GRR

This MG K3 has undergone a stunning restoration

05th September 2023
Charles Goddard

There are many very familiar images from the early Goodwood meetings of 1948. Duncan Hamilton rounding Woodcote in a Maserati 6CM, a painfully young Moss in his white Cooper 500 or the dapper Freddie March overseeing the birth of his legacy. Then you have others, like this one, of pre- and post-war Voiturette British racers tearing away from the Daily Graphic start line banner. Cars developed by enterprising garagistes to compete at Brooklands, Donington and Crystal Palace that spent the war years under a tarpaulin in Kentish cattle shed. A couple of these are readily identifiable. The MG Bellevue on the far right takes a wide line, number 41 is the Parnell MG, the grill of another blown MG peeks through, but what of the car out in front?

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Number 42 is also an MG, chassis number K3021, pictured here with Dudley Folland at the wheel. With a clear speed advantage, he went on to comfortably win this three-lap scratch race at the very first Goodwood meeting in 1948. Folland was the son of a wealthy Welsh industrialist who was able to indulge his passion for racing both before and after the war. He competed at events throughout the UK and contested the Le Mans 24 Hours twice; once in a Frazer Nash with A.F.P. Fane and once in the Aston Martin Speed Model that still bears his red dragon insignia and the distinctive rounded nose inspired by the Ferraris that he was trying to beat.

Folland was the very first person to import a Ferrari into the UK – Nuvolari’s Mille Miglia-winning 166M. Folland’s ‘Red Dragon’ Aston Martin won the Trofeo Nuvolari at the 80th Members’ Meeting. His custody of MG K3021 began shortly before this photo was taken in 1948.

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It started life in 1934 as a two-seater, pointed-tail K3, raced by the likes of Kaye Don, Charlie Dodson and Dudley Froy in Britain and abroad. Under the ownership of J Weir, Monaco Motors (the Monaco name a product of its founders; Peter Monkhouse and Ian Connell) was commissioned to convert K3021 to a single-seater in 1939. In fact, Monkhouse campaigned the MG with some success in the months before war broke out.

No doubt his direct knowledge of the car contributed to the effectiveness of the modifications that were finally completed shortly after the war in 1945. Monaco radically shortened the chassis, lightened the cross members and introduced a double-reduction rear axle which allowed the engine and driver to sit much lower, reducing the frontal area and subsequently the drag. Basically, the boys at Monaco did some superior fettling on an already effective racing car.

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When Folland raced K3021 at Goodwood in 1948 its ‘Monaco’ spec remained unchanged, he clearly decided to adhere to the ‘if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it’ school of thinking. He later pursued sportscar success in his new Ferrari, and K3021 passed first to John Willment of Aston Martin and Ford GT40 fame and then in 1965 to Syd Beer, who successfully raced in its Monaco Motors spec throughout the 1960s and ‘70s. It raced in events across the UK and throughout Europe and has remained under the Beer family’s care ever since.

As a boy and a young man Syd had been surrounded by cars of all sorts, but after the war he became irrevocably linked with the MG marque. From his dealership in the East of England Syd became a person of influence in MG circles, so much so that the MG factory itself often sought his counsel. Syd enjoyed a close friendship with MG boss John Thornley who had done so much to make MG the success that it was in the ‘60s and ‘70s (the MGB was John’s brainchild) and Syd shared Thornley’s outrage and despair when the BMC accountants decided to close down the Abingdon factory in 1979.

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With the help of enthusiasts from around the world Syd and John petitioned for the preservation of Abingdon, truly a jewel set in the crown of British motoring heritage. It was not to be however and the Abingdon works were dismantled. It quickly became clear too that very little of the factory’s contents was to be preserved at all; cars, machines, tools, records and furniture were all headed for landfill.

Syd took it upon himself to collect and conserve as much of the Abingdon collateral as he could. Particular attention was paid to the unique and special items in the inventory including the record-breaking EX cars, pre-production prototypes and important racing machines. Syd’s youngest son Malcolm suggests that at one point the Beer family owned over 25 per cent of all the Abingdon racing cars. The Beer family preside over one of the largest and certainly the most important private MG collection in the world.

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Those that didn’t recognise the car in the picture can be excused, because it has been under a tarpaulin for more than 40 years at the Beer garage in Houghton. Phil Hill drove the car at Donington in 1979 for Road & Track magazine and, unusually for him, was at the wheel when the engine, after so many years of competition, finally gave up the ghost and ejected a conrod through the block.

With so many cars to care for and with everyday family life exerting its own pressure, reconditioning K3021 took a back-burner. Roll the clock forward to 2018 and the seasoned pre-war MG specialist Oliver Richardson was commissioned with the restoration. From the outset the goal was to build the car exactly as it would have been when it left the Monaco Motors workshop in 1945, as it raced at Goodwood in 1948.

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Apart from the block, which was unrepairable following the Donington incident and was replaced with a genuine K3 unit, the car remains wholly original. One small aluminium panel that surrounded the fuel tap was replaced because its crudely cut edges presented a hazard to fingers. Otherwise, everything went back on. It is a remarkable time capsule, beautifully restored, and with so many more cars in the Beer stable, perhaps the promise of exciting things to come.

Malcolm and Julie Beer, to whom Syd’s legacy is so important, are insistent on the importance of maintaining originality. With such an original and unusual piece of history as K3021 you might be forgiven for thinking that it would return to Houghton to be carefully stored. Malcolm however has no such intention. He hopes to be out racing in K3021 as soon as licence requirements will allow so that he might add to his existing tally of over 300 race wins. We sincerely hope that Malcolm and K3021 will return to be pictured once again on the Goodwood start line.

With thanks to Julie and Malcolm Beer and Oliver Richardson for their generous help and to Robin Hamblett for the contemporary photos of K3021.

  • MG

  • K3

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