2nd Owner – Robert Davis

31st July 1963 – 14th March 2016

The MG’s original buff log book showed the second owner to be Michael Ellman-Brown. The MG’s original buff log book shows the third owner as Rob. It shows he bought the car on the 21st May 1964. When James was researching and speaking to Mike Ellman-Brown it turned out Rob ACTUALLY bought the MG in July 1963. Rob was just 23. The reason the MG was registered to Mike – and it had to be in London – was that he had a friend in the London County Council who pulled strings to get registration ‘JJJ 888’ assigned to the MG! Mike had ‘JJ 88’ on his MGA. The address was 74 Great Russell Street, London WC1. A stone’s throw away from the British Museum.

With at least two published books “Bentley, The Silent Sportscar” and “The Complete Guide To MG Collectibles” Mike was Rob’s great friend and MG guru. Mike established the Twin Cam Group in the MG Car Club and was good friends with MG’s boss John Thornley. Rob and Mike drove out many times together, even racing cars on the MGCC circuit, with a few rebuild projects on the go over the years, including a super rare single seater MG Q Type.

The MG Car Company stopped Twin Cam production in 1961 with just 2,111 examples having rolled off the production line. Mike convinced John Thornley to complete one special car for him – the VERY last MGA Twin Cam. The car was finished in Woodland Green. James obtained pictures from Mike that recorded the last Twin Cam’s journey down the production line. It bore the registration number ‘JJ 88’.

Rob apprenticed with BOAC so was quite the engineer. He too was friendly with John Thornley at MG. When Twin Cam production ended in 1963, MG produced a limited run out 1600 pushrod De-Luxe models, using up the remaining stock of ex Twin Cam’s Dunlop wheels and disc brakes. The works then set about disposing of Twin Cam engine parts; fortunately, he got wind of this and joined a select number of people rescuing said parts; dad picked up a new crate engine and head amongst other bits. This is the engine now fitted to the car and which travelled less than 5000 miles in Rob’s tenure of ownership.  

PERIOD RACE HISTORY, dropping a valve on the way back from Silverstone which holed a piston and destroyed the head. Competition Works hardtop, redesigned the dashboard with the oil and water gauge between the speedo and tacho.

The MG’s original buff log book shows a number of UK addresses and colour changes:

21st May 1964 to 31st December 1965: 36 St Botolphs Street, Colchester, Essex. This was Rob’s camera shop with flat above and garage out the back, In September 1964, at 5 years of age, the MG had its first colour change, from factory black to dark blue. By the end of 1965 the MG was British Racing Green, its 3 colour since birth.

31st December 1965 to 6th May 1970: Westgate Lodge, Dedham, Colchester, Essex. This was Rob’s mother’s house. In August 1967 the MG changed identity for the fourth time to maroon, or rather Rolls Royce regal red. There are pictures of the MG sporting this new colour racing at Silverstone. As with his previous car, a supercharged MG PB, the A was raced in many club events and trophies show successes at Brands Hatch and Silverstone. The MG was used for various driving holidays as well as on honeymoon of his first marriage to Denise, James’s mother.

6th May 1970 to 11th July 1973: 36 St Botolphs Street, Colchester, Essex. Back at the camera shop. The car lived back here whilst a new family home was built in Fingeringhoe, a small village outside Colchester on the Mersea Road.  

11th July 1973 to Unstamped: 31 Alexander Street, Bayswater, London W1. Rob took delivery of his brand new MGBGT V8 in July 1973. His son James was born on the 23rd of the same month. ‘JJJ 888’ was transferred off the MGA and onto his Harvest Gold MGB. A new number, ‘2 CMG’, was allocated onto the Twin Cam. Likely, as before, the MG was registered inside the London County Council catchment with Mike Ellman-Brown to ensure this plate transfer could happen.

This series of plate allocations predated today’s select and cherished plate system, it was truly a case of who you knew and perhaps even a few pounds changing hands…..Rob shared the story to his son; he said the question was simply asked of Mike’s council contact and, if the number was available, it was allocated onto his car. In the days before DVLA clamped down on illegal spacing, ‘2C MG’ was intended to reflect the number of camshafts!  

Rob and his first wife Denise separated in 1978. His son James remembers being driven in the MG as a very young child. He recalls a time when he was no older than 4 when Rob ran out of petrol en route into Colchester; the fuel gauge seemingly stopped recording or working many years ago and a timber dipstick in the boot was used to test levels! Rob had a long walk back to the house to get a car. There were times James remembers sheltering from the rain crouched on the seat or in the passenger footwell under the tonneau cover. There is a picture below of the first time Rob introduced James to Bonnie – who went on to become his second wife. James was aged 6, it was in the Summer of 1979. Rob drove to Silverstone for the day with James sat either on Bonnie’s lap or on the centre armrest.  

Just before emigrating to Barbados in 1980, Rob drove the MG down to Mike Ellman-Brown’s house in Kent where it was to be stored and exercised. In the days before SORN notifications, a call was put into the DVLA by Mike and that ensured that ‘2 CMG’ was locked onto the car and could not be lost despite a lack of subsequent taxation and DVLA computerisation of records. At this time the MG was registered back to Rob’s mother’s house in Dedham, Essex. This was the stated address in the new style blue V5. The computerised DVLA records showed only 1 former keeper in the V5. At the same time the MGBGT V8 was sold and ‘JJJ 888’ gifted to Rob’s son James for when he was old enough to drive.

Despite a commitment that the MG would be stored undercover, the car spent considerable time outside in the Kent elements. On a visit to the UK in 1985 Rob visited Mike for a catch up and was shocked (and angry) at the state of the MG. He organised swift recovery with a good friend – David Alston – who brought a trailer to tow it back to Rob’s sister’s family home in East Bergholt, Essex. It languished there for a couple of years under a tarpaulin. Rob recalled that, despite sitting for such a long time, when it was moved from Kent the batteries had retained power and it started first time, albeit a little rough on stale fuel.

In 1987 Rob bit the bullet and decided to ship the car to Barbados for a full restoration. With necessary shipping arrangements made, he flew over to prepare the car for a road trip to Liverpool where it was booked on a container ship. Without tax or insurance Rob loaded all the spare parts and crated engine on board and set off for Bootle near Liverpool. He was pulled over on the M6 by the Police. Rob told the story saying he was “well North of 100mph” at the time, yet the Traffic Officer was more interested in the MG and its history. With Rob producing a Barbadian driving licence and explaining the story, the Constable turned a total blind eye to the lack of tax and insurance and – with just a ticking off for speeding – sent Rob on his way; radioing ahead to ensure an uninterrupted passage from his colleagues. A different story today!

Copies of the bill of lading show the MG was loaded onto ‘Crispin’, a Booth Steamship Company vessel on the 29th May 1987. It cost £766.94p to ship to Barbados. Described on the document as “travel stained” was perhaps an understatement, but it was tucked up safely in container BSLU1601841.

The car’s ETA in Bridgetown Barbados was 12th June 1987. It landed on the 26th June. Customs paperwork show the stated value of the car was £$1700 Barbados dollars; about £500. Annotated notes showed Barbadian Customs disagreed and a charge of $2650 was assigned. Rob’s son James recall’s his dad having to spread some money about to keep the customs on his side; restored examples at the time were selling for $75,000 dollars! 

The MG enjoyed a comprehensive restoration which involved Rob and his son James. All replacement parts were bought on numerous work visits to the UK, with NTG Motor Services Ipswich being the supplier.

The car lived on the island for 20 years, at 2 addresses, during this time it featured in carnival processions as well as spirited trips out. It was used sparingly as the roads on the island were in a notoriously bad condition. It was in the early 2000s when Rob added the Shorrock Supercharger but it was soon disconnected as he reported the set up was too powerful for the tyres. In 2006 a schedule of upgrades were undertaken with a Ford Sierra 5 speed gearbox conversion, new telescopic suspension, a set of Peter Wood cast alloy wheels and a side exit exhaust. Rob was happy to modify and improve the car on the basis he had owned it and driven it for so long. Sadly the supercharger was lost in a house move later on in Canada.

Time passed and with retirement imminent, the MG was shipped to the new family home in Canada during 2007. Copies of the bill or lading show the MG was loaded onto ‘Pafilia’, a Cascadia Container Line Vessel. 

Sadly en-route the MG shifted inside the container. The bumper and rear valance were damaged so a decision was taken to repaint the car. Pictures below show the extent of the damage.

The car was repainted in late 2007 at Randy Helmer’s Hammer Hobby Shop in St Thomas, Ontario. Apparently Rob would visit every couple of days to check on progress. Rob’s son James was surprised to see that, as well as the new paint, the wings had been ‘de-seamed’ into the body. Apparently both John Thornley and Syd Enever told Rob that the only reason the wings were bolt on was because of the ease of repair. Fast forward 4 decades and, despite James’ memory of Rob DISLIKING this modification, the MG’s wings were bolted back on sandwiching a new seam of epoxy flexible filler in place of the previous plastic trim pieces. The profile was finished by hand.

Unknowingly at the time, this was to be the last major modification and improvement project for the MG in Rob’s ownership.

A new Peter Wood steel exhaust header/manifold was brought out by Rob’s son James from the UK and subsequently fitted by them both. James recalls many happy hours and memories of them both tinkering together; working as one and overcoming challenges and obstacles with identical thought processes.

In Canada the MG was used sparingly on summer days, for picnics at the lake and the odd ‘local’ car show (up to 100 miles away). On at least 3 occasions was driven up to the family’s holiday cottage; a 600 mile round trip at the beginning and end of summer.

Alzheimers was officially diagnosed in 2012 and Rob was slowly robbed of his memories, his ability to maintain the car and ultimately his drivers licence. Sitting in the garage as a non-runner Rob’s wife Bonnie took the decision in 2016 to sell the car (and the family holiday cottage) in order to contribute to Rob’s long term healthcare. Rob battled with the disease, never losing his ability to laugh and his impeccable manners until he passed away, surrounded by family and friends, in August 2019. He was just 79.

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