The MGs in My Life
By Dr. Dean Saluti, Director, Boston Area MG Club
It was the summer of 1966. I had just graduated from high school and I lived with parents in Quincy, MA. My father had decided that I needed a car to commute into the city for my freshman year at Boston University. It was his idea to take me to a small used car dealership in East Milton, MA. He found a 1962 MG Midget. It was red, it was beautiful, and it had neat plastic windows that came on and off the door panels. I was fascinated. We dipped into my “college fund” that I had built up from working hard at a local supermarket, as a caddy at a local golf course, and as a paper boy. For $600, I became an instant MG fanatic.
About a year later, a friend of mine from high school asked me if I would be interested in buying his MGA. I had heard about MGAs, but knew no one who actually owned one. Well, it was blue with a red interior, and I quickly sold my Midget and “upgraded,” in my mind, to the A. The A was older, bigger, and faster. Thanks to my Midget, I had no problem with the removable plastic windows and the wire on the inside of the door panel that served as a “rustic” door handle. What a car!
As an ROTC Cadet, I was required to go to Basic Training during the summer between my junior and senior years at Boston University. Basic Training was to be at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania. I decided that I needed a more reliable car for the long trip from Quincy, MA to Harrisburg, PA. Of course, my idea of reliable was to go back to another 1962 MG Midget. I felt that this Midget was more reliable because it was yellow. My father, a former WWII airplane mechanic and, at the time, an airplane mechanic for Eastern Airlines, helped me make the Midget even more reliable. He put a hole in the dashboard and inserted an 8-track player and put speakers in the doors. I was all set for the long trip – it was 1969 and 18-wheelers wouldn’t bother me; I could listen to the Beach Boys and the Temptations on my 8-track.
After graduation from Boston University and commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the Army, I received my first Active Duty assignment. I was to go to graduate school to get a Master’s Degree. I begrudgingly accepted this assignment even though the alternative was Vietnam. My father, the WWII veteran, convinced me that I could go to Airborne “jump school” later. During graduate school, I upgraded yet again to my first MGB. It was blue when I bought it, but I made it better. First, I had it painted white and then, I bought a white top. My friends convinced me that I should put in red shag rugs that I bought at a local rug store. I installed them myself. My father was, of course, appalled at all of this.
It was at this time that I experienced my first “mechanical setback” with an MG. My MGB just wouldn’t start. How lucky was I to have an ace mechanic as a father? He took the entire car apart. The seats came out. The car was jacked up. The wheels came off. The engine came apart. He worked with this car for about a week. After he had disassembled the entire car, he came to the correct conclusion that his “idiot son” had run out of gas. Years later, my father was 88 years old and failing with Alzheimer’s. He was sleeping and I lovingly kissed him good night on his bald head. Suddenly, his eyes opened wide, he awakened, and yelled at me, “Dean, you idiot! You forgot to put gas in the MG!”
Over the years, I have owned 8 MGs. My 1969 red MGB, referred to as the “Red Jewel,” is my very best yet. It’s got a new Moss black rugged interior (not shag), new black leather seats with red piping, a beautiful top that has never been removed so that the plastic windows are perfect, Bluetooth, Sirius radio, and automatic door locks. Recently, I installed a badge bar for Lucas “flame throwers” with Lucas covers and several antique badges. What a car! My wife, Marjorie Cahn, and I are very proud of this jewel. But every time I get behind the wheel and we go off to a car show or an organized ride, I hear that voice lovingly bringing back the reality of my complete lack of mechanical ability – “Dean, you idiot! You forgot to put gas in the MG!”