Part 1 – The Early Years
Chassis HDC16/8765 joined the production line on 4th January 1955 and emerged on 5th January complete with engine XPEG 2542. She was a basic version produced for the UK market with no heater or other optional extras, but resplendent in dark red with red upholstery and beige all-weather trim. On 10th January she was despatched to CK Andrews (Motors) Ltd of Uplands Garage, Swansea, where she was prominently displayed in their showroom.
At this time the present owner was at school in Malvern Wells, not too far from another production line of vaguely similarly-designed sports cars. He was unaware at the time that the Spartan existence halfway up the Malvern Hills would be ideally suited to a future owner of an open MG. Standard school uniform was shorts and open-necked shirts, string vests were grudgingly allowed, sweaters issued when temperatures hit sub-zero and cold showers taken every morning.
Born into a long line of tenant farmers, the owner’s early interests were more agriculturally slanted with the natural history of the countryside becoming his main non-sporting pastime. His father had left agriculture in WW1 to become a fitter in the RFC. After the war, father’s mechanical interests led him to start a garage, initially catering for motorcycles, but developing a local agency for Morris, followed by Riley, Austin, MG and Wolseley, as cars became more widely used.
But we digress, so back to the star of this history. Early in March 1955 LWN 240 was sold by CK Andrews to Gordon Davies (Swansea) Ltd and used by a director, R H Rumble, as a second car. Vic Derrington tuned her to stage II specification and CK Andrews fitted a competition clutch, modifying the rear suspension and fitting anti-roll equipment. In this guise it was used by Mr Rumble to compete in races, hill climbs and rallies, winning several class awards. It was well maintained and the only problem recalled was with the clutch, which may not have been fitted correctly.
In December 1956, at about 5,500 miles, Mr Rumble reluctantly decided to part with LWN and she was traded in part exchange to Eric Ashmole Ltd of Swansea, who sold her to Miss Jenny Price, then working at the Osborne Hotel on the Gower Peninsula. Her main trips were visits to the Price family home in Farnham, Surrey and Miss Price recalled much reliable and enjoyable motoring between various postings in the hotel trade.
For the next seven years and 26,000 miles LWN became the second car of several members of the Price family, the son taking advantage of its competitive modifications to race her at Silverstone amongst other venues. During this period, reliability suffered and LWN was eventually returned to standard specification. In May 1963 the preferred competition vehicle of the Prices became a TR4 for which LWN was traded in to LC Charlton Motors of Camberley, Surrey.
She was soon resold to David Ings, who used her regularly during the summer months, his winters being spent working on cruise ships in sunnier climes. David spent over £200 on mechanical repairs and restorations, including a new crankshaft and engine rebuild. Bills on file include several from Toulmins, Richardsons, University Motors, Wadhams, Derringtons and most of the well-known MG garages of the South East. Once sorted, LWN again became a much-treasured and reliable vehicle: David recalled an easy cruising speed of 70 – 75 mph and a 1,500 mile tour of Britain which impressed an American girl friend.
In June 1966 David needed more appropriate transport and reluctantly (as with all LWN’s previous owners) decided to sell. However, it was not the last he saw of LWN. On Boxing Day 1987, having settled down to watch the Miss Marple film The 4.50 from Paddington, he was somewhat shaken to see “his car” coming straight at him on the screen. But that, as they say dear readers, is another and later story.
So LWN was again on the move, this time to Hayes, Middlesex and was purchased by a gentleman who already had a green TF 1500, but had been so impressed by LWN that he planned to swap. However, six months later, cash requirements and the higher value of LWN duly prompted an advertisement in a December 1966 issue of Exchange & Mart.
At this stage forgive another intrusion from the supporting cast. Your scribe, having driven off-road for several years, had taken his driving test in 1960 shortly after his seventeenth birthday – and failed! After the third failure, the long-suffering tester mentioned over-confidence and the need to resolve several bad habits. (Such bad habits were later found to be of great advantage in autotests, but perhaps examiners expected three-point turns rather than handbrakes and screeching tyres!) The need for a course of formal instruction was reluctantly accepted. Success brought with it the realisation that old tractors were perhaps not the ideal form of road transport, so a well-traded-in Morris Minor from father’s garage became the “first car”.
In 1965 an article on Cecil Kimber and MG in one of the garage magazines prompted an interest that soon became a passion. The next car had to be an MG, but which? Correspondence, still on file, with Wilson McComb, Gordon Cobban, Mike Allison and other stalwarts of the Car Club provided excellent advice. As much road use was anticipated, reliability was paramount and advice suggested that MMM and early T-types might be best avoided (Ahem! Ed). After seeing several TDs and TFs, the decision was made in favour of a TF and the search started.
Many very tired and modified 1250 and 1500 examples were examined and rejected. The holy grail of a “good, original runner” within a restricted budget seemed out of reach. But then came that December 1966 Exchange & Mart advert, which included “TF 1500 1955 two owners, (slight exaggeration!) low mileage, full history, must be seen, £425”. Some haggling would be needed, but it was worth a trip.
In the event the advertiser was accepting offers for either his green or his red TF. The green bodywork was excellent but its engine sounded well past its prime. Despite a £75 premium, some slightly suspect bodywork and a cracked windscreen, the engine of the red TF sounded excellent and a test drive confirmed the searching had been worthwhile. Negotiation reduced the price to £410, an overdraft was duly obtained and two weeks later a collection visit arranged.
Unlike the test drive, the collection visit was carried out in torrential rain, which quickly overcame the wipers, caused brake fade and gave the lie to the phrase “all-weather equipment”. But now the driver’s earlier years of preparation on the Malvern Hills came into their own and, just before Christmas 1966, at 49,540 miles, LWN 240 started her new life in the Midlands.
Part 2 – A New Home
Having attended to the windscreen wipers, managed to source another windscreen from Auster and added a few extras, LWN was very drivable and was used as daily transport to work in Birmingham. The lack of suitable wet weather equipment was solved by the new owner getting a full-length riding coat (no plastic dustbin bags then!), but wet-weather passengers, after one outing, were few and far between. A new job with Fisons in Ipswich and Felixstowe increased travelling and suggested that the TF was not ideal for East Anglian winters. So, during the winter months LWN remained garaged in Alcester and the old Morris Minor, followed in turn by an MG 1100, a Saab V4 and an MGB GT, were used as commuting and daily transport.
During the years from 1967 to 1975, LWN was also used in competitions and off-road events. She excelled in local club rallies and auto-tests and even competed in a few races. Inevitably this and the significant increase in mileage, now well over 100,000, suggested the need for a major rebuild. Part of the parents’ garage was loaned and, on a very restricted budget, work commenced. Various body panels were removed to reveal that problems were largely superficial. There was little rust and everything appeared very original, even the mechanics were in a better shape than initially thought.
However, different jobs in various parts of the country brought restoration to a standstill and for the next five years the only action entailed turning the engine. Despite the lack of a road-going MG, the owner was fairly active in the MGCC and had become acquainted with a certain Mr Gammons, who had joined forces with a Mr Brown and was resolutely opposed to any MG lying unrestored. After a little negotiation, Ron kindly agreed to schedule work according to the owner’s finances and LWN was transported to Baldock.
When purchased in 1966, LWN sported a coat of Tartan Red, which was believed to have been original as no previous owner recalled a respray. But, during further dismantling, Ron found the original red had been Old MG Red and it was agreed that, as virtually all the car was original, it would revert to this colour. Luckily for the owner’s finances very little work was needed on the engine or gearbox, so in July 1982 a resplendent LWN returned to Alcester.
With such a pristine vehicle, auto-tests and other enthusiastic events were considered out of the question, so entry in club events was restricted to concourse and other undemanding competitions. However, the owner found the concourse crowd a strange bunch, very unlike their auto-testing comrades, and, after the 1983 MG Silverstone, when several disgraced themselves and embarrassed other entrants by arguing with the judges over what was and was not original, he decided that this was not for him.
LWN excelled in road runs and was a regular entry in the early Regency Runs, Wings, Kimber, Bronte and many others. These led to MG Weekends and many regular visits were enjoyed to MGCC Centres all over the country. One of these was the 1987 Tour of Lincolnshire, an event in which many new friends were made, so much so that Tour of
Lincolnshire weekends then featured regularly in LWN’s calendar.
Friends included Doug Samuel (TF 1500) and Malcolm Poore (TD Mk II), with whom a keen competitive rivalry developed on the Tours and with whom, together with Doug’s late brother David in his TD, LWN was later to make several ‘MuskeTeers’ overseas trips.
Early in 1987 Ron Whitehead, Hire Fleet Manager at British Motor Heritage, had been approached by the BBC, who were seeking a red, mid-fifties MG for their Miss Marple film The 4.50 from Paddington. Ron tracked down LWN and a deal was struck, although the BBC money was (much) less of an attraction than the interest of a film set.
On 14 August LWN was collected and spent the next five weeks on location. The owner was invited down for a day on set and told, “you can go anywhere, Ducky, but for God’s sake stay behind the cameras”.
It was a fascinating experience for a country lad. Dear Joan Hickson thought LWN was ”such a pretty little car” and quite enjoyed her spells as a passenger. Maurice Denham thought it “a bit too sporty” for him and preferred the Daimler, while the director suggested that LWN’s film owner enjoyed driving her too much and should reduce the need for re-takes.
The episode had an interesting sequel. As mentioned in Part 1, the film was eventually shown on Boxing Day that year, much to the amazement of David Ings, a previous owner. David had settled down to watch a little TV that afternoon and suddenly there was ‘his car’ coming towards him full frontal on the screen.
After contacting the BBC and Ron Whitehead, David met up with LWN again at the SE Centre’s 1988 Brooklands Gathering for an afternoon of reminiscences and a spell behind the wheel.
In the 1990’s Birmingham was certainly not the place to leave an open TF when commuting, so use was restricted to weekend motoring events. MGCC Centre weekends still figured prominently, with LWN acquitting herself well in auto-tests and other competitions.
TF gearboxes are not renowned for longevity, particularly when subjected to the use to which LWN had been put, and in 1989 failure of first gear necessitated a minor rebuild, followed by a major rebuild in 1994.
In 1995 misfiring revealed a blown head gasket and several potential mechanical problems. By now LWN had covered over 200,000 miles, so a complete engine rebuild was commissioned. This gave her a new lease of life, both in normal use and in competitions.
By 2000 considerably fewer T-types were seen in MG weekends and a, by now, slightly battle scarred LWN was often added to MGA and MGB auto-test classes. Lincolnshire airfields and farms are great places for auto-tests, but obstacles often suddenly appear around blind corners to catch out the enthusiastic competitor – and fiendish ‘Poachers’ rarely place a key cone where it is suggested on the diagram!
Many of her erstwhile competitors were now being used only for road runs and LWN was indeed quite a pleasant car to drive long distances. On a Lincolnshire Tour in the late 90s a long discussion with Steve Hall (Hall’s Garage, Morton) prompted a decision to improve her touring ability. In 2000 Steve not only converted the head and checked over the engine, but also fitted a 4.55:1 diff and a tow bar.
Accompanied by the late Ian Lloyd’s lightweight trailer, LWN now makes an excellent tourer (even able to take the owner’s better half’s wardrobe for three weeks) and frequently crosses the channel for battlefield tours, European Events of the Year and simply holidays touring with friends.
LWN often figured in competitive results, notably winning the Tour of Lincolnshire outright in 1993, the old Hare & Hounds Weekend in 1996 and the T-Register Car of the Year in 1996.
Now, even having completed over 300,000 miles, she often appears in better shape than her owner. She certainly runs hotter than she did pre-conversion with a tendency to over-run. A heat shield has improved matters but it could still be a problem – if ever we have hot summers again. More recently, a Hi-Gear 5-speed gearbox has been fitted. This has made a significant difference to overall performance and LWN’s touring ability.
She still covers over 2,000 miles a year, usually on road runs and various Steam Fairs and village shows. Although it is now 31 years since her last full restoration, LWN still looks good and with a little TLC should reach pensionable age before another major call on her owner’s bank balance.
Roger Jackson, Alcester, Warwickshire UK.
Ed’s note: Roger’s “if ever we have hot summers again” throwaway remark has come back to haunt us, since at the time of writing this (2nd week in July) we are sweltering in temperatures of 30° C (86° F) here in the UK. This reminds me that I have a few TF heat shields for sale (please see the entry under ‘Bits and Pieces’).
The history of TF8765 first appeared in the Octagon Car Club’s Bulletin a few years ago. I have edited and adapted it for use in TTT 2 and Roger has since brought the history of the car right up to date. I saw this substantially original example of a TF1500 in June at a gathering of Midlands MG owners in North East Gloucestershire.