MG PA/B Le Mans Works Racing Car
This car is the sole original survivor of a three-car team put together by MG to publicise the new P-Series, which had been introduced in 1934. The idea was that three identical works cars would be entered in the 1935 Le Mans race, driven by three teams of women, with the whole enterprise to be managed by Captain George Eyston, who had raced at Le Mans himself in 1928 and 1929. A record-setting MG racer, he subsequently captured the world land speed record three times in 1937-38, the last time at 357.5 km/h.
The press had a field day with Abingdon’s idea, dubbing the six women “Eyston’s Dancing Daughters.” The three cars were PA #1661 (race number 55) driven by Doreen Evans and Barbara Skinner, PA #1667 (race number 57) driven by Margaret Allan and Colleen Eaton and PA #1711 (race number 56) and driven by Joan Richmond and Barbara Simpson.
Three cars were carefully assembled at the works at Abingdon; there’s a detailed record of 205 hours spent on each one, with a comprehensive work order for each car, copies of which accompany the sale of the car. The cars were fitted with cycle-type aluminium fenders, aluminium louvered hoods, an aero screen for the driver, luggage space modified for spare tyres, special door locks, quick filler caps, racing wheels, radiator and headlights fitted with stone guards, double fuel pumps, Q-Type brakes all round and J-Type gearbox ratios. The engines were blueprinted, with lightened flywheel, Q-Type racing valves and springs, the head was polished and an air scoop was fitted to cool the sump. A note at the bottom of the work order says “credit all parts removed AT ONCE.”
The six drivers were hardly chosen for public relations value – all the women had solid racing records, with Brooklands history, club racing, rallies and hill-climb success. Richmond and Eaton had returned from Australia to compete. Nevertheless “Les Girls at Le Mans” was the dismissive tagline and one very interested observer was American racer Miles Collier, who had gone to Europe to campaign an MG K3 and would subsequently own, re-body and race PA #1667 successfully in the United States as “Leonidis.”
Collier attended Le Mans, ostensibly with MG tickets, which never materialised. But he found Eyston and got a letter “which allowed us to wander anywhere on the course.” Collier recalled: “These MGs were P-Type two seaters, beautifully prepared indeed, but the whole atmosphere was rather circus-like due to their being manned by women drivers (later to be known as the Dancing Daughters). Nevertheless, when the race actually started, they drove pretty darn well…[w]e spent the whole time in the MG pits and enjoyed it thoroughly.”
The MGs proved themselves bulletproof, with only one light bulb being changed on the number 55 car and the only excitement being an argument with officials about whether one car had been refuelled before the required time, which would have meant disqualification. The women silenced their critics with steady progress, and the only slight alteration to plan was that Richmond and Simpson brought the #56 car, home in first place among the team and ahead of the two other cars instead of in numerical order. The three cars finished 24th, 25th and 26th.
Their successful team finish meant they would be eligible for the Biennial Cup next year, which was what MG boss Cecil Kimber was after. Well they would have been eligible except that Lord Nuffield closed the MG racing department soon after this race and strikes in France caused the 1936 Le Mans to be cancelled.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2010 at the Battersea Evolution, London.
56 hp, 947 cc SOHC four-cylinder engine, two SU side-draft carburettors, four-speed manual transmission, front and rear suspension by semi-elliptic springs with solid axles, four-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 87.25"
Source: RM Auctions