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Lot 312: MG A Coupe

Goodwood Festival Of Speed Collectors' Motor Cars, Bonhams (3 July 2009)

Thanks to the late A F Rivers Fletcher, 'PRX 14' has become one of the most widely recognised of all MGAs, competing regularly at Prescott hill climb throughout the 1980s with its famous owner at the wheel as well as featuring in countless articles and books. Indeed, 'PRX 14' is pictured on the front cover of Rivers Fletcher's 'MG Past and Present', which devotes an entire chapter to the car. One of motor sport's most charismatic figures, Rivers Fletcher was Malcolm Campbell's riding mechanic when he won the Brooklands Grand Prix in 1928, subsequently enjoying a lengthy professional career that would see him employed by Bentley Motors, ERA and BRM. It was while working for the latter in the late 1950s that Rivers first drove an MGA coupé, belonging to his close friend, C T 'Tommy' Atkins. 'I fell for those chic little close coupled coupés,' he later recalled, but it would be another 20 years before he owned one. By then Rivers was travelling widely, giving the illustrated talks and lectures for which he was renowned, and had decided that an MGA coupé would make an ideal form of transportation, as well as being eligible for the Classic Class at Prescott. Already a member of the MG Car Club, Octagon Club and MG Owners Club, Rivers first encountered 'PRX 14' in 1979 when it was being offered for sale by Brown & Gammons. Described on its BMIHT Production Certificate as a 'Demonstration Car for the MG Car Company Ltd', 'PRX 14' started life as a Glacier Blue '1500' model and later, in updated form, was used by the works rally team as a practice car, driven by Nancy Mitchell and Jack Sears among others. Rivers consulted his friends John Thornley, the former MG Car Company General Manager, and ex-Abingdon employee, Mike Allison, both of whom recognised 'PRX 14' as special, Thornley recalling that it had been fitted with the first of the then experimental 1,600cc engines. This unit, number '15GB-U-H/43971', is still in the car, which displays other non-standard features dating from its time as a works 'hack', including prototype MGB front suspension. By the time the car arrived at Brown & Gammons, it had been re-sprayed black and fitted with front disc brakes, glassfibre wings and wire wheels (replacing the original steel discs). 'Ron Gammons took tremendous trouble and care rebuilding much of the car for me, did a great job on the engine and chassis, and provided all the bits and pieces I required,' Rivers recalled later. The car was re-sprayed in its new owner's trademark Bugatti Blue and there are numerous other individual touches in evidence including a MkII front grille, Moto-Lita Steering wheel, boot-mounted luggage rack, Skyport sunroof and racing roundels, while in order to accommodate Rivers' lecturing paraphernalia, the shelf behind the seats was cut back. Rivers believed that the 1,600cc engine could usefully pull a higher axle ratio and Mike Allison duly fitted a Le Mans 'cog'. 'I have found that it simply transforms the car,' Rivers observed in 'MG Past and Present', 'making it far less fussy, more economical and it seemed to lose nothing in the way of performance.' Contrary to his expectation, it even made for a faster time at Prescott! 'PRX 14' subsequently went on display at the Stratford Motor Museum, remaining there until the current vendor, an historic racing competitor, purchased the car from Rivers in 1986. However, this was far from the end of Rivers' relationship with the MGA, for its new owner allowed him to drive it whenever he wished, particularly at Prescott. Rivers also shared the car with the vendor on the Norwich Union Run, the 'Save Brooklands Picnic' and several Regency Runs. Since Rivers' death in 1999 the MG, which shares its garage with a number of other four- and two-wheeled classics, has been used less frequently. Rivers had always delighted in the MGA's handling and his high opinion of its road manners was endorsed when 'PRX 14' was tested by 'MG Enthusiast' magazine (November 2002 edition). 'On the road the little car is an absolute gem, with exemplary roadholding and a preciseness of handling that belies the fact that the design dates from the early 1950s,' enthused tester Andrew Roberts. 'The car is so well balanced that it cries out to be driven enthusiastically on the throttle and, in true Safety Fast tradition it is utterly predictable.' When the MG was bought from Rivers, a promise was made that it would be maintained and run in the same state he did: what both parties came to term 'Past and Present' condition. Thus 'PRX 14' has not been subjected to extensive restoration and remains just as it was in Rivers' day. The Newport Car Club badge is still on the steering wheel boss, while the dashboard carries MGCC, MGOC and Alvis OC badges, and VSCC and ERA stickers are to be found elsewhere. Rivers' original throttle stick and choke spacer, which he considered essential for good starting, come with the car. One area that has received attention though, is the electrics, which were rewired in 2000 using a custom-made loom. 'PRX 14' comes with voluminous history comprising an album and five thick files, including letters and photographs from Rivers Fletcher's own archive. The car possesses a Swansea V5 registration document and is currently taxed and MoT'd, while the aforementioned BMIHT Production Certificate, sundry invoices, various copy magazine articles and a 1st edition signed copy of 'MG Past and Present' are included in the sale also. A wonderful opportunity to acquire a unique Abingdon works car associated with one of this country's foremost motor racing personalities.

Lot Details
Auction Goodwood Festival Of Speed Collectors' Motor Cars
Bonhams, Chichester, Sussex
TypeCar
Lot Number312
Estimate£40000-£50000
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1958
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis numberHMD 13/53352
Engine number15GB-U-H/43971
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2