Written by Bas de Voogd – basdevoogd.nl
I have always had a soft spot for rusty old saloons. Over the years I have collected several neglected MG VA saloons, put them back on the road and I was usually able to find a new owner who shared my feelings and wanted to care for it.
It is through this weakness that I came accross MG saloon with chassisnumber VA 0251, languishing in a barn in Suffolk. From then on I noticed a certain atmosphere around these, untill then unwanted, MG saloons. In a funny way I felt when there was an interesting history associated with the car.
It was the basis for my interest in the history of MG VA’s. Through VA 0251 I was pulled into the mysterious world of the past and from then on I sometimes started to see a kind of aureole around old VA saloons.
One splendid example of this happened during the SVW (MG types SA, VA and WA – Ed.) weekend in Cirencester some years ago, which concluded in a meeting in Abingdon. On entering the rally field near the river I was absolutely stricken by the sight of that rusty saloon that stood forlorn in the middle of the field. Even at a distance I could clearly see the air vibrate around this rusty VA. I immediately parked right next to it and spoke to Malcolm Simmonds, who turned out to be the proud owner and who told me he had just acquired the saloon after a lot of hassle. Malcolm was not aware at all of what he had bought, but I instantly knew when I noticed its registration number CBL 109.This had been Cecyl Kimber’s personal transport during the early years of the war. Possibly even the very last MG Kimber had ever driven!
About 20 years ago I spent a holiday in England with my wife Suze. One late afternoon I found myself talking to a previous owner of one of my VA saloons and he mentioned Phill Passey’s scrapyard in Newbury as a source for spare parts. It was already late but as it wasn’t too far away from where I was at that moment Suze and I decided to go and have a look to see what was available there. Even if it was only to note down chassis numbers.
On arrival we found out that the scrapyard had already closed. Walking up and down along the fence we tried to pick up a glimpse from what was in the yard, but apart from some Hillmans and a Ford Popular there wasn’t much that attracted our interest.
Just as we wanted to make our way back to the hotel a chap came towards us asking what we wanted. “Oh…. Old MG’s, well I can’t help you, you see, its my friend’s yard and he is not around at this time of day, but do come into my house, have a cupper and maybe you’re interested in old clocks, I have got a collection of old grandfather clocks”.
The next minute we were sitting in the kitchen of the house next door which could hardly be described as such. The old chap had to make room for us to sit and he excused for all the rubbish he had collected over the years. Magazines and bits of clock everywhere. He started the ritual of making tea while we were grasping the atmosphere of this place. He had a stove which was also used for storage of magazines and the kettle was on a small electric device in the middle of the kitchen floor.
After a while we were presented the tea which wasn’t as bad as expected after all! Rattling on about his clock collection it quickly became later and the sun had already started to set.
We couldn’t leave without a second cup and also had to view his collection of grandfather clocks. Just when we started loosing interest he said: “If you want to look in the scrapyard, just go for it and have look around. I am sure my friend doesn’t mind”. Next minute we found ourselves climbing over the fence.
There in the back of the field, exactly where our MG friend had told us, we found what we wanted. MG saloons in all sorts of desintegration. Most of them hadn’t been touched for a long time and were completely overgrown. There was even a fairly large elm growing through the remains of what looked like an SA Tickford. What a shame!! If only we could have saved them all. These cars had deserved better.
Most of the brightwork had gone too and guarantee plates had all been stolen.
Making my way through the rubble I had the constant feeling that we were not alone. Of course it was the excitement that gave us the shivers, but still………..
When I turned around to look for my wife I looked straight into the eyes of an old man sitting in a collapsed VA saloon! I got the shock of my life! It seemed my eyes could only focus on this man while the rest of the surroundings faded away. The only thing I was able to observe was the distinct smell of rotting upholstery. I wanted to run away, but I could not. I could hardly breathe and stood frozen to the ground. I seemed to faint. Suddenly I woke up from the barking of dogs. Oh my God, we have been noticed. Where is my wife? It took me minutes to recover. It seemed ages….. She was…
“Tomorrow we will see how this story ends, will it end in a horror scene? We will soon know, stay tuned!”