Bridget’s History-2

In early 1979 John sold Bridget(15) to Charles S. Fussenegger, a retired superintendent for Combustion Engineering soon-to-be associated with a new “British Coach Works, Ltd.” which was founded in Arnold, Pennsylvania, a few months later by sons John and Gary. Perhaps inspired by the unusual badging and dash work still affixed to the fire-damaged car, the Fusseneggers combined Bridget with other TDs they had acquired to make molds for a reproduction fiberglass MG TD they produced. At this time Old Number 110 was fitted with fiberglass nose–including “modern” scuttle-mounted windscreen wipers–while her rather more bulbous gas tank and wider spare tire mounts were used as the model for new BCW kits marketed to the world as superior to both other MG-styled “kit cars” and the original item. BCW, Ltd (of Arnold, PA) also manufactured cars for a 50-state “giveaway” and soda marketing scheme on behalf of Schweppes, North America.

In 1982 Old Number 110 was sold for $6,100–CKD again and sans frame,* motor and transmission, but still bearing her original serial number–to Graham Horner of Sykesville, MD, who reassembled her on a 1969 VW pan with a modified 1966 VW engine–perhaps unconsciously mimicking the antics of the original BCW “Chimera Werks” and their experiments with an air-cooled, flat-4 Lycoming aeroplane engine!

The vehicle was reregistered with some difficulties regarding inspection and emissions regulations, which were solved with time and letters to authorities. She was thus reborn and titled a “1982 HOMD MG,” and assigned the VIN C13 4168.

Bridget’s “original” (second life) invoice

Appraiser David Rosen valued Horner’s BCW #110 at $13,500–coincidentally the sticker-price of a factory-assembled reproduction model and a respectable figure in 1982, when a fully-reconditioned TD would often sell for less than $10,000. Nonetheless, it is apparent that neither the owner nor the appraiser were aware of the car’s unusual history.

BCW, Arnold produced several hundred replica vehicles before closing its doors about 1986. The corporate trademark is still active and John Fussenegger now helms a successor company, called “Smoothline,” which manufactures hardtops and body panels for popular convertibles.

1982 appraisal

Horner drove Bridget until 1997 1989, when he sold her, showing 34,143 miles on the clock, to Norman David Ehrhardt of Baltimore.*

Mr. Ehrhardt had the top replaced, and the coachwork repainted red. He also had the carburettor replaced and did other minor work, according to his service records.

Meanwhile, I had learned of Bridget from discussions with my uncle John, who had owned her years earlier. After my grandmother–his mother–Lily died in 2001, John discovered a cache of documents relating to the car’s pedigree, including a copy of the original title, a manifest inventory notice, and several undated race photos (see below)–which he had not known existed when the car had first passed into his hands in 1966. In that same box John found the “Gentleman’s Emergency Kit” which apparently came in Bridget’s glovebox. At first merely nostalgic about his old roadster, he soon realized he had let slip through his hands something remarkable. He asked if I could help him learn more about its background.

Top, above left and right: undated photos found in a box of Chester Griffin’s belongings after his wife, Lily’s death

I set out to do so, unearthing the incredible story of her Carrera Panamericana and Dakar flings and eventually tracking down Ehrhardt, who coincidentally had listed her for sale months earlier. He had recently dropped the price by $1,000.

I bought her in November, 2009, bringing her back into the family after a generation lost. Now I work to return her to original condition and continue to research her remarkable history.

 
Left: Bridget upon recompletion, 1982; right: Bridget in November 2009.
*regrettably, the radically-lightened original BCW frame members had been lost, apparently damaged beyond repair in the Dakar mishap. At some point in the transaction the original doors and rear body pieces were also replaced by fiberglass reproductions.
Continue to the News…
*When I met Horner and his wife, June in 2013 he explained that he sold the car in the late 1980s but saw it thereafter in an antique shop. He was unsure about the years but it is clear that the registration history I got from Ehrhardt does not tell the full history.

 

2 Responses to Bridget’s History-2

  1. Pingback: Consider this Porsche . . . | bridgetmgtd

  2. Pingback: Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix | bridgetmgtd

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