This story begins at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in 2008. As usual, I scanned the airplane and motorcycle magazines and then looked over the magazine rack for other entertainment. Staring back at me was a Hemmings Motor News. Although a faithful reader of Hemmings many years ago, I hadn’t looked at one for some time.
Going straight to the MG section to search recent MGBs prices, I saw the following ad:
“…..Iris Blue 1963 MGB roadster, second owner, restored by first owner, 82,000 original miles, complete books and records. Call ***-***-**** in Atlanta.”
That was odd. I remembered selling a 1963 Iris Blue MGB roadster to a person from Atlanta in 1988. Could this be him? Could this be my Dad’s MG? My wife returned shortly afterward and I told her about it. She suggested I call “because she had never forgiven me for selling the car and thought we should get it back.” In reality, I didn’t want to sell it at the time either, but was finishing an experimental aircraft that needed an engine and one used Lycoming aircraft engine at that time equaled one 1963 MGB roadster in restored condition.
I called the Atlanta telephone number and a familiar voice answered. Don had been trying to find me to see if I wanted to repurchase the car but I had moved and he couldn’t find me. He said that he had retired, was getting out of car collecting, and had sold all his collection except the MGB. Actually, my call was only out of curiosity and I really didn’t want the car again as I had “moved on” from hobby cars since 2004. I had even sold the airplane in 2005 after 16 years of reliable service. The longer we talked, however, the more reasonable the price became. I could tell that he wanted me to have it.
To make things even more interesting, my Dad, though deceased since 2000, began to talk to me about a repurchase….
Back to 1963……
I was in graduate school at Penn State, having gone there from the coal mines of West Virginia (a long story in itself for an Alabama boy), when my father, a pickup truck man, had a mid-life crisis. He called to say that he had bought a new MGB without even seeing one, only seeing a sales brochure with a pretty blue roadster on it. He had ordered the one shown in the brochure. Since I was about 1,000 miles away, he probably thought that I wouldn’t be around to wreck it for him. He did, however, drive it to Pennsylvania for a visit, and later to west Texas after I had begun a petroleum engineering career out there. He commuted in the MG to his steel mill job for several years, obviously a strange sight in a “Buy American” work locale. He was a complex man for his time, born and raised in the Deep South but was the rare integrationist, even removing his bathing supplies from the “white” bath house and setting up in the “colored” bath house at the mill. With his being quite burly, nothing really came of it.
In the late 1960s I was between jobs, so got a PhD at the University of Texas and joined the engineering faculty at The University of Alabama. One day in 1975 Dad called and said that the MG was available but needed some work. He had the “hots” for a Ford F-150 pickup, was out of garage space, so the MG had to go. Having only one car at the time, my wife and I were happy to get it even though it had seen better days. I did some basic repairs to make it safe for daily use, put a cheap paint job on it, recovered the seats, and used it as a second car. By 1982 we had a legitimate second car, so I decided to rebuild the MG and began a three year ground-up restoration project. By 1985 I had an as-new MGB.
Having morphed into a builder hobbyist, I turned my attention to constructing an experimental aircraft, and by 1988 it had progressed to the point of needing an engine, so I placed an ad in Hemmings:
……“1963 MGB roadster. Iris Blue. Family owned since new. Ground-up restoration in 1982-85. As-new condition. Call for details.”
The prospective purchaser flew in on a commercial aircraft, walked across the airport to my hangar, inspected the car, gave me a check, dropped the top, and drove it to his home in Atlanta. I feared the MG might not make it without a tow truck and called about 4 hours later to see if he had made it. To my surprise he said it was one of the best trips he could remember. We kept in touch, as I still thought of the MG as a family member and he would call me periodically about technical issues, but we finally lost contact in 1995 sometime after I wrote him asking for first dibs if he decided to sell it. In the meantime, “MGB lust” resurfaced and I rebuilt a basket-case 1964 Tartan Red roadster that was probably my best work. I sold it in 2004 while “toy-thinning” before moving to our current home.
Back to 2008…
My wife and I pulled a tow dolly to Atlanta, got the MG, and headed home. It was in remarkable condition considering that it was now 45 years old. Each time we stopped for gas or goodies, some fellow of my age-group would walk up, examine the car, comment on its fine condition, and mention that he longed for the “good old days” when he was young and had an MGB. Did everyone of my generation have an MG? Sure seems so.
As I drove it around town over the next few months, several small aging problems were apparent, as would be expected since it had accumulated only 2,500 miles over the past 20 years. Finally there were enough zits on the list to suggest another teardown. I started this by rebuilding inside-out, removing the instrument panel, instruments, cables, wiring harness, heater, firewall accessories, hydraulics, chassis parts, and renewal of anything that was worn. The floorboards were resealed, still original and without rust.
Although I provided the manpower for the rework, the project required the help of MG parts providers and the E-Bay store, the latter unknown at the time of the 80’s restoration. These providers are a boon to MG owners, unlike many other cars of its era where parts shortages are real obstacles to restoration and maintenance.
We entered the MGB in a local car contest in 2009 and won 2nd place, so it had reached a good balance of summer daily driver and show car.
And on to 2012…..
Is Dad still talking to me about all of this? Is he enjoying the strangeness of it all? Can’t really say. I’m not superstitious by nature, but sometimes in the evenings I can almost hear him when the workshop is very quiet. He was a very religious man, so if he was able to claim his “heavenly reward” and is capable of earthly observation, I’m sure he is amused by my perpetual MG maintenance. He would have enjoyed how all of this has turned out. Sorry it didn’t happen while he was with us.
Dad, I’m in my 70’s now and this will probably be my last MGB restoration, so what do you think about this ad….?
…..“1963 MGB roadster. Iris Blue with original-style interior and tops. Everything works. 87,000 miles on original drive train. Owned by my family for 29 years and by another for 20 years, but loved and maintained by both. Restored in 1982-85 and 2008-09. A daily driver that should last a hundred years or more with proper care. Call…………. “