A Chat With
By Bob Simon
This month we have a chat with my good friend Adrian Goodenough. We met about 5 years ago at the British Motor Heritage Museum in Gaydon, Oxfordshire. My wife Pat and I were on holiday in Ireland and the UK. I timed the trip so that I could go to the 75th anniversary of the MG motorcar. We were walking around the auto jumble, when I spotted a boy with MG painted on his face. I asked his grandfather if I could take a picture and after the pic we started talking. Adrian invited me to his house in Abingdon the next day to see his memorabilia. He had/has bumper badges, bricks from the factory and many of the manufacturer's plates from the factory's machines! He took us on a ride around Abingdon with Jake his grandson and we had lunch at Jake's favorite restaurant, which was on part of the old MG grounds. It was a McDonalds! Adrian and I have become good friends and I have visited him twice since going to auto museums, riding in his mgbgtV8. He purchased my 69 Austin Mini for me and took it to Southampton to be shipped to the states! He is a very nice person. What follows is part one of my interview with himů.
I think my favourite British car is the big Healey. The Austin Healey 3000. It's such an incredible car to drive and not for the feint hearted, my first experience was being driven in a works rally Healey by Gerald Wiffen between the village of Marcham and the MG factory. It was a very narrow and twisty road, the gearbox tunnel cover was not yet fitted and I had the prop shaft and the open road exposed to me and we were reaching speeds of up to 130mph! I was 16 years old at the time.
I have owned about 11 or 12 MGs of all different models, my very first MG was a MG1300 saloon in Fawn Brown. I bought it just after my son Paul was born he is now 36. I drive a 1975 MG B GT V8 which drive most days. I also have a 1955 ZA Magnette which has been on loan to a museum. My favourite MG would be a TF, I think it's the car I would really like to own.
I started work at the MGs on December 27th 1960, I remember it so well, and my brother Basil was already working there. He started work in 1945 at 14 years old as an office boy. He had to ride a large delivery bike from the main factory down to West St. Helens Street in the centre of Abingdon which was then the service department (later after it burnt down it became the social club). I remember my first day, I left home with Basil at 6.45am on our bikes. It was dark and cold. Basil was working on trim deck on the MGA line so I went and waited with him as I had to wait for the personal office to open. They did not start work until 8.00am. My memories were recalled of walking through the trim deck bustling with activity on the body assemblies and the smell of the Dunlop 758 trim adhesives and hearing the cry of 'Push-em-up'' or "come on 'up the line".
The time came for me to go to the personal office and to see Miss Brewer. She was a typical school teacher and very frightening for a boy of 15. After leaving her office I was then shown around the factory by Tommy Nickolls, the works guide, a very nice man. I then spent the next three months on trim deck with Progress dept as a shop boy. Progress dept was spread out over the whole factory but I was to be chasing and fetching. I was to go to where the bodies came in and unloaded from the lorries. There was a gang of about 10 men that worked here one each side of the lorry putting the hoist on to the car body, which was then loaded on to a trolley, which then would be pushed on the line (which was on rails) to guide the trolleys until the end of trim deck before being lowered by hoist again to the lines below.
MGs was full of characters and a few of these were unloading the bodies, it was here that I was initiated. I was grabbed from behind and bundled into a Sprite body and they soon had my pants off and then put black grease onto me. When I eventually stood up there was an almighty cheer from the men working on the lines. I just stood there not knowing what to do, I didn't want to pull my pants up as I would get black grease over them and I was thinking what my Mum would say, but at that moment the foreman appeared with a coat to cover my modesty and to take me down to the ground floor toilets to clean up, after this all of these men really looked after me and became good friends (who sadly are no longer with us). They are Jock Kerr, Don Hughes, Eddie Dixon, Ben Belcher and the lorry driver Reg Hartwell (who for years after would come up behind me and pinch my rear especially if I was under a bonnet of a car and then jump up and smack my head, but I would do the same to him.)
Part 2 to follow next month. - Bob Simon