Events : Around the show at MGLive! 2012

We love a good car show at AROnline and last weekend’s MGLive! at Silverstone proved to be both a brilliant tribute to the past and an eye-opener for current and future MG affairs.

Words and Photographs: Mike Humble


AROnline was in attendance for last weekend’s MG Car Club-run MGLive! event at Silverstone in Northamptonshire with Clive Goldthorp and myself braving the gusty wind and constant threat of monsoon-like rain. The promise of poor weather failed to deter the thousands of MG enthusiasts and owners who flocked to the event and by 11.00am on Saturday the access road to the race circuit was queuing back with patient motorists, some of whom had come from afar to pay homage to one of the world’s best-known sporting brands.

The main focus of this year’s MGLive! was the 50th Anniversary of the MGB – I am quite sure that Syd Enever was looking down from on high with a smile at the sight of so many of the half a million cars he helped design. There were so many stunning examples of the MG marque proudly on display – from Pre-World War II T-Type models right through to examples of the awesome MG RV8 and the MGF from the Rover Group era. Badge-engineered examples from the 1980s included a truly stunning Montego and Metro Turbo which both looked resplendent in black.

There was something for everybody with displays by Russ Swift, M.A.D – the world’s largest professional mountain bike display team – and the Tigers Children’s Motorcycle Display Team in the MGLive! Arena and an air display by current British National Aerobatic Champion, Gerald Cooper, in the skies above the circuit.

MGLive! Trade City had over 60 Exhibitors with the likes of British Motor Heritage, Classics Monthly, Rimmer Brothers and the MGF Centre all having stands – one of which prompted me to dip into the pocket: my Rover 75 now has a genuine, old stock Rover Group umbrella tucked away in the boot thanks to Brown & Gammons.

However, one the most interesting aspects of the day came in the form of some Oriental visitors. Just like the Japanese tourists who take pictures of everything they see in London, a large party from China were at MGLive! and taking a great interest in anything and everything to do with MG. They were seen taking pictures of the public and the cars – I even witnessed two of them taking close-up pictures of some model MGs which were on one of the stands in the Trade City.

I managed to pin one of the visitors down and he said that they had travelled over on a fact-finding mission to learn what gives the MG marque such a strong emotional appeal. For the brand to prosper in the UK, the parent company needs to get a handle on the feel and the unique character of MG. Before we parted company, I was also told to expect big changes in the not too distant future.

That, for me, was the most encouraging aspect of MGLive! 2012 – both Keith Adams and I have had decent exposure to the current MG6 and we can confirm that, pound for pound, they are pretty good cars spoilt by one fundamental factor – the marketing. Get a decent grip on the emotion of the brand and sell to the heart, get the automatic and diesel versions in the showrooms and there may be some chance of selling what is, in essence, a damn good car.

The 60 or more people from SAIC Motor in China who were at Silverstone for MGLive! last weekend are living proof that the company is deadly serious about the MG brand overseas. All someone needs to do now is to get that message across to the UK’s car-buying public…


Mike Humble


  1. The modern Chinese are good technical copiers, but they are badly deficient in undersanding Western marketing. They need to look at how Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai/Kia as to how they overcame their issues, learned how to market cars to become successful.

  2. @1 the chinese are still a communist country and with that goes the dogma,but since absorbing Hong Kong im sure they understand the free market and will understand marketing they will do what anyone else will -hire a marketing consultancy.When hyundai came to britain with the pony,this wasnt a car for someone on a budget,it was for people whom couldnt afford socks!now look where they are now they are beating ford at thier own game.SAIC like it or not will probably take as long with MG over here,the problem is everyone wants new and now every two minutes,just look at the iphone or ipad as soon as you buy the latest 5 months down the line the new one comes- i would be pretty pissed off if it happened to me,but thats the trouble people want the latest upto date stuff and dont realise they are being swerved for it,SAIC know what they are doing i believe.

  3. Very much agree with the sentiments expressed above.

    It is good that SAIC had a presense in Silverstone, although Mike you didn’t mention whether SAIC had a stand there or just sent an ‘expedition party’.

    Even if they had had a stand there, they would be preaching to the converted to some extent -as most (if not all) car fans are aware of the Chinese MG. But car fans, being fairly clued-up about things such as residuals, are the least likely to buy a Chinese MG until they have a decent presence on the roads.

    They really should have taken a leaf out of Daewoo’s book. That brand may have ultimately failed, but the launch in this country was remarkably successful. Almost nobody had ever heard of them before their arrival here (unlike MG), and their technology was far more antiquated than MGs, being essentially restyled or rebodied Cavs and Astras.

    Some nice pics- the MGR V8 is very rarely sighted on our roads- it may have been resurrected from the dead, but they made a damn good job of the taxidermy!

  4. Looks like a good event despite the weather. Some stunning cars there. I like the look of a black Montego Turbo and that MG ZT in lime green pearlescent is yummy. The Union Blue MG6 is nice too – I’ve only seen one for real and it was black.

  5. Yes Hilton, Union Blue is an awesome colour. Oddly enough, I serviced two of them last week (full story to follow) and I can state that they are good cars!

  6. The problem for me is this is exactly NOT what they should be doing because it does not paint a proper picture of what MG means to the UK. The truth is MG means not a lot to the vast majority of people except the die-hard MG fans, many of whom are really old-school. I am not knocking that, but this is not what they need to sell MG to a new, larger audience. It would be like sending Americans to a Ford Capri owners club meet and thinking that would tell them anything about selling Fords to the general populous. It won’t. Can’t they just draft in some proper market research people and advertising experts like everyone else?

  7. @ James Riley
    Yup, you have hit the nail on the head! MG has way too much of a beardy image. They need to be building/marketing a range of cars including a cheap funky car like the VW UP/Skoda Citigo to get youngsters on board.

  8. @8 James Riley,

    Good point well made.

    Given the stereotypical MGB owner, the SAIC crew have probably come away thinking that MG ownership is inextricably linked with portly middle aged men, real ale and morris dancing!

  9. @9, the Citygo/Up/Mii arent exactly what you would call cheap. If you want a 5 door with a few creature comforts, you are talking £11,000, and it has a wheezy little 1.0 engine. The beardy/lardgut/beer with twigs in/Morris dancer image is one that the MG will be forever stuck with. If SAIC had been serious about Silverstone, they would have had brand new metal on show, not a year old press car, and a left hooker MG3 on show to whet people’s appetites.

  10. Oriental?! East Asian …?
    Fortunately for the new MG, it doesn’t have to rely on the UK market in the same way that it did in previous lives. Therefore, whatever the UK public think, SAIC is very serious and the UK public will be playing catch up with the rest of the world as sales of the cars grow.

  11. @ Ian F, serious about the UK market? No they aren’t unfortunately. Same goes for Europe, where diesel is king in the mid sized sector. Wasting time and money developing the Magnette for the UK was futile too, as once again, the hatchback rules the mid sized market. Sales are stagnant, dealers are all concerned that they have very little to sell, and what products they have, nobody wants, or has even heard of. Sales of bog standard hatches are dying too, as more & more switch to the mini MPV or softroader. Just look at Datsun.Only the Micra and Note are conventional now. They cant build enough Qashcows to satisfy demand. Even the pug ugly Puke is selling like hot cakes thanks to its stupidly low start prices. Slash the prices, market aggressively & pitch the MG against Kia/Hyundai, and they might finally get the private sales they desire, so long as the oil burning self shifter is in a low tax bracket.

  12. “Badge-engineered examples from the 1980s included a truly stunning Montego and Metro Turbo which both looked resplendent in black.”

    Sorry, but this sounds almost condescending towards these MG saloons of the 1980s that helped keep the MG name alive. What makes them more ‘badge engineered’ than say an ADO16-derived MG 1100 or 1300, or even the more recent Z saloons?

    After all the MG Maestro EFi was unique in featuring a 2-litre engine under its bonnet which ‘lesser’ derivatives in the Maestro range did not benefit from. All three models also offered a turbocharged variant which the ‘lesser’ models in the Austin range did not have.

    This sounds like the sort of derrogatory comment a certain so-called MG authority who is senior in one of the two main MG clubs used to say on a regular basis, which upset a lot of owners of these cars. The sort of person who went straight out and bought an MG ZT-T which is essentially a derivative based on the more elegant Rover 75 Tourer.

    I am very disappointed by this description, Mike, especially after reading your rather complementary article about the MG Maestro EFi a few months ago.

  13. @15, David 3500,

    Forgive me for butting in here in Mike Humble’s defense (and I’m sure he is more than robust enough to defend himself); but in what sense are Mike’s comments about the ‘badge engineered’ Montego and Metro ‘almost condescending’?

    ‘Badge engineered’ is exactly what those vehicles are- with respect to yourself. They were not engineered primarily as MG models, but were simply modified as they went along. The MG badged saloons and hatches were in that respect no different to what Ford was doing with the XR3, Peugeot with the 205GTi, etc. Having a slightly larger engine variant, certain bespoke trim, diferent wings, and adding a turbocharger does not make for an entirely separate identity, so it is perfectly apt to refer to those MG models as ‘badge engineered’- because that is exactly what they were. These cars could only be described as being of a separate marque if they contained significant differences- eg the Skoda Octavia is different than the Golf with which it shares a platform because it has an entirely different bodyshell.

    As Mike was very complimentary towards the Monty and Metro (which, incidentally, even retained their original model names, unlike the Z saloons), I really don’t see what you are objecting to?

  14. Oops- I wrote ‘different wings’ instead of ‘different wheels’ in the above comments- me brain’s fried after a week of job training!

  15. @Chris Baglin:

    I was interested in why he chose to describe these particular MG saloons as badge-engineered rather than others that are as equally badge-engineered.

    ADO16 and Z saloons were also based on existing designs rather than being engineered primarily as MG saloons. In line with the unfair criticism these 1980s saloons have been inflicted with by other parties over the years, I felt it was a term that came across as derrogatory.

    Perhaps having endured two decades of unflattering remarks from the two main mafia MG clubs and so-called MG authorities towards these MG saloons has made me a touch sensitive!

  16. Mafia MG Clubs?

    Well, I hope they are not reliant on the venerable MGB as a getaway car, I don’t think the Plod would have any difficulty catching up with them even in basic spec Fiesta patrol cars!

    On the other hand, as many B owners appear to be balding, bearded, magnificently beer gutted late middle aged men, they would at least have an advantage when it came to alibis and aliases…

  17. I think we have to recognise MG is a new car company-a pheonix from the ashes(no pun intended!)Give SAIC credit where credit is due,they wasnt at the event to blow off every MGB/MG owner was they?look at it as you will,maybe they are getting a feel of how owners tick whichever demograph they fall in,maybe they were saying look,we are still here,small small for now but stick with us.Bloody hell the old firm went tits up why not be there they own it now,the MGB is really a shit car but it evokes memories,emotions,smiles and joy for the owners,if they are bald,cant see thier knob when they go for a piss so what?everyone has a relationship with thier car,everyone is different,they are there for the love of the marque no different to RSOC or trabant owners club. Of course MG’s of late are badge engineered and has chris baglin quite rightly stated are different to the stock car.But hey-good cars.

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