Eighteen Old English White MGA’s

Photo for Eighteen Old English White MGA’s

NAMGAR has over 600 Old English White MGA roadsters on its books. Assuming 50% of these are on the road, and they are evenly distributed in the 48 contiguous US states and 13 Canadian provinces and territories, there would be only about 5 cars in each.

In this article by Dennis Ogborn, we learn how he succeeded in getting 18 OEW MGA's together on a film set in northern England. This was in 1985 before email and the internet had been invented, which makes the feat even more surprising. Today the film producers would have used just one MGA, and computer generated the other 17!. (England is smaller in area than Louisiana).

It is a curious fact that so often enjoyable experiences start from the most simple and unexpected beginnings-like the telephone call which I received around mid—August ‘85....

Initially it all sounded quite simple - would I be prepared to take part with ‘Betsy’ (773 PBP) in a TV promotional film for which I would be paid? The thought of some ‘lolly’ in the sadly depleted coffers was too good to miss, so not knowing what was to be involved I said ‘Yes’ fingers crossed that it would not involve anything drastic happening to ‘Betsy’.

To make enquiries as to what, when and where I phoned the Advertising Specialists who were putting the whole thing together. No they didn’t want one MGA they wanted 10 all white and would I be able to help? This sounded like a ‘Challenge’ and who knows, it could be good for the Club and the Register. So again I said ‘Yes’ dismissing that old warning... ‘never volunteer for anything’ (I did over forty years ago and should have remembered, but that is another story).  I phoned a few members and soon realised I had stuck my neck out more than somewhat. The answer must lie with our Registrar. His kind assistance led to him giving me a list of names, addresses and phone numbers and I set about making ‘contact’.  Eventually it began to seem I would reach that 10. In fact I had just reached it and phoned the Advertising Co. to impart the glad news only to be told ‘The number required has increased to 20! I was staggered, well, think about it twenty Old English White MGA’s, all ‘on the road’ with their owners willing and able to do a four day film ‘stint’ somewhere in England..... and there were never many OEW ones in the UK at anytime!

Back to our Registrar and the Twin Cam one as well for more names etc., and back to evening dial whirling, eventually I got to fifteen and stuck...

I reported back and was told ‘We have four confirmed from an advert we placed earlier in the year so we will ‘make do’. I mentioned my many phone calls and they promised to pay (which they did).

18 OEW MGAsAfter several venues being hinted at, the final details came through. Four days at Goathland in North Yorkshire, all hotel arrangements would be made and paid by the Company including food. Fine I thought, seems just the job. Then came the shock...We were required to be there at 10 a.m. on the Monday morning. As the MGA’s were coming from ‘all over’ this meant some very early starts. However we all made more or less on time, what a sight eighteen white MGA’s parked on the green in front of the Hotel which was our meeting points....doubt if such a gathering will ever be seen again.

We all reported in and were given details of our hotels where rooms had been booked for us, then our attire checked as we all had to appear in tweed jackets and caps, suitable shirts and cravats, plus moustaches so the Wardrobe Mistress and the Make-up Girl were kept busy. Then off to our respective hotels and back for a three-course lunch provided by a mobile caterers specialising in attending film shooting - they provided morning tea and coffee with snacks at mid morning, lunch and afternoon ‘tea’ and very good it was too and plenty of it. Evening meal was provided at the hotel where we booked in and which the Company had made its HQ. By mid-week I was beginning to feel overfed so cut down on the intake!!

After lunch we lined up on a hillside road near the HQ and filming then started. Then the ‘monster’ appeared, this was a red Escort fitted with truly ginormous balloon tyres the idea being that we should all turn our heads and look in astonishment as it went past.  Trouble was it could not be steered and was in fact let down the hill on a cable attached to a car well behind. As the ‘monster’ could only pass a couple of cars before it started to make a beeline for the side of the next MGA in line it had to be trolley jacked back into position before it could pass another two or three cars. All this took some time and when the filming crew were satisfied they did it again with four ‘actors’ in the rearmost cars in the line. (The actors were genuine, we were not allowed to act not being in the actors union. The ‘monster’ was a production Escort with its road wheels removed and replaced with a cradle type affair to which the balloon tyred wheels were fixed.

In the fordHaving got that ‘shot’ successfully ‘in the can’ we were then directed to a ford some 4/5 miles away. We arrived to find horror of horrors - an MGA MkII in apparently in very good condition stationery in the middle of the ford. The ford was normally no mere than 3/4” deep but had been damped and was around 2’ 0” deep (apologies to Simon, I had been asked where they could obtain an MGA in the Midlands for this purpose and I had suggested Simon as the only source, so you owe me Simon’) I know he got well paid! We all lined up on a side road and went to see what was to happen. Several MGAs were lined up on the road into the ford, then the ‘monster’ appeared again and was eventually towed through the ford having passed the waiting MGA’s and the one in the ford and out the other side. During this sequence which took some time, one of the actors was stood in the ford peering into the open bonnet of the MGA, from which ‘steam’ rose from the engine, all a fake of course. An example of the trouble taken was the replanting of some small bushes to hide the towing cable of the ’monster’.

The final sequence was the filming of a red Escort on normal wheels at the end of the MGA’s on the hill from which alighted one of the actors, who seeing the reason for the hold-up, lights up an Embassy Slim Panatella, gets out his foot pump and pumps up his tyres to balloon size and drives past the line of MGA’s, through the stranded one in the ford and out the other side - well that’s how it will appear on the TV commercial, intending to convey that only if you smoke Embassy Slim Panatellas can you overcome such difficulties.

All the various ‘shots’ were taken out of sequence and cut and spliced to make the final film.  The number of ‘technicians of various kinds at Goathland was really astonishing, the cameras and equipment numerous.

All of us MGA types enjoyed the experience and used the many waiting periods, as well as in the hotel at night talking about MGAs.

 This article is reproduced with kind permission by Dennis Ogborn (from the March 2010 issue of the MG Car Club’s “Safety Fast” magazine).

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Reader Comments (3)

Picture of Peter & Anne Tilbury
Peter & Anne Tilbury (Surrey, BC Canada)
on August 13, 2010 2:35pm
We really enjoyed this article.
Picture of Michael Hartley
Michael Hartley (Warrington)
on December 2, 2011 11:22pm
Ah, the memories. I was on the advert with my now long gone car XWN444
I was lucky enough to own on at the age of 26. I was paid £100 per day and it was for 4 days luckily they required 3 cars for a further day so i earned myself £500 for a lovely week sitting in a lovely car.
Picture of Christopher D Ogborn
Christopher D Ogborn (United Kingdom)
on July 24, 2014 12:00pm
I remember that well my father owned "betsy" at the time and I understand arranged the MG's required for the advert via. the MG register.

I have varies items of my father's since he passed away, including a Model of "Betsy" that was made and presented to him from an alteration / remodel of another similar car, + varies books owned by him, and silver salver presented to him by the MG owners club.

Nice to know people still remember that advert.



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Last updated on July 21, 2010.