MG Car Club

Washington, D.C. Centre

Nuffield Challenge

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.

Toasting the Nuffield Cup

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.

Nuffield Cups
Image from: History of the Nuffield Cup By Mike Hawke of the M.G. Car Club

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