About Our Club...
Our parent club is the MG Car Club in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1930, it is one of the largest such organizations in the world with over 85 Centres around the globe, of which we are one. That meeting began the long association between the MG Car Company and the MG Car Club that only ended in 1969, when British Leyland cut its ties with the club. Additionally, our club is affiliated with the MG Owners’ Club of England that was established in 1973. The MG Owners’ Club now counts over 50,000 members, making it the largest, single marque automobile club in the world.
In the years since our founding the club has sponsored numerous activities and received its share of awards. Membership as of early 2021 is just shy of 200 members. Club events have and continue to run the gamut of car-related activities from hands-on tech sessions to casual driving and social events, with something for anyone who has an interest in MGs.
In 1996, we sponsored our first annual Hunt Country Classic British Car Show in Middleburg, Virginia and it has become one of the most popular British Car Shows in the region. Our 25th annual show was scheduled for October 2020, but as with many such events in 2020 was cancelled due to health and safety concerns rising from the coronavirus pandemic. One of our oldest and most enduring events is the Braille Rallye, first run in 1963. It is a time and distance Rallye during which members navigate a course accompanied by sight impaired partners providing directions … in braille or large print depending on the impairment of the navigator.
Simply owning an MG can be lots of fun, but sharing that experience with other MG enthusiasts adds a whole new dimension to enjoying your car. The MG has earned a reputation for being honest, straightforward, and forgiving, and the same is often said about MG owners: we tend to be unusually enthusiastic about our cars and naturally enjoy sharing our enthusiasm with other MG owners. MG people have been doing this through clubs all over the world since the first MG Car Club meeting in 1930.
In 1980, production of MGs (as we know them) ceased. Although parts availability has not yet become a problem, it has become increasingly difficult to find shops qualified to maintain or repair MGs. The objective of the club is to preserve the marque and maintain the traditions established over the years since its inception in 1951. Our efforts include sharing technical knowledge and teaching other MG owners how to maintain their cars, sharing supply sources, generally lending a hand to help keep our irreplaceable cars on the road, and having a good time doing so. Many volunteers make our club activities possible with countless hours spent ensuring we continue a tradition of excellence and inclusion.
In 2011, our club was awarded the Nuffield Challenge Trophy. A prestigious and historic honor conveyed upon us by our parent MG Car Club in the UK for the second time, the first award being in 1955. Also in 2011 we were recognized as the Chapter of the Year by the North American MGB Register.
See more about the Nuffield Challenge Trophy below.
1951 - 2021, MG Car Club Washington D.C. Centre Retrospective
In 1951, the club held its first meeting at Manhattan Auto, the sole MG dealer in the Washington D.C. area, then located at Seventh and R Streets, NW. At that time, the entire East Coast was represented by a single MG Car Club organization, centered in the New York City area. This organization was part of the original MG Car Club founded by Roy Marsh and John Thornley in 1930. This Washington, D.C. area club was founded as a separate sub-centre of the Eastern United States Centre. The number of members involved in the founding is not known, but by 1954, when we became the Washington, D.C. Centre there were 47 members in the club. In 1955, the club won the Nuffield Trophy from our parent MG Car Club as the most outstanding MG Car Club worldwide.
Interviews with several of our club’s earliest members provided invaluable insights into the club’s early activities and adventures. They were different times then. The MG of the day was often an owner’s only vehicle and was used as an everyday car for going to work, shopping, and whatever else was needed. The “whatever else” was quite often a rallye, autocross, gymkhana, or other driving event. Gay Horan, club president in 1956 and owner of a 1952 TD noted, “The wiper motors on the TD were mounted upside down, which caused them to quit working when it rained. It was then necessary to remove the wiper motor from the car and place it in the oven at 250 degrees to dry out.” On one occasion during a state safety inspection Gay engaged the wipers only to find they didn’t work. Without missing a beat she manually operated the wipers successfully throughout the inspection. The inspector asked if this was normal. To which she replied, “It’s an MG, the wipers are manually operated.” No problem passing!
The club’s early interests were heavily oriented toward racing. The Marlboro Speedway in nearby Upper Marlboro, Maryland saw a lot of MG activity in association with the Sports Car Club of America. One member, Tony “Cappy” Capiello, raced his MG there frequently and took corners well enough to have one named after him — Cappy’s Corner. In 1958, the club was instrumental in establishing the Washington Metropolitan Council of Sports Car Clubs to promote more interest and local competition in racing.
Throughout the ’50s, the club was comprised of a small but active and dedicated group of enthusiasts. A well-remembered event occurred when club members showed up in force at National Airport to greet John Thornley, who had come to town to introduce the MGA twin cam to America. This event ended with the members entertaining John in Georgetown for dinner and conversation.
1960 marked the first in a series of yearly rallyes sponsored by the Sports Car Council. The club won the first championship and finished second in 1961. During this time the club’s interests in rallyes, autocross and social events increased and our membership reached a new high of 72 members.
One famous rallye of note, the Fairfax Scramble, was created by Dan Rowzee, club president in 1967. What makes this event notable is that it lasted all night long and participants never left Fairfax County, Virginia, on purpose. Directions were numbered, but were not in numerical order and as a result several cars were not heard from for days.
Perhaps the best rallye the club ever sponsored during this period was the Braille Rallye, first run in 1963 in coordination with the local chapter of Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind. It was established as an incentive for blind children to learn to read Braille. Once the children could read well enough, they were invited to act as navigators for club members driving their MGs. It was extremely popular and soon was expanded to include adults as well as children. The Braille Rallye is one of the club’s most enduring traditions and has been conducted annually since its inception, except for 2020 when like many other events the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and concern over participant health and safety resulted in its cancellation. Each year after the rallye, club members sponsor a picnic for the participants and their families to celebrate the partnership between the club and Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind. Today, this tradition continues to delight and excite many visually impaired children and adults as well as the drivers who participate in the event.
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, club members remained active in rallyes and social events, but concentrated on driving their cars as much as possible. Beginning in the mid-1970s, development in the Washington, D.C. area accelerated and began to dramatically alter the landscape of the region and particularly the roads that once were so friendly to MG events. Country lanes quickly became four lane highways that were unbearably crowded, changing forever the character of the area and the ability to drive in an MG friendly manner. This rapid development combined with the demise of the sports car market altered the nature of events the club sponsored. Membership began to dwindle and the club entered a period of decreased activity.
The club endured another jolt in 1980 when production of MGs ceased. Until that time a great portion of the club’s activities were underwritten financially by the three MG dealers in the Washington D.C. area. With the cessation of production that support was suddenly and without warning cut off forever. There are stories of the mad scramble by a few loyal members to quickly reorganize the club to establish dues and fund-raisers to help sustain its activities. During this period, one important member of note was Larry Berger who served the organization as president, activities director, fund-raiser, and general inspiration for over 15 years (1978-1994). He is credited with almost single-handedly keeping the club intact and active during much of this period.
In 1990 the club became associated with the newly formed North American MGB and MGA registers, NAMGBR and NAMGAR respectively, as well as the national “T-Series” Register. The club stayed active and in the early 1990s, club membership started to rise again. The Spark, the club’s newsletter was also rejuvenated and expanded. Social activities, including a monthly ‘Natter ‘n Noggin’ dinner became the norm, but only a few driving events were held.
Then, in 1994, club members volunteered to host the National MGB Convention. Aptly titled ‘Cruising the Capital,’ the convention included a car show, numerous vendors, an awards banquet, racing at a nearby track, and an attempt to break the Guinness World Record with a caravan of 235 MGs on the Dulles Access Road. Despite being advised by Guinness just prior to our attempt that the record had been broken by a “Mini” caravan in the UK far larger than ours, we proceeded with our drive. The publicity the club received brought an influx of new members along with a renewed interest in driving events.
In 1996, the club hosted its first “annual” British car show, the Hunt Country Classic in mid-October at beautiful Willoughby (then Svea) Farm in Middleburg, Virginia. Participation has ranged from a rain induced low of 60-70 cars to a high of almost 270 in 2011. Our 25th annual show scheduled for October 2020 was cancelled due to health and safety concerns for all involved resulting from the coronavirus pandemic in the country and around the world. In addition to a wide variety of British cars the show includes apple pressing, a doggie buffet, food, pipers (bagpipes, not corncob), a silent auction to benefit a local charity, all set in a beautiful fall atmosphere in Virginia’s famous horse country.
The year 2000 saw over 50 club events and membership of 220, an all-time high. There were picnics, overnight caravans, lunch rallyes, membership dinners, campouts and tech sessions, among many other activities and events. Annual highlights on the club’s calendar included the awards banquet to honor outstanding members, the Braille Rallye, and the Hunt Country Classic Car Show. The latter part of the 2000s saw an economic downturn that resulted in membership dropping below that 220 member high, a number we have not seen since. For the decade 2011-2020 we averaged 163 members with a slow and steady increase over time to 184 current members in early 2021.
Today, we strive for club activities that cover a wide range of both automotive and social events that combine to create an atmosphere conducive both to learning about and driving our cars, as well as to a spirit of camaraderie among members. While we would like to conduct events “in person,” the aforementioned coronavirus pandemic has affected our ability to do so. Although we cancelled the Hunt Country Classic in 2020, we hosted the Sir Stirling Moss Trophy Virtual British Classic Car Show in 2020. Even though we have been able to plan and conduct a few socially distant “in person” events during the pandemic, the club has embraced the ubiquitous Zoom capability for monthly board meetings, virtual tech sessions, and by the time anyone reads this, we will even have hosted a virtual wine tasting event.
The club is representative and inclusive of not only all MG models, but other British cars as well. In fact it is not necessary to own an MG, a British car, or even any car at all to be a member. As of February 2021 our 184 current members collectively owned 244 cars. As of that count there are 31 As, 124 Bs, 1 C,4 Magnettes, 25 Midgets (both pre-war and modern), 49 T-Series (8 TCs, 35 TDs, 6 TFs), a few rarer MGs and a mix of other British cars (1 Austin, 1 modern Jaguar, 1 Riley, and 2 Triumph GT6s). Captured in time by decade, our members own 4 cars from the 1930s, 9 from the 1940s, 63 from the 1950s, 50 from the 1960s, 104 from the 1970s, and 14 from 1980 … not the 1980s, just 1980.
Nuffield Cup Returns to the Washington, D.C. Centre
The MG Car Club UK and the North American Council awarded the DC Centre the Nuffield Challenge Trophy for North America as the most deserving MG Car Club Centre in North America in 2011. The award is in recognition of the 60th anniversary of our founding, the 49th Braille Rallye, and the 16th Hunt Country Classic we conducted in 2011. The Centre was first awarded the Nuffield Cup in 1955.
A picture of the trophy does not do the Trophy justice – the Cup itself is sterling silver and stands 27 inches tall when atop its 12 inch-tall base. It is engraved with “The M.G. Car Club” over the MGCC logo and under which it reads “Nuffield Challenge Trophy for Annual Competition between All Centres of the Club in The United States of America.” The scope of its award expanded to North America in 1992 when it was awarded to the MG Car Club of Toronto, Ontario, again in 2005, and again in 2016 making it the only non-U.S. Centre to receive it.
History of the Nuffield Cup
By Mike Hawke of the MG Car Club
The MG. Car Club was but a few months old when Lord Nuffield (as he later became) agreed to be our Patron. In the manner of good and conscientious patrons he took an interest in his clubs and supported us in many ways. One such was that, in 1936, he donated a gold Cup to the committee to employ for a purpose that “will enhance the Clubs prestige, assist its growth, and add to the enthusiasm of its members.”
This is the Nuffield Gold Cup, a truly magnificent pot, which really is made of solid gold and for which Lord Nuffield personally wrote out a cheque for £163, an amount that would have bought a brand-new Morris car at the time. Today, we present this to the Centre of the MG. Car Club which has shown the most meritorious growth, enthusiasm and enterprise during the previous year. Normally the chairman chooses the recipient.
In recent years the interpretation of the word centre’ has been somewhat liberal and one or two registers have been known to win it. We wait for a racing or other group to break new ground and get this recognition.
But that is not all. The rapid growth of the Club overseas which followed the post-1945 boom in MG exports brought about the creation of four more Nuffield Trophies, not gold this time. These were to be awarded to the best centres in each of Europe, the United States of America, Oceana and Africa. These were first awarded for 1954 and the winners were chosen by Russell Lowry and John Thornley. They were given by Lord Nuffield for exactly the same purpose as the Gold Cup and are engraved, Nuffield Challenge Trophy for the annual competition between all Centres of the MG. Car Club in the Area.
These cups are the property of the MG. Car Club, so one of the rules is that a club which is not affiliated cannot win the thing, no matter how keen and active they are. It follows that, should all club activity cease in a particular area, then the cup should be returned to Kimber House for safe keeping. Do not scoff at this apparently dire situation, it has happened! But as one’s world collapses in rape, plunder and civil war the last likely thought is, “Goodness me, I must post off that Nuffield Cup.” All the trophies have had periods when they were not awarded because they were lost. The European Cup went missing from 1961 to 1979. Someone’s loss was the Frankfurt Centre’s gain for they were awarded The GOLD Cup in 1973 for their efforts in connection with the Hausach Rallies, a pioneering effort in the matter of collecting M.G.s from many countries for what was principally a social gathering. The Oceana Cup also had a long period of hibernation, again starting in 1961, but this is now in circulation again. The Australian clubs tend to hog this one to the exclusion of the really keen New Zealanders and it is difficult to see how the Kiwis can get a look-in by any democratic voting procedure. The Africa Cup was lost in the Rhodesian civil war but escaped the fate of being melted down for bullets. The USA Cup also had a period of being ‘lost’ from 1962 until 1985.
This long period of hibernation of all four of the Overseas Nuffield Cups may be tied up with the California Cup whose story is given separately. Thanks to the efforts started by Phil Richer, when he was overseas director all four Nuffield Cups are now in circulation again, even if the news of these received at home is spasmodic and incomplete.
In 1979 the Danish Centre celebrated their 25th birthday and the super rally to mark the occasion was reported in October’s Safety Fast by Gordon Douglas. On the occasion Gordon Cobban was given the Nuffield Cup which they had been hanging on to for nearly 20 years. Gordon displayed this on February 1980’s front cover of Safety Fast but there was no hint that anyone knew that there were three more to be found. In 1974 John Thornley put that ace bloodhound Norman Ewing onto the scent of the Africa Nuffield Cup. By 1982 he had tracked it down and brought it back to Johannesburg and into the mainstream of M.G. activity in Africa. While overseas director, Phil Richer had been beavering away rebuilding the links with overseas centres which had been so damaged by the 1968 changes to MGs ownership. Overseas News became a regular feature in Safety Fast in 1985 and, by 1987, the Nuffield Cups for North America and Oceana had been tracked down. Since 1994 the task of choosing winners has been delegated to the local centres. Hopefully, events there than any U.K. based club officer who does not have the benefit of frequent visits to our overseas centres.
Finally, the South-Western Centre have a Nuffield RalIy Cup. Although this is not, strictly speaking, part of this little essay, it needs to be mentioned in case anyone might think that they have nicked one for their own nefarious purposes. It was made and specifically donated for the winner of the 1938 M.G. Car Club Malvern Rally. It was first won by J. Fletcher in a VA. The rally was not held again and the cup reappeared in 1951 as an award for the Western Rally, at that time one of the major events on the SW Centre’s calendar. The decline in pure road rallying in the U.K. spelled the death knell of the Western Rally and, in 1964, the cup entered a third phase of it life as the main award for the annual registers’ meeting at Cheddar. This event folded when Steve Dear sold his field and, since 1983, it has been an award at the Wessex Sprint. So, if you want to win your very own Nuffield Cup, come and make ETD at Colerne. This event is a round of the M.G. Car Club Piper Cams Speed Championship.
There was yet another Nuffield Trophy not donated to the M.G. Car Club. This was given to the winner of a race of about 200 miles for cars up to 1,500cc (called Voiturettes in those days) and held at Donington in the years 1934 to 1939 inclusive. It has been said that Lord Nuffield did not approve of motor racing. He may not have been enthusiastic about it, and was certainly doubtful about its worth to his mainstream business of making family cars and commercial vehicles, but there is plenty of evidence that he rather enjoyed being involved as an owner and patron. This cup is one example to back up that view. M.G. never won it. The nearest they came was in 1934 when Dick Seaman’s K3 came second. This car is now owned by Peter Green. Indeed, M.G. were involved with this Nuffield Trophy throughout its life and the ever diligent Triple M Register has traced the whereabouts of all the cars involved, except for Kenneth Evans’ QA0254 which came third in 1934. This particular pot was not competed for after 1939 and the last winner, in 1939, was Prince Bira [Prince Birabongse Bhanudej of Siam] in his ERA [Voiturette].
One wonders if it is in a display cabinet in far-off Thailand.
Nuffield Cup of the Americas from North American Council of MG Registers
This very prestigious award has a long history behind it. There are five cups. They are all owned by the MGCC UK. There is one solid gold cup and four silver cups – all to a similar design. The gold cup was presented by Lord Nuffield in 1936 to the Committee of the MGCC UK “for a purpose that will enhance the prestige of the MGCC, assist its growth and add to the enthusiasm of its members”. The Cup because of its value spends most of its life in a bank vault, but it always comes out for Silverstone and Presidents’ Dinners, etc. Brian Woodhams (MGCC Overseas Director [now Overseas Manager]) has drank champagne out of it, and several times had the dubious privilege of being responsible for its security whilst in transit to events – it is quite a responsibility because of its history, value, and uniqueness. It is presented to the UK Centre which, in the view of the Chairman, is the most deserving in terms of growth, organization, or merit.
The four solid silver cups were presented in 1954 to the MGCC UK for the Centres in the other four continents – Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Oceana – and this came about because of the growth of the Export drive, and more and more MG Centres being formed worldwide. Because the cups are the property of the MGCC UK, one of the rules of presentation is that the Centre must be an Affiliated Club of the MGCC UK. The cups are held in trust on each of the four continents by the holders, and each of the cups is awarded annually with the exception of the African trophy, which because their Indabas are held biannually, is awarded once every two years. They are all inscribed identically with the exception of the name of the continent. The MGCC UK Overseas Director has direct input on the presentation of the African, American and European (in conjunction with the European Manager) trophies, but the Oceania trophy is presented on an annual basis at the Natmeet by a complicated process of points scored for attendance, participation in events at the Natmeet, and is graded to the actual membership of the Centre!!
The silver cups have a value of approximately £7000 each (US$14,000) [currently £10,000 – $17,000 CAD] and it is expected that the holders take steps to insure the trophies whilst they are held in trust.* The America’s Nuffield Cup is presented on top of a round, black pedestal that contains smaller plaques. These plaques are engraved with each Centre’s name, location, and year of presentation.
The only known photo of the four silver cups together appears in Mike Hawkes’ book “The First 70 years of the MGCC”, and although on the occasion of the Club’s 70th Anniversary we tried once again to get them all together, we were unfortunately let down by the Australians and the Oceana trophy did not arrive in England.
* When we transferred the Cup in early 2013 to the next recipient it was then valued at approximately £10,000 or approximately $14,000 in today’s dollars. It cost more to insure the Cup than it did to ship it.
CONFIRM EMAIL ACCOUNTS CAN BE CREATED
Club Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 6321, Arlington, VA 22206