Neville Howell is no stranger to success. In his mid-80s, the rowing champion is still adding to his collection of medals, which includes Olympic bronze and Commonwealth gold. His other passion is MG cars, and he had around two dozen at last count.
“In 1948, a family friend took me for a drive in his MG,” Neville remembers. “I was hooked.”
The next year, when he bought his first car, it was the famed MG TC.
Fast forward to 1970. While visiting California, Neville discovered dilapidated MGBs were cheap and plentiful, so he began importing and restoring them.
As a sideline to a successful business career, he had taught himself to rebuild wrecked cars. He would drive home to Bendigo from work in Melbourne and spend two hours each night honing his skills in painting, machining and wood turning. And his collection grew as
other significant MG models came up for sale.
Neville also loves motor sport. He competed at the Templestowe and Rob Roy hill climbs and raced at Fishermans Bend in his first TC. From the mid-1980s he ran a TC Special in hill climbs and raced at Calder.
In 1933, MG entered a three-car team of K3 models in Italy’s famed Mille Miglia and scored a renowned victory. In 1994, a group of MG enthusiasts from Australia entered the Mille Miglia re-enactment in another trio of K3s. Neville was one of them, in the K3 that had been owned and raced 50 years earlier by Prince Bira of Siam.
Competing in the Mille Miglia inspired Neville to acquire his own K3, but he found they were extremely rare. He managed to track down a set of original factory plans and parts from two incomplete cars. “The K3 was MG’s best racer,” Neville says. “I built mine from scratch off original plans.”
The other car holding pride of place in Neville’s collection is a 1959 MGA Twin Cam coupe. “It’s interesting with its modern shape on an old-style chassis,” he notes. Very few coupes were built, but it’s the extent of his restoration work that makes this car special.
‘A wreck full of rust’
“When I bought the MGA it was a wreck full of rust. I did the whole rebuild except for making the curved panels.”
For Neville, his cars are more than a collection.
“While I like driving all sorts of cars, the main pleasure I get is driving something I built myself.
“Spending a lot of time and effort restoring a car is like training for a rowing race. You train long and hard, then you get the exhilaration of competing in the race. That’s what driving a car you’ve built is like.”
Story: Tony Lupton
Photos: Miguel Rios
Published: RoyalAuto May 2017