MGA

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

Classic Cars (UK) - - Welcome - Words SAM DAW­SON Pho­tog­ra­phy JAMES PAR­DON

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

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