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Beta the MGB

Ordered through Laughton Goodwins, Kidderminster, Worcestershire in late 1972/early 1973, by my father whilst home in the UK on a business trip (so, important point, VERY unbeknown to my mother! She knew he was in the UK, just didn’t know he was visiting BL dealerships!)

Request was for a US specification Triumph TR6 or MGBGT “which ever you can get first, but preferably the TR6, plus it needs to be British Racing Green with wire wheels”.

Result (due to the various bouts of industrial action at the time) 1 Damask Red MGBGT with steel wheels. Cost was c.£1495. (Dad went for the overdrive and tinted window options!)

Construction happened during March 1973.

Between July 19 & 27, 1973 – 1st Atlantic crossing on board ‘Atlantic Conveyor’ (later sunk by an Argentinian Exocet missile during the Falklands War in 1982).

Delivery was on July 31, 1973 through Adams & Mahoney, 429 East 74th St. on Manhattan's Upper East Side in New York City. (It was around the evening of this day that my mother 1st became aware of Beta’s existence…….).

Beta’s 1st registration was 341 ABE, a New Jersey registration.

July 1975 – 2nd Atlantic crossing, this time on board the ‘QE2’. (We as a family were moving back to the UK).

On August 1st, 1976 ‘Beta’ was issued with its UK registration number UUY 611R, a Worcestershire registration as we lived in the Kidderminster area. (This is now an anomaly as the reg number is 3 years younger than the car. Not possible these days as age related numbers are issued instead).

The importation tax paid on August 3rd, 1976 was £165.49.

During the July ‘76 heatwave Beta was loaned to my uncle home for an extended period from South Africa. (A no-no as the car was still registered in the US at the time). He was pulled for speeding on the M6 and presented his South African driving licence to the motorway patrol officer. “It’s far too hot to figure out why an Englishman using a South African driving licence is driving a British car on US licence plates. ‘Go away’ (or words to that effect) but SLOW DOWN!” said the copper.

Uncle later went on to wreck the gearbox that summer…….

November 1977 brought Atlantic crossing number 3. Back to the US east coast on board ‘Madam Butterfly’. In 1978 Beta was issued with her 2nd New Jersey and 3rd registration number overall; 710 IDY.

In 1980 80% of our family moved back to the UK again. Beta was left in the US for transport for #1 son whilst finishing high school and attending college. The next few years she was used a lot around the New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania areas. That is until big brother demonstrated his clear lack of car maintenance skills and managed to kill the engine whilst on Route 80 one weekend heading for his then girlfriend’s (now wife) college campus in western Pennsylvania.

After languishing in the back yard of his future parents-in-law house for about 12 months Beta embarked on Atlantic crossing number 4, this time on ‘Atlantic Cognac’ as a ‘dead car’. 1 new engine, 2 sill sets, various other touch ups and a respray later she was again registered under ‘UUY’ and spent the next 18 months touring the UK and Europe as she’d be loaned out to a family friend who was temporarily home from Hong Kong.

1984 brought Atlantic crossing number 5. I don’t have a ship’s name for this crossing as this is the only time she crossed in container as part of another consignment. Again, back in New Jersey with elder brother and registered with yet another New Jersey registration number; ADP 66B.

Here she stayed until 1988 when I shipped it back to the UK. Her 6th trip, this time on ‘Companion Express’. In the 32 years I’ve had her she’s been restored 3 ½ times including fitting another new engine (US regular & super unleaded fuels wrecked the other one) with an unleaded head conversion.

Beta is very much a ‘Trigger’s Broom’ of a car. She’ still LHD but is a mixture of US and UK spec parts. After 48yrs the only factory original parts left are; the roof, RH (passenger) side door, steering wheel, steering column & cowl, seat frames, rear drums (not the contents), axle & prop shaft, ‘Abingdon pillow’ dash (but not all the switches), gear stick & knob (but not gator), sun visors, rear seat, left & right hand side windows, 4 out of the 5 Rostyle wheels and interior roof lining. Everything else has pretty much been replaced either through accident damage, failure through old age or it simply rotted itself off the car.

As for accidents she’s had a few…..

1st was in New York City in c. 1974 when a front wing (and probably front bumper) was damaged during an altercation at an intersection. In 1978 the RH side rear wing was damaged after my father fell asleep at the wheel on Route 80 coming out of NY and side swiped another car. In 1992 a truck ran its wheel nuts down the RHS. It was like the pattern from an old Spirograph set down the wings and door – Grrr!. Later that year I span her through a very mature hedge by Manchester Airport after hitting black ice under fresh snow on the back lanes…. Double Grrrrrr! In that one event every panel bar the roof and tailgate was damaged as well as steering rack, one wheel, exhaust and several lights. In 1995 Beta was rear ended by a SAAB just outside Southampton. New rear wing, fuel tank, rear valance and replacement hatch were the order of the day on that occasion.

She’s also led a very active life ….

Since I’ve had here she’s been driven at pace round Donnington Park, to Le Mans several times and down the Mulsanne Straight chasing several AC Cobras and an E-Type Jag and more recently in 2012 around the Spa Francorchamps F1 circuit. Plan for 2020 was to take her back to Le Mans for some more track time. This has been postponed now to possibly 2022 or 2023. Fingers crossed!


Brand new in 1973 – Teaneck, New Jersey

Me, aged 6. I’m now 53!

1st official outing after post-crash rebuild in 1992, somewhere in Cheshire. (2 cars behind is the very 1st MG RV8 sold to the general public. The owner was a Triumph TR fan over MGs. Go figure)

After strip and respray in 2015. I did this myself and unfortunately 6 years later you can clearly see that I am a novice at paint mixing……

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