Mr. Toad’s Stool
By Larry Carlson
NOTE: This column was originally intended for the February newsletter in honor of Cecil Kimber’s death on 4 February 1945.
Every MG person knows that without Cecil Kimber MG would never would have become an iconic and legendary manufacturer of sports cars. Our Hero was present at the creation. He changed Morris Garages to M.G. and commissioned the now-famous art deco MG lettering inside the octagon. More than 80 years later it is a logo instantly recognized world-wide. He created the Midget, a car that was produced from the late 20’s to the mid-50’s. Few cars have had enjoyed such longevity.
His enthusiasm for racing is well known. In the 30’s MG won more international races and assorted car competitions than you and I have had hot meals. Kimber had to overcome two serious problems at MG before ever getting to the track. William Morris, owner of MG and Kimber’s boss, did not like racing and thought it was a waste of his money. Our Hero attempted to convince Morris that winning races and establishing a reputation as a builder of quality cars was would bring in customers. Morris was never convinced. As a result Morris never officially allocated money for competition. This meant
that Kimber had to ciphon off money from wherever he could; it meant, too, that the drivers and mechanics worked on the race cars on their own time and were not paid for their efforts. Kimber and his merry band of mechanics built race cars from whatever parts they had hanging around the plant. These guys produced cars that represented mechanical genius. Just one example here will suffice. In 1933 two Magnettes finished first and second in their class; for the first time in the history of the Mille Miglia a non-Italian marque won the team prize, the Gran Premio Brescia.
It is little-known that as a teen-ager Our hero was hit by a car. His injuries included a broken knee cap and a badly smashed right thigh. For two years he was on crutches and a regular patient at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. In the first operation the thigh bone was “plated” but did not heal. In the second operation the bone was cut back and bound with wire. This did not work and the decision was made to amputate the leg. In preparation for this surgery an x-ray was taken and it was determined that the bone had begun to set.
The leg was now two inches shorter than the other, leaving Kimber with a limp and life-long pain. But he could drive a car. And drive he did. We give thanks unto this day.
Racing Through Time
By Greg Hoeft, VMGCC Editor
What a strange coincidence. I was paging through my May/June issue of the publication for vintage people, the AARP magazine, and holey Abingdon, there, on page 70, was a picture of a vintage MG. The story went on to describe what is billed as the last car race in America to use city streets, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, held at Shenley Park in downtown Pittsburgh. The PVGP is said to be the nation’s longest running vintage race event, celebrating 26 consecutive years in 2008. The Grand Prix has grown into a 10-day festival spanning two counties and nine separate events.
This year, Italian marques of all kinds will be featured but I did notice that last year’s race results of the “Pre 1960 Under two Liter and Preservation Group” reported that the number one position was a 1952 TD driven by Manley Ford of South Lyon, Michigan. Better than that, all of the top three positions were TDs. In total, 20 of the 31 cars that finished the race were MGs of some sort. The full tally was nine TDs, three TCs, one TF, and seven MGAs. Quite a respectable showing, I do believe!
This year’s event starts on July 6 and ends on July 20. The Shenley Park race takes place on the July 19/20 weekend. If this event peaks your interest and you would like to take part or attend, you can find out more at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix web site, www.pvgp.org.