For at least one generation of Americans, the initials “MG” are synonymous with the concept of a sports car itself. GIs returning from the European Theater following World War II brought with them memories of the spritely performance of the spindly MG TC (and in many cases, shipped home an actual example of the car!) And of course, the later MGB would become the world’s best-selling sports car over the span of its 18-year production run, a title it held until the advent of the Mazda Miata in the 1990s.
With MG’s popularity as strong as it has ever been, we didn’t miss a chance to check out the Southern California MG Club’s annual Boots and Bonnets car show, held September 7th at the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo (one of our favorite local haunts.) Likely due to a combination of the our gentle dry climate and the vitality of the area’s collector base, the cars on display were of a quality far beyond what we’ve come to expect from a local show.
The first car to catch our eye was Nancy Stipe’s 1972 BGT, finished in a deep metallic blue. Nancy was gracious enough to let us paw over her beautiful coupe, and we were blown away by all of the car’s nice touches. The parchment-colored upholstery was piped in body-matching blue, and the rear-view mirror was etched with the famous MGB GT logo. Perhaps the most unique feature was the car’s MG-badge radiator cap, which Nancy made by hand. The care and personal attention that were evident in this car were rewarded with a first-place finish in the show’s GT class.
Another eye-catching BGT was Stephen Jones’ ’72. Featuring twin Webers and a hot cam, trick suspension, and Willwood brakes, this car was set up as much for “go” as it was for “show,” but still claimed 3rd place in the GT class…as well as being our personal choice for car we’d most like to have driven home (with a healthy detour through the canyon roads north of town, of course!)
Sadly, there were no TCs or earlier models in attendance, but the disappointment was lessened by the presence of a field of beautiful TDs and TFs, including this sweetheart…check out the green leather!
The open-topped MGB remains one of the most popular, most recognizable sports cars on the planet, and there were a healthy number on display at the Boots and Bonnets show, spanning nearly the entire history of the iconic marque. Our favorite had to be Andrew Graves’ right-hand-drive ’63 in traditional British Racing Green. Perhaps it was the high quality of its interior, or its upgraded 1950-cc engine, or maybe it was just the position of the steering wheel, but to walk around this roadster was to be transported back in time to Silverstone or Brands Hatch in the mid-60s, where this car might have sat in the paddock while Clark and Hill battled it out on track.
Maybe a bit incongruously, our other favorite B was this white ’71, which was a bit more scruffy than some (okay, most) of the other cars at the show. That was actually part of its appeal; whether it was the nicked paint or whether it was the owner’s decision to forgo wire wheels in favor of the oh-so-’70s Rostyles, this was an MG that looked like it was being enjoyed on a daily basis…exactly as it should be in Southern California.
The clear star of the show, however, was Tony Li’s 1958 MGA, being shown for the first time since its recently completed restoration (which was performed mostly by the owner himself, aside from paintwork and a few mechanical bits.) As he took the time to point out some of the car’s details, including what has to be one of the neatest, most perfectly finished under-dash areas we’ve ever seen, it was apparent that Tony’s infectious enthusiasm for his finished product was entirely justified. We kept returning to the car again and again during the show, each time staring in wonder at its perfect red finish, its beautiful tan Connolly hides, and its glistening chrome. The show’s judges agreed, awarding the car first place in a highly competitive MGA class.
Once again, Southern California car culture came through with a typically wonderful local show, with nothing but charming cars (a few of which we’re sure could compete quite nicely at next-level concours events) and gracious owners. The Boots and Bonnets show was a great reminder of why America fell in love with MGs in the first place.
Parking On Grass is the Desktop Concours’ irregular series on California’s vibrant car show scene. Occasionally, cars will not actually be parked on grass.