MG Vintage Racers (MGVR) is the oldest single-marque vintage race support group in North America. It is non-profit, staffed by volunteers, and has focused on both its members and on MGs in vintage racing since its inception.
The December 2021 (Vol. 39 Iss. 11) of its wonderful monthly newsletter contained this detailed overview, and with a fresh new year of vintage racing on the immediate horizon (and with the permission of the club’s Dave Nicholas), we bring you the story in its entirety. -Ed.
Post WWII sports car racing in North America really started on the streets of Watkins Glen, New York, in 1948. From there it grew and spread. With time, the racing became more competitive, as newer, more modified, and faster cars forced the old ones to pasture. In reaction, “Vintage Racing” began to take root in the 1960’s, as a flashback to the earlier – and simpler – days of sports car racing.
In this new venue, “the cars were the stars” and their vintage character would be maintained. Cars were generally restricted to “period original” modifications, and winning was not important, as this was nostalgic racing just for the fun of it.
In 1959, the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA) was founded, and it is credited with starting the vintage car racing movement. But in 1959, MGA’s were still being produced, so only the older MG’s were eligible to participate with the VSCCA.
Vintage racing was much more obscure in the early ‘60s. Fields were usually small, and rules minimal. Classes were often just “Fast” and “Not So Fast” regardless of what you were racing. The first “all-MG” vintage race was sponsored by the New England MG ‘T’ Register” in 1977 (and was repeated in 1978) at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut. At this event, ‘T’ series, and older MG’s, raced in a simple format where a helmet, a seat belt, and 50 bucks got you on the track.
Other vintage race clubs began emerging in the U.S. and Canada. In 1974, the first Monterey Historic Races were held in California. MGA’s now were eligible in several of the vintage race clubs, and MG’s were being vintage raced in many areas, but had no common forum.
Then in 1980, MG production ceased in Abingdon, England. The next year, active MGTD vintage racer Greg Prehodka suggested that MG vintage racers stay in touch with each other through a simple newsletter. With much positive response to his suggestion, in December of that year, he started the “MG Vintage Racers’ (MGVR) Newsletter” with 40 members. Racing an MG was a requirement to join.
In 1981, no-one forsaw the growth vintage racing would experience in the years to come, or the role MGVR would play…
Both the sport of vintage racing and the newsletter grew in the following years, latter serving to foster a strong camaraderie among the MG racers. It also worked with various vintage race organizations to support all-MG races. In the middle 1980’s, SVRA started vintage racing and hosted an “MG Safety Fast Championship” at Road Atlanta, Georgia; and in 1985, SVRA revived the spirit of the Collier Brothers MG racing at Watkins Glen from the 50’s with their “Vintage Collier Cup”.
As more vintage race organizations formed through the 1990’s, MGVR’s “Focus Events” evolved. MGVR did not sanction races but the group would select one vintage race event every year as its Focus Event and work with the sanctioning body to put on an all MG race within it. Then they would encourage all their MG members to attend that race event, and would compliment it with their own dinner, special MG guests, their own trophies, and other fun stuff.
The idea took hold and grew quickly, producing record fields of MG’s racing at Pittsburgh, Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, Waterford Hills, Mid-Ohio, NHIS, Mosport, VIR, and Road America.
MG was back in the racing spotlight!
Based on this success, Canada’s VARAC established an annual all-MG race for the “Simms Cup” in 1998. MGVR also established its own annual award – the “MGVR Spirit Award” to be awarded by a vote of the MG racers to one member who best embodied the “Spirit of MG Vintage Racing.”
In support of its members, MGVR sends out a members newsletter several times a year; has published its “Tech Tips” on race preparation of vintage MG’s; did a comprehensive member’s racing census in 1990 and 2000; has a web site (MGVR.org); hosts an e-mail discussion group; and of course oversees its annual “Focus Event”.
Newsletter editorship and leadership of MGVR was turned over from Prehodka to MGA racer Mark Palmer in 1995, then to Chris Meyers in 2006 and Dave Nicholas in 2020. With their leadership, the group has grown and evolved to higher levels. There are currently about 250 subscribers, mostly in North America, all with the common bond of racing MG’s.
In 2001, MGVR celebrated its 20th Anniversary at Road America at VSCDA’s vintage race festival when MGVR also produced a video about their history. For their Focus Event 2004 at SVRA’s Zippo Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen – where the 50th Anniversary of the “Collier Brothers Memorial Trophy MG Race of 1954” was celebrated – 143 racing MGs showed up to compete in the Vintage Collier Cup all-MG race!
For 2006 they celebrated their 25th anniversary with an all-MG race weekend at Hallett, Okla. In 2021, MGVR is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and the group marches on!
For more information, check out MGVR.org (where you’ll find a detailed history of MGVR, contact information and lots more).