Ron Cherry: Racing-red MG Midget
Special to The Union
While red is often the color internationally associated with Italian race cars, Bill Greenman’s ‘67 MG Midget is British, is red and is definitely a racer.
Since that was the color the car was painted when Bill bought it two years ago and he likes it, it will stay that way. Bill was looking to get into vintage sports car racing then, influenced by friend Jay McEnroe’s passion for the sport.
“He had his car and I followed suit,” Bill said, with a laugh. “I just got suckered into it. I blame him.”
However, Bill also said that he and his family enjoy it greatly and he does not regret being “suckered” into vintage sports car racing.
While Bill was not a total novice in sports car racing, it had been almost 35 years since he had done some autocross racing in a Triumph Spitfire. When he bought the MG Midget, the racing virus returned. When Bill decided to find a sports car to race, he opted for a fendered car rather than an open-wheeled one. He also decided on a British-built.
“Of all the cars that were competitive and not ridiculously expensive, the British ones were the best fit for me,” he said.
It was his friend Jay who found the MG Midget on an Internet racing site. Bill checked out the car and liked what he saw. It had the stock 1275 cc engine and dual SU carbs that are required to run in the vintage sports car races.
The cylinders were bored .040 with forged pistons and a Billet crankshaft, as well as a hotter cam and ported heads, but those were also allowed. The stock 4-speed trans gearbox had stronger gears for racing as well. The suspension was all stock, including the lever-type shocks, but was lowered for better handling. Since no fiberglass replacement body parts are allowed in vintage racing, it was an all-metal body, but did have a permitted plexiglass racing-style windshield (windscreen for those into Brit-speak). It rode on Minator wheels with performance Hoosier tires.
The owner said that all the mechanicals had been gone through and it was race-ready. For all appearances, it looked it, and so the deal was made and Bill had his race car. Not long after, Bill took his Midget out for the CSRG (Classic Sports Racing Group) competition at Thunderhill Raceway. On the Midget’s first run it blew an oil cooler line and wiped out the bottom end of the engine. So Bill pulled the engine and rebuilt the bottom end, but also redid all the wiring and all the oil lines and checked out everything mechanical.
“I wasn’t going to take anybody’s word for what had been done,” he said with a rueful note to his voice.
After repainting the engine compartment, he put his Midget back together and was ready to race again. Since he “tidied it up,” Bill’s Midget has run without any problems in all the races it has run.
Since then, Bill and his Midget have been on the track each year at the CSRG races at Thunderhill and Sears Point (Sonoma Raceway), as well as the Columbia River Classic at Portland Raceway.
He ran in the middle of the pack in those races.
“I’m in the learning phase,” he said. “I err on the side of caution. But I’m looking forward to this year, to getting up on my game now that I’ve run those tracks before.”
However, as much as he enjoys the competition, that’s not all that it’s about for Bill. Whenever possible, he meets with fellow vintage sports car racers on Wednesday for lunch.
“I don’t go that often because I’m still a working stiff,” he said. “I may be the youngest one of the group, although Don (Racine) might be.” It’s that camaraderie that makes the races fun as well. Most of his friends have motor homes and tow their cars to the races. They camp together at the track.
“It’s just such a nice group of people that it’s as much of a draw as the cars,” he said.
It is also a family event for Bill. Wife Laura is not that much into the racing, but enjoys the people. Their son and daughter, who are now attending Chico State, come when they can.
“I consider them my pit crew,” Bill said.
They are also the cheering section for the little racing-red MG Midget.
Ron Cherry’s three books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. For more about his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com.
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