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Chicagoland MG Club: Driveline
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  Chicagoland MG Club:Driveline
A Chat with Adrian Goodenough
Part 2

FAVORITE BRITISH CAR: I think my favourite British car is the big Healey Austin Healey 3000. It's such an incredible car to drive and not for the feint hearted.

FIRST MG EXPERIENCE: My first experience was being driven in a works rally car by Gerald Wiffen between the village of Marcham and the MG factory. It was a very narrow and twisty road and the gear box cover not yet fitted so the open road and the prop shaft were exposed and we were reaching speeds up to 130mph, and I was just 16 at the time.

MG'S OWNED: I have owned about 11 or 12 MGs of all different models, my first was a MG 1300 saloon to this day I still have a 1975 MGBGTV8. My favourite MG would be a TF I think it is one of the better designed MGs made.

YOUR CONNECTION WITH MG'S: I started work at the MGs in January 27th 1960, and was to spend about 3 months in each department, my first department was Progress dept and it was up on the trim deck.

It was mainly older persons that worked in this department, those nearer retirement and had worked at the factory for many years apart from the war years. I then moved to other departments in A Block, one I do remember well is the press shop. The main work here was making the chassis for the MGA, as you walked through the dept there were flashes from the welders and it was full of smoke (not a nice place to be in) there was also a big paint dip which the completed chassis was lowered into. I then moved over to the paint shop in B/block. This I found very interesting and the manager of this dept was Percy Hughes who spent a lot of his time with me teaching me to mix paint and to spray different types of paint, this is also where I learnt to drive.

Out of the back of B/block was a narrow road with just enough room for cars to be parked up awaiting paint rectification and with just enough room to drive past, when I knew there were not going to be anyone around (they were at tea break) I took the opportunity to learn myself to drive. I was just about 16 years old so I then stepped inside a Midget and then got myself familiar with the controls etc. After a few days I was confident to take my first drive, it was for about a hundred yards. This was such a wonderful feeling so that was it! Every opportunity I was out the back driving as much as I could. I then asked Percy Hughes if I could have a permit to drive, he then arranged for me to take a test which was a drive in a Morris Oxford all around the factory grounds. I became the youngest employee to have a driving permit.

I then moved into the competitions dept, one of my best memories was being able to drive all of the rally cars, every night all of the cars were stored inside the dept so I would get there early in the morning and I would volunteer to get the cars out and park them outside. Instead of just parking them directly outside I would take a ride up and around the compound. The store man had a Morris Isis van to go and collect spares from Cowley in Oxford. During the day if the van was available I would use it to collect things from around the factory, some journeys were less than a hundred yards. On one occasion I was driving near the main gate inside the factory when one of the security guards rang up Doug Watts (competitions supervisor) to say that the comps van was going along with no one driving it! When I got back to the dept everyone was in fits of laughter, because it was quite a large van and when I was driving it I had to look between the top of the dash and the steering wheel. I was not very tall back then although I'm not that tall now.

John Thornley was always walking the factory and he would always speak to everyone as he passed by, he was very much liked by everyone of the workforce, he owned a mineral blue MGBGT which we looked after over in B/Block and at my bench I had my own pet spider which was attached to fishing line. He lived in a strip light above the bench and whenever anyone came and stood at my bench I always lowered the spider which had a great reaction but I never had the nerve to lower it when John Thornley came buy, but my foreman Jack Butler did, and did he jump! My spider became well known in the factory. The manager in B/Block was George Morris and we all jumped when he was around, he started at the factory with Cecil Kimber and Cecil Cousins.

We had lots of famous people visit the MGs, television personalities and film stars were always popping in for a look round, the King of Jordan was a very keen on motor sport and would often call into competitions department to see the latest rally cars. He was so impressed that he asked if he could have one built for himself. He had a group two Mini Cooper with narrow snow tyres fitted (which I thought odd) but he wanted to go out in his back garden (the Desert).

Of all the racing and rally drivers that came to MGs Stirling Moss was to me the most famous, he would often call in with his Surf blue Mk 1 Mini which was totally standard. Stirling was a very shy person and didn't like the press hanging around him so he always felt at home when he was at the Gs and new he would not be hassled little did I know that I would be working for him again in the eighties.

MOST MEMORABLE MG EXPERIENCE: I think my best moment in an MG was to take one out onto the public roads for the first time, I was just seventeen and had just passed my driving test in Oxford and so had a full driving licence. Pete Owen who was a test driver in development department asked me if I could take a car up to Gaydon near Banbury on a Saturday morning and I would be getting paid overtime. I couldn't wait until the weekend to come, my most embarrassing moment, in-fact, I had two, the fist one was when I was going out on a test drive in a Midget, I was riding shotgun with a road tester and we were out on the test route and on our way back on the concrete road by the back of the RAF Station Abingdon when up in front of us was a parked tractor facing towards us. The driver had got down from his tractor and walked over and opened a gate then walked back to his tractor. Meanwhile the cows in the field spotted the open gate and headed towards it. The tractor driver had seen the cows heading for the gate and put the tractor into gear and drove toward the gate but he did not see us in the Midget. We hit the tractors rear wheel at about 40mph. I just remember the rear of the Midget lifting off the ground and my head hitting the windscreen. Both Frank the driver and myself were not hurt too much but the poor MG Midget was a write off. It was a left hand drive for America. My second moment was again driving a left hand drive MGB up in the compound, and I was driving quite fast when another MGB came out of a parking lot and I T boned it. Both cars were badly damaged.

FAVORITE MG EVENT: My favourite event would be the Abingdon weekend when we all meet up again and also most of the works rally cars and the works drivers are reunited.

ULTIMATE DREAM CAR: My ultimate dream car? My first thoughts would be to own an Austin Healey 3000 (Big Healey) but for a modern car it would have to be a choice of a Ferrari 355, Jaguar XK8, or the Audi TT soft top.

BEST COUNTRY TO DRIVE AN MG IN: If I could drive my MG in any country in the world it would have to be in the States and follow the old route 66. This is something that I have always dreamed of since I was about sixteen years old and listening to Nat King Cole and watching the TV programme 'route 66'.

I think the only change I would make to my MG V8 is to add power steering although as a rule I don't like to see to many modifications to MGs unless it's preparation for a rally. It's nice to see a standard car as it came off the production line.

I belong to both the MG Owners Club and the MG Car Club. I am also secretary of the MG Caravan Club and my wife Linda is the Treasurer. The MG Caravan club was formed in 1971 by myself for employees of the MG factory and is still going well today although I have now opened it to any MG enthusiast as most of the true members are in there seventies. I would welcome any visitors on our rallies. I do think that the two main clubs over here should offer a special membership to the remaining ex-MG employees who could also offer a lot more input of the actual running of the factory.

Since the MGs are no longer manufactured I have noticed that there has been a slow decline in membership in the clubs but also I think the editor of the club magazine seem to be concentrating too much on publishing too much on the MG F and not on the old models or even on the old factory in Abingdon. There is so much more they could publish and talk to the old employees before it's too late. As an example, when I was working in competitions department my job was the paintwork, in my days there the works colours were red and white. When the Mini Coopers' body shells came in from Cowley they were painted red with a black roof, as they came in the mechanics stripped them down even more and I began rubbing down the roof to change the colour which was a problem because the original red would always bleed through. In those day I did most of the paint work while the mechanics were still working on their assigned car, and the mechanics in the next bay working on their assigned car would get very irate as I was spraying and they would be covered in paint fog (to the amusement of others).

I remember preparing two MGBs for Sebring. The two mechanics were Bob Whittington and Gerald Wiffen. Bob prepared the GT and Gerald the roadster. I remember taking these cars out on test runs, it was just awesome. I drove most of the cars that were prepared in competitions dept and they were all my favourites, from the very first rally car. I drove an MGA coupe in the early sixties and the special aluminium bodies on the MGCs. My brother was working in the Special tuning department where they were preparing Triumph TR 7s (which I was never impressed with), and Tony Pond was to be the works driver, but the car was under powered until they fitted a V8,

I still keep in touch with others from the factory, I get a call once a week from an old friend Neil Randall who keeps me updated, but these days it's up to tell me who has gone into hospital or who has just died. I also try to get up to Abingdon once a month for a meeting with the MG works club.

For anyone visiting the UK and would like to visit auto museums I would begin with a visit to Gaydon near Banbury where most of the ex works cars now live, then a short trip down the M40 to Abingdon where you can visit the site of the old factory and the Abingdon museum. At this moment in time we are trying to get a new venue for the Abingdon museum. It is at the 'Old Jail' which was converted to a sports centre but now has closed. There is a new museum up in Coventry which is not opened yet but will be just rally cars (they have my London to Sydney marathon Hillman Hunter winning car).

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