31st July 1963 – 14th March 2016
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The MG's original buff log book shows the second owner to be Michael Ellman-Brown and the third owner as Rob. Mike was Rob’s great friend and MG guru. He confirmed to James in 2018 that Rob ACTUALLY bought the MG in July 1963. Rob was just 23. The reason the MG was initially registered to Mike in London was to have registration JJJ 888 assigned. Mike had a good friend in the London County Council that would allocate available numbers - and he already had JJ 88 on his MGA!
Mike lobbied against significant headwinds to establish the Twin Cam Group within the MG Car Club and was good friends with MG’s boss John Thornley. Rob and Mike drove out many times together, racing cars on the MGCC circuit, having a few rebuild projects on the go over the years, including a super rare single seater 1930s 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. In his childhood James obtained pictures from Mike that recorded the last Twin Cam’s journey down the production line. It bore his registration number JJ 88.
Rob was friendly with John Thornley, MG's then MD. 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 crate engine was fitted in the late 1990s and travelled less than 5000 miles in Rob’s tenure of ownership.)
The MG’s original buff log book shows a number of UK address 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.
31st December 1965 to 6th May 1970: Westgate Lodge, Dedham, Colchester, Essex. This was Rob’s mother’s house.
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. Likely to swap JJJ 888 onto his new Harvest Gold MGB GT V8 and the new plate 2 CMG onto the Twin Cam.
The MG’s original buff log book shows a number of colour changes:
In September 1964, at 5 years of age, it 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.
In August 1967 the car changed identity for the fourth time to maroon, or rather Rolls Royce Regal Red.
In common with his previous car (a supercharged PB) the Twin Cam was raced in many club events. His trophy collection proved successes at Brands Hatch and Silverstone. Off track the car was used for various driving holidays as well as the Cornish honeymoon of Rob's first marriage to Denise, James’ mother.
Rob took delivery of his brand new MGB GT V8 in July 1973. James was born on the 23rd of the same month. JJJ 888 was transferred onto his Harvest Gold MGB. The new registration 2 CMG was allocated to 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 the select and cherished plate system, it was truly a case of who you knew and perhaps even a few pounds changing hands…..Rob told James that "If the number was available, it was allocated" In the days before DVLA clamped down on illegal spacing, ‘2C MG’ was intended to reflect the number of camshafts.
Rob and Denise separated in 1978. James recalls being driven in the MG as a very young child. One time when he was no older than 4, Rob ran out of petrol en route into Colchester; the fuel gauge seemingly stopped working many years prior and a timber dipstick in the boot was used to test levels! Rob had a long walk back to the house to get a spare car and fuel can.
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 in the gallery recording the first time Rob introduced James to Bonnie – who went on to become wife and stepmother respectively. James was aged 6, it was in the Summer of 1979. Rob drove to Silverstone with James sat either on Bonnie’s lap or balanced 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 authorities 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 computerised blue V5. The DVLA showed only 1 former keeper in the V5. At the same time the MGB GT V8 was sold and JJJ 888 gifted to James for a future car.
Despite Mike's 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 completely shocked at the state of the MG.
He organised swift recovery with his family friend David Alston who used 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 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 crate engine and set off for Bootle. He was pulled over on the M6 by the Police. Rob happily recalled the encounter saying he was “well North of 100mph” at the time, yet the officer was more interested in the MG and its history. With Rob producing a Barbadian driving licence and explaining the story, the officer turned a total blind eye to the lack of tax and insurance and – with just a ticking off for speeding – sent him on his way; radioing ahead to ensure an uninterrupted passage from his colleagues.....
Copies of the bill of lading show the MG was loaded safely 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 in container BSLU1601841 for the trip. 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 at the time. Annotated notes showed Barbadian Customs disagreed and a charge of $2650 was assigned. James recalls Rob having to spread some money about to keep the customs on side; restored examples at the time were selling for $75,000 dollars!
The MG enjoyed a comprehensive ground up restoration at the hands of Rob and James. Replacement parts were bought from Mike Green at NTG Motor Services in Ipswich. The car lived on Barbados for 20 years. During this time it featured in car meets, carnival processions as well as spirited trips out. It was used sparingly as the roads on the island were of notoriously bad condition.
It was in the early 2000's 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.
Time passed and, with retirement imminent, the MG was shipped in 2007 to the new family home in Canada. Copies of the bill or lading show the car was loaded onto ‘Pafilia’, a Cascadia Container Line vessel. En-route the MG shifted inside the container. The bumper and rear valance were damaged so Rob took the decision to repaint the entire car and accordingly it was entrusted to Randy Helmer’s Hammer Hobby Shop in St Thomas, Ontario in late 2007.
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 from MG told Rob in the 60s that the only reason the wings were bolt on was because of the ease of repair. Fast forward 4 decades and, despite James’ distinct 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.
James visited the paintshop in 2019 to see if they had record of the paint code. No such records were held but the owner recalled the car and still had a picture of it on his office wall. Apparently Rob would visit every couple of days to check on progress.
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 James from the UK on a visit and subsequently fitted by them both. James recalls many happy hours and memories of them both tinkering together as father and son; working as one and overcoming challenges and obstacles with similar 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.
Rob was officially diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2012 and from then he 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, 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 the disease with humour and dignity, never losing either his ability to laugh nor his impeccable manners.
He passed away surrounded by family and friends in August 2019. He was just 79.