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    Ten amazing clubs, nominated by you, one big judging trip. This is how we chose Britain’s Best Classic Car Club


    It has taken the best part of a year but, after you told us which of Britain’s local clubs we should visit, we set off to find the answer to the question: which is best? We’re now ready to reveal the winner.

    But before we do, join us on the giant classic car run around Britain that meant we could make an informed decision. Along the way, we discovered some incredible cars and great stories. We also realised that the classic car hobby is evolving. The thriving clubs, the ones which are growing, are the ones that make fewest demands. They are informal, fun and give those who turn up the freedom to do their own thing. They are welcoming, multi-marque, don’t discriminate on age or condition and they are all typified by a distinct lack of snobbery. We would have happily joined any of them. They are, quite simply, all winners.

    The journey itself was a proper blast. We met friends old and new, overcame obstacles, were introduced to some fantastic driving roads and, of course, were wowed by the cars. We also had a yearning to head further north and west in particular. If this had been at trip to visit the top 15 clubs voted for by you we would have been heading deep into Scotland and Northern Ireland. So we start with A picture of us looking west from West Wales… we Promise to cross the Irish Sea soon.

    / #1988-Citroen-CX22-TRS / #Citroen-CX22-TRS / #1988 / #Citroen-CX / #Citroen / #Citroen-CX22

    I bought this CX in 2012 after a long search to find one of the 12models of this type left. With that, and the fact it is designed to eat high mileages, he was bound to bring it. Given its regular long-distance use, he had little to fear from unexpected happenings.

    / #1980-Triumph-TR7 / #Triumph-TR7 / #Triumph

    Danny Hopkins
    It had lived under the flatbed of an old lorry for ten years, so was unprepared for such a huge journey, but with days to spare Danny managed to service it, repair the bonnet and electrics, and a fit new battery and tyres. So, it would be able to make it to the start.

    / #1972-MGB-GT / #MGB-GT / #MGB
    Matt Tomkins’

    With rebuilt engine fitted and oil pressure achieved a week before the off ,Matt pressed the ’B into use and managed to cover 400miles in just four days. At this point he declared it ‘run-in’, changed the oil then pointed the nose towards Pembroke with hope in his heart and an AA card in his wallet.
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    Car #MGB-GT / #MGB / #MG
    Run by Greg MacLeman
    Owned since July 2013
    Total mileage 63,304
    Miles since December 2016 report 189
    Latest costs £938


    The second half of 2016 was never going to be easy for me due to an impending flat purchase. The difficulties were compounded by staying at my brother’s place in Sidcup, Kent until the sale was finalised. A sofa bed was less than ideal, but it was the lack of parking that really worried me – not helped by the MG’s MoT expiry date falling at precisely the same time.

    With that in mind, I took the car for an early test to ensure that it was mobile should it require any serious work. Sadly, it did.

    The passenger-side sill was the main culprit. After I climbed into the inspection pit, it became clear that the rear portion of the sill was little more than a crusty coating of underseal, feeling more like a damp Weetabix box than solid metal. I knew that there was a problem in the making from the outside, too, where the paintwork was visibly bubbling at the lower corner, covering an area roughly the same size as my open hand. The second issue was a failing wheel bearing – a factor I’ve attributed to the strange, intermittent noise that I’d heard while returning from Paris earlier in the year. On top of those woes there were a number of smaller gripes also needing attention.

    With ‘London weighting’ affecting hourly rates as well as pints, I opted to take the car back to South Lincolnshire, where a recommendation from a local garage led me to an excellent bodyshop. They don’t normally work on classics, but made a welcome exception due to me being – in spirit at least – a local.

    The MG stayed there for longer than expected, but the work was carried out to an excellent standard. Instead of just using a small repair section, a larger piece was cut from an entire lower rear wing, which was supplied by the MG Owners’ Club, while a repair panel was fabricated for the underside. The paint match is astounding, and if they’ll have the car back, I’ll definitely be putting more work their way.

    Despite sitting for weeks on end, the B burst into life at first kick for the blast back to London. A 70mph cruise was just what the doctor ordered, having been away from the car for so long. Not even the blinding low sun, salty roads and a faulty windscreen washer could dampen my mood. The car was pulling so well I’ve resolved to get it on a rolling road to see just how many ponies have been corralled by its performance mods, and to set a benchmark for future enhancements.

    I took the car straight to my usual garage to have the wheel bearing replaced, but by the next day it was clear the washer jet was the tip of an iceberg. A litany of niggling ‘fails’ followed, including an intermittent horn, brake imbalance and worn tyres, which, irritatingly, hadn’t been picked up on the MoT just 120 miles earlier. In the end it cost £398, but the B now has a clean bill of health – probably its first since the three-day week and certainly the first during my ownership.

    By the time the latest round of repairs was complete my wallet was nearly £1000 lighter, but things were looking up. The new flat has that rarest of London attributes – a garage. For the first time since moving to the capital three years ago, the car can finally be kept away from the elements. Before the paint had even dried I’d cut a piece of carpet to cover the floor, which will make working on the MG much more comfortable. There’s even a ‘spares mezzanine’ (as dubbed by Elliott), although that is currently occupied with decorating detritus. The only downside is a lack of power, which one rogue on Facebook suggested I ‘borrow’ from the ideally located security light.

    As well as keeping the GT dry and secure, I’m hoping that having a dedicated space will give me the impetus to take on greater maintenance challenges, as well as tackling a few upgrades. And if that doesn’t, getting stuck with a bill for nearly £400 certainly will. MG fanatics of South Croydon, I will at some point be needing your help…

    After three years living outside under a cover, the MG finally has a proper garage in which to shelter from the elements. Note handy ‘spares mezzanine’.

    Rear of the sill needed extensive repairs.
    With fresh metal welded in, the body is masked up and primed ready for fresh top coat.
    B is dwarfed by moderns in a local car park.
    Two new tyres were needed for the MoT.
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    CAR #MGB-GT / #MGB / #MG /
    Run by Greg MacLeman
    Owned since July 2013
    Total mileage 62,494
    Miles since July
    2016 report 1795
    Latest costs £379


    I’m surprised that I haven’t received any hate mail over the past two years. Every time I write about my MG’s knackered clutch (and take absolutely no steps towards sorting the problem), I’m sure most of you are frothing with frustration. I was starting to get the same feeling from the lads in the office, too, and with a trip to the Le Mans Classic looming – and the memories of last time’s horrific journey home still resh in my mind – I eventually relented and let Martin Port fix it. He was by far the most vocal, so I assumed he’d run out of things to do to his Land-Rover.

    I dropped the car at his in-laws’ place with the trip to Le Mans just a week away, and we got to work draining the coolant. Or we would have, had there been any in the radiator. Port was unimpressed. Just days before, the car had failed to proceed when a leaking heater control valve shorted the distributor and left me stranded at the side of the M25. Despite a valiant effort from AA patrolman Jamie – not to mention an entire roll of radiator repair tape – the B wound up getting a lift home on the recovery truck. I raided Martin’s parts bin and had it working again within an hour – albeit forgetting to top up the radiator…

    After hours of enduring my help – I managed to get a spanner stuck against the block while undoing an engine-mount bolt – we had all the ancillaries removed and the engine ready to be lifted free. The coal fires of the C&SC website don’t stoke themselves, however, so I had to dash back to the office before we got to the exciting bit. Imagine my surprise when, just a couple of hours later, I got a text from Martin with a picture of the brand-new clutch fitted, and the engine ready to be dropped back into place.

    I couldn’t wait to collect the car and see what it would be like to finally drive it without the constant fear that it would refuse to go into gear at traffic lights. My enthusiasm was tempered after seeing the MG parked at Thatcham station. Or rather, the stream of oil sluicing onto the hard-standing beneath. Hopes that it was just a case of being overfilled were later dashed, and we suspected that it was coming from the crankshaft oil seal – even though you can’t get to it without taking off the flywheel.

    The only possible explanation – having spoken to a few experts – is that pulling the end of the output shaft out of the spigot bush has revealed some wear and disturbed it enough for it to start leaking.

    A couple of miles behind the wheel confirmed that a few drops of oil was a price worth paying. It ran like a dream, slotting through the gears beautifully and not once resisting being returned to neutral.

    Faith restored, it was all set for the convoy to La Sarthe alongside the Landie, Citroën GSA and Triumph 2.5PI – plus, among almost 20 others on the C&SC Reader Run, the beautiful Bentley T1 of James Millar – and the altogether more care-worn Volvo T5R of Mark Dunscombe.

    Past trips to the continent have yielded fantastic tales for these pages, from changing fuel pumps in the pitch-black Ardennes to limping for hours on three cylinders and threadbare tyres, but this journey was blissfully uneventful – the MGB simply rolled along for mile after trouble-free mile. At this rate, I might have to buy something else to complain about.

    THANKS TO Beech Hill Garage: 0118 988 4774; The long-suffering Martin Port

    Day one, 4pm: Port has removed the engine and sets about taking off the old clutch. By 5:30pm, he’d replaced the pipework, too.

    MacLeman trying to stay out of Port’s way. The new clutch was sourced via Beech Hill. Clutch release bearing was replaced, too. Fresh pipe from master cylinder to slave. Coolant leak shorted distributor on M25. Essential preparations for the Le Mans trip.
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    Car #MGB-GT / #MGB / #MG
    Run by Greg MacLeman
    Owned since July 2013
    Total mileage 60,699
    Miles since March 2016 report 658
    Latest costs £460


    My previous report highlighted a problem with the MG’s suspension, one that I had been ignoring ever since I bought the car. Crossing Lincolnshire’s bumpy roads had the front end bouncing all over the place, while the offside dipped alarmingly during hard cornering – not really confidence inspiring. It was my mother who proved the final straw. I can’t remember exactly what she said after our trip to the shops, but she looked a bit like Will Smith’s finger-wagging mum in the opening sequence of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and had turned a queasy shade of Tundra.

    My first stop was the MG Car Club, of which I’d recently become a member thanks to a Christmas present from my old man – a fellow MG nut who sparked my interest in these cars a number of years ago.

    I ordered a pair of reconditioned dampers, which were uprated in firmness by 25%, and a set of sporty front springs that would also lower the car by around an inch. The package was completed by Super- Pro: the firm’s sales manager, Nick Beal, generously offered a set of polyurethane bushes after hearing about my refurbishment plans.

    Fitting them was not beyond my abilities, but time was running short to get the car ready for my wedding, so I dropped it off at Tomblins Garage in Pinchbeck. It has looked after my family’s vehicles for years and the chaps were happy to stick the B in the back of the workshop and work on it when they had the time. I could not have been happier with the result. The MG has gone from loose and rattly – and at times downright scary – to sure-footed and comfortable. I didn’t realise just how much road chatter, vibrations and crashes were being transmitted straight to the steering column.

    Unfortunately – if not predictably – the suspension woes weren’t the only thing that needed seeing to before the MG took up its weddingcar duties. The mysterious clutch problem that has haunted the BGT for the past couple of years was also a concern. Having exhausted my own talents, and the patience of the rest of the C&SC team, I took the car to MG specialist Beech Hill Garage to get its expert advice.

    It had been on the ramps for only a few minutes before the suspected culprit was tracked down: a worn clevis pin from the master cylinder assembly. The entire unit was quickly replaced and the drive back to Twickenham an utter joy until – just 20 yards from my front door – the lever once again snatched when disengaging gear and refused to budge from neutral.

    I reluctantly accepted that such an unreliable vehicle wasn’t the best mode of transport for the most important day of my life, so issued an all-points-bulletin for wheels.

    My prayers were answered by the lovely Lindsey Dipple from Jaguar Land Rover, who had just the thing for the job. Like the B, it was a twodoor coupé in British Racing Green: an F-type V6S. Had I been in the MG, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the church on time! The Jaguar wasn’t the only interesting vehicle involved in the big day, of course. My old friend Matt George offered his ’68 Volkswagen Beetle – a genuine Hermosa Beach car – to ferry my fiancée around, while his Triumph 2000 had lots of room for the rest of the bridal party.

    As fantastic as the F-type was, it was great to have the old cars around – especially ones that I’ve had so much history with. The drive from Stamford Methodist Church to The George Hotel was hugely memorable thanks to the Beetle. It was my first drive of the VW, while the 2000 is set to carry us on this year’s Club Triumph Round Britain Reliability Run. Clutch problems aside, I’ve never been more excited about a summer of classic motoring.

    Beech Hill Garage:
    Jaguar LR:
    Amy Shore:

    Clockwise, from main: even the Beetle’s smiling; F-type dwarfs BGT; Laura’s transport; fitting new master; sitting pretty on fresh dampers; weepy old ones. Inset: poly bushes.
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    CAR #MGB-GT / #MGB / #MG / #MG-MGB
    Run by Greg MacLeman
    Owned since July 2013
    Total mileage 60,041
    Miles since August 2015 report 1571
    Latest costs £150


    The unseasonably mild end to 2015 kept the gritters away from Richmond and meant that my MG was pressed into daily service. It didn’t take too long for the increased mileage to take its toll, however, the main victims being both trackrod ends. I’d spotted their torn and perished rubber seals while topping up the lever-arms, so I popped over to Moss Europe for a pair of uprated replacements. They were fitted while the B was in for its MoT test. Despite the clean bill of health, I’d noticed an increasing number of squeaks and rattles coming from the car, many of which I’d pegged as a wheel bearing. Trivial enough to put to the back of my mind, until I reached the multi-storey car park by the office each morning when the racket would get much worse. So I asked Port – whose eyes lit up at the prospect of getting under a car – to take a look. Within minutes he’d diagnosed shot propshaft UJs, and by that afternoon – thanks to the ever-helpful staff at Moss – I had a new replacement. I spent a cold, rainy morning laying under the car fitting the prop, which has transformed its character. The ‘phantom bearing’ disappeared, as did most of the other mystery noises. Result. I could then finally enjoy the car again so, instead of driving my fiancée’s modern back to the family seat, I took the B. Five hours from Twickenham to Spalding wasn’t the dream trip I’d planned, but having the car over the festive break at least let me visit friend Mike Matthews. He rode to the Nürburging on the car’s ‘parcel shelf’ in 2013, and had just bought a house in the picturesque Rutland village of Ketton.

    The blast back across the Fens via Essendine, Toft and Twenty following an impromptu photoshoot went a long way to making up for the hours lost on the M25. I was so involved that it was too late to return the gesture when I noticed a wave from a powder blue, Spridgetshaped blur heading in the opposite direction. Sorry if you thought I was being rude. I even passed the historic home of BRM in Bourne. It wasn’t the smoothest journey, though. For the flattest part of the UK, the roads certainly are bumpy, hinting at an impending suspension rebuild. Better get the spanners.

    THANKS TO Moss Europe: 020 8867 2020;; Mike Matthews, for bed, board and beers

    Trackrod end was almost at breaking point.
    Fresh prop silenced the noisy drivetrain.
    BGT part-way through an epic drive along favourite Fenland back-roads during the Christmas holidays.
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    Tony Dron

    Never speak ill of the dead. It’s wrong and I won’t. However, so much nonsense has been written about Ken Costello, who died in July aged 88, that somebody just has to put the record straight.

    Ken, a successful club racer in the 1960s, gained greater fame after that by converting MGBs to Rover V8 power. That embarrassed British Leyland, sparking a long-running ‘David and Goliath’ battle. Leyland-bashing has been a popular sport for decades, which perhaps explains why Ken’s long obituaries were so one-sided, casting him as the brilliant engineer who devised a faultless MGB V8, yet received nothing but hostility from British Leyland for his trouble. The full story was a bit different and I must be honest: in 1973, the Costello MGB GT V8 that I tested for Motor magazine was seriously under-engineered.

    Without doubt, British Leyland was then dithering over the very future of affordable sports cars. The British giant owned Austin-Healey, MG and Triumph TR but seemed unsure of what to do with them. American demand for affordable British sports cars, so strong for two decades, was tailing off. Leyland people never grasped that US buyers weren’t tired of sports cars – they wanted new designs. Here in Britain, enthusiasts were turning instead to the Ford Motor Company’s stylish, modern, highperformance Escort models.

    When Ken, the cheeky chap from South London, revealed his MGB V8, the news caught British Leyland with its trousers down. Yet again, an obvious opportunity had been missed. Rover had bought the lightweight 3.5-litre Buick V8 engine design, modified it and launched it in the P5B saloon in 1967. It then went into the Rover 2000 saloon as the P6B and Peter Morgan secured a supply of engines to create his soundly engineered, successful Plus 8 in 1968. Ken’s idea of revitalising the old MGB with that V8 was hardly a brainwave but it was exciting to me. Having run out of money in motor racing, I had joined Motor magazine’s road test team and we were really keen to test a Costello MGB V8. But Ken refused to lend us one.

    When a glowing road test of a Costello MGB GT V8 appeared on 25 May 1972 in Motor’s arch rival magazine, Autocar, we were frustrated but remained enthusiastic. Meanwhile, at a private dinner, I challenged a senior Leyland executive about Costello’s car. Hinting at Leyland’s forthcoming MGB GT V8, he implied that Ken’s car was underdeveloped. For a start, the standard MGB/MGC gearbox, as used by Ken, was not strong enough.

    Early in 1973, a helpful reader offered us his low-mileage car for a road test. As expected, the performance made the ordinary B look very silly and even made mincemeat of the poor old MGC. Ken’s car managed 0-60mph in 8.0 seconds and was about 20mph faster than a standard MGB GT. Our figures were almost identical to those achieved by Autocar but, unlike our rivals, I had noticed ‘nasty banging noises inside the transmission tunnel’, ‘a degree of rear-wheel steer’ and the fact that ‘clearly the ordinary B ’box is operating near its limit’.

    When challenged, Ken revealed his investment in a completely new, stronger, five-speed gearbox of his own. I never got to try that – by the time it finally appeared I was out of journalism and back in motor racing again.

    My road test (pictured, left) was published on 2 June 1973, and soon after that we heard that our unfortunate reader’s gearbox had broken, as predicted by my Leyland contact. By the way, I had no idea then that our reader, Simon Park, was about to become a famous composer. In September 1973 he took the number one slot in the British singles charts for four weeks (Simon Park Orchestra, Eye Level ) and never looked back.

    Meanwhile, Ken – ever belligerent – carried on battling away with Leyland. One of his later projects, the Costello TR7 V8, was listed as an exhibit at the 1977 London Motorfair. By that time Ken had strong backing and his TR7 V8 was probably excellent. Leyland Cars, however, was toying with its own V8-powered TR7 and the Motorfair organisers caved in to their single biggest exhibitor. Ken’s stand was cancelled at the last minute.

    We know now that anyone who really wants an #MGB-V8 roadster should go for an RV8, a superbly engineered retro model that was properly designed in the 1990s by British Motor Heritage under the one and only David Bishop, the ultimate hero of the MGB V8 story.

    Back in 2011 I happened to meet Simon Park at Race Retro. Years earlier he had forgiven me for ‘wrecking his gearbox’ and, over lunch, he recalled his old #MGB-GT-V8 / #MGB-GT / #MGB / #MG : ‘That car was complete sheet. It was under-engineered but I didn’t know any better then. You know, I got a great deal of trouble from Ken Costello for letting Motor test it.’ I’ll bet he did.
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    Run by Alastair Clements
    Owned since January #2010
    Total mileage 7371
    Miles since December #2013 report 351
    Latest costs £37


    New responsibilities at work have unfortunately meant that my classics have not received nearly enough attention - hence the paltry mileage figure above. That’s been accentuated by having too many old cars, so with that in mind I decided that it was time to pare back the collection. Inevitably it was last in, first out - so the #MGB-GT has now gone. The Magnette, however, isn’t going anywhere - my kids would never let me part with it! - but it now needs some TLC.

    That fact was brought into sharp relief when I went to renew' its (not legally required) MoT. I always take the MG to mate Tim Smith in Crawley, not because he’s easy on the car but because he understands classics, and if any post- test work is required I’m confident I'll always leave in a safer car than I arrived in.

    Remembering last advisory on a rake imbalance, before the test I had a good look at the front end and discovered that the nearside drum is ovalled. I freed the cylinder and adjusted the shoes back a bit, which improved feel, but there is still some pulsing through the pedal that I will have to address.

    As a result, I acquired the same advisory. What I was not expecting was for Tim to point out corrosion breaking out at the front of both sills. The fresh underseal I promised the car last year never happened, and I’ve paid the price.

    The cabin of the #MG #Magnette remains its great joy, but keeping it smart has proved frustrating of late. A generous dose of Auto Finesse hide food has revived the cracking driver’s seat bolster, but my attempt to replace the driver’s door pull has been unsuccessful. I did think I’d finally found a set of sunvisors, for which I paid £20, but it turns out they’re not Magnette items, so if anyone has a set for a Z-type they want to donate, please get in touch.

    On the plus side, I’ve tracked down a workshop manual that’s good enough to be complete, and tatty enough that I won’t mind using it with oily fingers. Now I just need to find the time to use it!
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    Run by Greg MacLeman
    Owned since July #2013
    Total mileage 57,280
    Miles since September report 144
    Latest costs £24.95


    Upon receiving bad news most people undergo five distinct stages, or so say the men in white coats. The first of these is Denial, which I displayed with aplomb in my May report. After finding slight bubbling and cracking to the #MG s paintwork, I wrote: ‘I’m currently reassuring myself that its probably just the outer sill, and definitely not anything more serious.’

    Finally manning-up, I decided to see once and for all the extent of the damage, so put on my overalls and grabbed a screwdriver before jacking up the car to have a poke around. The wise old owls among you will have been able to see what came next from miles away: I gently stabbed the dodgiest-looking bit of underseal and put my entire hand through the passenger-side sill.

    Stage Two: Anger - mostly directed towards myself for not carrying out the same exercise when I bought the car.
    I’m only now entering Stage Three: Bargaining. So far, this has involved trawling the internet to try to cost the job, which it seems will cost me a minimum of £700 per side - excluding paint and finishing. The next stage is Depression.

    I’ve got an appointment with a top bodyshop lined up this autumn, so decided to take my mind off bodywork woes by focusing on keeping the car running. Which has proven tricky, given that the clutch problems suffered at #Spa and #Le-Mans have become progressively worse. It got so bad that I eventually decided to replace the slave cylinder. That was a breeze compared with bleeding the clutch, a task for which art editor Martin Port nobly stepped forward, and performed with aplomb.

    The car’s weeks in dry dock did offer me a great chance to carry out a few more improvements, chief among them fitting a Revotec electric fan one lunchtime with help from Port, Page and Pittaway. I was sick of feeling panicky every time I got caught in traffic, so decided to finally take the plunge. When the car is back on the road, I will no doubt be glad that I did - the reassuring whirr should mean that I will no longer come out in a cold sweat at the thought of tackling the M25.

    Despite the improved cooling, there’s still a big part of me that feels as if making improvements such as that to the car in its current state is akin to swabbing the decks of a sinking ship. I’m still a long way off Stage Five: Acceptance.
    It was clear all was not exactly well, but...

    ...close inspection revealed the full horror.
    Port in his role as bleeder of the clutch.
    Control unit for the Revotec electric fan.
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