Lt-Col A. T. 'Goldie' Gardner (1899 - 1958)
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A. T. Goldie Gardner

Goldie Gardner

Lt-Col A. T. G. Gardner

Although all his major records were broken in cars that were basically MGs in origin, Lt-Col Alfred Thomas Goldie Gardner (universally known as Goldie), born in 1899, was one of the most versatile and ingenious speed merchants of the 1930s and 1940s, and was especially adept at modifying an engine so that it could become eligible for widely differing capacity classes.

Long before he came to the public notice with his speed records, Gardner was an enthusiastic competitor at Brooklands with a variety of light cars, beginning with an Austin Seven in 1924. Seven years later, he had acquired a C-type MG, and he became the first man to lap the outer circuit at Brooklands at over 100 mph in a 750cc car.

Gardner had won the Military Cross during World War 1, but racing was taking its toll on his right leg, which was wounded during the conflict. After a bad crash in the 1932 Tourist Trophy he withdrew from road racing, although he continued to make the occasional appearance at Brooklands. By 1934 he was fit enough to continue track racing and in the 500 mile race at Brooklands with co-driver Dr.J.D.Benjafield he achieved third place as well as winning the 1100cc class with an MG K3 Magnette.

Inspired by Sir Malcolm Campbell

After accompanying Sir Malcolm Campbell’s expedition to Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1935 to witness the World Land speed record attempt, he returned to England and concentrated on speed racing records. Gardner acquired a special Magnette, formerly raced by R. T. Horton, which had single-seat bodywork, and lapped Brooklands at over 120 mph. A new, more streamlined body was fitted to this car in 1936, and Gardner raised his Brooklands lap speed to 124.4 mph, a record in the 1100cc class which remained unbeaten until the track closed in 1939.

However, the car could go faster yet, and in record runs at Montlhery and Frankfurt in 1937 Gardner clocked almost 150 mph. But it was obvious to even the casual observer that his sights were set higher still. On 31 May 1939 just before the outbreak of World War 2 driving his special engineered MG, in Dessau, Germany, Goldie Gardner took the 750cc up to 1100cc class records over 2 kilometres, 1 mile, and 5 kilometres distances, at average speeds of 203.5 mph, 203.3 mph and 197.5 mph respectively. After an overnight engine rebore, on 2 June 1939 at the same venue he gained the 1100cc to 1500cc class records over the same distances at average speeds of 204.3 mph, 203.9 mph and 200.6 mph.

What 1100cc could do, reckoned Gardner, 750cc could nearly do, so he had a 750cc six-cylinder unit built to prove his case. The intervention of the war, however, meant that this project had to be shelved for the duration. After a wartime career as a gunner, Goldie Gardner got his 750cc record car on the road as quickly as possible. In 1946, on the new Jabbeke motorway in Belgium, Gardner reached 159.15 mph; the next year he returned, with the car now converted to a 500cc four-cylinder by the simple expedient of removing two conrods and pistons and blanking off two pots.

Back at Jabbeke

Naturally, he set up new records, reaching 118 mph. In September 1948, he was back at Jabbeke, though the engine under the bonnet of his streamlined MG was from Coventry, rather than Abingdon - it was a prototype of the famous Jaguar twin-cam engine, first seen in the XK120 at the London Motor Show a month later. He reached 176.6 mph, and was awarded a second BRDC Gold Star (although it is fair to add that a year later an XK120 Jaguar went a good deal faster still at Jabbeke). Shortly afterwards, Gardner was awarded the OBE.

By this time, he was back to rebuilding MG engines; a 1000cc six-cylinder power unit became a 500cc three-cylinder engine under the Gardner treatment, and achieved a record 154 mph plus. Next to receive the treatment was a 1-Iitre, four-cylinder engine from a 1949 MG; transformed into a 500cc twin, this clocked 121 mph at Jabbeke in the streamliner. Gardner now had records in six out of ten international capacity classes, all taken with his famous MG.

With a blown MG-TD 1500cc power unit, the car attained 137 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1951; at the same venue a year later, Gardner, now aged 63, reached 148.7 mph with a 2-liter Wolseley engine and 189.5 mph with a new TD unit (which would have been at least 30 mph faster, but for wheel-spin on the salt). With that, the indomitable Gardner called it a day, and devoted himself to his motor-trade interests. He died in 1958, after a long illness, in Eastbourne, Sussex.
Goldie Gardner and his MG at Bonneville
Goldie Gardner and his MG at Bonneville.
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