Sports car has intriguing Dunedin connection

By David Thomson on Sat, 13 May 2017

 DAVID THOMSONDuring a recent trip to Christchurch, I met a young couple who have acquired a 1951 MG TD sports car that has a strong Dunedin connection.

Once owned by prominent Dunedin motorsport identity Sybil Lupp, it is now in the care of Anita Ferguson and Morris Wright.

When I first chatted to Anita and Morris about their acquisition, I figured the best I could do would be connect with folk who recalled the car from Lupp's racing days. This was one of several MGs Sybil Lupp raced. She bought it new, and it was coloured pale blue when she owned it.

A careful study of the ownership papers also revealed that after residing up north for some time, this particular car returned to Dunedin in the mid 1970s (by which time it may well have been repainted in white, and probably running on registration plate BG 4913). According to the records, on its return to Dunedin the car was owned by Oswald James Wellman, Julie Carter and then Graham Charles Bailey before acquiring new owners, Barry and Jennifer
Goodwin, in Timaru.

While the MG's history in Sybil Lupp's ownership is pretty well known, Anita and Morris would certainly welcome any photos of the car in its first spell in Dunedin. Little is known about the car's second period in Dunedin, and photos and any information about this time would be hugely appreciated. If you can help with any information, please contact Anita or Morris directly at or on (03) 329-5148.

When I saw the car just after Easter, it was sitting under a car cover in the corner of a shed owned by Anita's father, John, and rather dwarfed by a range of larger British classics, most bearing the name of Rolls-Royce or Bentley.

However, to my mind, the most intriguing old vehicle in the shed was an elderly and largely original Lanchester.

Pretty well forgotten as an automotive brand nowadays, Birmingham-based Lanchester once rivalled the likes of Daimler and Rolls-Royce as a premium English luxury marque. Lanchester, which survived as an independent carmaker until 1931, pioneered several advanced engineering features including disc brakes and pressure lubrication, and even produced a prototype petrol-electric hybrid car in the late 1920s. However, its overall approach to engineering was idiosyncratic, with features well advanced for their time combined with others that, with hindsight, seem plain odd.

The particular car in John's shed was an early 1920s model - the Lanchester Forty - which, when new, cost more than a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. It was certainly an engineering curiosity, but the strangest thing about this particular car had nothing to do with its mechanical underpinnings, and everything to do with its upright coach-built limousine body; take a close look at the photo that accompanies this editorial and you may just spot that it has no front doors!

The expectation, it seems, was that the driver and any front seat passenger would enter via the back doors, and make their way forward to the front seats through the (very spacious) cabin.

I guess that's what a pilot has to do on an airliner, but it is not something I recall having seen on a car before.

David Thomson