by Jan Brunk
The beat up MGB on our U-Haul trailer was getting a lot of “looks” as we drove I- 90 out of Spokane during rush hour in August of 2020. It wasn’t only the MGB getting looks, but the five extra wheels riding in its passenger seat and the bed of our Ford Ranger filled with broken-down cardboard boxes of old parts, three more “spare” wheels, an extra engine and a black hard top lopsidedly strapped over all. We were on our way back to Montana with our latest “find” and next project, a 1967 “B”.
The story of my affection for MG’s really started 54 years ago. It was 1967, I was an 18 year old graduating from high school in Gardiner, Montana. A friend of my family loaned me his MG to drive to baccalaureate. That night, driving that family friend’s MG, suddenly escalated my status on the popularity scale. One thing about that car I clearly remember is parking in the church parking lot, turning the key off and sitting there (embarrassed and clueless as what to do) as it continued to run!
Thirty years later my husband and I were sitting in our back yard one afternoon thumbing a Hemmings Motor News looking for MGBs after a conversation earlier in the week that went something like this: Ron, “I think I’d like to fix up an old car.” Me, “I’ve always wanted an MGB.” Ron, “Really. Why?” I thought I’d already told my husband about the dieseling car that raised my social standing and birthed in me a self- confidence based on the fact that an adult had enough confidence in me, an 18 year old, to trust with the keys to his MG! It was that conversation that prompted us to buy a Hemmings and begin looking for an MGB we could afford and find nearby.
There weren’t many MGB’s listed in Montana; the one we found a few hours away had a hole in the passenger floor under the carpet. That hole indicated probable body repair that we weren’t ready to tackle so we kept looking. Summer faded into fall without an MGB to park in our garage. Winter came and then melted into spring. One Sunday my Dad noticed an ad in the Denver Post classifieds for a 1972 MGB in Boulder, would we like a ’71 Midget, email him to look into it? Our hunt for an MG became a family affair. The car was a teal blue metal bumper, three windshield wiper “B” with 21,366 miles and a pile of work orders and parts receipts to go with it. It seemed to be a “good deal” to Dad, and as he said, all those receipts told him, “there has been a lot of good things happen to this little car.” We said, “buy it!”
There were a few days delays in completing the transaction; the owner was suspicious of a cashier’s check and wanted it exchanged for $2895 cash, and Dad was uncomfortable driving the B home in a March snowstorm even though it came with a set of snow chains. How we were going to get the car to Montana was a puzzle, but in excitement we began cleaning out our 1930 era garage – the perfect size for a B. Meanwhile it took up residence in my parent’s garage and their pickup moved out into the weather.
A few months went by and it was decided a trip north pulling the B on a U-Haul was the best way to get it to us. Meanwhile my husband had been doing due diligent research and read that you should enjoy driving your new car before you start tearing into it. A good suggestion! The ‘72 was definitely a driver so the first four years we drove it, motoring to dinner with neighbors in their ’52 TD; through Glacier National Park over the Going To The Sun road; to church on Sundays; on fun winding roads around the valley and longer jaunts around the state. During that first summer Ron re-built the brakes with the help of his Dad after a close encounter with a deer on one of those winding roads.
At that time my husband was a bike mechanic, not a car mechanic, but with the help of Good Neighbor Bill the owner of the ’52 TD, his millwright knowledge and supply of automotive tools, the full restoration of the B began with a valuable observation. Immediately after beginning to cut out a floor board, Bill stopped the sheers, looked at Ron and said, “some people are perfectionists. Its not that they never get anything done, it’s just that they’re never satisfied with it. I just do it…” Then he shrugged and resumed cutting. With that statement the pressure of perfection was gone and the fun of fixing up began. At times there was a hundred feet of air hose running from Bill’s compressor down his driveway across the alley into our garage. If there was a tool needed that neither one had, Bill bought it or borrowed it from work. When the person who was to repaint the B left town with our down payment and the B sitting in his yard, Good Neighbor Bill turned his garage into a ventilated paint shop and Ron re-painted the car himself. The full and complete restoration took one summer and five winters. We added chrome wire wheels and a wooden steering wheel, new upholstery and a Weber carburetor. It was a driver again!
On one of our longest trips around the state, something came loose in the carburetor. Ron was able to limp the B home, but afterwards once the car heated up, it was difficult to restart. Gone were the short trips around town. The joy of driving it was replaced by hope that if you stopped, you could get started again. After several years of that, Good Neighbor Bill suggested that Ron should put the original SU carburetors back on the car. So after rebuilding the carbs and many attempts at adjusting them, a call to John Twist at University Motors gave Ron the tip he needed to get them going. Now the B starts, runs and restarts reliably every time! Since the “complete restoration”, there have been a lot more good things happen to the little ’72 B and the receipts prove it! New halogen headlights one year, new windshield the next, new fuel pump, new alternator, new radio console, new starter and electronic ignition.
Ron is a fairly competent MG mechanic now and a retired bike mechanic. We have a double car garage and Ron has extra time. What better than to look for another B as a retirement project. The “find” was the beat up 1967 B that we hauled home from Spokane a year and a half ago. Currently, its restoration seems more like reconstruction, but headway is being made. While the ’67 is under construction, we continue to drive and enjoy the ’72 B. Our AMGBA membership started back in 1994 and we continue to look forward to each issue. Thanks for all the technical help over the years. I don’t think my MG mechanic could have done it without you! Happy motoring!