy. The car drove perfectly with no problems covering at least another 3,000 miles.

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