David Axelrod 1979 MGB

The ad always says, “excellent condition,” but I’m savvy enough to know that means many excellent hours of puttering and restoration. I bought myself a 1979 MGB MK III—which looks sporty and fast but is actually a sheep in wolves’ clothing. They stopped making them in 1980 because pollution controls cut the horsepower and popular taste was drifting toward something more muscular. 

I moved to Daytona Beach, as much as anything, because my Dad built stock cars and I have motor oil in my blood. The International Speedway is greatly appealing to me. But I just can’t pull up to an auto event in my wife’s RAV4. On the other hand, she won’t give up her garage spot for anything collectible that I want to buy. So I bought my little MG because it was small enough to drive down the narrow alley between my house and the neighbor’s. The car is about 5’ wide by 15’ long. If you add those together you get a 20’ car—which, as you may know, means something that looks great from about 20’ away. 

When I got it home and lived with it up close, all the little flaws became apparent. “Never been north,” may mean it avoided the road salt, but even garaged, keeping it near the ocean still meant lots of rusty spots and restoration. Chrome doesn’t just rust, it pits. Hinges grow fatigued.

I knew I would need a convertible top, but I didn’t know so much of the original upholstery would be just plain worn out. Did I mention the gas tank was so scuzzy inside it needed to be replaced? The radiator, similarly, while not leaking, was not dependable. I didn’t buy the car to win best in show, but bit by bit, I have been replacing various parts. I still have to get out there with a meter to trace why the window washer won’t wash. The pump I bought works, so it must be the switch in the steering wheel. MG electrical systems, I know now, are a source of humor.

The big one, however, was just a function of aging. Cars, like many people, become incontinent as they grow old. I can’t stand leaking. I’ve told my wife, if I get to that stage, she can trade me in. But I bought a complete set of seals and my friend and I have taken the time to pull the engine and do the job.

Hobby cars must be a labor of love. As long as it isn’t a love-hate relationship, it’s fun. Happily, everything I need seems to be available from folks like Victoria British. People must really love their MGs because even the little lenses and screws are there to be ordered. Every part of my car is there to be replaced—and may yet need to be. Pity though, I didn’t calculate that keeping it under cover in my back yard was not good enough. I would need to keep it garaged. I’ve spent more on building a 10’ x 18’ nest for my British bird than the car cost.