Reading my earlier articles, you know my history with Morris Garages’ fine products. My ’66 MGB introduced me to the world of endless expense, responsive handling and true performance, not just fire breathing pavement melting straight liners of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciated a raw horsepower display as much as anyone but, to me it seemed guiding a high winding small car down a road course with grace and elegance held more appeal than simply devouring anything in your way behind the wheel of a Detroit built incinerator.
Looking back at my Tommy Hoan article I found remarkable similarity seeing Dave Holmes wend his way through Watkins Glen’s paddock aboard the Tommy Hoan MG-TC and encountering Jim Buell’s MG-TC at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the 2013 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Both bore 1949 vintage. Both exuded class in beautiful race trim, the top of their race groups. It’s hard to miss a vintage MG out on the track. I couldn’t resist tracking down and talking to Jim, of Blanchard, Idaho, at my 1st race day’s end.
As with many vintage car racers Jim and his wife Lori keep meticulous records and history of their 4 wheeled family member. Jim’s TC chassis, TC9806, came to life September 27th, 1949 at MG’s Abingdon on Thames facility. Originally equipped with XPAG engine #10562, body type B280 in Clipper Blue with Biscuit Interior and Fawn hood, this beauty currently sports a well maintained coat of Kelly green. The MG-TC sported a London Area 3rd Air Force sticker on the center bottom of the windscreen (Windscreen! I feel British just saying it!). Appearing in Monterey, California during 1966, the car appears to have undergone restoration with exception to wood fixtures. Stickers displaying the US Navy’s Post Graduate School as well as date Aug ’66 showed on the license plate.
In 1968 Bruce Knipe, a Lieutenant serving at Fort Ord, owned the car, named it “Vicky,” and drove it under a British Racing Green body with black hood. 1971 saw the car become property of Steve Thigpen of California’s Carmel Valley changing color again, this time to bright Kelly green, its color to this day. Jim and Lori purchased TC9806 from Steve in 1987. Driving it mostly to club events for 6 years, Jim then parked the TC until a total frame up restoration began in 2000. Beginning with 2 goals in mind,the restoration first sought a car for continuous use in club events, shows and general touring, presenting the car as originally produced. Secondly, Jim wanted a car which, without too much work, transitioned to a vintage race car showcasing the TC’s racing heritage. Jim says his TC definitely exhibits a dual personality. Jim rebuilt the entire car touching, he says, fondly, every nut, bolt and screw. He keeps it in full race trim with ability to change it to touring condition and back to race ready as the mood suits him. I’m not sure who has the dual personality here….car or owner.
In addition to learning about the car, Jim gave me a little insight into Rolex Monterey’s Motorsports Reunion event. Participation results from invitation only. Not just anyone can drive up declaring their intention to race. Each year’s field of about 550 cars results as the Governing Body of the Historics chooses from several thousand applicants. Jim feels it an honor to be part of the historically significant car field not once but several times.
Jim can’t keep his TC on the road alone. At races, Jim receives much needed support from his entire pit crew including former Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, friend and owner of 40 years’ worth of mechanical experience, Jack Harris, wife Lori and Jack’s wife MaryAnn. They work to keep the car’s soul together. Each TC lap enriches Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s history, gracing the storied road course.
Telling me most MG’s race east coast circuits, I would love to see a head to head meet up between 2 great MG-TC examples. Jim says he’d like to run at The Glen and Lime Rock. It’d be pretty cool to watch Jim in TC8906 and Dave Holmes in Tommy Hoan go 4 cylinder to 4 cylinder.
Rebuild photos courtesy of Jim Buell who also offered input on the article.
See you at the track.
Download the full resolution Jim Buell’s MG-TC*