Dave Godwin grins from the driver’s seat of the open 1961 MGA sports car he has just driven 31,000 kilometres from the southernmost city in the world to arrive in Vancouver for a very special occasion.
His is one of five MG sports cars to make the Pan American Highway trek from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina northward through South America, Central America and North America — 18 countries in 121 days.
There are few people who have logged more kilometres in a vintage or classic car, let alone a 54-year-old British-built two-seater sports car, than Dave and his wife Laurel.
Dave operates a vintage car repair shop in Australia but he admits to not being particularly mechanically inclined. Yet he toured with his MGA through Europe and the United Kingdom in 2005, 17,500 kilometres through Australia and New Zealand in 2008, the Silk Road from Beijing to London in 2008, through Africa from Cape Town to Cairo in 2012, Iceland to Sardinia and Sicily followed by Scandinavia in 2013 and now the Pan American Highway drive.
For each trip, Dave Godwin painstakingly plans the route, the stops and the costs. The Pan American Highway tour cost the participants in each car $90,000, including transporting the cars from Melbourne to Santiago, Chile in two containers.
“It’s the people you meet along the way that makes the trip worthwhile,” Godwin says at a reception held by local members of the Canadian Classic MG Club. He says the old MG sports cars were like people magnets, attracting throngs of interested people along the way.
Clubs offered assistance and support, including members of the Ecuador Car Club, Buenos Aires MG Club and the Bogota and Colombia Classic Car Club. The adventurers worked together to perform roadside repairs of everything from failed head gaskets and worn out wheel bearings to broken shock absorber mounts and malfunctioning transmissions. They were even able to come up with a correct alternator for one of the MG cars in a small town in Colombia.
Journey’s end was Vancouver. But, after a brief stop in Vancouver fixing cars at the home shop of local MGA enthusiast Peter Tilbury, Godwin and two other drivers headed north to Skagway, Alaska. They planned to be back in Vancouver to put their well-worn British sports cars on display at the May 16 All-British Field Meet at VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Godwin’s 1961 MGA with its ‘RIP’ (Retired In Paradise) licence plate will be among more than 60 examples of the venerable British sports car on display to mark the 60th anniversary of the sports car’s introduction.
“We love our little cars,” says fellow ‘adventurer’ Susie Slater, a retired teacher from Australia.
Godwin agrees, saying: ‘The MGs are the real heroes. The engines are so tough.”
Before the MGA model, the MG open two-seater helped to introduce the postwar sports car craze to the world. But the cars were underpowered and had 1940s styling and engineering.
The MGA, introduced in May of 1955, was completely redesigned as a low, sleek sports car with a 1500 cc engine and four-speed transmission. Two prototypes competed in the famed LeMans race that year finishing 12th and 17th.
A coupe model was introduced in September 1956, a higher horsepower overhead cam 1,600-cc engine became available in April 1958 followed quickly by a pushrod 1,600-cc engine.
When production of the MGA ended in July 1962, a total of 101,081 had been built by British Motor Corporation in Abingdon, including 9,922 coupe models. A full 90 per cent of the cars were built for export. Cars were assembled from parts kits in Australia, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, Holland, Mexico and even Cuba.
Langley’s Andrew McCombie will be displaying his very early production 1955 MGA at the All British Field Meet. His car is the 528th MGA built coming off the assembly line on November 28, 1955 in the first year of production. He bought the car from the original owner in Abbotsford after seeing it parked in a garage covered in boxes.
The May 16 All-British Field Meet will be an opportunity to see one of the largest assemblies of MGA sports cars and talk to proud owners. That includes Godwin who owns what is most likely the most travelled vintage MGA in existence.
His MGA and three others will be stored in Vancouver for the next year until the owners return for their 2016 tour, driving MG’s across Canada to attend MG2016 in Louisville, KY, and then to drive Route 66 to Los Angeles.
Godwin is also planning his next big adventure for his MGA to carry him and his wife the rest of the way around the world. The next international grand adventure with his MG buddies will likely take them through Asia, Tibet and India — just a sporty little jaunt.
Alyn Edwards is a classic car collector and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. [email protected]