Me, My MG, and a Trip Back in Time

Photo for Me, My MG, and a Trip Back in Time

I don't recall even noticing the registration number on my MGA when I purchased it in London way back in 1968, but my attention was drawn to it, 211 FDE, sometime afterwards when my wife and I were touring the west coast of Scotland.

We had just stopped to admire the scenery when another car parked up behind and the driver leapt out saying something along the lines of, "How lovely to see someone else from Pembrokeshire." My puzzled expression prompted him to explain that the 'DE' on the plate indicated that it was a Pembrokeshire registration. A subsequent look at the green 'log-book' confirmed that the car was first registered on the 7th of September 1959 to a Tenby address, a location I investigated during the 1992 'Pendine Dash' event that finished on the famous sands. I resolved that if my Pembrokeshire MGA and I survived until September 7, 2009, I would take it back to that first address for a celebratory 50th anniversary photograph. Little did I know how special that day would turn out to be.

As the date approached, I wondered if anyone in the Tenby area might remember my car. So without much hope of a result, I wrote a letter to the local newspaper, The Tenby Observer, advising of my proposed visit and included the names and addresses of the first four owners. To my surprise, I had responses from the second owner, the niece of the first owner, and a daughter of the third owner, all expressing interest in seeing the car. So, I quickly confirmed my plans to spend the day in the area.

2nd ownerSecond owner, Raymond Bowen, now lives near Carmarthen and I arranged to visit him in the morning. He told me that he had paid £225 for the MGA in 1962, buying it from a garage in Llandissilio, north of Tenby. He recalled that the car was supplied without its original hood, so he survived with just the tonneau cover until an MG replacement was obtained. He also remembered that replacement pads for the then novel disc brakes also had to be ordered from Abingdon so he drove using just the handbrake for a while. Raymond used the car throughout the very snowy winter of 1963 when, with two concrete blocks in the boot and pressure in the rear Michelin X tyres reduced to 6 psi, he not only never lost traction but also managed to rescue other stranded vehicles. He told me that a BMC competitions driver once visited the Carmarthen Austin dealership, Evans Motors Ltd., where he was an apprentice and, seeing his MGA, demonstrated how to kick off the fly-off hand-brake whilst jumping into the car. The MGA was traded in for an MGB in 1966. I took Raymond for a run out in the car, but he declined my invitation to drive us back to his house.

William Lewis1st Owner William Lewis

From Carolyn Jenkins, niece of first owner, William Lewis, sadly now deceased, I learned that he had purchased the MGA from BMC dealer G. Phillips and Sons in Llandissilio and that his sister, her mother Marlene, had married into the Phillips family. Marlene and her brother-in-law Peter Phillips still live in Llandissilio where the garage showroom still stands, albeit now a motorcycle dealership. So that was where I spent the afternoon.

G Phillips DealershipG Phillips & Sons BMC Dealership

Clearly, the Phillips family were true MG enthusiasts. Peter had owned no less than three MGAs, a coupe and two roadsters, and Marlene remembered passing her driving test in an MG TF. She thought that she was probably the first ever passenger to sit in my MGA, so I took her for a drive in that self same seat. I said I would take it easy as she might be anxious in a car without seatbelts, to which she replied, "you go as fast as you like," whilst grinning from ear to ear. Peter not only gave me some photos from that period, but also very kindly presented me with examples of the original G. Phillips business cards, badges, key-fobs, and tax disc holders. I was extremely pleased to receive these.

Having photographed my MGA outside the old showroom building, I then drove to Tenby, possibly retracing its first journey with its first owner to the address where it was first registered. There I took the long-planned 50th anniversary photograph. Returning to my hotel, the manageress caught me to say that her father wanted to see my car. Arriving shortly afterwards, David Richards introduced himself as not only an ex-employee of the Tenby-based BMC distributor, George Ace Ltd., but also the apprentice who probably gave my car its pre-delivery check before it went to G. Phillips. He then took me to the former Ace premises where this was undertaken, which coincidentally turned out to now be the offices of The Tenby Observer. Invited inside, he pointed out the original wood-block flooring where my car would have been parked on receipt from Abingdon. "MGs always on the left, other BMC models on the right," he told me.

Lastly, it was time to meet Jane Jones and Nicola Reynolds, daughters of third owner, Alan Waters, sadly only recently deceased. I learned that Alan had been an inveterate MG enthusiast who had purchased numerous MGs over the years up to and including an MGB roadster acquired shortly before he passed away. This, he had claimed, was for his young grandson, but it is currently being enjoyed by Nicola, as her son is rather too young to drive. Of course, Jane and Nicola also had to have rides in their father's old MGA.

And so ended an amazing day, during which I had learned more about my MGA's early years than I had in the previous forty-odd years of my ownership. It was certainly well worth the c.750 mile round trip from Essex where I live.

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Last updated on August 12, 2012.