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See The London-Sydney Marathon MGB, Rediscovered After 47 years, At The Petrolicious Drivers’ Meeting!

One of the attractions at the forthcoming Petrolicious Drivers’ Meeting on May 12 at Bicester Heritage, UK, is a club display, wherein each club represented will hand-pick a single star car to show off. And one not to miss is the MG Car Club’s selection: an MGB with an inimitable—and mysterious—past.

Its presence can be traced to an unsolicited email the MGCC received in April 2015. It was from a rubbish removal contractor who had just cleared an old property and had found a very rusty purple MGB roadster. It was apparently good only for scrap, though he wanted £1000 for it. Club member Bill Price, ex-manager of Special Tuning, BMC’s in-house race preparation department, confirmed that the car’s roll bar and spare wheel carrier were factory race parts. The club archivist had a hunch, and a check of the registration plate revealed that this was a famous long-lost MGB, reappearing after nearly half a century in obscurity!

It was the very MGB that participated in the first London-Sydney Marathon, in the hands of Jean Denton—who also was first president of the British Womens’ Racing Drivers Club and a future parliamentarian—and navigator Tom Boyce. They took on some 10,000 miles in 14 days after departing London in November 1968, and came home 42nd of 56 finishers. After the MGB subsequently participated in the Scottish Rally, again driven by Denton, the car disappeared from view. Until that email landed. What happened next is testament to the club’s collective knowledge, passion and enterprise. Inspection of the car revealed that special chassis reinforcements, the fuel tanks, low-compression engine and bespoke telescopic rear damper set-up all remained in place. Therefore the club undertook a meticulous restoration to get the car back to as it was in 1968, aided by crowdsourcing of money, parts and expertise.

“The MGB Register acquired it, and we were inspired by the model used to restore the Vulcan Bomber, where people could donate to the project and have their name associated with it,” said MGB Register chairman John Watson, in charge of the project. “We sought donations starting at £25 from members, companies like Moss and British Motor Heritage helped with parts, and Abingdon Car Restorations did the bodywork at a hugely discounted rate.” The bodywork of the car was in a sorry state, yet the interior remained surprisingly untouched. Even the original London-Sydney Marathon finisher’s medal remained stuck to the console! One club member supplied Cibie rally spotlights; another donated the genuine ex-works hardtop, identical to that used in 1968. The sign-writing was recreated from photographs.

“None of the photos we had clearly showed the fine detail of the [Air India] sticker,” added Watson. “We were already working with MG on a heritage project ahead of their launch into India, so we asked their Indian marketing manager if she had any suggestions. Within 24 hours she came back with the artwork for every Air India logo of the ’60s and ’70s!” As you would expect, the restored London-Sydney MGB machine the car has got a magnificent response as a true physical manifestation of the club’s capabilities. Make sure you see it for yourself on May 12!

The MGB will be one of the star attractions at the Petrolicious Drivers’ Meeting at the renowned Bicester Heritage, in Oxfordshire, UK, on Sunday May 12. Tickets are still available here – but please book soon! They’re £12.50 per adult, or free to Petrolicious members. For more about the show see this story.

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Images courtesy of Next Step Heritage