|History of the
"MG Vintage Racers' Newsletter"
-The First 20 Years-
Part II, by: Greg Prehodka
1988 only has one newsletter, as the editor gets married in late 87 and then moves twice. Note is made that a meeting was held in November ’87, of representatives from all major vintage racing organizations to try to work out some common basis for all vintage racing. But a significant event for the newsletter is the publishing of their “Tech Tips” book on MG race car preparation. It contains all the technical articles from the newsletter from day 1. Greg edits the book, and Bob Colaizzi handles publishing. 500 copies are printed. The newsletter will be back on track in 1989
For 1989 the VSCDA holds its “Vintage Grand Prix Au Grattan”, in August, featuring MG. Newsletter membership is now up to 102 members. The October issue has the first color cover, as color copying technology is beginning to evolve.
The March 1990 issue talks about the VSCCA being on the verge of “..setting and issuing Guidelines for ‘T’ series MG’s.” It also had the following listing in its “From the Mailbox” column: “I’m preparing my MGA for eventual vintage racing and would like to learn, so SITUATION WANTED: Would like to help crew for a MG vintage racer. Qualifications: Few. Enthusiasm: GREAT! Mark Palmer, Bethlehem, Pa.” Little did we know at this time, Mark would become our future editor. In a copy of a letter from Laystall Engineering company, LTD., J.E. Tanner, Sales & Production Director talks about the Lucas-Laystall alloy cylinder head for XPAG engines and comments: “..we do not supply these units(anymore) …. Although they gave better torque and horsepower, they were a problem if left undisturbed for any length of time… I have an MGTF of my own and did not fit a Laystall head …. I get almost the same advantage by smoothing out and enlarging ports and using weaker valve springs, fitting new valve inserts and keeping cc’s capacity in head equivalent.”
A special MGVR Census is undertaken in 1990. Members are surveyed on a number of topics concerning them, their MG’s, and their racing. With the support of member Mark Palmer crunching the numbers, a 26 page “MG Vintage Racers 1990 Census” is completed. It covers everything from opinions on vintage racing, to racing parts used, to failures, to oil used. It will also become the basis for a similar effort in 2000. Dan Davis, Editor of Victory Lane Magazine comments on it in his editorial: “..one of the best member surveys is the recent ‘Census’ of the MG Vintage Racers. Club officials would do well to request a copy and review it. A real grassroots view of the sport. As one would expect, the opinions on current vintage racing vary…”
In 1991, a committee of VSCCA/MGVR members is formed to come up with “Guidelines” for the preparation of ‘T’ series MG’s in the VSCCA. In the April newsletter member Ralph Zbarsky asks for information anyone might have on a racing MG he has uncovered and “retrieved from oblivion.” It is the #53 MG Liquid Suspension Indy Car that was campaigned in the 1964 and 65 Indy 500. The issue of “Extending Eligibility Within MGVR” to any MG beyond the MGA is raised in an article by Bob Schoeplein. In response to it, the 1991 membership renewal form asks members to vote on this proposal. We also see the technical aspect of our MG’s advancing as there are two articles on “Dual Master Brake Setup” – one for an MGTD and one for an MGA. And the Editor writes about how he took his MGTD back to England in 1990 with the New England MG ‘T’ Register as part of its “Circuit of Britain”, where he raced up England’s prestigious 2/3 mile long Prescott Hillclimb. He does well on the hill, but it is no comparison to the 5.2 miles of our Mt. Equinox Hillclimb.
Another significant events occurs in 1991 as MGVR coordinates with the VSCCA and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Association, as the MG ‘T’ series is designated the “Featured Marque” for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. With the newsletter’s support, a record breaking 23 MG T’s turn out for the race. MGVR member Andy McSwigan arranges a dinner for them at “Marios” restaurant on the South Side, where MGVR gives out their own awards, as Manley Ford provides impromptu singing entertainment. Tom Finn, last year’s winner of the MGVR “Hay bale Award”, this years passes it along to Hank Giffin. It has become a tradition to present the hay bale to the MG racer who collects the most “hay” (sort of) in his car from the haybales around the street course while racing during the weekend. How do you explain to your wife, why you have to store a haybale at home for a year? What is happening at this event becomes the basis for what will evolve into the MGVR “Focus Event” of the future. MG race, MGVR dinner with awards and fun, and MGVR traditions (Hay bale, Big Copper Bucket, MG paddock, etc.) This year’s race is later broadcast on TV’s “Discover Channel”. An article by Greg Prehodka entitled “The Next Generation” sets the stage for what is becoming a more and more familiar scenario within the group – the sharing of, and passing on of, MG vintage race cars to our children, as we age and transition from racers to mentors. Membership is now 108 people.
In 1992 MGVR receives a letter from SVRA saying they are establishing a “Pre-War and MG ‘T’ Series Race Group”, and requesting more MG support for the Collier Cup at the Glen. The VSCCA now publishes rules (excuse me - “Guidelines”) for MGA 1500’s and 1600’s because, as they state: “..the deep concern of your Board of Directors regarding the form in which these cars (MGA’s) have been presented at our events…” Member Mark Barnhart writes about a special 1957 MGA he helped Bill Waddill of Michigan prepare for the Bonneville salt flats speed trials. Powered by a 230cid Chevy V-6, it achieves a speed of 217 MPH, but is still short of the record of 223 MPH class record the are after. VARA in California Stages an “MG-Triumph Challenge Race” at Willow Springs. Richard Waite relates his experience racing up Mt. Equinox in the 40th running of this event. It is a 5.2 mile winding mountain road, going up 3,140 feet vertical, base to summit. The Pittsburgh MGVR traditions continue to grow, and as a charity event it has raised about half a million dollars over the past ten years. It’s Lime Rock’s 30th Anniversary where at the VSCCA’s Fall Finale a special all MG race is to be held. A letter from Lime Rock Park manager Mike Rand to all MGVR / VSCCA members states “We are particularly excited about the “All MG Race” to be run this weekend as a celebration of the MG marque and its long history with The Road Racing Center of the East.” It is a success and a color photo of all 24 of the MG drivers, standing around Jerry Storch and Dean Butler seated in Dean’s K-3 MG, is the cover for the December newsletter. Coverage of MG’s racing together is appearing in more and more publications – Vintage Motorsport, Victory Lane, British Marque Car Club News, MGA Magazine, The Sacred Octagon, etc. as more and more MG’s are being vintage raced.
The April 1993 newsletter starts off talking about how the VSCCA Spring Sprints were cancelled due to SNOW! Vintage racing continues to grow, and there is an interesting article about a 1953 SCCA race in Albany, Georgia where many MG’s competed. They are trying to revive it as a vintage event, but it never comes off.
A tragic event occurs at the 1993 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix which touches the hearts of all MG racers. In a solo accident, David Kuhn of Lexington Massachusetts, looses control of his MGTD. It mounts a stone wall, goes over, and crashes into the woods below. Dave is killed. This is a tragic blow to all MG and vintage racers, and the first ever VSCCA fatality. A thorough investigation finds no explainable reason for the accident, other than possible driver fatigue. This accident will cause many to reflect on their participation in this sport, and some will not return. The newsletter supplies members with information on the accident and events following, and helps members come to grips with it, by sharing letters of member’s opinions and feelings on the tragedy. MGVR receives a letter from Dave’s wife Julie: “..Your cards and letters of sympathy have been overwhelming. …But the thing which he always waxed eloquent about was the sense of camaraderie. He loved the spirit which you shared. … Dave told me “It (vintage racing his MG) is something I love doing”. …I hope in the future, as you continue vintage racing you’ll drive hard, and enjoy it to the fullest. Dave did.” Member Jim Carson has an honorary silver tray made up on MGVR’s behalf, and presents it to Julie. MGVR members are given memorial patches to put on their MG’s.
In 1994 MGVR is providing major support for the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Collier Cup MG race at SVRA’s Watkins Glen fall event. Greg Prehodka and Joe Tierno spearhead the effort. With an early effort, by April, 59 MG racers have already expressed commitment to race in the Collier Cup. From there momentum for it builds. And SVRA will be also be featuring MG at their Mid-Ohio races this summer. Results are in on extending MGVR membership qualification, as members vote to accept all MG’s up through 1967.
The November 1994 newsletter is a very special one. Most of its 60 pages cover the 40th Anniversary Collier Cup MG Race at Watkins Glen. This is one for the record books, as 60 MG’s race into history! This is a most significant MG race, and in many ways it becomes the benchmark of MG vintage racing to come. Newsletter coverage includes the Collier Cup race, the MGVR dinner downtown at the Glen Vintage Auto Museum, the Watkins Glen downtown festival, and driving the original street race course. And very importantly, it shores up the foundation of the “Collier Cup”, which was not getting good turnouts in the past few years. A most significant MG racer joins MGVR for this special race. Denver Cornett, who raced his MGTC in the first race at Watkins Glen in 1948, returns to race with the same car. He is a living legend. The magnitude of this event even attracts MG ‘T’ racer Steward Penfound from England to come over. He is most impressed! The historic MG race receives coverage in many publications including Speed Sport News. For their efforts, Greg Prehodka and Joe Tierno receive Victory Lane’s “Spirit of Vintage Racing” award, as well as becoming joint winners of the Collier Cup this year.
March 1995 is a time for change. Greg, who has been editor of the newsletter since 1981 request active MGA race enthusiast Mark Palmer to take over the editorship of the newsletter and Mark Accepts. This March issue will be Greg’s last as editor, but he will support Mark in making the transition to becoming editor, and will continue to help MGVR in other capacities in the years to come. To cap off Greg’s editor career, the newsletter is awarded a “First Place” in Moss Motor’s competition for British Car Club Publishing. The newsletter has now has 151 members.
***** End Chapter II of MGVR. *****
Online Editor: Christopher Kintner
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