Vintage British Car Collection
Colin Fitzgerald has a love affair with old British Cars. He started his vintage British car collection back in the late 70’s and went on to establish Octagon Motor Group. He has restored his 1936 MG TA, 1946 MG TC, 1938 MG Tickford Drophead Coupe, 1935 Bentley Airline Saloon and his 1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost all in his home garage. The MG TA that he owns is the very first MG TA ever built making it a very significantly historical car. He is currently restoring his MG TD and continues to refine his collection.
I's just fun machinery. It's like a big Meccano set, it's just like a big tinker toy, it's just fun to play with.
Hi folks and welcome to Center Lane. I'm Bruce Hitchen. Well today I'm at the home of Colin Fitzgerald who has a really lovely collection of vintage British cars. Now these are some amazing cars we've got mg's we've got a Rolls-Royce and we have this beautiful Bentley. Colin has been in the car business himself for a number of years, a car lover his whole life and he's going to tell us about his life with cars and we're going to go for a ride in this Bentley. Now if you like this episode please subscribe to my channel. Now let's talk to Colin.
In 1970 I bought a two-year-old mustang so a 1968 Mustang Fastback that was virtually brand new, two years old. I got tired of the monthly expense. Water pump and then this and that, and the price of gas at 39 cents a gallon. I was running out of money feeding the poor car. And I always liked these cars so I thought, no that's it. Enough of the depreciation and everything else. And I went looking for a TC or a TD. Bought the best TD that I could find in town in 1972, which is over there being restored. And that's what started me into driving a vintage car as my daily transport. From my TD and then I wanted to take it apart and do a better restoration on it so I bought another MG which is my 1936 TA so I could drive it while I restored my TD. While I restored my TD, it's still happening. So since 1976 I've been restoring my TD daily. And I'm actually back at it now. These are the sheet metal pieces that I've just painted. So they're in the middle of getting their wet sand and polish before I assemble them on the chassis.
So the good thing about COVID, I get to do my TD that I've always wanted to do.
What was it about these old British cars that attracted you to them?
This is a 1946. If you go back to 1946 or 1948 and compare a 1948 Pontiac to a 1948 MG, I don't think there's much choice what a young man would like. So to me there wasn't anything else, what else was there? You know as far as old cars, especially if you're looking back in 1972. The MG had the character about it that I liked, that people liked. And I met other people that had vintage MG's and found that the vintage MG community of people were good people. So the cars were great, the people were great, it went well, yes.
Me and a friend were into the old MG's. In 1979 we started a business called Octagon Motor Group, working on MG's. So we hired a bunch of mechanics and started, you know a business on it. So I spent my whole life, well from '79 on, running an MG shop that was predominantly MG. Everybody thought we were nuts because how could you do a business on just MG. You guys are nuts! And we thought no, because you could stand on any street corner in Vancouver and five minutes wouldn't go by, you'd see an MGB driving by. So we started the business and we were busy from day one because in 1979 they were still making MGB's, they were still brand new. And there was lots of cars in Vancouver. Vancouver got probably one third of all of the MG's that went to Canada. So this is a 1946 TC. So it's as far as I know, it's the earliest TC in town. And in our spare time at the shop, we restored it and made the car out of it. It has been to California and back. We've driven it to California and back, my wife and I, two weeks worth of luggage and everything in the TC, to California, have a great time, two or three weeks, and drive it back, a dozen times. Before the war MG was a major car maker and was considered a major car maker and were making deluxe cars. They made the simple sports cars and the larger four-seater cars. They actually made more of the four-seater cars than they did of the two-seat sports car from '36 to '39. And this is a Tickford Drophead Coupe which was their deluxe model that they had a coach builder make for them, that they put in their catalog to sell. So this was as deluxe a body style and design as a car that was made in 1938. So this is your ultimate 1938 car, body, design, etc. There were more expensive cars that had more technology in their engine perhaps, so the the mechanicals weren't as deluxe as other cars but body wise, you didn't get more deluxe than this. It was the well-to-do people that would buy cars of all of like this. And yes, and Jaguar was only just starting and a lot of what MG did, Jaguar copied. And Jaguar had a flare for body design, as MG did. So if you look at any MG way back to 1925, the cars had a look about them. Their proportion, the design, the shape was very nice.
It was a very original car when I got it. Had the original upholstery, the paint looked original but it it had been sprayed over in 1968, but it was very dirty, dusty, worn out so, which was fine. So I took it apart; every nut and bolt, right here in this building.
Did a full restoration. Painted it myself here, most of the fenders and everything there's a spray booth beside us here to paint everything. So painted it myself, did all the mechanicals, all new upholstery, all new woodwork. Did a full restoration. It did take me 10 years to do which was good, I wish it have taken 20, because doing the work on the car was the fun part of doing the car. Because once you finish the restoration, there's nothing to do.
Now the other significant car you have is the MG TA. Tell me about that car and how you got it and what is significant about it?
A fellow I knew was over in England. He noticed an ad that said TA 0251 for sale, and he phoned me at three in the morning to say hey 0251 is for sale. And really, can't be. Because the number 0251 was the first serial number in all the different series, and it's in the books as being, that's it, serial number one. So I said yes, okay fine, buy the car. So bought the car. Shipped it over. So my TA then became my driver and yes, it is serial number one. So it's the first of the T-series MG. MG was owned personally by William Morris. He then, in 1936, sold it to his Morris Motors Group of Companies. So there was this corporate change from the high-performance, twin overhead cam sports racing cars, so they could make cars that the normal person could afford, the normal person could maintain the car, could understand the car, and start doing the volume of cars. Up to that point, if they did 200 of a particular model that was a big production run. When they started the TA, they did 3,000 of that model of cars. So that car historically is probably the second most important MG ever built. The first one of course, being number one that Cecil Kimber himself made for himself. But that was the big change from the sports racing, to the bread and butter MG that we then now know today; evolving through the TC, TD, etc.
I always liked Bentley's and I was going to buy a Bentley when
I bought this but I thought, well no. I shouldn't because people are thinking I'm too hoity-toity because I have a Bentley. And then I found this. It took me a long time to actually find this car to be able to buy this car, it's a very rare car today. So okay fine. A friend of mine designed a tour from Vancouver to Alaska and back. This is in 2009 and Phil with the 25 says to me hey would you like to come as a navigator? We can, we'll only do 10 days because he was still working and I was still working. I said, yeah great, love to. So for 10 days I was navigator in Phil's 1925 Bentley. We were part of a group of, I think was 35 cars that were all pre-war, most of them, pre-1930 Bentleys. And they were quite the car. So after spending that time with them, I came home and I said, to my wife Ayron; I said, that's it, we're buying a Bentley. So I started looking to see what Bentley to buy. Couldn't find a pre-1931 that I liked to buy. I did find this 1935 Airline Saloon, because I wanted a special body, not just a plain-Jane. So I bought an Airline Saloon Bentley and then did a restoration on it, et cetera, et cetera. That's why I have that Bentley. But it still didn't satisfy the desire to have a 20s Bentley. So I kept looking for a 20's Bentley. Couldn't find one, but everywhere I looked, people also had Silver Ghosts for sale. And the more I got looking, well you know, a Silver Ghost, that's an awfully neat car and more available. They made more of them than they did of the Bentleys. And next thing you know this one turns up.
This is a Silver Ghost, which is what Rolls-Royce basically started making and they spent 20 years focusing on making nothing but the Silver Ghost as being the best car in the world. This is a very late Silver Ghost so it got drum brakes on the front which earlier cars only had brakes on the rear so would only slow down. This car will stop on a dime. And this has the London to Edinburgh body which is a skinny little sports body that was only made to do this trial from London to Edinburgh, driving in fourth gear only. And they advertised the fact that they had accomplished that. So then everybody wanted to buy this plain-Jane, sports body. And guys that...no I don't want to sit in the back seat and be driven by my chauffeur, I want to drive the car myself. So they would build this body to sit in the car and drive it themselves. This was the feature of Henry Royce, his masterpiece was this engine.
7.6 litre. It's a side valve, so it's a very slow revving, very powerful, lots of torque. What they were trying to build was a very smooth engine, a very smooth running car. They were building cars for the nobility so that the King would ride in this car, the aristocrats would ride in this car. And all cars back then were noisy contraptions and vibrated and all. And they used to play games that they would have this engine idling at a low rpm and balance a coin on the rad cap that would stay there while the engine was running. Very smooth car. It operates very well. It's got two sets of ignition. It's got a coil ignition which they call battery ignition and it's got a magneto. So there's two spark plugs per cylinder, one run by the magneto, one by the coil. You flick those two on, you set your ignition for early or late, you adjust your mixture and then you hit the start button. There's a tachometer down on the floor, speedo is here and mile counter. Horn. So this is the gear lever.
And this is the handbrake. And the handbrake works great.
So this is the 1935 Bentley. The very sexy Airline Saloon. This was the ultimate design of a saloon car for 1935, made by Bentley.
So this is a six cylinder, inline six, overhead valve, three and a half litre with twin SU carburetor. This engine, was it powerful for a car like this? In its day, yes. And it was considered a large engine compared to the majority of cars that were made. A lot of them were less than two litre 1.1 litre or 1.5 litre. So three and a half litre was considered a large engine. I was looking at different bodies that were made and then noticing this Airline Saloon. I thought well a Saloon wouldn't be a bad car to get having all these convertibles. So I thought okay, Airline Saloon. Then I start looking for an Airline Saloon and they just don't come available. I then find one on the internet for sale out of Philadelphia so I sent him the money, he shipped it to a friend's warehouse in Bellingham. We then drove across with a tow truck and towed the car home. During the 30's Bentley was made by Rolls. So the Rolls-Royce car is what you would be chauffeured in. The Bentley cars what you would drive yourself which was a nice distinction between the two makes that the one company was making.
There's still a distinction though isn't there, even maybe a wider distinction nowadays. Well and and actually at the moment now they've separated. The two companies are not linked anymore. But it's truly an aristocrat kind of a vehicle isn't it. It is.
It gave me a fabulous lifestyle because I threw my whole life into it. So it created a fabulous lifestyle and the community of people that we met. Car people, wonderful people. So yeah, it's been a great great lifestyle, which continues. I've been retired for 10 years now and I get to play with my cars every day all day long .It's great!