An iconic rally MGB that contested the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon is to return to the limelight after 50 years thanks to the efforts of volunteers from the MG Car Club’s MGB Register. Rescued from a scrapyard, the restored car will be unveiled on the MGCC stand at 11am during the opening day of the Practical Classics Classic Car & Restoration Show at Birmingham’s NEC.
The Marathon was conceived in 1967 during a period of despondency in Britain caused by a weak pound. Sir Max Aitken, proprietor of the Daily Express, decided to create an event that the newspaper could sponsor, and would serve to raise the country's spirits.
UMD 534F was among 98 cars to set off from Crystal Palace for the gruelling 10,000 mile, 10-day event across 10 different countries, becoming the only sportscar to reach the finish. It was driven by Jean Denton, who was well-known for her motorsport exploits and later enjoyed success as a business woman and as a Government Minister, becoming Baroness Denton in 1991.
Much of the car’s original rally preparation was undertaken by Tom Boyce, a Canadian engineer who would also serve as Jean’s navigator and co-driver for the event. They reached Australia in 42nd place, helped in no small part by an MG Car Club member who sacrificed his own radiator to keep the Marathon MGB going!
Following an email from a scrapyard in April 2015 to the MG Car Club in Abingdon, the car’s authenticity was checked by Bill Price, formerly of the BL Competitions Department. It has subsequently been returned to its period 1968 condition by the MGB Register.
Project Manager John Watson said: “We were very excited to learn of the Marathon car’s reappearance, and were delighted to take it on as a long-term project. Without our Trade Partners and volunteers, who have donated parts, cash, time and skills, we’d have never reached this stage.”
The MGB will be unveiled at the NEC by Pete and Sharron Smith, both of whom helped build the car originally with Tom Boyce and Jean’s husband, Tony Denton.
As well as appearing at the NEC, the car will also feature at a number of events to mark the Marathon’s golden anniversary. It will join a display of Marathon and World Cup cars at both MGLive! on June 2nd and 3rd, and at the British Motor Museum, Gaydon, on July 29th.