Auf Wiedersehen GT-40!

Photo for Auf Wiedersehen GT-40!

Hard to believe, but GT-40 has come to an end! Over the last several years, we in the Michigan Rowdies have been anticipating this GT. So, driving to Frankenmuth from the south on Sunday in the pouring rain before GT-40 was not what we had hoped for during our numerous planning meetings in the years leading up to the GT.

Still, before arriving in the pretty town on the Cass River, the rain had stopped and we waited briefly for Main Street to clear out after a Bavarian Festival parade. After turning onto the Hotel grounds and crossing the river on the sturdy “Holtz Brucke,” we saw a few MGs in front of the hotel. There was a group of Michigan Rowdies who had arrived early to set up registration and vendor areas for the event. This was more like it; the GT was under way with early arrivals registering. The registration area provided a great opportunity to meet and reconnect with many of the interesting and fun loving NAMGAR crowd. The conversations and stories that were shared there only increased the excitement and anticipation of events to come.

The Bavarian Inn Lodge provided a great venue for the annual NAMGAR GT and easily accommodated the ensuing influx of 159 cars and 347 MG enthusiasts while attending to their many other guests.

By Monday afternoon, the skies had improved, as GT-40 officially got under way. The first events were the 1st Timers Car Display and Reception. Jeff Becker, NAMGAR Vice Chair, used a get acquainted exercise to help the 1st Timers get comfortable.

This was followed by pizza at the Welcome Reception, which was open to all. Next was the Orientation Meeting with the highlight being a performance by “Etcetera,” a singing group that the Rowdies had experienced during their 2014 Christmas Party. After seeing them, we just couldn’t resist adding them to our GT events. They sang standards that attendees remembered well from their younger days, but updated the songs to fit GT-40 and the cars we love. It didn’t hurt that Bill & Mary Ellen Weakley, members of the Rowdies, were also performers with “Etcetera.” Those that missed their performance were not happy the next day when they heard all the rave reviews.

The GT came into full motion on Tuesday with the many planned activities for participants to meet, mingle, laugh, learn, relax, and refresh. There was no shortage of things to do with receptions, tech sessions, cooking classes, river cruises, the hospitality room, craft show, and raffles. The early Tech sessions included one by Rick Astley on electrical, a session on tires by Doug Butcher, and one on Valve Cover Racing by Tony Burgess. Those that attended the cooking classes were able to taste their own pretzel and/or strudel. All seemed happy with the results.

In the days prior to the car show, there was also an abundance of activities within the lodge and around town to make this a great GT; great dining venues, carriage tours, boutique shops, swimming pools, and a splash park.

The highlight of the week was the Wednesday car show held just behind our host hotel on the banks of the Cass River. It was a great location with the registered cars parked on a wide-open grassy space. The weather was warm, sunny most of the time, and made for a perfect day. In addition to the beautiful lines of the MGAs and Magnettes, there was an impressive array of “Other British” marques to capture imaginations.

Car Show

The mayor of Frankenmuth, Gary Rupprecht, attended and made his choice for his favorite car at the show. At the Awards Banquet, the Mayor’s Choice Trophy went to Lynne & Tucker Madawick of Bloomington, IN, for their 1962 BRG 1600 Mark II. Click here for a complete list of award winners

Valve Cover Racing, run by Tony Burgess, took place during the car show with the overall award going to Bob Satava of Solon, OH.

That afternoon, we were treated to a “walk around” tour by Forrest Johnson of his 1955 MGA. He went over his ongoing restoration to talk about the unique parts found on the early MGAs. Peter Caldwell of World Wide Auto Parts then presented a tech session on shocks. The day ended with a stroll or a short drive up Main Street to the Frankenmuth Brewery for a buffet meal. Thursday started with a light mist, but 49 cars joined in the Gimmick Rallye which provided a fun exploration of the Cass River community and several towns and villages in Michigan’s “Thumb” region. As the skies cleared, the remaining tech sessions moved outside and MGs were rolling all over town. They began with Dave Smith discussing Vintage Racing, which included going over his MGA racecar in detail. That was followed by John Twist doing his well known Rolling Tech Session in the parking lot area.

The Awards Banquet was that evening. A classic Bavarian Inn feast with several main courses to suit all tastes and “family style” sides was served. The Banquet was well attended and we were treated to the winners in the car show, the distance awards, and the various other event winners. Because the GT was a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the 1500, two owners were acknowledged. The first was the earliest built 1500 that traveled to the GT, a 1956 Red MGA 1500 owned by Len & Joan Gilbert of Oakville, ON. The second, representing all the other 1500s in attendance via a random drawing, was Roger & Cathy Drummer of Wauseon, OH, who drove their 1956 Red MGA 1500.

During the Banquet, Bavarian Inn owner Judy Zehnder-Keller relayed the following story. So we asked Bruce Mann to retell it for us. Bruce said, “Rev. Scott Harmon, the minister of the Methodist Church in Frankenmuth, left a business card under the wiper blade of my MG TD that we drove in addition to the MGA. I put it in my pocket after reading it. It basically said, “We would like to hire your car for a tour of Frankenmuth.”

The next day the Reverend came to the registration area, introduced himself, and said his mother in law, Pat Arvilla, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, had a bucket list and near the top was a desire to ride in a MG TD. I learned Pat, a long time friend of the Bavarian Inn owner, Judy Zehnder-Keller, was instrumental in women's rights in Michigan years ago. An appointment was set for 4 p.m. Judy was there along with Pat and the Reverend, and Judy decided she wanted the first ride, so we toured the lots around the Inn. Then Pat and I went for a ride across the bridge and throughout downtown, where she waved to everyone. She was a beautiful lady.

The highlight for us Rowdies was the presentation of the much-deserved Mac Spears award to Bruce Nichols, one of the founders of the Michigan Rowdies and a leader of NAMGAR’s “People First” movement. It was a fitting end to a great GT!

In conclusion, we asked a few Rowdies to give us their impressions of the week.

Jeff Smith had the following comment, “As first timers, Deb and I were quite impressed with both the response and dedication of the NAMGAR members. We have certainly never seen that many MGAs together at one time! And the fortitude of those that drove over a thousand miles to attend shows, their love for their cars, and fellow NAMGAR members. The event itself was first class, as it unfolded without a hitch in a beautiful setting. Our hats are off to the planners and hosts. There were many high points: the receptions, dinners, tech sessions, hospitality suite, and of course the show of cars on the grassy field next to the river, a most wonderful setting indeed. We met many new friends that we hope to stay in touch with, and maybe see in person at another GT. We have now seen what we have missed over the past years, and understand why GTs draw such a great crowd. See you at the next one!”

Don Holle, a long time Rowdie living in Edgewood, NM, added,“What can we say except that it was a great GT. Some years ago, the Board considered the idea of hiring a professional organization to put on GTs. Of course, nothing came of that. But if ever there was a professionally executed GT, this was it. No surprise though when you consider that in attendance were - how many? - at least ten - Rowdies who had participated in all four of the GTs put on by this club. The depth of this club's experience knows no equal, and the result showed it. No reason to be humble when you are the best.”

Mark Griffin of Northville, MI, who indicated he may join the Rowdies, provided the following: “First, the event was SO well organized. It truly amazed me. With so much to do, I always knew what was next. Having the large nametags with a small itinerary tucked inside was brilliant. And room to tuck tickets in, etc. And, because everyone wore the tags all the time, I actually learned their names after a few reviews. I did meet some new folks who I believe I will become friends with; always a good thing. I attended every tech session - all were excellent. I marveled at John Twist as he did his drive-by reviews...fascinating. I enjoyed all the activities as well. I really cannot think of anything to complain about. I absolutely had a blast. Thanks for all the hard work!”

We hope all that made the trip to Frankenmuth also had a great time. Now, with GT-40 wrapped up, it’s time to start thinking about GT-41, the all MG meet, planned for next June in Louisville, KY.

See you there.

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Last updated on October 6, 2015.

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