|History of the
"MG Vintage Racers' Newsletter"
-The First 20 Years-
Part III: 1995 – 1998
In early 1995, our founder and Editor Greg Prehodka decided it was time for someone else to carry on the work of the newsletter. Amazingly, Greg had done it for fifteen years! Greg approached Mark Palmer, probably thinking that no one would ever be nuts enough to take the job – and Mark said YES! Little did Mark know …
Greg completed his last issue, Volume 15 #1, in March of 1995. Mark immediately began work on his first issue – gathering material, finding a local printer, on so on. By June, Mark’s first issue was in the mail. The copy quality left a lot to be desired, and the material was only fair, but overall the transition was pretty smooth.
Gradually during the year, copy quality improved, the cover page became card stock, and the scope of articles became broader. The size of the newsletter settled down to about 40 pages per issue, which is actually a heck of a lot of content! Mark started a few series of articles, one on MG specials, another on race driving skills. Stan Edwards contributed a major technical article, foreshadowing his future involvement with the newsletter.
On the track, the MG Vintage Racers supported the 1995 Collier Cup race at Watkins Glen. Our huge turn-out in 1994 created great momentum, which has helped stabilize the size of the entry to this day. Mark Brandow was awarded the Collier Trophy that year, our only real MG-specific recognition at that time.
The most significant change, however, took a year to incubate: the MG Vintage Racers’ “Focus Event”. Actually the concept had been around quite a while – Greg had organized some major gatherings of MG’s at Pittsburgh in the 1980’s, and at Lime Rock in the fall of 1992. And the granddaddy of them all, Watkins Glen 1994, was still fresh in our memories. As a result of those events, a few people said “why don’t we do this EVERY year?” Greg came up with the name – Focus Event – and we were off & running.
The result was our first “official” Focus Event, the Meadow Brook Historics, in August 1996. MG was the Featured Marque at both the races and the prestigious Meadow Brook Concours, quite an honor! The Editor developed a plan that has been used at every Focus Event since: work closely with the race organizers, publicize the heck out of the event, arrange a dinner banquet for the MG drivers, make sure we have an all-MG feature race, and generally beat the bushes to get as many MG’s as we can. One of our faithful MGVR’s came up with a great idea, and contributed a fine trophy to be used as the “MG Vintage Racer’s Award” -- the Big Copper Bucket. This award would be presented annually, at the Focus Event, to the person who best embodies the spirit of MG Vintage Racing, based on a vote of the drivers.
We brought 25 MG’s to Meadow Brook, and had perfect weather and a great time all weekend! The Concours organizers did an amazing job of attracting show-quality MG’s, and even had the EX-181 land speed car flown over from England just for this event! A brand-new MGF was on hand (even though this model would not be sold in America).
Bill Hallandal won the all-MG race. But the MGVR Trophy was awarded to Don Martine, who brought the fabulous von Neumann TD Special all the way from California for the event.
Other significant developments in 1996 included the inception of MGVR regalia, managed by Bob Schoeplein. He hit the ground running, with nice t-shirts in time for our Focus Event, and vinyl stickers with a new logo. Dick Powers also began helping out with copying & mailing of the newsletter – a huge relief to the Editor!
We did a survey of our members, and found that most of them wanted more Tech articles in the newsletter (surprise, surprise!). At this time we had 111 active racers, plus 34 people preparing an MG to race (affectionately termed “preppies”), and 12 people had dropped out.
At the end of the year, we marked our 15th anniversary. We were also very pleased to note that Bob Wertley was awarded the VSCCA “Koshland Award”, the highest honor bestowed by that organization. It had been a great year for MG vintage racers everywhere.
We began 1997 by announcing our second annual Focus Event, this time at Mosport Park in Ontario, Canada. We were blessed with perfect weather once again, and the track was awesome! Twenty-nine MG’s showed up this year, a record for the most MG’s at a single race in Canadian history! Dave Schmidt struggled with gearbox problems, drove 600 miles round trip to get it fixed, and was awarded the MGVR Trophy for his efforts!
Kevin Clemens did a fantastic article on MG Vintage Racers for Automobile Magazine, highlighting our Mosport gathering. We also did a survey of members about the Focus Event concept, and found that 94% felt it was an important aspect of MGVR.
There were other notable events beginning to feature MG’s, or at least British cars in general. The VARA Buttonwillow event became a “British Extravaganza”, after a couple years of featuring MG’s and Triumphs. The Collier Cup continued at the Glen, with a good turnout., and Bob Schoeplein was voted the Collier Cup winner for 1997.
For 1998, we were invited back to Watkins Glen for the 50th Anniversary of the that race venue. I think it is fair to say that none of us ever imagined what an event this would become! Joe Tierno spearheaded the effort, and our friends the Allard drivers got involved, and then the Lister drivers … and we ended up with something like 350 people at the banquet dinner on Friday night! It was the place to be, with an unbelievable line-up of speakers: Brian Lister, John Fitch, and Phil Walter.
The Editor of the Allard newsletter, Jim Donick, and Mark Palmer dreamed up a unique “MG-Allard Challenge”, to be decided based on which group brought the most cylinders to the race. The MG crowd won, by a scarce 12 cylinders.
The Glen event was also the New England T-Register’s “GOF” for the year, and the North American MMM-Register’s official gathering for 1998. We had a terrific poster with original artwork, and a special deal on a new book about the Glen. And we had so many important historical figures in attendance: Tommy Hoan, Bob Fergus, Bob Magenheimer, Jerry Storch, Denver Cornett, Jim Carson, and Jack Archibald. We will probably never see such a historic gathering again. We were also treated to both Ken Miles Specials, kindly brought from the west coast by the late Pat Hart.
Of course, the all-MG Collier Cup race was a highlight – we had 72 MG’s entered for the weekend! Amazingly, by the start of the race, 68 were still running and took the green flag – the largest group of MG’s ever racing in North America (and perhaps the world!). At the conclusion of the race, the Collier Cup was awarded to Jack Archibald (in his last race before “retiring”), and the MGVR Trophy was given to Manley Ford. The top finisher in the race had been Les Gonda, who was presented with a brand-new award called the “Cornett Trophy” for the first place car.
We were delighted to see so many MG drivers from the mid-west coming out to the Glen – planting seeds for a future event. We were also privileged to have Sir Stirling Moss in attendance. And another Moss, Moss Motors, treated us to a fine luncheon during the weekend. It was the biggest Focus Event ever!
Other events featured MG’s that year, as our reputation for producing good turnouts and exciting racing was catching on. We were invited back to Mosport by VARAC, and they created a new trophy especially for the MGs. Honoring one of our members and Canadian pioneer, the trophy was named the “Simms Cup”. Twenty-two MG’s showed up to compete, and Don Munoz was awarded the trophy for the best-prepared, best-driven MG of the weekend. He also happened to win the race!
Out on the west coast, the VARA Buttonwillow event entered it’s third year, attracting a nice group of MG’s and other British cars.
We were saddened to note the passing of one of our earliest members, Bill Parrish, who truly embodied the spirit of our little band of brothers.
In newsletter business, we were very fortunate to begin receiving great photographs from some professional photographers: Bob Harrington, Walter & Lu Pietrowicz, and Peter Jenniches all became regular contributors to the newsletter. We are deeply indebted to them for their exceptional work, which continues to this day. Bill Harkins undertook a major task of creating an index of all the articles in every issue of the newsletter – a great tool! And Chris Kintner volunteered to create a web site for MGVR, did a terrific job and has maintained it ever since – a huge effort! In the first 6 months of the web site, it received over 1000 visitors.
***** End Chapter III of MGVR. *****
Online Editor: Christopher Kintner
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