Getting Old Together – My MGB

by Kevin Rooney

According to the door-plate, my blue MGB convertible rolled off the production line in the fall 1977, coincidentally within a few months of my wife and I being married, just over 80 miles away from the factory. I’ve actually owned the vehicle since 1984, bought used, so the three of us have actually been together now for 36 years. The three of us also immigrated to the same state, California; I was living in Los Angeles, while the MG started out its life of service in Palm Springs. This would explain its total lack of any rust, but why also it required a respray in about 1986, having been baked and sandblasted for the first 6 years of its life! Fortunes and the fates have conspired to find us collocated in the Nevada desert, now 43 years after the two simultaneous events of marriage and manufacture. I’ve tarted the car up with a couple of headlight stone guards, and a lovely rosewood dash, but apart from wear and tear items, she is basically “OEM”.

As with all British cars (and wives, I’ve discovered), personality and some stubbornness are in-built features, requiring extensive maintenance to preserve the relationship – Hurrah for Victoria British, with whom I am on first-name terms! (Note to self: should have taken shares out in that company 25 years ago!) Take for example the electrics (the car, not wife). The original Palm Springs owner, being apparently overly paranoid, had installed a sophisticated security system involving seat pressure-sensors, battery current monitoring, and lights-on detection, etc. The problem was that prior to sale, this system was completely ripped out (literally), leaving trailing wires, loose connectors, and bypassed boxes in several impossible-to-reach nooks and crannies. Hence the first 10 years of ownership were fraught with persistent short circuits and fuse-frying; none of which could legitimately be assigned to the fault of Mr. Joseph Lucas! (Yes, him of much anti-British-car humor!)

For many years, the lovely blue MGB was the daily commuter car for my wife, with the number plate surround proudly claiming “Wench Mobile”, but these days, with on setting retirement, the MG is just our weekend zoomer-about-town. And of course she is our primary contribution to rallies out with our friends in the British Auto Club of Las Vegas, where several MGs of various ilks can get together and doubtlessly chat about their varied life experiences. A big advantage of living in Nevada compared to California is the ability to register the car as a “Classic Vehicle”, thereby avoiding the arduous and nail-biting biannually enforced smog-testing ritual, whose stipulations had gotten more much stringent over the years. Even so, after a mid-90s catalytic converter replacement, she managed to squeak through every time (except once due to a technicality when I hadn’t noticed that the vacuum advance tube had fallen away from the distributor!)

One feature my MGB and I have in common is to note the changes in our chassis over time: one of us has become a lot stiffer and less flexible over the 36 years of ownership, while the other has become a little more pliant. Hence my transition from avid self-repair enthusiast (perpetually-scraped knuckles and concrete-scraped bald patches due to under-car experiences to evidence) to employer of necessary garage services for most discovered foibles.

For the period of time in Los Angeles, I was supported in my maintenance of the vehicle by an expert but dour ex-RAF master mechanic who offers at-home mobile service, and without whom the MGB and I may well have parted company a few years back. These days in Nevada, I am still searching for the ideal compatriot in “keeping her on the road”.

But overall, the 36 years of MGB Roadster ownership (more like “partnership”) has been fun, exciting and rewarding. She costs virtually nothing to keep right now, we do about 1,000 miles a year, I keep her on trickle charge at all times, and when she is not garaged, I have a nice protective heavy-duty waterproof/sun proof cover for her. And despite numerous gasket-replacements, she still insists on marking her territory with a current mix of hypoid, DOT-4 and 5W30. Would I part with her? Never. At least not till she decides to embarrass me by letting me down far from home on an upcoming rally!

'77 B of Kevin Rooney from Las Vegas, Nevada
'77 B of Kevin Rooney from Las Vegas, Nevada

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