50th Anniversary John O'Groats Rally

          This is a Rally that we have never yet managed to attend even though it’s relatively close and has been talked about at meetings of the Club with many of our members being regular attenders. We had bought a forlorn and virtually abandoned MG RV8 about eighteen months ago and have been busily working away at it in the hope that it would live to fight another day. As with many projects like this - cars or motorcycles, unless it’s a ground-up ‘nut and bolt’ restoration you eventually come to a point when you think you have finished but become more critical of many smaller details, so then something else is removed, dismantled and stripped, cleaned and refitted. This process can go on for as long as you wish but with another significant ‘milestone’ birthday rapidly approaching, I decided it was time to call a halt to the process and take it for its first MOT in our ownership before another season slipped by! We can always attend to these more minor cosmetic improvements but still enjoy using it meantime.
          Christine and I had a few ‘shakedown’ runs around the Island with the car and sorted a few of the inevitable early teething troubles, eventually booking the Hamnavoe Ferry for our day trip. Up bright and early on the rather cloudy Sunday morning and with the car all ready to go, we put the roof down, the tonneau cover on and away we went! During a chance meeting on the Ferry with Colin Watt with his recently acquired ex-Davie Campbell Lancia, he enquired if we were also going to the Rally and if we would be on the road run. Being a very last minute decision to venture out, this was the first we knew of any such run but it sounded a great idea and gave us the chance to cruise south along the well surfaced A9 over the Causewaymire and then clip the corner off before reaching Latheron, taking a great single track road by Loch Stemster (also recommended by Colin - many thanks!) to arrive at the start in Lybster.


    And a few bikes joined in


    Ready for the road run


We were very pleasantly surprised at the sheer number of fantastic vehicles lined up in the Main Street and enjoyed a brief walk up and down the cars, motorcycles and trucks to take a few pictures. It was good to see Richard and Audrey Shearer in the magnificent Buick with Michael and Susie Shearer taking up the spare seats. All too soon it was time to saddle up and join the road trip of about 30 miles via the A99 through Wick to John O’Groats and onto the Rally field.  This is where the car showed some of its bad manners, being difficult to keep to the same speed as the convoy – one gear being too low and another too high!  It felt like a fuelling fault which I eventually tracked down to a faulty lambda sensor.
It was turning much brighter by now and our initial concerns about keeping the roof down gradually disappeared and sun-block became the order of the day. There was a fine array of vehicles and the public arrived in very large numbers to enjoy this special anniversary event. Lots of food and drink stalls were in attendance to keep us all from wasting away and there were plenty of folk to have a yarn with. A few more of the Orkney contingent arrived by various means so it was good to meet up with some of them again.

Made it there!

    A fine array of vehicles on show


    Some of the entertainment

    The car created quite a bit of interest as there are not many about and few even know of their existence, thinking it’s some sort of conversion; in fact only 307 U.K. spec vehicles were built and only 139 of those were in British racing green, the colour of our car. This exercise was intended to resurrect the MG marque, code named ‘Project Adder’ and involved fitting the fuel injected 3.9 litre all alloy V8 engine from the then current Range Rover into a much modified, zinc coated MG B body shell built by British Motor Heritage at the rate of 15 a week. The external bodywork was made by Abbey Panels – a well respected company often associated with Jaguar.  At that time the specification was quite good, with leather seats, burr elm dashboard and specially made alloy wheels, although strangely enough there was no power steering or electric windows and they were supplied with a rather primitive unlined hood. Back then in 1993 they came with a rather hefty price tag of £26,500. Most of the short production run of 2000 vehicles were sent to Japan, although some of those have now been re-imported as the stringent Japanese emission laws make it very costly to use them there as they age.

We eventually left the field after 4 o’clock and had a steady ride back to Thurso to take on more fuel, both for the car and ourselves! The latter was accomplished at the Weigh Inn en route to the Ferry as we still had enough time before joining the queue for another very pleasant crossing with a very full boat.
Leaving the ferry we only had about 15 miles to drive home, again the roof was still down and as we sat having a coffee later we reflected on what was a great day out with other enthusiasts and pleased that the car - unused properly for almost 20 years had acquitted itself very well – other than the fuelling issue which I’ve now sorted.

Ian and Christine Stallard






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