GT-39: The Week That Was

Photo for GT-39: The Week That Was

Sadly, GT-39 has come to an end. It will, however, go down in the NAMGAR archives as a success. From the spacious and modern hotel rooms, the Bistro hospitality suite, and the very special car show venue, to the activities, presentations, tech sessions, and drives in and around our beautiful city, everything seemed to strike a chord with our visitors. ("Woof-woof. Woof, woof, woof." -Daisy).

Monday, July 14th, was a bright day, perfect weather for MGAs arriving in Ottawa for GT-39. Registration started slow, but began picking up by lunch time. Things really started to roll shortly before 2:00 pm when the Cruise-to-the-Capital group arrived, having been escorted across the city by several vehicles from the Ottawa MG Club. As the hubbub of the C2C welcome died down, Daisy, the GT-39 mascot, made her appearance along with two mascot handlers. Daisy was a big hit in her bright orange volunteer vest, greeting people, getting her picture taken, and handing out ‘Daisy-pops’ as part of Meet the Mascot. Mike Hickman was seen giving Daisy a big hug and claiming that he was suffering from fur withdrawal after several days on the road.

Capital Tour

Later in the afternoon, first time GT attendees gathered for the First Timers Reception where they took part in an ice-breaker activity intended to get them talking and interacting with each other. NAMGAR Chairman Bruce Woodson addressed the crowd and introduced the NAMGAR Board members. All the first timers were presented with a chocolate MG logo as a welcoming gift.

The masses gathered a short time later for a combined Welcome Reception and pizza dinner. Perhaps I was just especially hungry, but, oh boy, that was some good tasting pizza. Welcome messages from NAMGAR Chairman Bruce Woodson and Ottawa MG Club President Norm Peacey were followed by some housekeeping, updates on the week’s activities, and an invitation to place bids on the many great items included in the GT-39 silent auction. Later, folks gathered in the hotel Bistro for the first night’s hospitality suite: drinks and conversation with friends, and let’s not forget the nightly prize give-away.

Tuesday morning, the sky was overcast. Buses arrived early, loaded up, and headed off downtown filled with folks eager to see the Parliament Buildings and the Changing of the Guard ceremony. A bit later on, the skies opened and down came the rain. Unfortunately, the Changing of the Guard was cancelled due to the weather, but people managed to make the most of the morning out, touring the Parliament Buildings, ascending the iconic Peace Tower, or taking a walk around the historic ByWard Market.

The Parade that Never Happened!

By noon, most everyone had returned to the hotel. Apparently two MGAs had developed flat tires since arriving on Monday. No problem. A host committee member was soon on her way with the two flat wheels and their owners to a local tire shop with sufficient "old timer" knowledge to replace tubes and balance the wheels. Thanks Gail, you're such a sweetie!

The skies were still overcast, but the rain had stopped, so tops came down and cars began to assemble for The Capital Tour. The cars were divided into groups, each group being lead by a volunteer vehicle from the Ottawa MG Club. Everyone was given a keepsake booklet with way-finding directions and interesting facts about the route. Ottawa MG Club volunteers, in their highly visible orange safety vests, were placed at strategic points along the route to help make sure everyone was headed in the right direction. Did I mention the road construction?

Fortunately the rain held off. Everyone who participated in The Capital Tour was treated to some lovely views of the parkways, unique buildings, and historic downtown streets of Ottawa. My, what a beautiful city!

Back at the hotel, people had time to refresh and put on their favourite red and white clothing before boarding the buses and setting off for the Red-and- White Dinner Cruise aboard the Ottawa River Queen. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres were available on the dock before boarding. The boat departed right on time and soon tables were being called for the buffet dinner. It took a bit longer than expected to get everyone served, but the food was great and worth the wait...and there was a special GT-39 cake for dessert!

Boat rideGT39 Cake

As if on cue, the sun came out just in time for folks to step onto the deck and watch the sights as we cruised up and down the Ottawa River. As I said, what a beautiful city! Some watched as the sun set and the scenery glided by while others took advantage of the music and dance floor to cut a rug or bust a few moves. At 9:00 p.m. we were back at the dock and getting ready to return to the hotel. Don't forget the leftover cake. Carry it carefully and be sure not to trip on the... Oh well, we didn't really need the rest of the cake.

Dinner Cruise

Wednesday was Car Show day. After a cool and cloudy start, it turned out to be a warm, sunny day. The show took place in Technology Park on the grounds of the Canada Science and Technology Museum, and in the presence of several permanent exhibits, including a locomotive (the backdrop for the “official” car photographs), a lighthouse, and a Convair Atlas rocket, on loan to the museum from the United States Air Force Museum. First flown in June 1957, one of these long range rockets was the launch vehicle that carried Lt. Col. John Glenn into orbital flight around the Earth on February 20, 1962. On a much smaller scale, a remotely-operated flying camera was orbiting the Park, recording the car show for posterity. The resulting aerial video can be viewed here

We were very pleased to welcome Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson to the show. Mayor Watson spent an hour touring the show, chatting with participants, and selecting his favourite car to receive the Mayor’s Choice Award. Two young officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in iconic red serge were also very popular, touring the show field and posing for photographs. Local media were invited to the car show and we were fortunate to receive coverage on both the CTV and CBC evening news as well as in the local newspaper.

Ottawa Mayor

The Museum runs a children’s day camp and is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike during the summer. As a result, there were lots of families and groups of escorted children mingling with the GT-39 participants. Some car owners allowed children (and grown-up children) to experience a few minutes sitting behind the steering wheel, perhaps inspiring future MG owners.

The Ottawa-themed Funkhana took place on Wednesday afternoon. Participants were timed as they negotiated a course with fiendish tests of dexterity and tests of their newly acquired knowledge of Canada’s capital region. Noting the “fun” in funkhana, it was decided that instead of awards for 1st and 2nd places, the GT-39 Funkhana awards would instead be presented for “First” and “Worst.”

Things cooled down as darkness fell on our very own drive in cinema. Undaunted, many GT-39 participants bought popcorn in the hotel lobby, donned their coats, hoodies, and blankets and cuddled up in their cars to watch an episode of “Dennis the Menace” where Mr. Wilson buys an MGA. That was followed by the main feature, “Blue Hawaii,” starring Elvis Presley and a beautiful red MGA. Security guards reportedly maintained a discrete presence to make sure there was no “hanky-panky” going on in the dark!

Thursday was another cool but fine day, perfect for the Ottawa Valley Rallye. At the pre-rallye meeting, navigators and drivers were briefed on the route and handed their questionnaires and directions. Thanks to the organizer’s quirky sense of humour, the directions were in code and one page was printed in mirror image, necessitating some creativity in order to read it. An unintentional challenge occurred because one of the directions was incorrect, inadvertently sending everyone to a river ferry terminal. We think all teams figured out the mistake and continued on their way. However, if anyone did take the ferry and is still driving around the wilds of Canada, please stop and ask someone to point you toward home!

The afternoon saw a number of cars taking part in the hugely successful Safety-Fast Check, held at the nearby Canadian Tire. The store had generously donated the use of two of their auto bays for the activity. Some cars were assigned for underside inspections on the hoists by Steve Hayes of Classic Automotive Repair, and his father Dave. Both gentlemen are UK-trained and qualified Ministry of Transport inspectors. Other vehicles were inspected by knowledgeable volunteers from the Ottawa MG Club. Several safety- related concerns were detected and, despite our program saying that repairs would not be undertaken, the mechanics at Canadian Tire were happy to oblige at the owner’s request. They soon put a third hoist into service for oil changes and, at one point, a fourth was used to repair the exhaust system on one participant’s car.

Safety Check

Back in the hotel parking lot, a large crowd gathered to listen while Ottawa MG Club member Mike Daniels gave a workshop on converting an MGA from the original generator to a more modern alternator. Meanwhile, inside the hotel, Ottawa MG Club member Debbie Ranger’s fun “Zumba Gold” exercise class, Jonathan A. Stein’s interesting “BMC Sports Cars in America” presentation, and Ottawa MG Club member Deb Fortin’s “make your own unique GT-39 necklace” craft workshop, were all extremely well received.

The banquet in the evening wrapped up GT-39 in fine style with a great party atmosphere. Candlelit tables and table decorations designed and made by Ottawa MG Club member Joy Curnoe made the room attractive and inviting. The buffet meal was delicious, the speeches were interesting, and the awards were received with delight by their winners. The party then continued in the Bistro until it was time for even those who didn’t have to be up early, to retire.

Good-byes and “See you in Michigan next year” were said over breakfast the following morning. It was another lovely sunny day for top-down driving for those heading home, and for those staying on to attend the All British Car Day on Saturday.

Thank you to all who attended GT-39. Your hosts, the members of the Ottawa MG Club, thoroughly enjoyed having you here in our nation’s capital and hope that you'll come back to visit us again. What a wonderful time we all had together. As it turns out, GT-39 in Ottawa really was A Capital Idea!


Click here for detailed information on the T-39 NAMGAR Class winners.

Photos by Andy Bounsall, Jen Steeves, Katie Wood, Bonnie Smith, and Michael Tooke.

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Last updated on December 9, 2015.