GoF West '84 International
Octagon Newsletter … August 1984
By Burns MacDonald
GoF West '84 International was held in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, from June 29th to July 3rd. Representatives from over fifty MG clubs throughout North America were present. Due to the requirement of only one registration per family, it was difficult to come up with an exact head-count. It is, however, estimated that approximately seven hundred and fifty people participated in the gathering when all shapes, sizes, genders and persuasions are included. Approximately three hundred cars were present for various parts of the five day event. This figure is considered to be an excellent demonstration of the MG Spirit when you consider that many of these cars were driven over 1200 miles to attend. Needless to say, a record number of distance patches, plaques and awards were given out.
The Gathering this year also differed from previous West Coast GoFs in a number of other ways. As the Victoria MG Club is an ALL model club, and all members would be required to pull it off, GoF West '84 included MGAs and MGBs. This GoF was also longer than those previously … five days as opposed to three, principally to accommodate the addition of the later models. New events were added … generally successful, although some more so than others. An English-style pub night, complete with bawdy music hall entertainment, worked well to break the ice and introduce newcomers to 'the community'. According to many, the cheer and sense of belonging established at the Pub Night seemed to set the mood for the rest of the GoF. Perhaps even more important,. the Pub Night helped to offset the gloom of the first two days of the Gathering for which we had imported genuine British weather … cold, wet, sodden, miserable RAIN. Ever flexible, MG people adapted in true Abingdon fashion and, in a sudden downpour during the MGA/MGB display on Friday, brollies (umbrellas for Triumph owners), popped open one after another like blooms in a spring garden. As if to confirm our members assurances that we do get some sun in BC, good weather burst open us Saturday morning and remand throughout the GoF.
Unfortunately, I won't be able to cover all the events, however some of the highlights are of interest. More than seventy late model (Post-1955) MGs were displayed for voting. Approximately one hundred T-Type, variant and pre-war MGs were displayed. More cars were present at the Gathering but for some reason their owners elected not to display them (a diamond in the rough is still a jewel?!?). The calibre of cars in all categories was extremely high, with the pace being set in many cases by well presented MGs from south of the border and east of the Rockies. (Despite expectations to the contrary, the crazy Calgary club was NOT able to come up with a Stetson to fit on an MGA.) Every model of postwar production MG was represented except a YB and an 1100. Three pre-war examples were in attendance. Despite being subjected to descriptions such as "a pram with headlights', Bob Sayle's sprightly 1930 M‑Type beat many cars out to the picnic grounds at Sooke. Representing before and after pictures come to life, Peter Welch's 1932 J2 was nothing short of magnificent, even after a 'slight' oil leak which Peter experienced during the funkana. It's alter-ego came in the form of Hugh Pite's un-restored, almost-complete and very original J2. The Octagon Motor crew (look Harold, a free plug) came equipped with a similar, almost-complete, alphabet-type racer (a hybrid comprised of various chunks from various models not the least of which was a K-Type).
The Sooke Picnic was an unmitigated success. The over two hundred cars which participated took more than twenty minutes to file through the gate into the forest-ringed meadow. The BBQ'ed salmon was hot, the beer cold and the lumber-jack display entertaining. The Editor was privileged to have our VIP guest Henry Stone along as 'riding mechanic'. This proved to be more functional than ceremonial as the pride and joy of 'Yours Truly' broke down no less than three times on the way back. I had earlier asked Henry if he'd like to drive my 46 TC, however, I really didn't mean with me pushing it.
A dance was held for the MGA/MGB awards and was emceed by our good friend and fellow MG enthusiast B.J. Bennet of CKDA. Prizes were given for best costume (the period of your car). Dave Swackhammer won, dressed as either a Brooklands mechanic or, as some thought, a maintenance man for the Abingdon Sanatorium … we're still not sure. Actually Dave has a handicap … he's one of the few old enough to call the year of his car recent history. Despite some differences in musical preference, the dance seemed to be a success as well. The dance floor was full all the time and so was the bar. What more could you ask for?
The Pre-1955 model car display was attended by more than one hundred cars, as was mentioned previously. People, on the other hand, were a different matter. Apart from the owners, a virtually sea of interested enthusiasts, tourists and gawking on-lookers milled around the cars for the better part of the day. Estimates of their numbers would be impossible, but at times it was genuinely difficult to see the cars for the crowds. This was in no small way attributable to the large amount of positive publicity afforded to the GoF by the media. Symbolizing British heritage, tradition and all the other things that Victorians fancy themselves to represent, the GoF captured the imagination of the local area. Local and national TV networks were present and a local radio station appointed itself the 'Official GoF 84 Radio Station', providing publicity, on-air welcomes to GoFers and hourly updates on ongoing activity. Newspapers were also represented, resulting in a total of three full page spreads and some smaller articles in various issues by two major dailies. It became apparent that this peaked at the Pre-56 car display, particularly as it occurred on a holiday Monday. Needless to say most owners were in their glory with a fresh and rapt audience to extol, with exacting detail, the difficulties of their own particular restoration!
Many new stories will undoubtedly be told as a result of this GoF, however, one of the most unexpected, involved 'Yours Truly', who was approached by, and struck up a 're-union' with the verified original owner of my 46 TC. Originally (and still) a Victoria car, the owner has maintained an interest in MGs to this day, thus drawing him to the Gathering, where an amazed fellow club member presented him to me. Hard to swallow? His name's on the old papers for the car and he arrived again the next day with pictures of the car when new!! A drive around the lot barely satisfied his enthusiasm at finding the car and mine at finding him.
An auction of MG related items was held, ostensibly to assist in defraying the cost of the Gathering. Approximately one hundred-and-fifty items were donated for this purpose and they ranged from the sublime to the fanciful. Included were teapots and cosies, quilts, hand-knit Cowichan style sweaters, tiffany lamps (octagonal of course), art prints, Abingdon MG factory bricks, piston sets, coveralls, mementos, paraphernalia, brick-a-brack, gee-gaws, stuff, miscellany, etc. Did I miss anything? The bidding was interesting, at times vigorous and wrapped up early enough to allow GoFers to take in the Canada Day fireworks display which was visible from just outside the Empress Hotel.
One of the last events in the GoF schedule was, of course, the awards banquet. This was held on the scenic campus of the University of Victoria with snow-capped Mount Baker and the Strait of Georgia in the background. GoFers were bussed to and from the campus from their hotels downtown, by London double decker buses, chartered for the occasion … nine buses in all! A hip of beef buffet was served and 'lashings' of wine were available. Once again our B.J. Bennet served as master of ceremonies for the presentation of awards. The trophies themselves were genuine totem poles, hand-carved and painted by Indian artists from British Columbia. The thought and quality that was evident in the trophies was a reflection of the efforts of member Peter Welch. Luckily Peter got to keep one … legally!
Capping off the GoF activities was the traditional Winner's Circle, which was held beside the quaint Inner Harbour with the Provincial parliament buildings and the Empress Hotel in the background. Completing the picture, a member of the famous Royal Canadian Mounted Police volunteered to 'guard' the display of winning cars, in each of the many categories. As a fitting end to the GoF, it turned out that Constable Braithwaite was himself, an MG owner and enthusiast and posed for many visiting MG shutterbugs. So GoF West '84 International drew to a close. Although a keen interest in the GoF concept has been aroused in many of our members, unfortunately next years Gathering will only be open to Pre‑56 vintage models. Not withstanding this, GoF '85 in Palo Alto (San Francisco area) looks like a good time. By the way, that's WINE COUNTRY … SEE YOU THERE!!!
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