Loan of a 1954 TF and Consequences! (by John Murray)

Whilst chatting about the article on spark plugs in Issue 55 of TTT 2, my very long-standing friend, Tom Eaves, commented most kindly about my article in the April 2019 Issue on the Circuit des Remparts at Angouleme. He asked if I was participating this year and the sad response was “no as I didn’t have a car”.  Tom then drew my attention to the loan scheme idea, also in Issue 55.  I said I didn’t think anyone would be very happy about their car being taken abroad and hadn’t given it anymore thought.  His reply was to the effect that as he was going to spend the summer sailing, ‘JDR’ (his beloved TF is JDR 500), would just be sitting in the garage.  So, why didn’t I take ‘JDR’ to France and participate with her?

Now, although Tom is a good friend, ‘JDR’ is his baby, having owned her for over 50 years and  I was somewhat taken aback by his offer.  Indeed, his wife Christine had to sit down when she heard this!  My own dearly beloved was also nervous about taking Tom’s car, worth a considerable sum of money and thus quite a responsibility.  Nevertheless, Tom was quite happy and was soon on the telephone to the insurance company who were delighted to extend his cover at little extra cost.

As keen as I was, I had to tell Tom that I would be returning to France the following week and wouldn’t be able to get his car back until October/November at the earliest, thus depriving him of its use for several months.  No problem, he wouldn’t need the car this summer.  Besides, the insurance cover was for the whole year anyway.  So, that settled the matter.

Next problem was to beg, borrow or “acquire” a suitable trailer.  Again, problem solved – another MG enthusiast acquaintance offered the use of one.

Knowing the legendary French bureaucracy, the necessary paperwork had to be sorted.  Now in France, cars over 30 years of age are categorised as classics and only need a MOT (or CT as it is known) every 5 years.  But, in the UK cars over 40 years don’t need any MOT and ‘JDR’ didn’t have one.  The thought of trying to explain that to the French authorities when they wanted to check ‘JDR’s’ paperwork was worrying.  So, ‘JDR’ went to see Matt at Autotest with the request to “check everything please”.  The idea being that if there were any issues, they could be dealt with before departure.  ‘JDR’ passed with flying colours!  So, armed with a new MOT, a letter of authorisation from Tom, insurance certificate, paperwork for the trailer and a still very nervous wife, we set off for France.

The journey went without mishap and ‘JDR’ was unloaded and given a test run just to check everything.  So, you’re in rural France in the sunshine with a superb 1954 MG TF.  You just have to drive, don’t you?  Well, it just so happened that the local French club that we belong to had a rally.  A perfect opportunity to give ‘JDR’ a good test run and see how she coped with temperatures up to 30 deg.C.  I have to confess at this point that I don’t like 30 deg.C plus, but, well, when you’ve got ‘JDR’ sat in the courtyard….

Several other trips ensued and as the date for the Remparts drew near, excitement mounted.  The group we would participate with are termed the ‘Rampartiers’ and this year we would be joined by several cars from the Kent Sprite and Midget Club who came as invited guests and had been on a tour of Europe, culminating with the Circuit des Remparts.

Now came the moment everyone involved with group organisation dreads.  There were two cars missing.  One, was a MGB roadster driven by Richard & Helen Norman who were regular participants and more worryingly, the other was the Club President and group organiser!  Then the mobile phone rang…….  Richard had a serious problem with the ‘B’ and wouldn’t be able to take part.  Then, worse still, the President was “hors d’combat” and wouldn’t be there either!  That left me in charge!  The President went on to tell me that he’d been in touch with the executive of the Remparts and told them I would be the club President for the run and would lead the group as I had done the Rallye before and knew the ropes.  Yeh, but I didn’t speak fluent French and ‘she who must be obeyed’ wasn’t happy about navigating and leading a group.  She likes to see the countryside, not having her head buried in a route book.  Now I’m in the doghouse and I’ve got a group of 18 cars expecting me to know what I’m doing.  Excitement now turned to worry!  Surely it can’t get any worse?  (oh yeh!).

So, we head off in convoy to the start point with Mike leading, as he said he knew the way.  You’ve guessed it – two roundabouts later and we’re lost in Angouleme.  Somehow, we blundered our way to the start at which point I am separated from the rest of the group.  It’s explained that as the Club President my car is to be displayed in front of the main building with the cars of the other club Presidents and invited special cars.  I find that I’m parked next to a row of rather exotic – and very, very, expensive – cars.  Indeed, the car next to me was the Renault Le Mans prototype and on the other side a genuine C type Jaguar!  Surprisingly, the little TF attracted a lot of interest from the other participants and the public.  All well and good but, my group is now parked some distance away and I can’t get near them.

After the necessary French petite dejeuner, (an essential at all Rally’s in France), it was time for the off.  However, because of the huge number of cars, over 400, it had been decided that there would be a staggered time start.  So, ‘muggins’ found himself being sent off first without my group!  Ok I thought, I’ll tootle along and let them catch me up.  The Marshall’s and Gendarmerie had other ideas.  I found myself being ushered through road junctions and roundabouts like royalty and soon was miles away from the still waiting to start group.  Indeed, I was so far ahead that I was at the lunch stop for over 45 minutes before the first car in my group arrived.  No problem, wait until all the group arrive and have lunch, then set off on the afternoon run together me thinks.  The organisers had other ideas.  The “Presidential” cars were to parade through the centre of the village before the afternoon run.  So off we went, separated again.

By now the temperature had started to rise, unseasonably so.  Soon it was 38 deg.C, something I’d never experienced in the 3rd week of September before.  I’ve already said I don’t do temperatures much over 30 deg.C and I was worried about ‘JDR’. With Tom’s agreement ‘JDR’ had already been filled with Castrol 4 life coolant which has a much higher boiling point than water.  Boy was I glad as I watched the temperature gauge of the TF rise towards the 100 mark.  As long as we kept moving all was well but, any hold ups and the temperature shot up again.

We, despite factor 50 sun cream, large hats and copious drinks, were also feeling the effects of the heat.  Now I know you can drop the windscreen but, I’d left flies-in-the-teeth motoring behind when I’d graduated from motorbikes.  Besides, there are some interesting and large insects in the Poitou-Charentes region and I didn’t want a face-to-face encounter with an angry frelon (think hornet but much, much bigger and with a nasty disposition).  So, the screen stayed up.  Eventually, after not a few anxious moments with the temperature gauge, we reached the finish.  Unbelievably, we were the first car to arrive – we even took the organisers by surprise as we weren’t expected for at least another 45 minutes!

All good things come to an end and all too soon it was time to return ‘JDR’ back to the UK and Tom.  The journey back was uneventful and she is now snuggled down in her garage, albeit, fitted with a new multi-bladed fan from a late model MGB to improve cooling as Tom would like to take part next year.  My grateful thanks to him for his trust and generosity.

Conclusions:  be prepared for any and all eventualities, especially with old cars and high ambient temperatures that T-Types were never designed for.  I cannot recommend Castrol 4 life highly enough, although to be fair, ‘JDR’ didn’t faulter.  We did have to do running repairs to Mike’s TD and a Midget blew up its battery in the heat.  But that’s another story.

However, ‘she who will be obeyed’ has decided – having sat in Mike’s car – that a TD has slightly more room than a TF and so I am permitted to look for a TD for next year.  Now, I wonder who might be persuaded to……

Ed’s note: Mention of “the loan scheme idea” at the beginning of this article, prompts me to give an update on the Classic Car Loan Project.

At the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs’ (FBHVC) ‘Club Expo’ event held on 25th January at the British Motor Museum, one of the loan vehicles was on display and is pictured below.

This beautifully restored Alvis TA14, which belongs to Jack Meredith is being loaned to young motorist and classic car enthusiast, Josh Bennett for a year.

Rachel Cook, another young newcomer to the classic car scene is taking charge of a restored1954 Ford Popular for a year.

I have been in touch with Jack Meredith regarding the DVLA application process for an age-related registration mark for his TD. The TD, pictured below, is currently being restored by the same team, comprised of the student body and lecturers from the relevant courses at the North East Scotland College in Aberdeen who did such a wonderful job on the Alvis TA 14, ably assisted by Peter Milne. Once it is finished it will be offered to the Classic Car Loan Project. The MG Octagon Car Club is supporting the restoration with advice, technical support and the provision of spares required for the restoration at cost price.

TD3986, an import from the US.

Jack will keep me updated on the progress of the restoration and when the car is finished, the granting of an age-related registration mark by DVLA through the service provided by the MG Octagon Car Club will be a formality.

Ed’s further note:

The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs’ (FBHVC) website is at  https://fbhvc.co.uk/  

The MG Octagon Car Club’s website is at: www.mgoctagoncarclub.com/

JOHN JAMES
March 2020.

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