|History of the
"MG Vintage Racers' Newsletter"
-The First 20 Years-
Part I, by: Greg Prehodka
The following article will trace the history of the "MG Vintage Racers' Newsletter", also known as "MGVR". Why it was started, what needs it filled, and how it has evolved in support of MG vintage racing. It will note some of the highlights of the newsletter and related events over the past 20 years.
I. 1981 - 1995, Greg Prehodka, Editor
Setting the Stage:
A Concept Turns to Reality
That first newsletter is 18 pages of hand TYPED text, with some pasted up artwork, that Greg then copies on the Xerox machine at work one page at a time (when the boss isn't around) and mails out to members. In it, he lays out his philosophy of what he thinks the newsletter should be:
"There has been a need for a tie between vintage MG racers that existing clubs did not fulfill. I hope that this newsletter will served that purpose. ..."
This first issue has a few racing articles and technical articles, and comments from the new members. It includes an article on SVRA's Atlanta Vintage Grand Prix "MG Safety Fast Championship" race in November, where 24 MG's participate. Members are also asked if MGA racers should be allowed to become members.
March of 1982 sees a significant event. As Greg proclaims in his editorial "We've made it to the second issue!" The ship has been launched successfully and is afloat, at least for now. Responses to the first newsletter are very positive. On the question of accepting MGA's in the newsletter, the replies tally 16-yes, 1-no, and 2-no preference. A's are in. This issue has 22 pages, without advertising, which would reflect the nature of the newsletter -no advertising, -strong member content, -and dues only to cover the cost of printing and mailing. Bare bones - grass roots stuff! All newsletter work will be by volunteers. There is no commercial aspect to it. Many of the early newsletters are slowly copied one sheet, one side at a time, and hand collated, and then mailed out. Sometimes it takes several days to get an issue copied and mailed out. There are several newsletters where Bob Wertley, Sue Salsburg, and Greg work all day Saturday in Bob's accounting office to get out an issue, as copies are collated on desks, chairs, floors, and any other open space.
MG vintage racing is beginning to gain focus. The June newsletter talks about a joint New England MG 'T' Register / VSCCA, race at Briar, N.H. in August, and SVRA is again scheduling its "Safety Fast MG Championship" race in November. Also, Greg's Editorial ends with the comment: "I'd like to close with a quote that Sarah Carr sent me from Shakespeare's Henry V, that also captures my feelings about our group: "...We few, we happy few, we band of brothers..." This quote will stick with the group. Now the newsletter is settling into its basic form which would carry for years: -Editorial, -Letters to the editor, -Tech Topics, -Race Reports, -Member Profiles -and Up-coming events. Also, Jerry Storch's "Vinty" cartoon makes its first appearance, later to become "T-Types".
Celebration - 1st Anniversary Issue, in December 1982. In this issue is a copy of a personal letter from Stirling Moss congratulating MGVR. In it he talks about the first car he ever drove - his father's MGTB. Two new sections are now added to the newsletter - "Our Valiant Steeds" and "Echoes from the Past". Letters to the editor start becoming more regular in the newsletter. There are two articles on the VSCCA support race at the Pocono IMSA GT 500. A number of the racers camped out behind the old bleachers. "...Actually, we had much more fun than you could have at a motel. A gas grill and lots of goodies. ... Barry Prehodka started a story telling session around a roaring campfire made from old rotting wooden seats from the bleachers near our paddock. We were soon rolling on the ground in laughter. Music was provided by a live rock band, even though they were over a mile away ...and nearby, nude people danced around another campfire." Dr. Bill Fox has his MGTC at his race, with fuel lines made up of clear surgical tubing. Ahh... - the earlier days of vintage racing! There is also a report on Lime Rock's 25th Anniversary race, where Jerry Storch is honored as an original participant in the 1957 race with his MGTD.
The March newsletter covers MG's racing at Sebring with SVRA. During this period of time, there is a strong contingent of MG vintage racers down south supporting race events at places like Road Atlanta and Sebring. In every issue, we see new members joining the newsletter.
The June newsletter is 27 pages. In one section, Al Moss talks about preparing and supporting Ken Miles MG racing specials. Al comments about Ken: "...of my remembered experiences while crewing for a genius-driver, certainly one of the finest in the USA at that time." Two new sections are added to the newsletter. First is "Answering Your Technical Questions" where members are requested to send in their technical questions. Answers to them are sought, and printed in the following issue. The first topic is about the difference between XPAG 1250 and 1500 connecting rods, answered by Chris Leydon. Second new section is, "Batlegrounds", where a member is asked to describe, from a driver's point of view, a particular race track. Lime Rock if first on the list. The newsletter has grown to 58 members. A technical staff had also been added.
The October 1983 issue has race reports on Duryea, Pa. Hillclimb; Mid-Ohio; Shannonville, Ontario; Bryar, N.H.; Road Atlanta; and the inaugural Pittsburgh Vintage GP, as street racing returns. It was a busy year racing.
December 1983 is the newsletter's second anniversary. Two more section are added: "Tech Tips" for short tech notes from members, and "Vintage Forum" where members are asked to voice their opinions on a chosen current topic. In this issue, opinions are requested on the topic "Should Roll Bars for Vintage Race Cars Be Made Mandatory?" Replies appear in the following issue. The newsletter is now 36 pages.
1984 sees lots of material in the newsletter. Race reports from Moroso Motorsport Park, Fl; Sebring; Mount Equinox, Vt. Hillclimb; Meadowlands, NJ (VSCCA/CART support race); Mid-Ohio; Shannonville, Ontario; Elkhart Lake (Great American Road Race); Lime Rock; Road Atlanta; and the new Grand Bahamas Vintage Race. Membership is now up to 61 members. 1984 has a BIG CHANGE for the editor. - WORD PROCESSING on a PC (at work!!), as parts of the newsletter are now done at work, and printed on a dot matrix printer. "Vintage Forum" asks the question "To what extend can MG's be modified and still considered Vintage" There are many different strong opinions sent in on this. In an article Bob Hill talks about rolling his car at Lime Rock without a roll bar and being pinned under it: "...and the one sound that was pure torture was the steady click of the electric fuel pump!" Fortunately he escapes unharmed, but he would not race without a rollbar, ever again!
The December issue has the first photos printed by a commercial printer. Special photo sections of MG's racing at Lime Rock, Road Atlanta, and the Bahamas, which, for a change, look pretty decent. Until now, newsletters have been reproduced on office copy machines, and photo reproduction often left much to be desired. Photo reproduction quality will slowly improve with time.
In 1985, it is noted that there are more street race events, including Pittsburgh, Bahamas, Kansas City Vintage GP, and St. Petersburg Vintage GP, and that "We are even seeing some events fill up and entrants being turned away!" Vintage racing is seeing strong growth and change. Mention is made of reprinting all past newsletter technical articles into a "tech tips" book. This will eventually happen. The May letter has a letter from John Kleen, Jr. President of VSCDA: "...I am pleased to extend an invitation to MG Vintage Racers (to attend) ...the Elkhart Lake First Annual Vintage Festival ...at Road America..." 16 years later, in 2001, MGVR will have their MG race "Focus Event" at this festival.
The Profiles section introduces us to "Bill Parish" who was a spark of the southern MG racing gang. Bill loved life and MG's and having fun. There is an article about the upcoming Grand Bahamas Vintage Speed Week for December 1985. It will never happen, and event organizer Bill Lutwack, disappears with entrant's deposits, never to be seen again.
In February 1986, Greg in his editorial states "I have been working with various vintage clubs for MG only races and as of now we have nine MG races scheduled for this year." The role of maintaining relationships between MGVR and vintage racing organizations would prove very valuable over the years. He also solicits comments from members on MGVR establishing their own "Guidelines for MG Race Car Preparation" for MG Vintage racing, since each club has different rules. This only opens up a wasps nest, and no resolve is ever reached! In jest, Kieth Anderson sends in a picture of an MGA with eight vertical exhaust stacks, and mud tires, and says "Here's a photo of a local MGA equipped with a 454 chevy engine and four wheel drive...now if you guys will set up a class allowing oversized engines...".
Also the editor buys his own PC, and tosses the old typewriter into the junk pile of Lucas parts. To readers, this is not too important. To those doing newsletters, VERY IMPORTANT!!, as the quality of the newsletter goes up another notch. This issue contains feedback information from member renewal forms, including "Tech Tips" which they list. There is an article on the renewed (vintage) "Collier Cup" race for MG's at SVRA's Watkins Glen Fall Festival. Criteria on awarding of the cup is worked out between MGVR and SVRA and the event has the support of Miles C. Collier. The Collier Cup will be a Spirit award, not a race winner award. There are only 8 MG entrants this first year, and Bob Colaizzi is the first winner. MG entries in this event up until 1993 will not be many, but SVRA keeps it on its program. (In 1994 this will change significantly)
December 1986 also marks the newsletter's 5th anniversary. It has settled into a pattern of about 4 issues a year, and this will stay pretty consistent from now on. A special 5th anniversary issue is mailed out in 2 parts because there is so much material. All the tech stuff goes into part II. Together the 2 parts total 62 pages! The December issue informs members they should have received a flyer about a plan attend the Jim Russell Driving School at Mont Treablant in Quebec, Canada next year. Mike McLaughlin coordinates this effort for members and it will happen in 1987. There is a special note in the newsletter, that Kent Prather won the SCCA "G Production" championship at Road Atlanta this year in an MGA. Comment on it: "ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!!"
As 1987 rolls around, the SCCA holds its first Eastern VINTAGE sports car race in conjunctions with an IMSA race at Lime Rock. But the SCCA never really encroaches much on vintage racing. A group of 8 MGVR members attended the Jim Russell Driving School at Mt. Tremblant in Quebec. They have fun while learning some improved techniques. The race instructor, thought, has trouble understanding them. They are having too much fun. He tells them "I hope that you don't plan on becoming Formula One Drivers" to which one of the MG racers replies "Formula I is hoping that we don't either!".
1988 only has one newsletter, as the editor gets married in late 87 and then moves twice. Note is made that a meeting was held in November '87, of representatives from all major vintage racing organizations to try to work out some common basis for all vintage racing. But a significant event for the newsletter is the publishing of their "Tech Tips" book on MG race car preparation. It contains all the technical articles from the newsletter from day 1. Greg edits the book, and Bob Colaizzi handles publishing. 500 copies are printed. The newsletter will be back on track in 1989.
For 1989 the VSCDA holds its "Vintage Grand Prix Au Grattan", in August, featuring MG. Newsletter membership is now up to 102 members. The October issue has the first color cover, as color copying technology is beginning to evolve.
The March 1990 issue talks about the VSCCA being on the verge of "...setting and issuing Guidelines for 'T' series MG's." It also had the following listing in its "From the Mailbox" column: "I'm preparing my MGA for eventual vintage racing and would like to learn, so SITUATION WANTED: Would like to help crew for a MG vintage racer. Qualifications: Few. Enthusiasm: GREAT! Mark Palmer, Bethlehem, Pa." Little did we know at this time, Mark would become our future editor. In a copy of a letter from Laystall Engineering company, LTD., J.E. Tanner, Sales & Production Director talks about the Lucas-Laystall alloy cylinder head for XPAG engines and comments: "...we do not supply these units (anymore) .... Although they gave better torque and horsepower, they were a problem if left undisturbed for any length of time... I have an MGTF of my own and did not fit a Laystall head .... I get almost the same advantage by smoothing out and enlarging ports and using weaker valve springs, fitting new valve inserts and keeping cc's capacity in head equivalent."
A special MGVR Census is undertaken in 1990. Members are surveyed on a number of topics concerning them, their MG's, and their racing. With the support of member Mark Palmer crunching the numbers, a 26 page "MG Vintage Racers 1990 Census" is completed. It covers everything from opinions on vintage racing, to racing parts used, to failures, to oil used. It will also become the basis for a similar effort in 2000. Dan Davis, Editor of Victory Lane Magazine comments on it in his editorial: "...one of the best member surveys is the recent 'Census' of the MG Vintage Racers. Club officials would do well to request a copy and review it. A real grassroots view of the sport. As one would expect, the opinions on current vintage racing vary..."
In 1991, a committee of VSCCA/MGVR members is formed to come up with "Guidelines" for the preparation of 'T' series MG's in the VSCCA. In the April newsletter member Ralph Zbarsky asks for information anyone might have on a racing MG he has uncovered and "retrieved from oblivion" It is the #53 MG Liquid Suspension Indy Car that was campaigned in the 1964 and 65 Indy 500. The issue of "Extending Eligibility Within MGVR" to any MG beyond the MGA is raised in an article by Bob Schoeplein. In response to it, the 1991 membership renewal form asks members to vote on this proposal. We also see the technical aspect of our MG's advancing as there are two articles on "Dual Master Brake Setup" - one for an MGTD and one for an MGA. And the Editor writes about how he took his MGTD back to England in 1990 with the New England MG 'T' Register as part of its "Circuit of Britain", where he raced up England's prestigious 2/3 mile long Prescott Hillclimb. He does well on the hill, but it is no comparison to the 5.2 miles of our Mt. Equinox.
Another significant events occurs in 1991 as MGVR coordinates with the VSCCA and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Association, as the MG 'T' series is designated the "Featured Marque" for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. With the newsletter's support, a record breaking 23 MG T's turn out for the race. MGVR member Andy McSwigan arranges a dinner for them at "Marios" restaurant on the South Side, where they give out their own awards, as Manley Ford provides impromptu singing entertainment. Tom Finn, last year's winner of the MGVR "Hay bale Award", this years passes it along to Hank Giffin. It has become a tradition to present it to the MG racer who collects the most "hay" (sort of) in his car from the haybales around the street course while racing during the weekend. How do you explain to your wife, why you have to store a haybale at home for a year? What is happening at this event becomes the basis for what will evolve into the MGVR "Focus Event" of the future. MG race, MGVR dinner with awards and fun, and MGVR traditions (Hay bale, Big Copper Bucket, MG paddock, etc.) This year's race is later broadcast on TV's "Discover Channel". An article by Greg Prehodka entitled "The Next Generation" sets the stage for what is becoming a more and more familiar scenario within the group - the sharing of, and passing on of, MG vintage race cars to our children, as we age and transition from racers to mentors. Membership is now 108 people.
In 1992 MGVR receives a letter from SVRA saying they are establishing a "Pre-War and MG 'T' Series Race Group", and requesting more MG support for the Collier Cup at the Glen. The VSCCA now publishes rules (excuse me - "Guidelines") for MGA 1500's and 1600's because, as they state: "...the deep concern of your Board of Directors regarding the form in which these cars (MGA's) have been presented at our events..." Member Mark Barnhart writes about a special 1957 MGA he helped Bill Waddill of Michigan prepare for the Bonneville salt flats speed trials. Powered by a 230cid Chevy V-6, it achieves a speed of 217 MPH, but is still short of the record of 223 MPH class record the are after. VARA in California Stages an "MG-Triumph Challenge Race" at Willow Springs. Richard Waite relates his experience racing up Mt. Equinox in the 40th running of this event. It is a 5.2 mile winding mountain road, going up 3,140 feet vertical, base to summit. The Pittsburgh MGVR traditions continue to grow, and as a charity event it has raised about half a million dollars over the past ten years. It's Lime Rock's 30th Anniversary where at the VSCCA's Fall Finale a special all MG race is to be held. A letter from Lime Rock Park manager Mike Rand to all MGVR / VSCCA members states "We are particularly excited about the "All MG Race" to be run this weekend as a celebration of the MG marque and its long history with The Road Racing Center of the East." It is a success and a color photo of all 24 of the MG drivers, standing around Jerry Storch and Dean Butler seated in Dean's K-3 MG, is the cover for the December newsletter. Coverage of MG's racing together is appearing in more and more publications - Vintage Motorsport, Victory Lane, British Marque Car Club News, MGA Magazine, The Sacred Octagon, etc. as more and more MG's are being vintage raced.
The April 1993 newsletter starts off talking about how the VSCCA Spring Sprints were cancelled due to SNOW! Vintage racing continues to grow, and there is an interesting article about a 1953 SCCA race in Albany, Georgia where many MG's competed. They are trying to revive it as a vintage event, but it never comes off.
A tragic event occurs at the 1993 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix which touches the hearts of all MG racers. In a solo accident, David Kuhn of Lexington Massachusetts, looses control of his MGTD. It mounts a stone wall, goes over, and crashes into the woods below. Dave is killed. This is a tragic blow to all MG and vintage racers, and the first ever VSCCA fatality. A thorough investigation finds no explainable reason for the accident, other than possible driver fatigue. This accident will cause many to reflect on their participation in this sport, and some will not return. The newsletter supplies members with information on the accident and events following, and helps members come to grips with it, by sharing letters of member's opinions and feelings on the tragedy. MGVR receives a letter from Dave's wife Julie: "...Your cards and letters of sympathy have been overwhelming. ...But the thing which he always waxed eloquent about was the sense of camaraderie. He loved the spirit which you shared. ...Dave told me "It (vintage racing his MG) is something I love doing". ...I hope in the future, as you continue vintage racing you'll drive hard, and enjoy it to the fullest. Dave did." Member Jim Carson has an honorary silver tray made up on MGVR's behalf, and presents it to Julie. MGVR members are given memorial patches to put on their MG's.
In 1994 MGVR is providing major support for the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Collier Cup MG race at SVRA's Watkins Glen fall event. Greg Prehodka and Joe Tierno spearhead the effort. With an early effort, by April, 59 MG racers have already expressed commitment to race in the Collier Cup. From there momentum for it builds. And SVRA will be also be featuring MG at their Mid-Ohio races this summer. Results are in on extending MGVR membership qualification, as members vote to accept all MG's up through 1967.
The November 1994 newsletter is a very special one. Most of its 60 pages cover the 40th Anniversary Collier Cup MG Race at Watkins Glen. This is one for the record books, as 60 MG's race into history! This is a most significant MG race, and in many ways it becomes the benchmark of MG vintage racing to come. Newsletter coverage includes the Collier Cup race, the MGVR dinner downtown at the Glen Vintage Auto Museum, the Watkins Glen downtown festival, and driving the original street race course. And very importantly, it shores up the foundation of the "Collier Cup", which was not getting good turnouts in the past few years. A most significant MG racer joins MGVR for this special race. Denver Cornett, who raced his MGTC in the first race at Watkins Glen in 1948, returns to race with the same car. He is a living legend. The magnitude of this event even attracts MG 'T' racer Steward Penfound from England to come over. He is most impressed! The historic MG race receives coverage in many publications including Speed Sport News. For their efforts, Greg Prehodka and Joe Tierno receive Victory Lane's "Spirit of Vintage Racing" award, as well as becoming joint winners of the Collier Cup this year.
March 1995 is a time for change. Greg, who has been editor of the newsletter since 1981 request active MGA race enthusiast Mark Palmer to take over the editorship of the newsletter and Mark Accepts. This March issue will be Greg's last as editor, but he will support Mark in making the transition to becoming editor, and will continue to help MGVR in other capacities in the years to come. To cap off Greg's editor career, the newsletter is awarded a "First Place" in Moss Motor's competition for British Car Club Publishing. The newsletter has now has 151 members.
***** End Chapter I of MGVR. *****
Online Editor: Christopher Kintner
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