Chicagoland MG Club: Driveline October 2009

A History of the
Chicagoland MG Club

Author’s Note: This history is about the Chicagoland MG Club in its various configurations over the years. You won’t find many names mentioned here for that reason: it’s about the club, not the members. Yes, the club wouldn’t be where it is today without the contributions of members, but I like to think that they did what they did for the benefit of the club itself and not to glorify themselves. Most information here is drawn from the archived copies of the club newsletter, now online as part of our website. Some information comes from the memories of members who have “been there, done that”.

Part I: From Inception to Independence

If you had read the Chicago Tribune on September 18, 1976, you might have seen this ad in the “Classic and Sports Car Calendar of Events”:

The American MGB Association is
forming a Chicago Chapter. If you
own a MGB and would like to join,
call for more information (after 5:30
p.m.). Bruce Magers: 724-1984 or
      Rick Angelica: 345-7960)

Both Bruce and Rick had recently joined the newly formed AMGBA and had responded themselves to a call for local chapters 1 of this New York based organization, hence their decision to run this ad.
Also appearing in that same Tribune calendar were notices for gimmick rallies presented by the Tri-States Sports Car Conference, the SUDDS Rallye Team, and the DERT Rallye Team. Additionally, Gymkhanas and Slaloms at Utica Raceway and elsewhere were being held by the Sports Owner’s Association, the North Shore Corvette Club, the R.I.P Rallye Team, the Bar CB Motorsports Club and the Windy City Z Club. The Illinois Valley Sports Car Club was hosting a hill climb and a call also went out to form a club for Pantera owners.
It was a time when “sports cars” were a little more common than they are today, a time when “sports cars” had a distinct identity to the public and a time when you might see people using their MG-T types, TR3’s, Austin-Healeys and the like on the road in daily use. Many of these cars were in the hands of younger people who enjoyed using them, as evidenced by the other ads in the calendar. At a time of less sophisticated automotive technology, shade tree mechanics and backyard body shops were everywhere, and a DIY attitude was common to all types of automotive enthusiasts.
It was a time when the British automotive industry was going through one of its periodic flounderings under governmental duress, with the US EPA and NHTSA in hot pursuit. A time when the upstart MG Owner’s Club was beginning to trounce the stodgy old MG Car Club back in England. A time

1 Road & Track, March 1976

when MG owners were just beginning to worry about future parts and service availability for their cars.
On the evening of Thursday, October 28, 1976, about a half dozen individuals gathered in the basement of Mack’s Golden Pheasant restaurant in Elmhurst, IL for the initial meeting of what was to become our club under the name “Chicago Chapter AMGBA”. There is no remaining roster of those attending 2, but included for sure were Bruce Magers and Rick Angelica. There are no known remaining minutes of that gathering, but a “meeting of the minds” clearly occurred amongst those in attendance as the club began to grow from that night onwards.
The first Chicago club newsletter, under the name “MGB!”3 did not appear until July 1977, but a careful reading of that issue and several following issues shows that the club had moved forward from its initial meeting with its first rally in December 1976, just a few months after organizing, and a strong program of events unfolded thereafter.
In 1977, the group held its first picnic and staged several tech sessions and rallys. It conducted a tour to the Brooks Stevenson Museum in Wisconsin in March, engaged a prominent guest speaker at the May meeting (racer Bob Tullius), and secured the first affiliation for an AMGBA chapter with the British MG Car Club (MGCC) in June. It also initiated a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the local MG distribution authorities that would continue for many years, whereby club members would help staff the MG display at the Chicago Auto Show: MG benefited from the enthusiastic endorsements from local owners, and the club got a great opportunity to recruit new members.
By the end of 1977, the club was up to about 50 members and had held its first car show (August); monthly meetings had been moved in November to the Camelot Restaurant in Des Plaines, but would soon be relocated in March 1978 to The Atlantic Restaurant (aka “Atlantic Pub”) on the northwest side of Chicago. This would remain the club meeting site for some time, but the Camelot also seems have been used as a staging point for rallys and other events over the next few years, as was Mack’s.
Club membership grew to about 75 by the end of 1978. That year saw continued growth in club activities. In July, the club was featured at a White Sox baseball game, where “Miss MGB” threw out the first ball while club members paraded their cars around the field. In August, the club staged the first AMGBA national convention in Hillside, IL with an attendance of about 35 cars. The October 1978 issue of MGB! contains a clipping from an undated Chicago Sun-Times “Auto Sport and Rally News” section that lists quite a few activities scheduled for the club covering the period of late 1977 through late 1978.

2 A photo caption in the January 1979 issue of MGB! refers to the following as “Founding Members”:
Bruce Magers, Rick Angelica, Jeff Linderoth, Sheri (Smith) Schwingle, and Steve Glochowsky. However, the October 1977 issue of MGB! states that the first meeting attendance was “about a dozen” but gives no names; a count of 6 to 8 is also mentioned in that same issue of MGB! This latter figure seems more in line with member’s memories.

3 Subtitled “Morris Garages Best"
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