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John Browne

 

Worked for Cecil Kimber as a mechanic in the very early days of MG, from 1924 to 1928.

 

John was on hand to help build "Old Number One" in a "lock-up in the mews,"  referring to the small workshop in the mews on Alfred Lane, one of several locations used by Kimber in Oxford before any purpose built factories.

 

John tells of his two years going to night school and working on MGs in the evening to fulfill his "improvership," a higher form of apprenticeship.  Then he recalls his years working for pay and remembers Cecil Kimber and "old Billy Morris."

 

This interview was recorded in 1997.  John has now passed on, but his memories form an "original source" for MG fans and historians.

 

Fairly accurate transcriptions of these interviews are available upon request.
Contact: david@shelburnefilms.com

 

John Browne in 1997 in Wisconsin.

"The Improvership"

 

In part 1, John recalls when he first started working at MG, for no pay, while attending night school to become a full mechanic.  He describes   He served his "improvership" working on MGs at night at the "lock-up the Mews on Alfred Lane,"  where he worked for Cec Cousins along with Jack Lowndes.

 

John tells how Kimber came up with some of his ideas for car designs and how Kimber's first sports car design was a Raworth bodied 2-seater on a Cowley chassis and came before "Old #1."   By the end of his improvrship demand for MGs had grown to the point that Kimber secured a "bay" for car production at the Osburton Radiator Company.

"Working for Pay"

 

Browne continues his story in part two, telling of working for pay at the Osburton Road location. He recalls some of the modifications that were made to the Morris Oxford chassis to make them MGs.  He discusses salaries of the employees and the working conditions and the enthusiasm.

 

Soon demand was such that a purpose built factory was obtained on Edmund Road. Then he remembers that Morris bought Wolseley and they began experimenting with the overhead cam engine to replace the old side valve engines.  He recounts some of the changes made that led to the M-type.  Finally he tells about the big move to the Pavlova factory in Abingdon at which point he took his leave from MG.

"Old Number One & the First Badged MG"

 

When was the first "badged" MG built?  This question has perplexed MG historians forever.  While he cannot answer it, John Brown, in part 3, does shed some light on exactly why it is such an elusive date.

 

Browne begins by discussing "Old Number One" which he helped build in "a lock-up in the mews."  He discusses some of the modifications that went into the car with which Kimber won a medal in the Lands End Trial of 1925.

"Remembering Cecil Kimber"

 

Part 4 is a short remembrance of Cecil Kimber and the close relationship Browne had with the "boss" because of their mutual interest in motorcycles.  He also recalls Kimber's daughter, Jean Kimber Cook, and how she felt about her father's legacy in the later years.

"Remembering Sir William Morris"

 

Part 5 is John's recollections of Sir William Morris.  Besides a bit of little known early history of England's greatest car builder, Browne gives us a bit of insight into the character of the man.  He tells of Morris' background, coming from a poor neighborhood and getting his start as a bicycle mechanic. He recounts "Lord Nuffields" rise as a bicycle magnate in the college town of Oxford and his gradual evolution into a car producer.  We glimpse the down home character of the man that rose to knighthood when we hear of his interactions with the "old school chums" whom he now employed as laborers in the MG works.

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