It is true to say that Parnelli Jones is an American racing legend who raced and sponsored just about every American sports car you can name, but it was late in his career before he became involved in M.G. – however, this was more about business than racing!
Vel Miletich, Parnelli Jones, created Vel’s Parnelli Jones (VPJ) Racing team of drivers, engineers, designers, and mechanics that dominated the American automobile racing scene of the 1970s from Jones’ humble early career, to the highpoint of motorsport, back-to-back Indianapolis 500 race wins and three consecutive United States Auto Club National Championships.
The name “Parnelli Jones” is closely associated with the many disciplines of auto racing. Best known as the winning entrant at Indianapolis with Al Unser and the Johnny Lightning Specials in 1970 and 1971, the Vel Miletich/Parnelli Jones team eventually encompassed several different disciplines of motorsport. In addition to running what was then the USAC National Championship circuit, they were also fielding cars in USAC Silver Crown dirt track events, Formula 5000 events on road courses, NHRA drag racing, off-road racing and even Formula One race team from late 1974 to early 1976.
Jones also owned and operated several successful businesses. Parnelli Jones Inc., operated 47 retail Parnelli Jones Tire Centers in four states. Parnelli Jones Enterprises was a chain of Firestone Racing Tire outlets in 14 Western United States. Parnelli Jones Wholesale was a reseller that sold and distributed shock absorbers, passenger car tires, and other automotive products to retail tire dealers.
To further support his racing team ambitions, in 1982 Parnelli started a business restoring and selling interesting vehicles including MG sports cars.
It is believed his involvement was limited, due to his racing ambitions, but it did help to support his racing interests, that inevitably put a drain on finances.
In 2012 the opportunity arose for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation to acquire many of the cars, from the well-preserved Vel/Parnelli collection. The Foundation board members had no hesitation with making that acquisition. These cars are ideally viewed in person at the Indianapolis Motor speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
The Museum is located five miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis on the grounds of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is recognised as one of the most highly visible museums in the world devoted to automobiles and the auto racing. In 1987 the museum and Speedway grounds were honoured with the designation of National Historic Landmark. Perhaps not surprisingly M.G. cars do not seem to figure in this grand hall of fame!
The vehicle referenced here, with the Parnelli Jones Racing connection, is M.G. TD26639. This vehicle was not an Abingdon factory export model and is therefore most likely a private shipment to the US, as this is where the vehicle was eventually fully restored.
So, TD26639 with engine # XPAG/TD/26797, was restored by “Vels Parnelli Jones Racing” in December 1982 and was only the second car restored by the new, Torrance, California, “business”. A plaque was attached to each restored vehicle stating, “Manufactured by Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing”. This might seem a slight stretching of the truth but the quality of work was certainly of a high standard.
Note: Parnelli Jones “Manufactured by” plate (below) has recorded the car as ‘Model No.’ TD 28639. This number appears to be incorrect, not least because the car’s chassis and chassis plate correctly record TD26639 as well as Engine No. XPAG/TD2/26797. Perhaps the original car number on the well-worn Abingdon chassis plate, next to the battery tray, was mis-read by the Parnelli enterprise?
In November 2007 the MG Car Club T Register certified this UK based car by reference to the original Factory Production Records, confirming that XPAG/TD2/26797 is the correct engine fitted to chassis number TD/26639. The car was confirmed as being manufactured on the 10th April 1953 and was not exported by the factory in Abingdon.
Guarantee plate on the bulkhead
The car has travelled very few miles since its US “rebuild” and it is in first class condition.
The Restoration work carried out in California is very fully documented in a 11.5 x 12 inch leatherette folder containing 12 double size pages carrying the Parnelli Jones Racing logo. Page one of the folder (reproduced below) confirms that this is restoration No.2 of the new enterprise and stating “Thank you for allowing us to restore this piece of automotive history. Signed “P.J. 1982”.
This folder has stayed with the vehicle since its restoration.
Vel’s Parnelli Jones Restoration Logo from the first page of the folder.
TD 26639 with its UK Registration Plates prior to restoration.
TD 26639 as she is in 2014, back in the UK.
The car is currently being offered for sale for £36,000 by Beaulieu Garage Ltd in Hampshire – www.beaulieugarage.co.uk – just a two minute drive from the National Motor Museum.
Acknowledgement is given to Jonathan Goddard, who did the research for and prepared this article.