At this point we were not yet officially NAMGAR members. We registered and attended GT-1 as the guests of Bruce & Jan Nichols. Jan had injured her knee in a skiing accident and was unable to ride in an MGA; so they invited us
We got there in a Buick (land cruising) station wagon. It was an all day driving event, beginning in a parking lot half-way between us at 5AM and ending up in Harper's Ferry about twelve hours later. Little did we know that marathon driving would bring a new term to our vocabulary: dead-butt. In the early days, marathon driving was the hallmark of getting to a GT. Discretionary cash was not part of the vocabulary or pocketbook, and vacation time was at a premium.
Charles Kuralt (On the Road) was in Harper's Ferry and stayed at our motel. Apparently he didn't think that NAMGAR's inaugural GT-1 was momentous enough to write about. We watched all of his vignettes until he retired from CBS, hoping ....
Rob MacKenzie's Mk II Deluxe
There weren't a great many cars at GT-1: a T-type or two, a Bentley, a Magnette, a T-Bird, and perhaps ten or twelve MGAs and variants. We particularly remember a "turquoise" MGA with a red interior from London, Ontario, Canada, owned by the wild and crazy Rob Mackenzie. This Mk II Deluxe was the first well restored MGA that we'd seen. Even though you cannot see it in the picture, Rob went to the trouble of having louvers punched into the bonnet to improve the air flow over the engine
There was also a very clean, bright red Twin Cam, owned by Reid & Lou Willis. Reid & Lou were the original owners. Reid had been in the Navy (with rank), so Reid, Lou, and the MGA got to see a lot of the world together. Whenever you saw Lou, she looked as though she'd just stepped out of a limousine rather than an MGA. (Diane always said she wanted to be just like her when she ever grew up.) A Magnette, owned by John Wright, also managed to turn more than one head.
Friday night, Ruth Renkenberger, then NAMGAR Secretary/Treasurer, held the "meet and greet" in her room. We think Linda Wright made sloppy-joes for everyone in an electric frying pan, sitting on the night stand between the beds. Or was it in the Wrights' room and Ruth cooked? The room was big enough for two double beds, but not quite big enough for the Friday night crowd. People were on the beds, on the floor, wedged into corners and outside on the grass. Luckily, all of the rooms in this section of the motel were occupied by MGA enthusiasts -- the party went well into the morning. (Diane had anticipated a Harley meet when Bruce suggested a car meet.)
Car Show 1600 Class
The total area of the parking lot couldn't have been more than 150 feet on a side. All the cars in the show fit into this area. As you can see from the picture below, the condition of the cars in the early days varied greatly.
It was an extremely thirsty crowd Friday: the beer supply was completely depleted (oh no!). The next day, Mike Crews, after throwing his passenger seat in the grass, volunteered his wooden rocker- paneled MGA as a beer wagon. He returned a while later with a full keg firmly wedged into the passenger side. We'll never understand why the floorboards didn't give way. Mike also ended up in our shower that morning since he, and several others, were camping in a tent to afford this event. We guessed that West Virginia campgrounds didn't have hot water back then.
This GT established the basic format for many of the GTs that followed: drive like hell Friday to get to the meet site; Friday evening get acquainted party; Saturday morning car wash and show before noon; afternoon rally in the area; Saturday evening banquet; Sunday morning coffee and rolls; then drive like hell Sunday to get home. This meet also set the tone for the car show: there it is - do you like it? And in between were all the wonderful people.
Obviously, we didn't put the Buick in the car show or take it on the rally. We used the time to sightsee in a location that we'd not been to before. While walking around Harper's Ferry, we could see the cars and hear the shifts as one leg of the rally routed the cars through the heart of the village.
If you've never been to Harper's Ferry, it is built on the side of a hill. We don't know who was wheezing more getting through town, us or the 1500s attempting to climb winding streets to get to the top of the hill.
Reid & Lou Willis Rallying
Saturday evening the banquet was held in the local fire hall with standard fire hall fare: kielbasa, mashed potatoes & gravy, and kapusta at $7.00 a head. There couldn't have been more that 70 or 80 people at the event. The fire engines had been parked out front to make room for the tables, but they'd neglected to turn off the squawk box. All during the dinner and the presentations, we were entertained by local fire dispatches. The door and raffle prizes ranged from parts and certificates donated by Moss Motors to a case of pickles. By the end of the evening, the Canadians were raffling empty bottles of Labatt's and Canadian to generate money for the club.
On The Back
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John McMullan, another vocal Canadian, was officially renamed John "McMuffin" after the famous restaurateur Egg. Of course by that time, most folks in the fire hall were feeling no pain.
This was the event that also kicked-off the formation of the Michigan Chapter. In a (long) moment of inebriation, Bruce volunteered the Michigan group (the four of us who were there and those who were totally unaware back in Michigan) to host an event in Michigan that fall, less than three months away.
Steven managed to find and purchase an MGA repair manual for $10. He probably had no idea what he was going to do with it, since we didn't own an MGA and barely knew what they were all about prior to this event. It seemed like the appropriate souvenir. Little did we know.