Famous MG that lent its name to British beer brand going to auction

‘Old Speckled Hen’ on the docket for H&H Classics sale October 14

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Speckled Hen
'Old Speckled Hen' is the nickname of this 1927 MG with a mottled cloth covering | H&H Classics photos

H&H Classics claims that a 1927 MG 14/40 Featherweight Sporting Saloon on its October 14 auction docket is “probably the best-known MG in the world.” After all, the auction house notes, this is the “Old Speckled Hen” that lent its name to a brand of beer.

The story begins in May 1927 when the car was among those that had yet to be sold when Morris Garages was going through the formalization of incorporation as the M.G. Car Company Limited.

The car was updated to 14/40 specification and is believed to have been one of three clothed with fabric Salonette coachwork by Gordon England. The car was used as a factory demonstrator and was nicknamed the Speckled Hen because of its silver and black-fleck covering.

“Keen to establish a reputation as a sports car maker, MG are understood to have fitted ‘WL 3450’ with a lowered back axle for competition events,” H&H Classics reports. 

The car was damaged in a fire shortly before the outbreak of World War II, but survived the war. In 1979, to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of MG, Morland Brewery introduced the “Old Speckled Hen” brand of beer. 

The car as it appears on the brewery website | Greene King Brewing photos

Greene King Brewing, which owns pubs and also brews what those pubs serve, calls Old Speckled Beer (aka “Owld Speckl’d Un”) “Great Britain’s Number One Premium Ale.” It reports the beer to have “a high proportion of crystal malt (that) provides the key toffee/caramel flavour,” with the yeast used in fermentation providing” the other key character — estery or banana/pear drop,” which provides the “fruity and refreshing balance.”

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The company notes that it has “three more hens in the coop” — Old Golden Hen, Old Happy Hen and Old Crafty Hen.

The consignor of the car to auction found the hen in South Wales in the late 1990s and put it through a “chassis up” restoration. H&H Classics expects the car to bring £50,000 to £60,000 ($64,450 to $77,350) at its auction October 14 at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.

For additional information, visit the H&H Classics website.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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