John and Sheila Pickering
Octagon Newsletter … September 2002
By Wayne Watkins
Victoria MG Club members' MGs and other British cars - they are the source of many stories and history. This month we look at some of the cars of John Pickering and how he acquired his MGA.
John's first car in England was a 1954 Morris Minor split window. He also had a Lambretta scooter. Then on to a 1958 British Racing Green Hillman Minx which quickly earned the nickname "the little tank". Then John and Sheila moved up to a Morris Oxford which had more room for the kids. In the RAF he bought a brand new Mini in January 1961. He had two more Mini vans which were converted to camperized versions. Then he bought a bright red Ford Thames van. He could park it anywhere because many people thought it was a fire department vehicle.
In 1969, the family made the big move to Canada - to Winnipeg. Not only was the climate a culture shock - so was the huge 1969 Oldsmobile '88' he bought. In 1970 he found a 1956 MGA in someone's backyard. A former race car at tracks in the U.S., it was priced right at $7500.00. John brought it back to life over a ten year period. John's Dad worked for Lucas back in England so all the lights and switches needed for the rebuild were readily available.
John and Sheila are no strangers to the Victoria MG Club. Son Mark was 16 when the family drove out to Victoria to settle here. Mark had no license at the time but did a lot of the driving anyway. Later, Mark and his wife Sonja worked on the GoF (Gathering of The Faithful) West hosted by the Victoria MG Club in 1984! As an aside John recalls that he contributed some unique items to the auction at the GoF. John's father had worked at the Lucas factory where the company lunch room had Lucas cutlery - of course. John's father would chose his meal and would put his cutlery in his shirt pocket on his way to the table. Inadvertently many pieces of Lucas cutlery found their way into the Pickering kitchen.
John ended up with a few pieces and donated some to the GoF auction. The first Lucas fork auctioned off garnered $40.00!
In the eighties, son Mark drove and restored many cars including MGAs and MGBs while he and Sonja were members of our club. Then all of sudden no one in the Pickering family had an MG, as John's MGA and all of Mark's MGs that he had worked on were now sold. Horrors! Life moves on and in 1997 John got the bug again and announced to all and sundry "I want an MGA again."
Mark, the sympathetic and very understanding son, took up the challenge and searched the internet for John. He found a 1960 MGA that sounded very good and phoned John. John asked where it was, thinking maybe Coquitlam or as far out as Chilliwack. It was owned by a gentleman in Florida! As it turned out, Mark was working for a company from whom he won a cruise out of Florida at that very time. Mark convinced John to catch the red eye flight to Toronto and then down to Florida and meet him there.
After a thorough going over by the two of them, John bought the MGA. The plan quickly developed which would see John and Mark drive the car all the way back to Vancouver. They put on a new exhaust system and hit the road complete with the previous owner's Florida license plates on loan until they got the car to its new home. They drove day and night hitting Santa Barbara in three days and then headed into the mountains and a pack of electrical trouble.
With no Lucas parts in sight they salvaged bits and pieces from Datsuns in wrecking yards and got the 'A' mobile. Then they made an uneventful bonzai run all the way to Vancouver. A few days ago as I polished the MGA (John won a complete detail day prize I donated to a recent Christmas Party), I noticed the ultimate MG spirit dash plaque prominently displayed: "April 1998 - Mark and John Pickering - 4,149 mile drive from Florida to Vancouver in seven days."
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