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T Register Specials Display MG Live 2017

Stewart Penfound, the T Register’s Specials Registrar, writes about the the annual display of XPAG Specials at MG Live

The T Register Specials display at MG Silverstone has been a prime attraction for over a decade. A wide variety of cars have appeared; some competing, some still under restoration, others are ‘as found’.
In the days when our cars were still in production, many were the weird and wonderful creations based on T Type components, dreamt up and put together in back yards or, if you were very lucky, under cover in a shed. Most of these cars were one-offs, but there were a few whose cars caught the eye of their fellow competitors, usually the back view! Some, like Harry Lester, made cars to order and were very successful for a season or two, but when others such as John Cooper and Colin Chapman moved into larger scale production of lightweight cars specifically for racing, by the mid 1950s the era of Specials as we’ve come to know it gradually came to an end and most of the earlier cars were either broken up or just abandoned.
For many years afterwards the few that survived were beyond the pale as far as the majority of the MG fraternity were concerned. How times change …
It was mainly due to the persistence of Keith Hodder turning up seemingly everywhere in his Parson MG in the early 1980s that persuaded the T Register to recognise that here was an important facet of MG history that had all but disappeared. The result was the creation of the Specials Register, with Keith’s car being number 1.
Unsurprisingly, there was much debate as to exactly what constituted a T Register Special, but in the end it boiled down to just two criteria:
1. Cars based on a T type chassis, encompassing T Types with special bodies. As for the engine – anything goes! (Yes, there are TCs around with V8 engines …)

Dick Jacobs in his TA Special at the 1950 Manx Cup Race

We have two excellent examples on display on the Saturday of MG Live 2017; Nick Thompson’s much modified TA that Dick Jacobs built and raced with much success in 1949/50, and Howard Harman’s magnificent single-seater TC that he campaigns with great effect in the MGCC Luffield Speed Championship.

The familiar shape of an XPAG rocker cover protruding from George Cooper’s Devin MG, now fully restored

And George Cooper (no relation to car builder John) has promised to bring his newly restored TD-based, American built Devin MG down from Scotland.

2. Cars not based on a T type chassis but utilising an MPJG or XPAG engine or their derivatives; basically anything else that uses an MG T series engine.

Peter Gammon was virtually unbeatable in his XPAG-engined Lotus in the mid 1950s

One of the cars on display will be John Watson’s superbly restored Lotus MG, UPE 9, that was raced so successfully by Peter Gammon in 1954/55 (out of 34 races entered in the car he won 19 of them, and was placed 2nd or 3rd in most of the others). Also on show is Jack Taylor’s Aero Lotus, a privately built XPAG-engined car that covered less than 50 miles when Jack found it, having been stored in a shed for four decades. It has done many more miles since, as Jack also uses it to great effect in the Luffield Speed Championship.

Jack Taylor’s Aero Lotus being chased through the Goodwood chicane at a recent sprint meeting

The Lester-inspired tubular chassis of the Dargue MG, under construction at a workshop in Slough, 1951

As mentioned above, Harry Lester was one of the more prominent club racers in the early 1950s and Stewart Penfound’s well-known Lester MG will again be on display, perhaps joined by other examples if Bob Allen and George Edney are racing theirs on Sunday.
Harry Lester also supervised the build of two or three other Specials based on his own tubular chassis design and one of these, the Dargue MG owned by Chris Pamplin will be at MK Live. Tom Dargue was a wealthy amateur racing driver and he competed in many prestigious races (including the Goodwood 9 hours) in this car.
Coopers are also represented, an excellent example being that belonging to Richard Hirst, which was converted from a rear engined single seater to an XPAG driven sports car back in 1951.
Last, but by no means least will be the some of the current racing Specials, regular competitors being Alex Quattlebaum’s super-fast Leco MG and Stuart Dean with his ex-Dick Jacobs special bodied racing Y Type.

Alex Quattlebaum at speed in his Leco MG

The display takes place on Saturday in and around the marquee next to the display arena. It will be the venue for the regular T Register Silverstone natter on Saturday evening, from around 5.30 pm, and on Sunday it is envisaged that there will be a mouth watering collection of T types on view instead.