Gregor Grant, the founding editor of Autosport Magazine, owned an MG YB saloon which was his personal transport as well as the office hack. He bought it new from the MG factory and kept it for two years. In that time it was used as a press car for numerous UK and continental events including the Mille Miglia and the Monte Carlo Rally.  Gregor and his close friend (and sometime MG Works driver) George Phillips also used the car competitively, including in the Scottish Rally in 1953 and the Production Touring Car race at Silverstone in the same year.   They also competed in the 1954 Monte Carlo Rally. Whilst they completed the rally they were sadly disqualified for missing the last time check. 

I bought Gregor’s old car, UMG 662, last year with the intention of running it on the Monte Carlo Historic Rally. Sadly I found out that that rally now only caters for newer cars. However, in December I discovered that the Automobile Club De Monaco were running a special one off Classic Monte Carlo rally celebrating 80 years since the first British  winner. They were keen for Gregor’s old car to take part so I set about frantically getting the car ready. 

The car is now set up and is ready to be trailered off to John of Groats for the start on Wddnesday. The route is through the Highlands to Paisley where we will join the cars doing the historic rally. From there we go to Dumfries, stop overnight before heading to Hull the next day via Croft race circuit. We then take the overnight ferry to Zeebrugge and meet up with the historic cars again in Rheims on Friday. From there it is 36 hours non stop through France, over the Alps Maritime to Monaco.  

A full post will follow but in the meantime, if you would like to follow our progress to Monte please follow me on Twitter @mctrhanson or search #MG2Monte. 

   
 

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Last year there was much public outcry (see my past posts on the subject) when the organisers of the London to Brighton Run scrapped the traditional half way rest stop on Crawley High Street in favour of a closed to the public stop at a Honda garage on the outskirts of the town. (A Honda garage mind!  A company with no connection at all with the Run and the cars taking part. Maybe it would not have been so offensive if it had been a Peugeot, Renault or even Mercedes Benz garage).

The organisers argued that the facilities available on the High Street were inadequate for the maintenance needs and comfort of the competitors. Whilst that may have been correct it would surely have been possible to use the Honda garage for maintenance (if needed) but still have the rest stop on the atmospheric High Street?  In previous years the High Street was always packed with the public who came in their thousands to get a really good close look at the cars when they stopped. In fact the whole High Street took on a carnival atmosphere. The local radio station broadcast live from the side of the road, the local Scouts did a roaring trade in tea and bacon sandwiches and the RAF cadets sold the programmes.  The Run organisers forsook all of this for a stop on a garage forecourt where the public were excluded and were unable to see much at all.  The crews did, however, have access to a plush Harrods catering facility.. The Scouts had nowhere to sell their tea and bacon rolls and pretty soon the Cadets had noone to sell their programmes to as the few dispirited members of the public who did turn up did not stay for long.

One could not help but get the feeling the organisers of the Run had decided that the public of Crawley just did not matter. Honda presumably paid for the privilege of hosting the stop, unlike Crawley High Street. And no doubt Harrods did the same to supply the catering. The Scouts, collecting for charity, would I guess have been seen as unwelcome competition. Its not unreasonable to ask whether the organisers really needed the extra income Honda and Harrods brought.  The Run is always oversubscribed. If they had additional costs they could always have put the price up. Afteral even the cheapest of the veteran cars taking part cost over £60,000. Many are worth well into six figures. Running a veteran car is not for the impoverished.

With the Run sponsored by a “Private Bank”, and Harrods supplying the catering, the unfortunate impression created was of a bunch of plutocrats enjoying their wealth with no regard for the public. Clearly that was not the case and I am sure many of those taking part were as unhappy as the public at the axing of the old High Street stop.  It would, however, have been understandable if Crawley Borough Council had decided that the disruption to their town caused by the Run was no longer acceptable if it was not going to bring any benefits to the town.

Clearly the concerted criticism last year had some impact on the organisers of the Run as this year they announced that the Run would once again pass down the High Street. The Honda garage would still host the rest stop but cars would have to stop at a check point on the High Street. It was hoped some would choose to take their rest stop on the High Street too and space was set aside for them to do so.  To show commitment to the event the Mayor of Crawley very gamely sat in her wheel chair by the check point to greet the cars as they drove down the High Street. Sadly very few stopped to allow the public to get a close look at them. This was perhaps understandable as if a car had just stopped at Honda they would lose too much time stopping again so close by. In addition the marshals seemed to signal all approaching cars to stop at the Honda garage so many presumably thought they had no choice in the matter.  Still, the Scouts, Cadets and the public were back in force on the High Street, clearly to the delight of many of the passing crews.  Maybe next year more will stop on the High Street like in the past. Or maybe the organisers will finally appreciate that without public support even long running events like the London to Brighton Run will face an uncertain future.

Almost how it used to be. Veteran Cars return to Crawley High Street. George Hudson’s US built 1903 8hp Flint leads Malcolm Ginn’s powerful 24hp 1903 Darracq to the time check point.

A big thank you to Tam Large and Mike Sewell who stopped their 1900 Clement on the High Street for a coffee and cake break. Whether they forsook the Harrods hospitality at the Honda garage I don’t know but theirs was the only car to stop for a break on the High Street in the hour I spent there. As such theirs was the only car that the public had an opportunity to get a good look at during that time.

One of the oldest cars on the run, the 1897 cart wheel clad 6hp Panhard Et Levassor of Roy Tubby. They were making very good time at this point.

Dick Shepphard’s 1901 7hp Panhard Et Levassor stops at the check point closely followed by the Pownall / Dimbelebe 1901 4.5hp De Dion Bouton vis a vis. The Mayor of Crawley Chris Cheshire looks on from the left. She gamely sat out in the cold greeting all the cars as they came through the High Street.

 

Thomas Hill driving the Caister Castle Trust’s 1902 12hp Panhard Et Levassor. The chap in the suit in the back looks somewhat underdressed!

 

Robin Morrison has a full crew for his 10hp 1904 Cadillac

 

Douglas Pope’s 1 cylinder 3.5hp 1900 New Orleans. Despite the name, this little voiturette was a Belgian design made under licence in Orleans Road, Twickenham!

 

Allan White’s very purposeful looking twin cylinder 12hp Renault Tonneau

 

The Farley’s little 1902 5hp Peugeot

 

Another Renault, Ron Walker’s 7.5hp racing two seater. The Renault F1 jackets are a nice touch for what must be one of the world’s oldest racing cars. And Renault still race 115 years on – where will Red Bull be 115 years from now?

 

Mary Crofton piloting the family De Dion Bouton 1900 4.5hp vis a vis.

 

Brian Moore driving another handsome and powerful 16hp Panhard Et Levassor, this one from 1902.

 

Geoffrey Grime’s rare 10hp Gladiator. Made in France, 80% of the cars produced were sold in the UK.

 

One of the ubiquitous Curved Dash Oldsmobiles on the run. This is Adam Barber’s 1903 model. Rugged and reliable they are a great entry level veteran car.

 

Not quite Lewis Hamilton’s car! This is the 1898 3.5hp Benz Dogcart of Nigel Safe being driven by Gordon Cobbold.

 

Flying the flag (or two) for Old Blighty is Rob Aylott in his 1903 5hp Humberette

 

Its easy to forget Scotland has a long history of making cars. Long before the benighted Linwood Imps and Avengers, Argyll also built cars near Glasgow. This is the 1901 5hp Argyll of Michael Hilditch. As with Rootes 70 years later, Argyll found out the hard way that economic success did not always follow initial enthusiasm..

 

Dirk Docx in the 1904 6hp Siddeley of Andre Convents

 

A rare German 1901 4.5hp Adler vis a , this one belonging to John Hankin

 

Philip Oldman looks the part as he navigates his 1902 15hp Mors up the High Street. 4 cylinders and a steering wheel – its almost modern!

 

Where are the horses? Ron Mellowship’s 1898 5hp Bergmann

Matthew Pellett on a 1899 De Dion Bouton Tricycle. It was these little trikes that ignited the public’s interest in motor sport. The first circuit motor races held were races for these trikes.

A non motorised interloper. This Penny Farthing bike was not going from London to Brighton!

 

I was rather depressed to read in the November edition of Vintage Roadcar that Volkswagen’s emissions cheating was not even that original.  Apparently in the late 1990’s a number of truck manufacturers were fined $1bn for doing the same thing, namely using software to change the way their engines ran whilst undergoing emissions tests.

Even more depressing was the fact that in 1974 Volkswagen paid the US authorities $120,000 to settle claims that they had fitted a mechanical “defeat device” to many of their cars that would sense when the engine reached a certain temperature and would then thwart the mandated pollution control systems.

It is hard to believe the engineers responsible for the current scandal were aware of the alleged misdemeanours of their forebears but it does perhaps show that a culture of disregard for the strictures of emissions laws is nothing new to Volkswagen.

The excellent Porsche 919 Hybrids that triumphed at Le Mans this year. Will they be back next year?

Leaving aside the likely impact of Dieselgate on Wolfsburg and the wider German economy,  the crisis rocking VW Group is likely to have a significant impact on their motorsport programmes and aspirations.  Will the money still be there to fund Audi, Bentley and Porsche works teams? Particularly the hugely expensive Le Mans hybrid racers?  If the Audi Le Mans programme was designed to show the excellence of that company’s diesel and hybrid engineering technology, how can it possibly continue when it and its parent have been exposed as using the excellence of their engineering to cheat the public and the regulators?  And if Porsche and Audi pull out of WEC racing will other manufacturers do likewise?
Just before Dieselgate broke there was speculation in the motorsport press that VW were about to buy into Red Bull.  The deal would have made sense. Red Bull have fallen out with Renault and Mercedes will not supply them with engines. The thought of only being able to run obsolescent Ferrari engines next year was understandably unappealing. A deal with VW would have allowed Red Bull access to VW Group’s proven hybrid technology  – rebranding as Red Bull Audi would have been a small price to pay.  Such a deal is now surely dead in the water. There will be no money to spare at VW Group for a luxury like a Formula 1 team.  And without such a deal will we see Red Bull and Toro Rosso on next year’s grid? I think there is a real risk that we will not.

VW Group’s admission that they deliberately and fraudulently installed software in c11 million of their diesel cars to fool emissions testers is startling. We are now sadly used to big business issuing mea culpa statements due to the activities of rogue employees (banks and the fixing of LIBOR rates) , refusals to admit defects in their products (Toyota) or plain negligence (BP in the Gulf of Mexico) but never before have we seen one of the biggest companies in the world admit (but only after being caught) to defrauding their customers and the regulators.

The legal impact on VW will be disastrous. The key issue will be less the fraud in terms of co2 emissions and fuel economy (many do not care about the former and have long believed the latter to be manipulated) but rather it is the issue of NOX emissions that may kill VW.  This is primarily because NOX emissions are believed to be responsible for many fatalities worldwide. As such, fines in the U.S. alone will amount to billions. A number of possibly quite senior people will go to prison. I strongly suspect VW will only survive if the German government intervenes and even then I expect we will see the company broken up.

Whilst it is possible to shed tears for the innocent workers of VW Group surely there can be no sympathy at all for a company that deliberately pursued a fraud that it knew would contribute to the deaths of thousands?

MG purists will of course be horrified at the thought of MG making a sport crossover. However it seems like good business sense to me. It’s an increasingly lucrative market and if the likes of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar and Lamborghini are going to make SUVs I see no shame in MG joining them.

MG GS – Better in the flesh

Photos of the MG GS (which is currently on sale in China) do not do the car justice. The pre-production model on show in MG’s London showroom (see below) looks better in the flesh than it does in print. Even the interior, which has been much criticised elsewhere, does not seem bad.   It appears, however, that the car will not be sold with a diesel engine in the UK. That seems like an astonishing oversight to me and will hurt sales quite significantly. Having said that I’m personally excited by the thought of a 220 bhp 2 litre turbo four-wheel-drive MG GS with a paddle shift gear box. If they can make one with a tow hook it would make a great tow car for some of my older race cars. This will be especially the case if priced as expected at less than £20,000 for a top of the range version. According to MG the GS is expected to be available to order in December of this year.

  
  

A year or so ago I was astonished when I found out MG had bought (not leased) this building on Piccadilly in one of the most expensive parts of London. Next to the Royal Academy and opposite Fortnum and Mason it is a considerably grander building than anything Jaguar or Land Rover have. The upper floors are apparently offices and flats for visiting executives.

Pride of place in the showroom is given to this smart electric concept car. Sadly there are no plans to build it.

The MG3 is apparently selling well – at least much better than the 6. I still do not see many but think they look good and believe they are tremendous value for money. If only they had a bit more oomph!

Also on display was a prototype MG GS sport crossover – production versions of which are now on sale in China. This was the Shanghai Motorshow car so fit and finish were not up to production standards. The marmalade orange colour is a bit of an acquired taste!