Collector of the Week: Jason Urban

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Jason Urban, of Bucks County, PA, sent in an email about his 1935 MG PA Lester Special:

Our MG is a special-bodied P-type race car. The MG was built and registered as GUR963 by Harry Lester in 1946 on a PA chassis and changed to a PB engine. While we consider the car a 1935 MG P-Type Lester Special, the original MG, serial number P1237, was built in 1934.

This MG was originally campaigned by Harry Lester. It was then sold to Donald Pitt, who raced the car extensively in the later 1940s, typically with a win or second place. After the 1947 Ulster Handicap Speed Trials, Autocar magazine reviewed the car for a feature article in its March 1949 issue.

The car raced throughout some of the 1950s, and it then sat dormant until an early 1970s restoration. GUR963 then spent some time in the 1980s with a VSCCA member in the U.S. before returning to the U.K. In 1999, the car was brought to the U.S. by another VSCCA member and used for some events and rallies.

The engine was rebuilt in 2000 to full race specifications, including billet crank and rods, custom intake manifold, and an N-timed camshaft.GUR963 passed on to a good friend of ours before landing in our garage in 2008.

I have raced GUR963 with the VSCCA over the past three seasons. These events have included three Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, two New Jersey Vintage Grand Prix, two Hunnewell Hillclimbs, a Mt. Equinox Hillclimb, Lime Rock, and several other events and rallies. While I have only been vintage racing for four seasons, three of these seasons have been as part of the wonderful and quirky pre-war crowd.

Having an aluminum body and lowered cowling of the radiator and cockpit, GUR963 is a very low and light racer. The 939-cc, single overhead camshaft engine is currently producing approximately 70 horsepower with SU carbs. Below 4,000 rpm, the engine is quite cranky, but beyond 4,000 rpm there is quite a pull of power all the way to 6,500 rpm. Spark is supplied by a Vortex magneto.

The gearbox is a stock PB gearbox with a wide spacing between 2nd and 3rd gear, requiring only a slight bit of work when downshifting. Cable brakes, when properly adjusted, pull the MG up tight for a car of this era. Vented drums limit some brake fade, but there is very little braking power left after the downhill mountain drive of Mt. Equinox! Lightweight and nimble handling gives the car an advantage in the rain and wet over bigger and more powerful cars. I quite enjoy racing this car in the rain!

GUR963 is a race car, but we also enjoy taking her out for a nice evening to dinner. The cockpit is barely big enough for the two of us and a bottle of wine. Overall, it is a very pleasant car to drive, with all the right handling and noises of a pre-war racer.

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