On Monday, May 3, I happened to be at the home of fellow “Real MGs Have 4 Doors” aficionados Wayne and Dee Johnson. Wayne and Dee were all excited about a phone call they had received from an old racing crony of Wayne’s. Wayne and Dee, of course, are very excitable whenever the word Magnette (or MGs with 4 doors) is mentioned. Mrs. Thompson told them she had decided it was time to sell her Magnette, which she had owned since new. I remember saying something like “Wow, that sounds cool. Let me know what happens”. I said to myself, “I need another Magnette like I need ????” I already had 3 1/3 Magnettes, including a 1955 ZA that the Johnsons had previously fixed me up with, because it was 5000 times better than the ZB I had previously planned to restore.
Tuesday, May 4 was our San Diego MG Club meeting, and we happened to sit next to the Johnsons, and Wayne had pictures. The car was crammed into a garage, hard to see details, and the car was dusty. During “Show and Tell”, Wayne proceeded to tell everyone about the car, and that it was “rust free.” I said to myself, “No Magnette is rust free.” My wife Diane’s eyes glazed over.
Nonetheless, I told Wayne and Dee I’d like to look at . . . what the hey! A date was arranged, and Wayne was nice enough to go with me. They had removed the custom car cover and cleared all the stuff from around it. I had brought a pick, strong flashlight and magnet (a magnet to check a Magnette). My first impression was how absolutely complete and unmolested the car was. Little “Magnette” details like the clock were still there, the very special rear view mirror, the beautiful MG-octagoned intake manifold, all the wood trim was intact. But, I was there to look for rust. I looked, and I looked. Just like the A’s most of us are familiar with, there are just places where you absolutely know there is rust on a Magnette—stills, bottom of doors, bottom of spare tire “well”, boot floor, wheel wells, “dog leg” areas by all fenders, lower sections of fenders, etc. I checked ‘em all. Totally rust free. I couldn’t believe it! The bottom of the car is clean—not really even surface rust.
Little things you rarely see . . . a California “black plate” car (meaning the car has had the same license plates since the 50’s), service stickers on the door jambs, the registration mounting on the steering column in a plastic holder. Back “in the day”, it was required that your car’s registration be readily visible from the outside of the car.
Things like the chrome trim around the windows was perfect. I began to realize that as nice as the other ZA was that I had planned to restore, this one was far better. We then entered “negotiations”. Let’s just say 88 years-young Mrs. Millicent Rose Thompson knew what she had! But, in the end, we agreed. I promised to take good care of it, and that I would make it my goal to give her a ride in it before she left us. She said she was definitely planning on being here for her 90th birthday, but wouldn’t make any guarantees after that. So, the pressure is on! She was both sad to see it go, but I believe genuinely pleased to see an enthusiast have it. She feared someone buying it to “hot rod” it. In fact, she said she would not knowingly sell it to a hot-rodder!
I went back a few days later to pay her, and she had found the original Bill of Sale, the original Owner’s Manual, the original factory warranty from Nuffield, and lots of other history
I believe she and I have struck up a neat friendship, which I hope to cherish and nourish. I had talked to my wife that it would be neat to at least temporarily call the car “Millicent” in her honor. After all, it is thanks to her vision and passion that she chose to always store this car inside, and keep it covered. She never allowed it to be molested. The car has been up on jacks for many years. I told her I would like to call the car “Millicent” in her honor. I got a big smile. Then, I made a mistake. I said something like “Maybe Millie for short?” “NO! I have loved my name for 88 years. It’s a beautiful name, If you’re going to call the car “Millie”, I’d rather have you NOT call it anything at all. NO!” Ooops. Then I said, “I noticed on the DMV registration tags, that your middle name is Rose. That is really a beautiful name. Millicent Rose.” An even bigger smile than the first one. That’s it: Millicent Rose! It not only sounds better, it rolls off the tongue so much nicer, and just has a natural rhythm to it! And, it’s no longer a “temporary name”.
As we planned the second trip back to get the engine (which was NOT in the car) and some other bits, Millicent was concerned as to what time we would be back. She wanted to know because her boyfriend was coming over later, and she wanted to get her nap first! The next night she was going to a party, and then she was seeing her boyfriend again the next night! This lady is a hoot!
Along with a lot of other people, my wife and I were one of the folks who tried to do their part to make the Magnette the featured model at GT 35, and to ensure that the display and event were a success. However, we had never planned to bring a Magnette to GT 35. We were in the middle of restoring another car, and the “other” 1955 ZA Magnette we plan to restore just wasn’t even started. Our plan was to pull our small 5th wheel to GT 35, and then continue on to New Foundland . . . a trip we have wanted to make for years. Then, what seems like just a few weeks before GT 35, we acquired “Millicent Rose.” It just wasn’t possible to change all of our plans and trailer “Millicent Rose” to GT 35.
I’ve since shared much of this tale with our “nationwide” (including Canada) ZMG Magnette “e-mail chat group”. However, after our fellow “Magnutts” heard about this, they insisted that I make a poster representing Millicent Rose, and we’ve had Mrs. Millicent Rose Thompson sign the poster. That signed poster was on display, with all the incredible Magnettes which were ACTUALLY there.
We invited Mrs. Millicent Rose Thompson to GT 35 for this once-in-a-lifetime Magnette gathering. She was honored and flattered and said she truly would have loved to attend. I related to her that she and Lou Shorten must have bought their ZA’s at about the same time, and I know Lou Shorten and Mrs. Millicent Rose Thompson would have really hit it off in grand style . . . they are two peas out of the same pod! To coin a great English expression, Mrs. Thompson said she was just getting a little too “wobbly on her pins” to make the trip—but she was most definitely with us in spirit!!!
I took lots of photos to share with Mrs. Millicent Rose Thompson!
Steve and Diane Kirby, San Diego MG Club