The Popular MG

by Charles Penny

I bought my first MG (TIZI) at 17 years old but the learning process started a year earlier. At 14 I was sent away to school. If they had known the trouble they were admitting, they would have refused entry.

In 1957 the Queen was due to open the newly built workshops as part of the school’s 400-year anniversary celebrations. They were empty, painted pristine white throughout, and full of all the new lathes, tools, ramps, benches and woodwork equipment that I could dream of. I was allowed early access to build a 16ft sea going canoe as an example of the student’s woodworking skill. I promptly took the opportunity early on Sunday mornings to make a set of keys to several of the school doors, including the double doors of the workshop.

At some point, before I discovered girls, I had seen my first MG, fallen in love with the concept, and decided that I needed a sports car.  Having no money, I robbed my childhood piggy bank and purchased an old ‘sit up and beg’, running, black Ford Pop for £5 – the going rate at the time. At that tender age I thought that all you had to do to make a sports car was to cut the top off a saloon! The seller agreed to deliver it into the workshop double doors early one Sunday morning.

Charlie, my best mate, and I, realized that a hacksaw would take ages and thus, having seen someone cutting metal with an oxy torch on the television, decided it was the quickest way to turn the Pop into an MG (of sorts). All went well ‘till, never having worked on a car before, and not realizing that the petrol cap was connected to the tank by a two- inch pipe, we cut straight through it. There was the most-almighty bang! The whole workshop went instantly black; black soot absolutely everywhere. Immediate expulsion from school a certainty. The shame and disappointment of the parents unbearable. Never mind the cost and telling the Queen to come back later!   We literally could not see six inches in front of ourselves. We stood still, stunned.

No-one had appeared, it was still too early. After a while the air began to clear. The soot began to settle and joy of joys, the pristine white walls were still pristine white. Every horizontal surface was covered in thick soot which we spent the next two hours frantically sweeping up. The wreck of the Pop was pushed out of sight and later disposed of. We made a hasty retreat.

The moral of the story is:

  • if you want a sports car – buy one.
  • if you have never used oxy acetylene kit, get some instruction
  • make sure there is little or no petrol in the tank if you intend to ignite it
  • get an asbestos suit.
  • get insured
  • wait till the Queen has gone
  • have an exit strategy ready

Six months later I bought ‘Tizi’, my first true love and who is still with me 55 years later. But that is another saga.

Pictured above, the Ford Popular, known affectionately as the Ford Pop, was introduced in 1953 and followed on from the Ford Anglia. Charles’ car would not have been in the condition of this (almost certainly restored) example.

CRB 539 is ‘TIZI’, a 1936 TA, pictured here with 16 years old Charles in the driving seat in the grounds of his school.

I’m not sure how ‘Tizi’ came to acquire that rather substantial looking front bumper bar, but it was on the car when Charles bought it.

‘Tizi’ has recently been given a beautiful transformation at Adrian Moore’s bodyshop (‘Finishing Touch’) in Weston-super-Mare and Charles is currently waiting for a V5C from DVLA, which will show his reclaimed registration mark, CRB 539. It’s all go!

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