The ex-Maurice Toulmin, Bernard Harding c.1954 Lester-MG T51 Coupé Registration no. GUO 209 Chassis no. 0734 Engine no. 20264
'The combination of being both an everyday and competition car must surely have been what Maurice Toulmin had in mind when originally commissioning the car.' Andrew Roberts, MG Enthusiast magazine. Englishman Harry Lester was a garage owner and motor racing enthusiast whose business was located at Thatcham in Berkshire. Lester was an MG devotee, who, in the immediate post-WW2 years, raced a modified PB Midget before building his first MG-engined Lester in 1949. Like most of his ilk, Lester wanted to improve on the standard product, and the result was a car that possessed superior handling and was both lighter and more powerful than the contemporary MG TC. Lester's first chassis used a pair of large-diameter main tubes with cross bracing, MG Y-Type saloon independent front suspension rather than the TC's beam axle, Y-type hydraulic brakes and steel disc wheels, TC four-speed gearbox, TA rear axle and a special steering box. The TC's XPAG engine was used, linered out to 1,466cc and fitted with a Weslake high-compression cylinder head and racing camshaft. 100bhp-plus was claimed. A narrow, two-seater, cycle-winged sports body was fitted to this car, which first ran in 1949, with Lester at the wheel, and then was driven the following year by Jim Mayers. Lester's MG-engined sports cars were campaigned with considerable success in British domestic events in the early 1950s by the curiously named 'Monkey Stable'. Effectively the works team, Monkey Stable achieved the equipe's - and the Lester-MG's - best result at the 1952 Goodwood Nine Hours, taking the team award. For 1953, Lester constructed his first coupé along similar mechanical lines to the open sports cars, but using an all-enveloping body whose central section was sourced from a FIAT 500 Topolino saloon. This car was followed towards the end of 1954 by a new design that updated Lester's original concept. The basic chassis layout was retained, but the suspension was now by double wishbones and André dampers at all four corners, with coil springs at the front and a single transverse leaf spring at the rear. Four cars were planned: two MG-engined coupés and a brace of Coventry Climax-powered roadsters. In the event, the Monkey Stable, it is believed, completed just two cars - both of them coupés: one MG- and one Climax-powered - with at least one other MG-engined car partly built. Sadly, the new Lester GT proved un-competitive against outright sports-racers and, for unconnected reasons, the Monkey Stable, which by now was running Bristol 450s, folded at the end of 1955. It is believed that no more Lesters were constructed, and only four are known to survive today out of a probable build total of around 18 cars. This car was built specially for MG agent and racer Maurice Toulmin, whose 6' 4" height accounts for its high roofline; apparently, it is the seventh chassis produced at Thatcham. Toulmin soon sold the Lester-MG, which passed via Tony Darby and Peter Roberts, both of whom used it as a road car, before its acquisition by Bernard Harding, who kept it from 1957 to 1962. Harding campaigned 'GUO 209' extensively during his ownership, winning 17 awards on the circuits and hills at Shelsley Walsh, Prescott and the Brighton Speed Trials, achieving class wins at Bodmin 1960, Firle and Wiscombe in 1961, finishing 4th at Goodwood at the BARC September 1960 race meeting, winning the class and clocking the fastest lap at Silverstone during the N Staffs CC September 1960 event, and competing at Brands Hatch. MG Enthusiast magazine ran an extensive feature on 'GUO 209' (September 2010 edition, copy article available), which relates its history in great detail and lists Bernard Harding's results. In 1962, Harding sold the car to John Stringer, who fitted a supercharger and continued to race it with success. In 1981, the Lester-MG was sold to the USA, passing into the ownership of MG collector Gerry Goguen, proprietor of marque specialists Abingdon Spares, whose MG museum in Westminster, Vermont, was world famous. In the early 1990s Goguen had the body shipped to the UK, where it was expertly restored by Len Bull of Monza Classic Cars in Doddinghurst, Essex. Once restored, the body was shipped back to New England, where the car was put on museum display, remaining there until the Goguen collection was dispersed circa 2003. The Lester-MG was subsequently returned to running order and brought back to Europe from Alabama, USA in April 2007 (EU taxes have been paid). Its specification includes aluminium coachwork on a steel frame; 1,466cc MG TC-based engine; Laystall aluminium cylinder head; balanced crankshaft, con-rod and pistons, full race camshaft; rack-and-pinion steering; lightened flywheel; Derrington exhaust; TC transmission; twin fuel pumps; and an electric cooling fan. Finished in green with matching interior, 'GUO 209' is described as in generally good condition, and is offered with invoices and photographs relating to the 1993 body restoration, CD-ROM of the MGE images, Swansea V5C registration document and fresh MoT. A distinctive and technically interesting GT car eligible for a wide variety of prestigious historic motor sports events, including the Goodwood Revival Meeting's Madgwick Cup.