ABOUT US – A short history of the MG Car Club Northwest Centre
By Kevin Cobley
MG was, by far, the most popular model. Slower than some competitors, but often better built, it had spot-on handling characteristics, and were pretty darn attractive to boot. It was during this time that many sports car clubs sprang up almost everywhere. Some were started up by local dealerships because it was good for business. True enthusiasts spent money on maintenance, performance hop-ups and accessories for their cars. In 1957, Cliff Garlatz, a sales manager for Imported Motors, a Tacoma foreign car dealership, applied for and received a charter from the MG Car Club of Great Britain. Cliff had a list of people who had purchased MGs from the dealership and invited them to the first meeting. This was the birth of the oldest, continuously-running MG club outside of Britain. One can only wonder what Cliff Garlatz would think of the mighty oak that sprang from the tiny acorn he planted. He was just hoping to grow a little extra business back in 1957.
Some of the original charter member names such as Johnson, Lumley and Mafli still grace our Club today. Their MGs were often not only their “hobby,” but their daily driver as well. It was amazing what one could do in an MG. It was amazing what one could fit in an MG! Jim Lumley remembers his then infant daughter, Meagen, riding comfortably in the passenger foot well of his MGA. One dark evening she suddenly decided to yank out a handful of wires from under the dash. The Lumleys’ MGA didn’t like that very much and stopped dead on the side of the road. A handy flashlight and a few lucky guesses with wiring got the MGA limping and flickering home. Roadside repair in darkness was an honored rite of passage for MG owners then as it is today. The Lumleys and a number of early MG Club members were a common sight at the SCCA races in Kent, watching the races and in many cases, working the turns of the raceway. During 1958, twenty-four men from the Club acted as emergency control and safety personnel during sports car races in western Washington.
As the Club progressed into the sixties, its success was helped by the wildly successful MGB which brought even more members in, eager to hang out with other enthusiasts. Catalogs like Hahn and MG Mitten, had a dazzling number of accessories for the sport driving enthusiast, offering irresistible goodies such as wooden steering wheels, stringback gloves, and Cibie driving lights. The seventies ushered in a daunting era of safety and emission laws which greatly affected the performance and appearance of MGBs and Midgets. Chrome bumpers gave way to black rubber bumpers designed to absorb the hits from modern traffic. Many local sports car clubs folded their tent during this time. The last affordable USA-bound British sports car rolled off the line in 1980. The MG factory was shut down, but the legend refused to die. The MG Car Club Northwest Centre somehow soldiered on. With dealer support now gone, we learned to depend on each other more and more to keep our MGs on the road. The Club newsletter, first known as MG Times, became MOWOG MURMERS and today is simply the MOWOG. Sometime during the mid-eighties, a huge membership drive, led by Club members Ken Bottini and Rob Broderick, swelled the ranks of our Club to nearly 500 members. In 1989, The Puget Sound MGA Classics Car Club joined the MGCCNWC and added even more members with their MGA cars.
With so many members, the MGCCNWC is compelled to offer something for every MG owner. The LaConner Tulip Rallye has been going strong since 1981, bringing out hundreds of cars from numerous clubs, every year. Our annual wine tour is over 20 years old and is a Club favorite. Also, there are tech sessions, picnics, car shows, parades, parties, banquets, day drives, overnight tours, and so much more. Our Club is also focused on extending a helping hand to those who need it. We have been very active in assisting local food banks, the Toys4Tots program and other charities.
In recognition of its contribution toward supporting the MG marque throughout the Pacific Northwest and being an asset to the general community, the MGCCNWC has been awarded the Nuffield Trophy an unprecedented five times by the MG Car Club in England. Our newsletter magazine, the celebrated MOWOG, has won journalism awards for its presentation and content.
The present day sees the MGCCNWC as the oldest, continuously-running MG club this side of the Atlantic. It is also appropriate that we had the longest standing overseas member of the MG Car Club of England in the form of Doug Beagley*, in the MGCCNWC until his passing in 2011. Our Club now covers a geographical area so wide that we offer five regional meeting locations for the convenience of our members. It is the adherence to the MG motif “The Marque of Friendship” that has made our organization not only a place to enjoy one’s MG, but also a place of friendship, camaraderie and good will.
If this all sounds good to you, please join us. You don’t even have to have an MG, but we’re willing to bet you’ll own one soon.