Road to the 25th Collier Cup
I’ve been involved with SVRA’s “Collier Cup” race for MGs from its inception in 1985. It is hard to believe that we are now celebrating its 25th running. These things don’t “just happen”! I’d like to briefly reflect on the past 24 years leading up to this benchmark year, for those who might not know how we got here. Few have been involved from the beginning. I’ve been vintage racing my MGTD since 1977 and have witnessed the growth and changes of MG vintage racing with time. Over the years the Collier Cup has been a wonderful event for MG racers in so many ways, and thanks to SVRA for staying the course with it, even in the lean years when they could have easily scratched it. The MG Vintage Racers have also played a key role in its success. And thanks to so many other MG racers and enthusiasts who have dedicated their time to make it successful in past years in a number of way. Some key supporters have included MG racers Joe Tierno, Dick Powers, Mark Palmer and Chris Meyers, but there are so many others too – thanks to all of you, plus every MG racer who has ever participated in it! It has grown into being the most significant MG race in North America, and has expanded to much more than what it first started out as. It use to be hard to get a dozen or so MGs to some races, and no one would have ever believed that the Collier Cup would have 143 MG entries in 2004! And not only have MG racers supported this event, but so have MG clubs and enthusiasts in a variety of ways. NAMGAR, New England MG ‘T’ Register, and MG Car Club – Western NY Center, are a few which come to mind. Plus who can forget the warm memories of historic MG racers like Denver Cornett, Jack Archibold, Syd Silverman, and Jim Carson – only to mention a few – who joined us over the years. The Collier family even sent two of their family’s historic MGs up from their Florida museum to be on display in 2004. Also lets not forget the town of Watkins Glen. Most towns near race tracks would be happy to have them go away. But Watkins Glen welcomes us with open arms. They revel in their racing history, and they put on their street festival for vintage racers on Friday of the vintage race weekend. Main Street gets closed down and it turns into a huge party for vintage racers and thousands of spectators! For it the race cars are driven down (with police escort) from the race track over the original street race course to the downtown festival, as many drivers find it hard to imagine how they actually raced at speed on these public roads! So many wonderful memories over the years, with more to come! I expect this year’s 25th Collier Cup will become another great experience for all involved. And it will have special meaning for me, as it will be the first time my daughter Rachel will race a MG in this historic race!
Enjoy the article, and feel free to share it with any friends, clubs, publications, newsletters, etc. This introduction and the article below may be reprinted in whole or part without permission. I can also provide this article as a Microsoft Word document on request if needed, and I have a number of photos that I can provide to support it.
“… we few, we happy few, we band of brothers”
MG Vintage Racers
(Editor MGVR Newsletter, 1981-1995)
July 26, 2009
MGVR on the web: MGVR.org
Road to the 25th Collier Cup
By Greg Prehodka
It began in 1985 as a spark between SVRA and the Collier family, along with the support of the MG Vintage Racers, but would it catch on?
Flashback to 1954, when the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) established the “Collier Brothers Memorial Trophy” to remember MG racers Sam and Miles Collier. But as the years passed it wandered from its original intent of recognizing MG racers and remembering the Collier MG legacy. Then in 1980 MGs stopped being imported into North America from England, as the MG marque began to fade. But during the 80’s vintage racing was catching on, and MGs began making a comeback in “vintage racing”, recapturing their racing heritage. So in 1985, as SVRA was expanding to support the growth of vintage racing, they decided to “Re-establish the original Collier Memorial concept, but with vintage MGs now, while maintaining a consistent “MG” theme this time”. SVRA’s 1985 letter to MG racers for the first Collier Cup read in part “The idea for an all MG race event was initiated by SVRA, and is sustained by Miles C. Collier …and much thanks to Mr. Greg Prehodka (MG Vintage Racers) … he has provided valuable advice….” The result was the first “Collier Cup” all MG race at Watkins Glen, in SVRA’s first full vintage race weekend there. This would differ from the SCCA concept, in that only MGs were invited to compete, and the cup’s winner would not necessarily be the race winner, but rather a MG racer, voted by their fellow racers, as best demonstrating the “Spirit of MG Vintage Racing”. This would include car preparation to being period correct, its appearance, racing skill on the track, and overall MG spirit. The first race in 1985 saw only eight MGs entered, and the Collier Cup was awarded to MGTD racer Bob Colaizzi (who will race the same TD in the 25th Collier Cup). SVRA stayed with this concept as the number of MG entries began to grow. Benchmark years included 60 MGs entered in 1994; 72 MGs in 1998 for the 50th anniversary of the Watkins Glen races; and in 2004, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of SCCA’s “Collier Brothers Memorial Trophy”, an incredible record-breaking, 143 MGs showed up to compete – a North American MG record which may never be broken! All of this has led up to celebrating the 25th running of the Collier Cup this September, backed up by a quarter century of MG vintage racing heritage!
MGs are British sports cars. Mostly two seat convertibles, with modest four cylinder engines, manufactured between 1946 to 1980. This includes MG-T’s, MGA’s, MGB’s, and MG Midgets, although you may see a few Pre-War MGs and specials to. Vintage rules limit the modifications and updating allowed to these cars. In a general sense they have to be prepared similarly to the way they were originally raced when they were new, have original components, and meet current safety requirements. Most of the MGs you will see in the Collier Cup are street production cars with some modifications for racing. Period appearance is strongly encouraged and you will not see sponsorship decals on these steeds. This mix of many different MGs is very unequal in their performance potential, but winning the race is not the objective. So what is to be won in vintage racing MGs? Just the fun and enjoyment of racing a piece of history, and sharing that enjoyment with other MG enthusiasts – both racers and spectators. Some of the racers you will see at the race have even been vintage racing their MG for over 25 years! A number of them even have their kids racing MGs now. They are all most proud of their cars and take a very personal interest in them and MG history.
So why are Sam and Miles Collier being remembered? They were the earliest MG racers in North America, who started racing their MGs in the 1930’s while sports car racing was in its infancy, and MGs were almost unknown over here. They continued to race MGs up through the 40’s and 50’s including the inaugural Watkins Glen street race in 1948. This ended when Sam died in a racing accident at Watkins Glen in 1950, and then Miles passed away from polio in 1954.
Over the past 24 years recipients of the Collier Cup have almost become a “Who’s Who” of MG vintage racing. As the race has grown in stature, other awards have been added to it by various sponsors, increasing its prestige! This includes the “Denver Cornett Jr. Trophy” for first MG overall; “T Cup” for first MG ‘T’; “Bucher-Decker Trophy” for the first MGA; and the “Bill Glanville Memorial Cup” for the first MG Midget. But when the checkered flag falls on the race, all the MG racers will be “WINNERS”! I trust that you will enjoy the trip back into memory lane if you come! Even if you’re not a MG racer, take some time to look at these wonderful MGs in the paddock, and chat with their drivers – there is nothing they would like better! Then enjoy watching them at speed and notice the huge grins on their faces after the race! To find out more about MG vintage racing, go to the MG Vintage Racers’ web site “MGVR.org”.
Past Collier Cup Recipients:
1985: Bob Colaizzi, MGTD
1986: Tony Simms, MGA Twin Cam
1987: Alex Heckert, MGA Twin Cam
1988: Joe Tierno, MGA
1989: Alex Quattlebaum III, MGA
1990: Don Funke, MGA Twin Cam
1991: Tim Handy, MGB
1992: John Faulkner, MGB
1993: Jim Carson, MG TC
1994: Greg Prehodka, MGTD, & Joe Tierno, MGA(repeat)
1995: Mark Brandow, MGTC
1996: Denver Cornett, MGTC
1997: Bob Schoeplein, MGA
1998: Jack Archibald, MGTC
1999: Mark Palmer, MGA
2000: Frank Mount, MGTC
2001: John Targett, MGB
2002: Mark Palmer, MGA (repeat)
2003: Sid Silverman, MGTC
2004: Dick Powers, MGA / Bill Hollingsworth, MGTC
2005: Dan Leonard, MGTD
2006: Dave Smith, MGA
2007: Bill Shields, MGB
2008: Chris Meyers, MGA