The 97th International Oliver Arkell day has recently passed us by; it was on 11th August 2020.
This celebrated the occasion in 1923 when Oliver purchased directly from Cecil Kimber at the Queen St. Oxford showrooms, his Raworth-bodied Morris Garages Super Sports registered FC 5855, the earliest properly documented sale of an M.G.
The six cars carrying Raworth coachwork on specially modified Morris Cowley chassis were considered by Cec Cousins, who was responsible for building them at the time, to be the first sports cars of the M.G. marque.
Cousins, who died in 1975 spent a lifetime at M.G. He would have given Wilson McComb plenty of accounts of the early days at the various Oxford premises and fortunately for us, McComb got them down in his book The Story of the M.G. Sports Car, first published in 1972.
With the Centenary of M.G. approaching in 2023 the debate as to whether it should be celebrated in 2024 or 2025 seems to have abated. However, there are still some who are in the 2025 camp with “Old Number One”. To quote from a recent posting by Keith Herkes on the MMM forum:
The inscription in “Combat” by Barrie Lyndon, “To Wilf, my first passenger in my first MG, from Kim, Christmas 1933”, has for many years fuelled the myth that FC 7900, now known as Old Number One, was “the first MG”.
The car was a “special MG” built for Cecil Kimber by Morris Garages and registered at the Oxford Records Office to “Kimber Cecil, Woodstock Rd, Oxford, Morris Cowley Sports Grey 11.9 HP on 27/3/25”.
So, it’s safe to deduce that this was CK’s first M.G. and not “the first MG”.
If further corroboration of the 1923 date were needed, The M.G. SALESMAN’S HANDBOOK, issued in January 1928, which contained a personal message from Kimber, states that:
“…. the M.G. Sports Cars were first introduced in 1923….”
Thanks must go for help in compiling this short article to Chris Keevill, Editor, The Early M.G. Society, Keith Herkes, member, The Early M.G. Society, and Malcolm Robertson Editor, The Pre-war M.G. Register of Australia, for posting the announcement of the 97th International Oliver Arkell day on the Register’s Facebook Group (and this ditty …)
A REMARKABLE ARKELL ODE
Although your town is all locked down,
There’s good reason to be jolly,
Fill your glass with Speckled Hen,
And drink a toast to Olly.