It was 1990. The production line at Abingdon had been shut down for ten years. There had been false starts and might-be’s on the MG production front and the MG name had reappeared in Europe but had not re-crossed the Atlantic. The most welcomed news on these shores was the reappearance two years before of new MGB bodyshells made on the original tooling. But there still remained a dedicated following of MG enthusiasts in Canada and the U.S. Just as frustrating as the lack of new MGs coming in was the lack of responsiveness from those running the main continent-wide MGB and Midget organization that existed then. No elections had been held and none appeared to be forthcoming. Calls for improvement in the club magazine were simply rebuffed. Questions as to how the “club’s” finances were allocated were dismissed with a rejoinder that they only had to disclose that information to the Internal Revenue Service and they were not interested in revealing how much of the club’s income might be falling into the pockets of the entrenched officers.
This state of affairs led to the October 22, 1990 (the tenth anniversary of Abingdon’s closing) announcement of the intent to form a new continent-wide organization for enthusiasts of the MGB, Midget and 1100/1300s. An organization that would be run by and for its members. That would be openly and democratically operated with regularly scheduled elections and officers who would be accountable to the membership.
The inaugural meeting of the fledgling organization was held in John Twist’s famed MG service facilities in Grand Rapid’s, Michigan on a cold, dark December 1990 weekend. MG enthusiasts from across the continent and even from Great Britain were in attendance. The North American MGB Register emerged from that meeting.
Within two months, the voice of the new Register was unveiled. That first MGB Driver was only 40 pages in February/March 1991, but they were pages packed with MG information and stories and of considerable quality. Founding Editor Marcham Rhoade’s stated intention was to make the Driver “…above all, a ‘good read’; something you will want to pick out first from your mail box after wading through the junk mail and the bills!”
The Driver originally was inserted into its envelope, addressed and postage applied by Secretary Jerome Rosenberger at his “Octagon Farm” home. But as the membership grew, this was switched to a mailing house in early 1994.
The first technical column from newly appointed Technical Coordinator Bob Mason appeared in Driver issue number 2 (Chairman John Twist fielded the Tech Topics in Issue 1).
The Register embraced innovations right off the bat like getting an 800 toll-free number and offering event insurance to affiliated Chapters.
Issue #2 (April/May 1991) of the Driver bore the just-received news that the MG Car Club of England had designated NAMGBR the officially accepted MGB register for North America.
The First Register Regional Event was hosted by the Emerald Necklace MG Register in Northern Ohio, the Spring Warmup May 18-19, 1991. The MG Car Club of Toronto hosted the first Annual Convention the following year in Peterborough, Ontario. Don Hayter, a former Chief Engineer of the MG Car Company was the featured guest and dinner speaker.
One year after the inaugural meeting, the Register had over 1000 members and 23 affiliated Chapters. At the 1994 AGM in Atlanta, it was announced that we now had members in all 50 states.
1992 brought controversy and concerns over the intentions of the English MG Car Club when they opened an office in Texas and started contacting local clubs announcing their intent to sign on members and chapters of their intended MG Car Club-North America. The initiative was quickly withdrawn in the face of vigorous protests from the existing North American Registers and local clubs. The North American MG Council was formed at MG ‘92 in Peterborough in response to the MGCC-NA miscue and serves as a forum for communication and coordination among the registers.
The first Service Recommendation List and Membership List was published in the spring of 1993. This listing of member recommendations of MG service facilities continent-wide has become one of the premium benefits of Register membership. This handy book, which will fit in the glovebox, offers peace of mind on long MG treks with its listings of service facilities and members.
1996 saw the fulfillment of the dream of a combined all register meet. In conjunction with the North American MMM Register, the New England MGT Register, the North American MGA Register, the American MGC Register, over 1200 MGs converged on Indianapolis, Indiana for the largest MG meet yet held on this continent. The highlight of a stellar event was the incredible sight of over a thousand MGs making a parade lap of the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and lining up in the infield. At the front of the field was a Cavalcade of MGs featuring nearly every model variant of MG ever marketed in North America. And the success of the event lead to this year’s follow-up with all the Registers once again combining their conventions in St. Paul, Minnesota.
This is only a brief recitation of the highlights of the Register’s first ten years. May there be many more.
Some of our Officers and Coordinators from the last ten years were kind enough to offer the following memories and observations.
Rick Ingram – Chairman 1993-1997
What events of the past ten years of NAMGBR history stand out to me? Missing the planning meeting in Michigan in 1990 due to work responsibilities. Making countless friends (and only handful of enemies) from around the globe. Being introduced to Don Hayter in 1992; Ken Costello in 1993; Geoff Allen in 1994; Lawrie Alexander in 1995; Anders Clausager in 1996; Dennis Gage in 1998; and numerous other “MG personalities” over the years. Losing enthusiasts such as “Damit Dick” Criswell. Driving my MG to each annual convention; the memories of these road trips will always be with me. Actually being thanked by a Register member for driving my MG in the Michigan Endurance Runs– proving that a well-maintained MG actually CAN BE TRUSTED out on the open road. Talking with Burt Levy. Being approached to run for a Register office in 1993. Being able to assist in the planning of Indy ’96. Observing the “pride of ownership” in the eyes of young MG enthusiasts such as Candice Cole, James French, and Jeremy Holdsworth. Having to look up the meaning of the word, “spurious”. The support my family and I have received from MG enthusiasts across the nation in times of poor health and natural catastrophes. The memories of the good times had at the Annual General Meetings held in Indianapolis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Chicago. The good times and good memories of Register events far outweigh the bad ones for me. And I know that there will be many more memories in store for me, my wife Jean, and our MG(s) as long as the enthusiasm I’ve grown accustomed to enjoying with the members of NAMGBR prospers. Happy Anniversary, NAMGBR!
Ken Smith – The MGB Driver Magazine Editor 1991-1997
The First Ten Years! It was a dark and stormy night!—not really—but I recall that it was bitterly cold and dark that December day back in 1990 when a group of MGB and Midget enthusiasts, disillusioned by an apparent disregard of their wishes for a democratic MGB association, decided to form a new organization. The North American MGB Register. This followed a press release on October 22nd 1990, ten years to the day after the MG Factory closed, advising of the impending formation of the Register. Held in the workshop of founding Chairman John H Twist’s University Motors premises, December 1st and 2nd saw the policies laid down and the constitution set for what proved to be the fastest growing MGB organization in North America.
Notables among those attending were Dick Knudson, Ron Embling, Phil Richer, David Heywood, Keith Holdsworth, Jerome Rosenberger, Jai Deagan, Jim Pesta, Larry Rupp, myself and around another thirty enthusiasts in all. A working plan was agreed and founding members left confident that we were on the verge of something big. Minimal advertising followed and enthusiasts disillusioned with the then, current organization serving MGB owners took the new club to their hearts and soon made it the leading democratic MGB club in North America. Affiliation to the MG Car Club and the MG Owners Club in the UK followed and a toll-free hot line was another first for the Register, as was insurance coverage for local chapter events. The number of local chapters quickly grew until today the Register boasts no fewer than 90.
Our very first Annual Convention was held in Peterborough, Canada during 1992 and over the past ten years these happenings have grown in size, complexity and popularity. Register officials took a leading part in staging the giant MG ‘96 event held at the Indianapolis Speedway and each and every one of our Conventions has been staged by local members without reliance on any other parallel event to carry the show! We are honored to have as Honorary Members Don Hayter and Geoff Allen, both of whom were closely associated with the MG Factory, and Ken Costello, father of the MGB V8, and regular contact has been maintained with the MGCC MGB Register back in England. However, an abortive and ill-advised attempt by the MG Car Club to form a North American arm of the parent club was strenuously resisted by the NAMGBR and other major MG Clubs in the States, and eventually foundered.
So, twenty years after the last MG rolled off the Abingdon production lines, we look forward to the next ten years, financially stable and with a growing membership of the greatest bunch of MG enthusiasts in the world!
The MGB Driver Founding Editor Marcham Rhoade published the very first issue just two months after the inaugural meeting in Feb/Mar 1991. A sparse 36 pages, glove-box size, put together under some constraints. Would people send in money for the new organization? Who would we get to print the magazine? Who would write articles for the Driver? However, it soon became apparent that this is what members wanted and the magazine grew in strength and size. We evened up the six issues for the first year by publishing a unique color edition of the Driver for Nov/Dec 1991. Jill-Lee-Jones had come on board as Design & Production coordinator (a position she still holds!) and by Jan/Feb 1992 we were up to 50 pages and the magazine boasted a glossy front and rear cover!
Since then over 60 issues have been produced and our staff of writers has seen some famous names pass through the pages of the Driver. John Sprinzel, Syd Beer, David Knowles, Don Hayter, Geoff Allen and others, have, through their words enhanced the popularity of the magazine. Our Tech advisors are without peer and Bob Mason has set the standard for consistency in advising members with technical questions. Of course, we also pay tribute to our founding Chairman, John H. Twist for his invaluable counsel and advice.
Jai Deagan – Secretary 1994-1997
December 1 and 2, 1990, 614 Eastern S.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 30-40 MG enthusiasts gathered in the shop of John Twist. The purpose of this meeting was the formation of a new MG club, the North American MGB Register. It was an brisk time (the heat in the old shop was less than adequate), it was an tumultuous time (several clubs, here and abroad were competing), it was an exciting time (many of us had been charter members of clubs before, but this was something bigger).
We seemed to have a common goal—enjoy the MG. We all seemed to have a little different idea of how this was should be done. We were, and still are, committed to the idea of preserving the marque and helping owners to enjoy their MGs. Many things have happened since that fateful weekend in 1990. New MGs roll of the assembly line, we have gained some new friends and lost some old ones, but most of all, we have had fun.
Ten years seems like a long time ago. As I recall, I only had two MGs then, now I have five. My wife and I attended our first UML Summer Party in August of 1986. I think there were just about 300 cars in attendance. In 1996 we joined over 1,000 other enthusiasts in Indianapolis to celebrate the marque, the “marque of friendship.” We have traveled from coast to coast and north to south and even made a pilgrimage to Abingdon and the Magic Midget Pub.
Thank you to John, Ken, Jerome, Rock and Bruce for your efforts in the early years. We certainly have enjoyed the first ten years and look forward to the next.
The founding officers were:
Chairman — John Twist
Vice-Chairman — Bruce Wyckoff
Secretary — Jerome Rosenberger
Treasurer — Rock Yarrington
The original sub-Registers and Registrars and the founding registrars were–
MGB — Caroline Robinson
Midget — Bruce Wyckoff
1967 MGB GT Special — Gregg Purvis
1974 1/2 MGB — Steve Harding
MGB V8s — Curt Downing
MGB LEs — Judy Estrada
MG 1100/1300s — Tom Gaylord
Registers Subsequently Added:
Pull Handle Register — Will Zehring – September 1995
100,000 Mile Register — Philip Morgan – January 1996
Original Owner — Pete Cosmides – January 1997
Hammer & Tongs Register — Phil Smith – March 2000
Post Abingdon Register – Mark Jones – January 2011
Original Coordinators —
Public Relations — Ken Smith
Used Parts Exchange — Marty Boysen
Technical — Bob Mason
Regalia — Barby Smith
Electronic Bulletin Board — Dan Zebarah
Convention Coordinator – Jeff Powell – added mid-1991
Service Recommendation Coordinator — Ken Blahnik – added mid-1991
Concours — Dennis Trowbridge – added October 1992
Membership — Robin Weatherall – added Nov 1993
Website — Wayne Kube – added early 1997
Featured guests at conventions:
Don Hayter – Former MG Chief Engineer – MG ’92 Peterborough
Ken Costello – Originator of the MGB V8 – MG ’93 St. Louis
Geoff Allen – who worked at the Abingdon MG Factory
Roche Bentley (and his MG RV8) – Founder and Chairman of the MG Owners Club-England — MG ’94 – Washington D.C.
Anders Clausager – Archivist, The British Motor Industry Heritage Trust MG ’96 Indianapolis
Bryan Moylan – Comps Department – MG ’98 Hagerstown
Ian Pogon, last Chief Engineer for the MG TF – MG2022 Peterborough ON