This roadster has been with Trevor Hunt since day one of the Sixties as a fun car, racer, hard-working banger and now a restored and cherished classic
When I was 16 in 1958 my dad bought me a 200cc Triumph Tiger Cub,’ recalls Trevor Hunt as he leafs through old photographs in his rural Somerset home. ‘Although I grew up in this village, my family came from Derby where we ran a busy tobacconist and post office in a large council estate, so I used to travel up and down the Fosse Way on it in a time before motorways. I had the only crash I’ve ever had in my life on that bike. A friend was riding pillion on the road to Cheddar when a coal lorry suddenly came out of a narrow bend. We had nowhere to go.
‘My dad said, “Whatever I say you’re going to ride fast so you’ll need the right bike.” The Triumph was replaced by a 500cc Velocette Venom. This was the Tt-winning superbike of its era, very fast for a 16-year-old lad. My mum absolutely hated it and talked my dad into getting me a car instead. We looked at secondhand options but in December 1959 we saw this MGA on a plinth in the window of Kennings MG in Derby. We bought it, with delivery scheduled for January 1, 1960 – although whoever writes the DVLA’S software hasn’t taken into account the fact that New Year’s Day never used to be a public holiday, so the car’s registration date has since been backdated to December 31, 1959...’
1962 – racing at Silverstone
‘The MG was a great car to own as a teenager – a great bird-puller, plus I got invited to loads of parties because of it,’ Hunt recalls. ‘But in 1962, aged 19, I fancied getting into motor sport. I only raced the MG once, at Silverstone in a club race, and finished second out of 29 cars. The winner was a works MGA Twin Cam. I later found out that the drivers I’d beaten
included Jem Marsh, co-founder of Marcos, who was driving one of his own creations. This impressed Jim Russell, founder of what is now the biggest race school in the world. He took me on as a volunteer race instructor at Snetterton, where I’d occasionally race Formula Juniors, and he taught me all about the “Russell Line” – a rule by which you apex the corner early on anything wider than 45 degrees. You’d be amazed how variable professional racing drivers are with their cornering lines. Nowadays Jenson Button drives closest to the Russell Line.
‘At the time I was working at Snetterton at weekends and in the family shop during the week. The MG was a second, fun car. I’d drive it down to the track but I commuted in a Mini I shared with the rest of the family, while my dad had a Jaguar Mk2 3.4.
‘I made my first modifications to the car in 1962. I read in a car magazine about heavy-duty lightweight glassfibre replacement wings and was reminded of what Colin Chapman always said about “adding lightness”. Cars used to rust badly back then and the wings would always be the first bits to go. If replacing them helped to make the car lighter and faster at the same time, so much the better. I also bought a hardtop that had a plug-in ceiling light.
‘These modifications were followed in 1963 by a headlamp flasher controlled by a toggle switch sticking out of the central speaker grille, plus another toggle switch for the indicators. I never liked the original rotary knob because you couldn’t flick it with your fingertips while steering.’
1967 – load-lugging on holiday
‘My soon-to-be-wife Joyce and I started caravanning with the MG,’ continues Hunt, recalling a trip up to Derwentwater in 1967. ‘The car started misfiring. I knew it was the condenser at fault so I stopped at the BMC agent in Kendal and asked if they had one. They didn’t but I asked if they had one for a Morris Oxford, which they did – and they’re exactly the same.
‘I went back to the campsite, took the grub screw off the distributor and promptly lost it in the long grass. Thankfully, I had some wood screws and washers from a pop-riveter with me, so I bodged it back together. I told Joyce I’d fit the condenser properly as soon as we got back to Derby. When I first restored the car ten years later the bodge was still there.
‘When we married in 1968 we had two cars: my MG and Joyce’s Reliant three-wheeler. I’d take the Reliant to the cash-and-carry to pick up stock because its boot was much bigger than the MGA’S. Also the MG had become a right rotbox despite being just eight years old and fitted with glassfibre wings.
‘We still took it on holiday because it was the only thing we had with enough torque to tow the caravan. In 1968 we took it to Austria at what turned out to be a scary time. The Russians invaded Czechoslovakia in an attempt to oust Alexander Dubček after the Prague Spring, and everywhere we went there were Czechs fleeing the opposite way. On many roads our MG was the only car heading east.
‘It was a difficult holiday. The caravan lost a wheel on the way to Dover and I had to fit it with the car’s spare. On the way back the MG broke a rear spring in Saint-dizier, just east of Paris. The RAC sent out a new spring but the French railway service managed to lose it. When we managed to get one we drove straight back to Derby.’
1970 – seeing off Capri and E-type rivals
‘The MG was in a very bad way by 1970. However, I’d started my own business and was doing well, so I fancied replacing it with a new Ford Capri. Prime Minister Edward Heath had just abolished Retail Price Maintenance, thereby legalising discounting, so cars were being sold at below list price.
‘The new Capri was £1450, £180 below list. I had intended to trade in the MG, but even with the discount the main Derby Ford dealership only offered me £200 off. I asked if that meant they valued the MG at only £20. Their response was, “Yes, to be honest we’ll just scrap it.” I thought, in that case I’ll keep it.
‘I retired the MG and didn’t do anything with it for five years other than making sure the engine still turned over. The Capri was awful. It was a V4, the shortest engine on offer installed under a bonnet designed for straight-fours and 3.0-litre V6s, so it had a very light front end that would change direction alarmingly on motorways in high winds. I had to pack concrete into the front valance to weigh it down.
‘In 1975 I bought the car I’d always wanted, a Jaguar E-type. It was right at the end of the production run when they were being discounted to make way for the new XJ-S. My E-type was a bronze V12 from Sytner in
Nottingham. Unfortunately, the fuel system proved to be horrendously unreliable and when I opened the bonnet to fix it I saw its spider’s web of pipes and thought, “No way”.
‘So my thoughts turned back to the MG and I began its first rebuild. In 1978 we moved down to Weston-super-mare, then in 1983 we went back to the Somerset village I grew up in. The MG followed in varying states of disrepair.’
1991 – ‘it lacks integrity’
‘By the time I finally settled back in Somerset the glassfibre wings were the best parts of the car,’ laughs Hunt. ‘I felt it was scruffy but roadworthy and in 1991 I remember taking my youngest son out in it for a run to Cheddar, pushing it a bit, before restorer Alan Peace took a look at it.
‘The body always looked good – the wings were obviously rust-free and the scuttle and boot panels were pretty solid. But after putting the car on ramps and checking the chassis Peace told me, “It lacks integrity.” I felt I daren’t drive it and left it with him to restore. He took his time – it was 1997 when he finally finished. It was an emotional moment, though, seeing it coming up the drive as good as new.
‘A year later I went to see Mum and Dad in Westonsuper-mare and took Mum out for a drive. While we were out the mileometer clicked round to 77,777 so we pulled to the side of the road and took a photo.’
The restored MG also made it into fiction. ‘I’m a published author,’ says Hunt, holding up a copy of his 2005 collection Ibiza Shorts, set among the island’s British expat community. ‘In the story Sancho’s Heart
Attack a retired Yorkshire cricketer drives this MGA on D-roads through France and Spain. I’ve made that journey myself, though admittedly not in this car.’
2012 – upgrades begin... again
‘I figured it needed some upgrades to make it easier to use,’ says Hunt, ‘so I sent it to Ratcliffe Brothers to fit hardened valves, an alternator, digital ignition and a five-speed gearbox, plus chrome wire wheels because they look better. I wanted to drive the car more and fettling the old SU carburettors was a hard job so they were replaced. It now runs on unleaded petrol and is faster and more powerful than when it was new and handles better thanks to extra chassis cross-bracing.
‘In 2015 it received its third respray, courtesy of Wessex Purchase, which used two-pack Iris Blue paint – 90 per cent of its mixture is white.
‘It was the first car to cross the bridge in the Somerset village of Bagley after it had been closed for many years. Local MP Tessa Munt officiated at the re-opening ceremony and was in the passenger seat.
‘Nowadays I love driving the car. I’ve got a particular route I like: down to Cheddar Gorge then off to the village of Priddy, over Glastonbury Tor and the Vale of Avalon. In an open car it’s absolutely perfect.’
Trevor finished second out of 29 cars the only time he raced his MGA
Today’s immaculate MGA was once Trevor’s battered caravan lugger
The MGA at Snetterton during Trevor’s time as a race instructor in the Sixties
The chassis in Peace’s workshop awaiting its return to ‘integrity’
The MGA got its third respray – in Iris Blue – in 2015
Trevor chalks up 77,777 miles on the odometer in 1998
Trevor and Alan Peace mark the end of the car’s resto in 1997