MGs in Oz
Octagon Newsletter … November 1987
By Philip Sumsion
During our recent trip "down under", we visited Abingdon Motors in Brisbane. We had heard from Tom King via Dave Swackhammer that the owner, Rod Hiley, had some rather special MGs and we were certainly not disappointed.
Abingdon Motors is located at 192, Annerley Road, Dutton Park in Brisbane, Queensland and deals exclusively with MGs and related cars such as Sprites. On the forecourt of the shop, gleaming in the spring sunshine, stood a magnificent MG of 1935 vintage, complete with roundels for the race numbers and those superb external dual exhaust pipes with the ingenious Brooklands cans. This car alone would be enough to attract the attention of any MG enthusiast, but there were greater delights to come!
Entering the front office, we paused for a few moments to admire an MGA twin cam motor on a display stand and then introduced ourselves to Dave Wands, who told us that he would be pleased to show us Rod's cars in the absence of the owner.
First look into the shop, dim after the brilliant sub-tropical sun, revealed an early 'B' undergoing restoration and now at the trim stage. Beyond this familiar machine was an MG of a different era, a magnificent 'K3' resplendent in freshly polished maroon paint and readied for an upcoming vintage race meeting. Before we had a chance to study this rarity, a glance into another section of the shop produced a sight to stir the imagination of any car buff … yet another 'K3', this one in polished aluminium. To have the chance to inspect a K3 at close quarters these days is an occasion indeed, but two of them on the same premises must be unique. Dave told us that both machines were raced on a regular basis, with some success.
In a corner of the shop was a complete frame, the like of which I had not seen before and indeed did not recognize as an MG. This turned out to be an 'R-Type', of which only 9 or 10 were produced in 1935. This car was an out and out racer and the only single seat production car ever made by MG. It may even have been the forerunner of a grand prix car, had not the cruel decision to cease competition work at Abingdon stopped any further development work. This example, which is being meticulously restored by Rod's staff, provided the opportunity to examine the superb engineering and very advanced design of the lightened box section frame supporting the independent torsion bar suspension. This car will be a prize indeed when completed, perhaps we could persuade Mr. Hiley to let us have a photo for the Octagon?
One other feature of the workshop which cannot go unmentioned, is the unique storage system for the huge quantity of spare parts that are stocked. These are held in stacked rows of barrels which have part of the end cut out. They looked like beer barrels and, if so, it must have been a very pleasant task removing the original contents to make way for the MG bits.
We had taken up a lot of Dave's time, so we thanked him for showing us around this treasure trove, staffed by obviously very competent enthusiasts of the marque. Dave thought it a pity that we had missed meeting Rod and hearing some of his many tales of past MG exploits. However, we promised to return to Abingdon Motors on our next visit to Brisbane and we are certainly looking forward to seeing the 'R-Type' in its fully restored state.
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