An American MGB Association Queen B is the ’70 MGB-GT of Gary Thompson from Dahlonega, Georgia. Here is the story:
Don’t under estimate an MGB …..
Just change the oil when you get back. I am not much of a car club guy but do enjoy receiving the “Octagon”. Car shows are not of any interest to me but SCCA, HSR, and Club Autocross participation has always been a mainstay. A four time Walter Mitty HSR Sports Class winning (street legal) ’59 Bugeye of which I am the second owner and has been raced in seven successive decades is in my garage. In my carport is my daily driver, an MGB-GT. British cars have always been in my blood. When all my friends were salivating over the 60’s Mustangs and Camaros, my want was a 1965 Triumph TR4A – IRS. (never got it but did land a neat ’66 MG Midget as my first British seat.).
Now living in the North Georgia Mountains for the past thirty years I have been given ample opportunities to enjoy my MG’s, Sprites, Morris’s and Minis on some of the most beautiful and fun-filled mountain byways found anywhere and on a nearly year round basis.
February 2018 arrives. Plans for a overdue return trip to my old neighborhood in Redwood City California (just south of San Francisco) to see an ’80 year old friend of forty years have entered the early spring picture. Being 69 years old and retired, I certainly had the time to make the drive. I have driven cross-country several times via pony cars, vans, motorcycles and pick-ups, I also have the knowledge of knowing the many routes both good, not as good, easiest, coldest, hottest, etc. so the plans are solidified, I’m heading west.
Finally it was time to leave so I started assembling the few items other than my clothes that I might need. The normal stuff … i.e. sunglasses, extra glasses, cell phone charger, flash light and very little else as my 2016 GMC Canyon pick-up would keep me safe and comfy so I would need little else. Oh, and the 3 year old Rand McNally Atlas I keep on my desk was loaded up. (I do not have or use any of the electronic stuff in my new pickup, or phones that gives me directions, communications, emergency dispatch etc. and I do not have a computer at my home nor do I have an ATM or debit card. Cash works and was put in play.
OK, it’s Friday. I’m leaving Sunday. I don’t know for sure and I don’t know why but it seems that I couldn’t stop looking at my 48 year old 1970 MGB-GT sitting in the carport. Over and over again it (the GT) ran through my thoughts … “the damned car seemed to be radiating this strange aura of sadness …”. It seemed to know it was being left behind … but why? I had taken it to Florida many times, Cleveland, Ohio many times, NY, Canada, Texas … and now a “real” cross country trip was planned and a pick-up truck was replacing a “sports car”. Despair seemed to be filling the air surrounding the car. Had I already deemed it too old for this trip, condemned it without cause.
Well that was it. I had figured it out. The GT had been my daily driver for the past four years flawlessly. Day after day, wet – dry, hot – cold. Always ready and steady. This is not a restored car and certainly no showpiece with its 30 year old faded repaint and banged up hood and front fender, re-stitched seats, frayed door trim etc. It looks as it should … like and original, un-restored, in need of paint, 48 year old daily driver with 92K miles. (100% completely rust free). On the plus side, I am the fourth owner. I’ve known of the car for over ten years, owned it for 4. It has always been meticulously maintained by me as well as its past owners. I do love to drive it and after re-foaming the driver’s seat it sits well and the stainless steel header and larger exhaust gives a sweeter sound and it gets great mileage at 70mph. People ask about it always and the electric overdrive impresses all who get to ride through the mountains with me.
Well, my mind was set … this cross country round trip would be made in (what I call a leap of faith) a real “sports car”. So Saturday was spent checking “all” fluids, tire pressures, lights, signals. Checked my log and thought about changing the oil but the $7.50 a quart 20/50w VR1 had only 3400 miles on it … so … ” just change it when you get back” !!! The 14 inch Hankooks on the Panasports are only two months old. All the fluids were up except the seeping clutch slave cylinder needed its normal two tablespoons (every two weeks) but there is a pint of brake fluid I keep in the car so got that covered. The heater temp valve is stuck shut but I doubt I’ll need the heater (I was wrong there), defrost maybe (the fan works so there is at least cold air on the screen, but a hand towel will work too). The radio works but the speakers bad, bad, bad and the original 8 track does work but I have no tapes. I love the hum of the motor better than any music and I surely don’t need to listen to fake news. Solved all that.
Right on time, Sunday February 18th showed up and off we went. Six days and 2,945 miles later I’m parked in Redwood City visiting my old friend. Great drive. The route however did take a change of course. A severe down pour in Texas slowed everyone to 25 mph for 50 plus desert miles as no one could see to pull over and stop as there are no shoulders on the desert highway and you do not want to leave the pavement when you can’t see what the shoulder holds (I was at an even greater disadvantage as the typical 2 speed wiper … “too slow for normal rain” and/or “too fast for normal rain”. 13 inch (new) MG wiper blades were completely out gunned by the Texas downpour.
What’s this now, Wake up call! I think I “know” what the blue and red lights mean and I look down and see I am right at 50 mph so head to the next parking lot but the lights on the big Black Tahoe follow … Crosbyton, TX police. Very young, very polite and handsome fellow. He checks the license with the radio. I am good. He sees my Georgia plates and tells me this happens often …”back there about 500 yards the speed limit is 75 mph … here its 35″. He tells me there’s no paper work, just slow down … and then he says with a smile I may have stopped you anyway … “to tell the truth I wanted to see what kind of car this was,” I’ve never seen one of these. We chit chat about the car and another “slow it down OK!” and I’m off. I like the attitude in Crosbyton, TX (pop. 1741).
Next morning came the news relayed to me by my buddy in California of a terrific snow storm heading across north central Arizona and New Mexico. This diverted me south across the White Sands Missile Range (if you go this way always stop to see this ), past the Eagle Tail Mountains in Arizona (a look NE from here and you could see the results of the snow storm … very pretty covering all the mountain tops) and on to Needles, California (where I fill the GT with $4.29 gal. 87 octane) before crossing the gas-less 135 miles across the Mojave Desert to Barstow, CA. A restful night in Barstow and then an easy 400 miles to Redwood City arriving 5pm on Saturday.
I parked the car for the week, (my friend would be the chauffeur for the week in his truck) … and I swear, there it was … even though it was faint and not all could see it, there was a “smile” on the front of that MG as clear to me as the one on my face.. No doubt in my mind.
The week passed and a memorable visit was in the books. The Rand McNally was laid on the table. The trail home to Georgia being platted. The twisties leaving California sought after and found … the Pinnacles National Park, Calico Ghost Town, Joshua Tree National Park.
On eastward … the B52 Bone Yard at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, the Catwalk in Glenwood, NM, VLA and Abo Pueblo Mission in NM, the Alibates Flint Quarries and the Borger City Museum in TX, the Ozarks in Arkansas then the last day thru MS, AL, GA. (plus the stops at the 30 to 40 Historical Markers along the entire route).
March 12, home sweet home.
The results … a “Great Drive in a Great Car”. Flawless in nearly every respect. About 6650 miles. (The speedometer broke in Oklahoma on the return trip but I believe my mileage calculation close). The only other failure was the driver’s window crank handle broke in half … “My fault”. A quick change out to the one on the passenger side door and the “manual air conditioner” is operating again as designed. That is it! I added three quarts of oil on the trip and was one quart low when arriving home. Oh yeah … the two tablespoons of brake fluid were added to the clutch master before heading east on the return trip.
A friend of mine had a great description for the MGB …”They are not known as a real performance car nor do they actually excel at anything … however, they do many many things very, very well and will do it over and over with little other than normal attention.” That is certainly a description of my MGB-GT. This car represents and displays 48 years of forward ambition and is expecting more and will get it. This is my second GT, my first 40 years ago. I find few other cars I like in styling and the pleasure of driving more. It is not about performance, luxury, flash, dash or look at me prestige. It is a unique sports car that requires a certain level of knowledge, alertness and attention to be driven and provides you with every element of the driving experience while putting a satisfied smile on your face at a very reasonable cost.
Lastly, I can’t really explain … the next day upon returning to Georgia, I found under the wiper blade on the driver’s side of the GT, a small note … It read “we are back … so don’t forget to change the oil!”. I shook my head having no idea where the note had come from … but …. I did notice that the smile that seemed to have appeared on the front of the car upon arrival in California, had now become twice as large!