The Gift That Keeps on Giving
By Todd Alkire
My British car story begins in 1985 when my grandfather bought a 1963 MGB for $250. It was dark blue (originally Iris Blue) and looked very rough from the pictures he would send me from his home in San Bernardino, Calif. I’m not sure how long it had been sitting at the local Norton AFB before he bought it, but at least long enough for it to acquire military-grade Naugahyde seat covers.
Over the next couple of years, my grandfather and I talked occasionally about his progress on resurrecting the B, along with updated pictures of it now painted red. In early ’87, he told us that he would be making a trip east to our home in Knoxville, TN that summer with the B in tow behind his motorhome. To my surprise, though, the B was my high school graduation gift! The 1963 MGB became mine on July 31, 1987.
My grandfather explained that the B was a gift to commemorate me being the first one in the family to go to college. In his words, “If I had attended college, this is the car I would want to drive.” Of course I was thrilled about getting a sports car to drive to college! I still remember the smile he had when he took me on his final drive just before handing over the keys to the B. I couldn’t have been more excited!
That excitement, however, quickly passed when the B frequently broke down. I had no idea how to work on cars, especially British ones with twin carbs. I didn’t know anyone with an old British car, and “networking” over the internet was still 10 years away! So I bought a repair manual, and with my dad’s hand tools, I bravely dove into those SU carburetors.
By 1990, I had moved to Huntsville, Ala., to complete my mechanical engineering degree and had started an engineering intern job. Finally, I had some extra money as well as a girl at school I was trying to impress. While I had the B to running well, the tri-colored paint job was not impressive. Luckily, I had met a classmate that had a body shop! We decided to give the B a face-lift in the week before starting Fall classes. I stripped the car as thoroughly as possible, hauled it to his shop, then over 3 days we straightened and re-sprayed it red. I started classes that Fall in what felt like a brand new MGB! My plan to impress the girl worked, too, as she and I will be celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary this year (and it’s worth noting is that the car guy friend was my best man).
From 1990 to 2002, I had only enough time to keep the old B running as two kids were now part of the Alkire family. Unfortunately, I dropped out of the local British Car club and concentrated raising a family and driving regular cars (and minivans!). It wasn’t until I decided to tackle an engine rebuild that my interest in the B was renewed. During the engine rebuild, I also rebuilt the suspension, and added new wheels and tires. After hearing about a new annual British Car show in 2004, I decided to enter my B in the Euro-Brit Auto & Bike Expo. This was my very first show, and I was both proud and surprised to have won “Best in Class” and the “Mayor’s Choice Award.
I think my MG experience is unique. Many people search for a particular car they fell in love with, whereas I have come to love my B. As a teenager, I had always been attracted to American Muscle cars and dreamed of one day owning one. Over the years, however, I have grown an appreciation for the MGB. The MGB has a unique character that I never felt driving any other car. Additionally, all my automotive skills can be credited to my B; skills that I will pass on to my son and daughter.
My grandfather passed away in November 2000, and although he never saw the 1963 B in its current condition, I know he would be proud to see the success in my family, career, and that MGB he bought 27 years ago. So as 2012 marks the golden anniversary of the MGB, so too will I celebrate the silver anniversary of enjoying my MGB.