AFTER joining Morris Garages in Longwall Street, Oxford, Cecil Kimber was determined to build a car that would hold its own in the world of motor sport and in 1924 the MG was introduced to the motoring public.
The marque has come a long way since those early days, with the famous octagonal emblem recognised and celebrated around the globe.
After several moves in Oxford, due to a growing demand for more cars to be produced, the MG moved to Abingdon and ever since the town has been the home of the MG.
Today the MG Car Club’s headquarters, Kimber House in Cemetery Road, are just a stone’s throw away from the original factory site and the club provides an archive for MG and a home-from-home for the club’s thousands of members living around the globe.
To compliment MG’s impressive racing pedigree, the car club will be taking over Silverstone’s historic Grand Prix circuit for the fifth consecutive year with a packed weekend of motorsport on June 21 and June 22, with MGs of all ages battling it out.
Spokesman for the MG Car Club, George Woodward, said members from around the globe were looking forward to taking part in the celebrations.
MG founder Cecil Kimber
He added: “About 15,000 people will come along for the Silverstone weekend and there are lots of other events too. There are 11,000 MG Car Club members, but not all of them are MG car owners.
“But you don’t have to actually own an MG to be a member of the car club — even if you don’t own an MG you can still live the dream by coming along to the rallies and looking at other people’s cars.
“It costs £50 a year to be a member of the car club and that will get you into lots of rallies and race meetings. “Enthusiasts are coming from all over the world for these 90th celebrations, from places as far away as Australia and America.
“People can call in at the visitor centre and see our displays and MG owners also drop in from time to time.
“There is also a permanent exhibition at Abingdon County Hall Museum and there is currently an MG90-themed exhibition on the top floor.”
Historic MG artefacts have been loaned to the museum to create the special exhibition, which is open to the public until July 20.
At the heart of the permanent display is the last MGB off the production line, which was craned in to the museum through an upstairs window, much to the astonishment of passers-by watching from the town’s Market Place.
Abingdon Museum assistants Shirley Buckle and Tristan Kear take look around the new exhibition
For the official opening of the MG90 special display at the museum in March there was an impressive line-up of MGs from almost every decade on the Market Place, from the 1930s to the present day, in chronological order, including Mike Allison’s 1935 MG NA Magnette.
General manager of the MG Car Club, Julian White, said the exhibition looked “absolutely fantastic”.
Among those who attended the exhibition’s opening were ‘famous’ faces from the former Abingdon factory, including Don Hayter, chief designer of the iconic MGB, Peter Browning, BMC competitions manager responsible for a global racing and rallying team, and Jimmy Cox and Brian Moylan, who both worked on the various record breakers and competition cars.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm.
- For further information visit mgcc.co.uk
May 18: MGs at Burford Garden Centre, chance to showcase your MG.
May 25: 22nd Old Speckled Hen Run Starting at Radley College, just outside Abingdon, and returning for tea and scones after a run.
June 21-22: MG90 at Silverstone. Special Grand Prix for MGs.
July 6: Summer Day Out. Road run starting in Abingdon and finishing at the the working museum, Hollycombe Steam in the Country.
August 3: MGs at Bicester Avenue Garden Centre, showcase your MG.
Fulfilling a driving ambition
RICHARD Martin, above, is Abingdon born and bred, and got a taste for MGs when he was a young schoolboy.
He watched the MGs head off out of town to be exported and hoped one day that he would be able to drive one too.
Fortunately he – and his wife Gill – went on to live the dream.
Father-of-two Mr Martin, 67, who lives with Gill off Drayton Road, Abingdon, is now retired after selling books for Blackwell’s.
He said: “I grew up in Abingdon so I grew up with MGs around me.
“My initial enthusiasm started when I was seven or eight years old. My friend’s dad worked as a security guard at the export gate, roughly where the big Tesco is now off Marcham Road, so we used to go down and watch, although I never got to go inside the factory.
“I got my first MG when I was in my early 20s and had an MG Midget for a while until I acquired a mother-in-law and we didn’t have enough seats.
“My wife has an MG6 and I have an Iris blue 1964 MGB – it was black when it was first built and spent some time in Belfast.”
Mr Martin said he thought the 90th celebrations were a “nice idea” and added that the anniversary had been latched on to by enthusiasts around the world, including South Africa.
“The MG definitely has a certain magnetism,” said Mr Martin, “and it brings people together.
“But it’s the owners that are really special — they are the glue who hold everything together.
Oxford Mail picture researcher Neil Braggins, 48, from Didcot, bought a black MGB Roadster which he finally ‘retired’ on May 5, 1990 after completing 200,000 miles.
“The car is in bits in my garage and maybe I will rebuild it and get it going again one day,” he said. “I had a lot of fun with my MGB – it’s definitely a special car.”
Cecil Kimber, Lord Nuffield, Goldie Gardner and Reid Railton alongside an EX135 with new Railton body and a supercharged K3 Engine in 1938
The MG story
1921: 33-year-old Cecil Kimber joins Morris Garages in Longwall Street, Oxford s 1924: The first MG car is built, a modified Morris Oxford with a ‘sporty’ body and improved suspension and brakes.
1925: The first competition-built MG is produced, named ‘Old No. 1’. Cecil Kimber used the car in the Land’s End Trial, where it won a gold medal.
1929: After several moves in Oxford due to increased demand, productions moved to Abingdon.
1930: MG’s first record-breaker, EX120, is built and sets a new land speed record of over 100mph.
1933: A supercharged K3 Magnette wins its class at the Mille Miglia, making MG the first non-Italian marque to ever win a team prize.
1935: A new land speed record of over 200mph is set by Goldie Gardiner in EX135.
1939: Car production is halted for the company to concentrate on munitions production during the Second World War.
1945: MG’s first post-war car, the TC is launched. Customers include the Duke of Edinburgh.
1955: The MGA is launched and becomes an instant success with over 90 per cent of all cars built exported across the globe. More than 100,000 are built.
1957: With Stirling Moss at the wheel, EX181 achieves a speed of 245.64mph, a class record which still stands today.
1961: The MG Midget is launched, bringing low cost motoring back to the MG enthusiast.
1962: One of the world’s most iconic sports cars, the MGB, is launched. During the course of the next 18 years over half a million are built including a GT and V8 powered model.
1967: MG produce the MGC. Based on the MGB the new car features a three-litre engine. Following in his father’s footsteps HRH Prince Charles orders one.
1975: In October, a unique left-hand-drive MGB is painted Brooklands Green and fitted with special wheels and livery.
1979: A carnival is held to celebrate 50 years of production in Abingdon.
1980: On October 22 the final MGB is built and the Abingdon factory closes its gates. Production moves to Longbridge, Birmingham.
2014: 90th anniversary celebrations.