Sunday, June 12th, 2011 ~ Lincolnshire, England
The day of this long-planned celebration of the 50 years of the MG Midget dawned sunny and bright but rain was forecast for later in the morning. Jointly organised by the MG Car Club, the MG Owners Club and the Midget & Sprite Club, the event was held in the park surrounding the stately home of Burghley House where the famous horse trials take place annually. The team had sold tickets for some 700 cars and when we arrived shortly after 8 a.m. Midgets and Sprites of all varieties were trickling in, accompanied by a few MGBs and one or two modern TFs. There had been some uncertainty as to whether we, the Sebring Replica clan, would be able to arrange our planned "clock" to display 12 cars in a circle, and of course whether twelve would actually be there. However we soon found an area close to the historic cars which were being positioned by Paul Woolmer and, with tape measure and pegs, began to set out our display. Andrew Forster had been able to borrow Richard Pugh's Fastback complete with tow car and trailer, and several others also came that way including my own Coupe, JJO. An hour or so later we reached 11 cars and I thought we were going to be one short but then Mark Turner arrived with his Coupe Mark 2 and completed the circle. Gordon Higgs' beautifully-finished red Coupe came sans engine and 'box being as yet unfinished, Derek Stewart's equally fine Fastback was there in a lovely shade of blue, and Ian Ashfield's similar car had still done only a dozen miles from new. With Michael Meerlo's Fastback driven all the way from Holland we had 4 Fastbacks and 8 Coupes. Trevor McIlroy brought his newly completed Coupe over from Northern Ireland to join those of Alan Anstead, Brian Wheeler, Roger Byford, Gordon Higgs, Jimmy Lee, Mark Turner and myself. Hot news was that Roger Byford is to take his car on the 2012 Monte Carlo Challenge accompanied by none other than Willy Cave who is now over 80 but as alert as ever. All the cars looked great and are a real tribute to the marque ~ thanks to all of you for making the big effort to be there. A lot of interest was shown in the cars and many were fascinated to see how every car was different from its neighbour whether it be in body shape, choice of engine or gearbox, colour, wheels, suspension and so on.
Meanwhile the hoards of Midgets and Sprites were lining up across the field and trade stands had been set up including one for each of the organising clubs. A line-up of Midgets from 'M' Types, through 'T' Types and all the Marks of post-war Midget, was placed in front of the main house. A brass band was playing and bacon sandwiches and coffee were being consumed.
The historic cars included, of course, a Jacobs Midget belonging to Malcolm Beer, and the ex-Works 6 GRX of Dave and Nikki Saunders. Sebring Sprites: PMO, BXN, and WJB were joined by EAO which Jonathan (Whitehouse-Bird) drove to the event, the Super Sprite, Gordon Elwell's MEG, Jack Wheeler's closed version of 7080AC, Ian Grainger's s/c Frogeye, Bill McDonnough/Dave Groves' Speedwell GT and several others. Elsewhere in the field Tony Wilson-Spratt and Paul Woolmer were showing off the new Sanction II version of the WSM recently completed for Ian Hulett and the Ecurie Ecosse transporter was topped with Dick Skipworth's copy of the Le Mans Sprite. The old BMC transporter was also on show. Shaun Rainford and son had their copy of John Britten's SS1800 Lenham GT among the historics, Peter May had several of his competition cars under an awning, Motobuild brought along an Ashley-bodied Midget, the Tifosi Sebring was in evidence, and other firms were selling parts, new and old. In my wanders I bumped into Bob Kemp, the Healey Club's Sprite registrar, Larry and Dorothy Quinn who have organised the Midget Challenge for 35 years, and Tom Coulthard, Jack Wheeler, and Colin Gales, Sprite hill-climber, to name but a few.
Unfortunately the forecasters were right for once, and by 10.30 a light drizzle was falling which soon grew heavier. Then the wind got up and it was quite cold so this rather diminished the socialising and picnicking and resulted in many retreating into their cars or visiting the interior of Burghley House. By mid-afternoon, and following the cutting of the birthday cake, the crowds were scurrying for the gate though we went home feeling it had been a very worthwhile and pleasurable day.
My sincere thanks to the organisers, particularly to Dennis Wharf, the MGCC Midget Registrar who helped and supported my plans for the "clock" against a little opposition.
Some 700 Spridgets..
..spread out in the field.
Historics in the rain
The Sebring "Clock"
Brian Wheeler & Forsters
Full Midget line-up
Malcolm Beer's ex-Dick..
Larry & Dorothy Quinn
The Saunders' ex-works
...racing Midget, 6 GRX
Ronnie White's Sebring Sprite over from N.Ireland
Paul Woolmer's prototype Super Sprite
WSM Sanction 2 fibreglass body shown left, and the first newly completed car, built for race driver Ian Hulett.