Steve Papamarcos has been trying to solve the mystery of his 1949 MG TC for two years now, and the journey has been wrought with more dead-ends than an industrial park. Here’s your chance to be the hero of the story.
“I’ve exhausted all ideas to unravel this riddle,” Papamarcos wrote in an email asking for assistance. “I’m hoping to enlist the help of the collector community in solving it. As objects, our cars are beautiful; as historical artifacts, they’re priceless.”
Well said, Steve. You had us at “hello.”
Papamarcos, who lives in Williamsburg, Virginia, wrote that after he purchased his TC in 2017, he immediately began digging into its past. “Like many TC enthusiasts, I have great interest in WWII history,” he wrote, “and one of the things that immediately attracts me to post-war MGs is that they were built by some of the heroes of the Greatest Generation. That possible affiliation is part of the mystery that I’m trying to solve.”
The car (serial #TC6488, which previously sold for $35,000 at Mecum’s 2012 St. Charles Auction) was originally registered in Missouri to a man named Christopher S. Tanner. When the TC was delivered to Papamarcos, however, it carried reproduction 1949 Illinois plate #B24734. He wondered if that particular plate number meant something. “Many of us know what a B24 Liberator is,” Papamarcos wrote, referring to the WWII bomber plane. “What I didn’t know was that ‘734’ was one of the squadrons assigned to the 453rd Bombardment Group of the VIII Air Force in the European Theater of Operations. Those guys flew B24s…”
Papamarcos learned that the TC was listed in the New England MG T Register (#8994), so he reached out and asked for any background information that might be available. Membership registrar Jan Hurd gave him a starting point. “The car was first listed with the Registry in 1967—by Robert M. Hess, M.D., of Columbus, Ohio—and given registration number 734,” Papamarcos wrote, pointing out that yes indeed, the last three digits matched the TC’s plate number. He located Dr. Hess, a retired neurosurgeon, and learned more. “He’s a wonderful guy, and we’ve had fabulous correspondence about the car. His memory is astounding.”
Hess told Papamarcos that he purchased the TC in May 1967 from British Motor Car Company in San Francisco. Papamarcos asked him about the license plate and the possible connection between a WWII B-24 bomber and Registry number 734. Hess didn’t know, but he evidently had nothing to do with it.
Papamarcos later learned the names of the MG’s other owners: S. Goldman, Rod Rousculp, Arno Wetendorp, Fred Troyan, and the aforementioned Christopher S. Tanner. “I’ve been unsuccessful in connecting with or finding information on any of these gentlemen,” Papamarcos wrote. “I’ve conducted numerous on-line searches, posted on forums, and have searched WWII military databases. The only possible connection I could find—and it’s highly speculative—came via the American Air Museum in Britain.”
The AAM lists a Tanner—Gordon E. Tanner—as a veteran of 26 combat missions with the VIII Air Force, 453rd Bombardment Group, 734th Bomb Squadron. “Tanner flew B24s out of Old Buckenham, so all of the numbers match. I’ve been unable to determine if Gordon E. Tanner, the airman, is related to Christopher S. Tanner, the previous owner of TC6488, but the possibility is intriguing.”
Papamarcos is filled with questions he doesn’t have answers to. “Was Illinois license plate B24734 meant to honor Gordon Tanner’s service? If so, how does that explain the information from Jan Hurd that the car was given T Register number 734? Did it receive that number simply because Dr. Hess registered immediately after number 733 was issued but before 735? If so, that’s one heck of a coincidence.”
Papamarcos also wonders, if Christopher S. Tanner lived in Missouri and registered the car there, why was the TC wearing an Illinois plate? “The only Illinois connection I could find was through the MG-TABC Member List, which shows the car being owned by Fred Troyan—just prior to Tanner—in Rockford, Illinois, in 2009,” Papamarcos wrote. “So, how did that plate find its way back onto the car after Tanner’s ownership?”
He has a guess, of course, but he’d rather have the facts.
“I like to think that the car was brought to the U.S. by an American flyer, but who knows? For me, knowing the history of it would make the stewardship experience even more worthwhile,” Papamarcos wrote. “If there is anyone out there who can provide some insight, no matter how minor it may seem, or who can point me in a new direction, your input would be much appreciated.”
Papamarcos’ email is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach out to Hagerty with any information. We’ll let you know if there’s a happy ending. Now, go get ’em—the world needs more heroes.