29 September 2023

Canberra owners celebrate 100 years of the car 'nearly everyone's grandfather had'

| James Coleman
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two old reg MGs and their proud owners near Parliament House

Kent Brown and his MG TC, MG Car Club Canberra president Debbie Whitfield, and Brian Oxley with his two-tone MG J2. Photo: Canberra MG Car Club.

The history books say the ‘Roaring Twenties’ was all about women’s suffrage and jazz, and towards the end, there was a bit of a spat on Wall Street.

But for many others, the most important event of the decade happened in late 1923 when the manager of Morris Garages in Oxford, England, mounted his first ‘MG Super Sport’ plate to the front of a modified Morris.

All these years later, the MG Car Club Canberra is holding a 100th birthday party to celebrate what has become the iconic octagon badge.

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Roughly 100 MGs of all ages and types will take over the grounds at the National Museum of Australia from 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday for the ‘Canberra MG Rally’.

The roster includes names like MG K3, two of only 33 built, the MG Q Type, one of only nine racing vehicles produced in 1934, plus the favourite MG A, MG B and Midget models, and a bit of everything in between.

The following day, the cars will embark on a social run from Old Parliament House at 10 am and wind up in Queanbeyan Park around lunchtime. Members of the public are welcome to wander in here, too.

three MGs next to the lake

The Canberra rally will focus on the pre-war MG models. Photo: Canberra MG Car Club.

Club vice-president Kent Brown is expecting a lot of interest because nearly “everyone’s parents or grandparents had an MG” at some point.

“If you’re at the service station or you park somewhere, you’ll have people come over for a chat about how their friend, uncle or father had one of these,” he says.

“There were half a million MG Bs built, and MG As before that, and they were a very comfortable performance car for their day with wind-up windows and heaters. Sort of what the Mazda MX-5 is now.”

Kent’s interest in cars was ignited by his father’s collection of English car magazines.

“I used to cut the photos out and post them around my bedroom wall,” he says.

It didn’t take long for MG to earn a reputation on the race track. Photo: Canberra MG Car Club.

He took a liking to MG which, by this point, had accrued a glorious reputation on the rally track and hill-climbing circuit, and in 1959, the MG EX181 set the land-speed record when it hit 410 km/h.

“It was very much in the public image at the time.”

In his early 20s, he brought a bit of this home with his own MG, a 1955 TC two-door convertible in red, the one he’s still proudly standing beside today.

“I’ve always hunkered after a TC,” he says.

“They’re not as easy to look after as you might imagine. They’re relatively simple mechanically, but there aren’t a lot of people around now who understand classic cars. So I’ve kept it in good nick and refreshed some things on it. It’s a pretty good car.”

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These pre-war era cars will be the main focus of the Canberra rally and the T and Y Type models from 1945 to 1955. There will also be a replica of one of the first six MG-badged cars produced by Cecil Kimber in 1923.

“None of these six originals exist, but there is an absolutely identical replica here in Canberra that will be on display,” Kent says.

“And then we’ve got pretty much every model from 1925 through to 1955 represented and some other very special cars.”

old MG near Parliament House with its owner

Brian Oxley with his 2-tone MG J2. Photo: Canberra MG Car Club.

As for those MG models released since China’s Nanjing Automobile Group (later SAIC) took over in 2006, Kent is diplomatic.

“We welcome every MG in the club.”

The Canberra MG Rally will be held at the National Museum of Australia from 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday, 30 September.

Attendees can also enter into a draw for a wicker picnic basket by voting in the ‘People’s Choice Award’ for the MG they would most like to take home. The winner will be announced on the day.

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