by Art Isaacs
In case you have not noticed, the value of our MG cars has been increasing steadily. Many collector cars have, some to extremes we can never hope to have our cars aspire to, but that’s really a good thing. Why? Well, despite appraisals (and auction selling prices) going into the mid-30’s, the MGB has not reached the threshold where owners don’t drive them anymore for fear of damaging their investment. That’s important and I’ll get back to this point.
Now, $30,000 is not what it was in 1990 when I bought my ’73 MGB for $300. Inflation has taken some of the shine off that sort of increase in value, but at that time, a running big Healy or Jaguar E-Type could still be found in the $10-15,000 range and a well restored MGB for the same or even less. Paying $6,500 for a B you could drive home, clean-up and take to a local popular show in the next week to take 2nd or 3rd in class was not that unheard of.
All you need do is compare the cars pictured in older issues of the Octagon magazine to those in current ones or attend a local LBC show to see the level to which owners are now restoring their cars. Part of this is that the cars are older themselves, have been used and enjoyed, so now need the kind of complete tear-down, including rotisserie body restoration that was barely an option 20 or so years ago, both in finding shops qualified to do the work and the cost-vs-value thing.
Now, the cost of entry has risen as well, but not 100 fold. There are still any number of decent MGs to be found at under $5,000, but get too far below that and you get cars with more serious needs. Midgets can still be found for less, but not much for a rust-free, complete driver. Again, the value of the finished product is such that reasonable investment makes these a good option.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure what I have actually invested in my car. It started life over 25 years ago as a ‘pocket-change project’, as I had a house and 2 young children with no place in the budget for restoring a classic car. I used my ‘lunch money’, asked for parts as birthday presents, scrounged from what others discarded as they restored their cars, bought a lot used at swap meets and sorted through junk yards. Back then, unless the junkyard specialized in these types of cars (anyone in the NY/NJ area remember Stucker’s on Staten Island?) Midgets, MGBs and other sports cars were looked upon as more of a nuisance by the mainstream GM, Ford Chrysler or AMC based yards, as there was little call for pieces from them on a regular basis and they took-up valuable space. I would see a B in the pile and some of these yards would try to sell me the whole car for a bit more than I was willing to pay for the part I needed! Looking back, I’m sorry I didn’t buy some of those, but I just did not have the room (or the money) at the time.
As a result, I’ve had to do things more than once and often do more work to undo the modifications made to fit adapted parts. There have been any number of seat/upholstery changes, carburetors, distributors and suspension work to get where I am today. But if it was not the most direct and economical way to do things, it was fun.
And that brings me back to my point about these cars. They were meant to be fun. Not investments cowering in the corner of the garage for fear of getting wet, dirty or causing wear with use. They are meant to be driven and enjoyed. And the passion, not just for the look, but the feel and joy of what a British sports car was meant for needs to be passed on to our children and grandchildren. Otherwise, they become like dinosaur bones, to be looked at and not touched.
The sports car has had a rebirth and is currently coming around to something closer to what we enjoy. The fact that the Mazda MX-5 Miata has been sold over 28 years of continuous production (8 years longer than the original MGB series) speaks volumes to this. The current generation is now closer to its original roots, which were based in a fondness for the British Classics, like the Lotus and MGB. And we are seeing the return of affordable true sport sedans, like the Alfa Guilia, not to mention that Chrysler-Fiat now offers their own version of the Miata as a new incarnation of the Fiat 124.
We already know and have what they are looking for. Getting into your B is more like putting on your favorite jeans. It fits in all the right places and becomes part of you (and, as WE get older, sometimes presents the same challenges). You feel and experience it as much as drive it.
And just because it is now worth more should not diminish the love for flogging them around the turns of the back roads and running 50-60 miles each way, just to go to a favorite spot for lunch or dinner, oft times more because the ride is fun and interesting than the food so unique. That is the true value of our cars.
They belong on the road, as do we. Get a kid out in them, even if just for grocery run. Let them help you prepare for gathering or show and then come along.
Allow a child to sit in your car at a show. You have no idea the impression that makes on the next generation. Or the spark that kindles.
So whether you’ve put in your money, your sweat or both, get the most out of your investment. Whenever possible, shake the dust off your MG the easy way – Drive!