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A family stable

Marico Sammut drives down memory lane in his favourite classics.

Like father, like son, goes the old adage, and while it may not always turn out that way, this certainly applies in the case of Marico Sammut and his involvement with classic cars.

“Old cars in the Sammut family go back to my grandfather Nicholas, who was the proud owner of a Jaguar SS,” Sammut explained. “Besides our family living in his house, my father Joseph drove a Morris 1000, and later bought a 1952 MG YB. The air that wafted around was heavy with the adults extolling the virtues of British icons like Jaguar, Morris and MG, and I feasted on it.”

Being the oldest of three sons, Sammut recollects happy days helping his father restoring the MG YB chassis and drivetrain, as well as accompanying him to activities of the now defunct Collectors Vehicle Club, the predecessor of the Malta Old Motors Club. Another highlight down memory lane involves a series of trips to Ta’ Qali with his grandfather, who gave him driving lessons on a Hillman Minx before he was 18.

“That critical age saw me entering the adult world with a bang, for I got my driving licence and started working in a local bank. A few months later, I saw an MG Midget at a car dealer in Birkirkara, and I decided that this was the car to really set me going in my father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Obviously, I did not have enough money to buy it, but my understanding mother gave me a loan, behind my father’s back, in order to purchase it.”

The white 1961 MG Midget Mark I with a 948cc engine and sliding windows was in good condition, and Sammut kept it for a couple of years. Then, realising that its speed was not up to his liking, decided to exchange it for a more powerful vehicle. He opted for a roadworthy 1966 MGB GT with a 1798cc engine, in Old English white with red upholstery, which he still owns.

Although the Sammut family has always had a predilection for British cars, he gradually developed a genuine appreciation of the performance and cutting-edge design of Italian cars. This feeling eventually led him to buy a blue, 1970 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Later, he sold it to a friend, as he wanted a more power model, and his choice fell on a white, 1972 Alfa Romeo Berlina 2000. Deciding that his latest acquisition would have to undergo an eventual nut and bolt restoration project, Sammut bought another Berlina for cannibalisation – although he quietly confesses that he still has not got round to embarking on this task!

Influenced by the Jaguar presence in the family, Sammut also bought a Jaguar XJ6 Series 1.

The Alvis has exposed him to a different breed of vehicles, leading him deeper into research

“I saw the 1970, Warwick grey, 2.8L model at a dealer, and could not resist it. It was in a very good condition, and with its manual overdrive transmission, independent suspension, and all round disc brakes, offered a comfortable and smooth ride, which still stands high by even today’s standard”.

With three thoroughbreds in his classic stable, the then still single Sammut turned his priorities to more urgent matters of the heart. Getting married, starting a family, and moving house left little or no time for old cars, and a long dormant period followed.

However, years later, with a settled family life, the classic car fever returned. And what better than an MG Midget, the first love of his classic car life?

“I was immediately attracted to this 1971, 1275cc British racing green MG Midget, and I bought it. Not only because of the nostalgia but more so as it was a round wheel arch model – quite rare. Although deemed less safe in the case of a rear end collision, this model is the most sought after from the whole Midget post-war range.”

Later, he was asked by his father to accompany him to England, to inspect a 1948 3.5L Jaguar MK IV. A deal was soon struck, and then the owner told them he had another old vehicle for sale, which turned out to be a 1948 Alvis TA 14 Mulliners Saloon. Sammut was mesmerised and soon bought it. Waxing lyrical about the marque, he says that the Alvis has exposed him to a different breed of vehicles, leading him deeper into research.

The Alvis Car and Engineering Works was a British manufacturing company in Coventry, operating between 1919 and 1967. It produced civilian cars, sports cars, aircraft engines and armoured vehicles.

“The Alvis factory produced the engine and chassis, which were then sent to individual coach builders, among others Mulliners, Tickford and Mulliner Park Ward. In the case of the TA 14 there were a multitude of small coachbuilders involved. There was a reason behind this, mainly for the buyers to benefit from tax concessions, as well as helping to kickstart the recovery of the post war UK economy there were quite a few woodies built.”

Sammut, who has a significant collection of Alvis publications and manuals, says that although the company folded in 1967, staff kept it alive through activities such as the supply of spare parts and maintenance works, as well as restoration projects. Under the name of Red Triangle – the logo of Alvis – it was announced in 2010 that the production of the Alvis 4.3 litre short chassis tourer, which was interrupted in 1937 by the impending war, would be restarted. This was possible as all Alvis records remained at its Kenilworth headquarters, together with large stocks of period parts.

The latest addition to Sammut’s collection came courtesy of his wife Astrid, who heard through the grapevine that a 1985 one owner BMW E30 was on the market. The silver blue vehicle did not need much attention, so much so that the couple ventured with it on the OMC trip to Sicily last year.

While Astrid is enthusiastic about old cars, their son Daniel Joseph is just beginning to show interest in old motors, but their daughter Martina remains lukewarm.

Sammut is a strong believer in collective teamwork, and true to his beliefs, for a time was a member of the UK MG Owner Club, and for quite some time now, the UK Alvis Owners Club.

“Among many events the latter organises an annual international meeting, and we have been to three of them. It opens your world not only technically, but also socially.”

Sammut has also been a long serving member of the OMC committee, having put in stints as secretary, newsletter editor, and looking after the website.

Despite six classic cars to attract his attention, he does not hesitate to pick the Alvis as his favourite. He claims that there are only three Alvis models in Malta, and adds that not many know that the company came out with the first front wheel drive racing vehicle, as well as the first full synchromesh gearbox.

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