'74 B of Simon Bentley

I was due for a holiday and I wanted to climb an Alpine ice gully. I had just had an important birthday in May. I decided to drive to California’s Sierra Nevada in my 1974 MG !

This meant a 370 mile drive from Joshua Tree , Ca. to near Mono Lake , about 65 miles north of Bishop . You might think that a long day like that would be tiring , true but I was so excited about going.

I am originally from England. I first visited the USA on an exchange visit with the USAF . The year was 1974 and this is precisely the same year that my MG came over here also . It was also the year I turned 18, a very good year !

I bought the car in January . I paid a fair price for the car , but I wanted to know she would not let me down. I found an English bloke in LA who had moved here from England in 1968 . He has been working on British sports cars in the same location for almost 40 years.

The car was running well when I got her , but that was not good enough for me . I had the mechanic put a new clutch in replace all leaky engine seals , replace almost all the suspension . He also replaced the entire cooling system with new parts . I also had a new Falcon stainless steel exhaust put on . The engine shows about 165 lbs of pressure in each cylinder and has an overdrive gearbox . I was now anxious for the open road.

Early one September morning I set of from the desert loaded with all kinds of climbing gear . The plan was to meet two climbing friends at Matt’s Mobile Gas mart in Lee Vining that evening.

Well it was difficult driving at around 55 mph , but that was what I wanted to do . I wanted to try and return 30 mpg for my trip .

55 mph seems to be around 2350 rpm with my 175 SR14 wheels . I managed it most of the way with a few stretches of 50 mph and some 60 mph. It took around 9 hours . I stopped several times for some serious leg stretching and also to buy food supplies.

I met up with my two friends that evening in Lee Vining . If you ever get up that way you really have to go to Matt’s Whoa Nellie Deli . It is situated on Highway 120 about 1/4 mile west of highway 395 . It looks like a typical Mobil Gas Station , but once inside you see things are rather different . Matt is actually a well known and critically acclaimed Chef. I would describe the place as ‘ fine dinning in a Gas Mart , drinks served at family restaurant prices.

Tomorrow was an early start . We only had a few beers and went to our sleeping bags early . We were going to climb the Mount. Dana Couloir . The climb starts at almost 12,000 feet . I was overcome with the worst altitude sickness I have ever experienced at around 11,500 ft . We all agreed to return to the cars and go back to camp. Well at least I was the bloke driving a real car !

The next day my friends went their separate ways and I decided to enjoy the mountains with my roadster !!

I checked into Murphy’s Motel in Lee Vining and got a good night’s sleep .Next morning I got up early , had a quick breakfast and took the roof down off the car.

I headed up towards the high Sierra . Driving up the Tioga Pass in the MG with the roof down was awesome . The pass enters Yosemite National Park at about 10,000 ft . My car was not too fast going up the massive grade , but once up in the high country of Tuolomne Meadows she flew along really well .The Yosemite High Country is an Alpine region and is full of the most amazing rock domes and meadows .

It is a popular hiking , rock climbing and horse riding area. People travel from all over the world to go climbing here.

Tuesday morning rolled around too soon , and it was time to head back to Joshua Tree .

I drove 997 miles on my trip and using 87 octane fuel managed to squeeze 29.9 mpg . I did not go over 60 mph and my car has overdrive gearbox .

I got home safely that evening and am now looking forward to my next MG adventure!! (excerpt from articles appearing in the club magazine, the Octagon)

Leave a Reply