Ted Connolly remembers an ill-fated encounter with an MGB GT…
A good while back, I referred to the second MGB I owned. It was a GT and the last of the chrome-bumper variety, dating from 1973. As an aside, I’ve never figured out just why enthusiasts are so opposed to the rubber-bumper ’Bs, proven by the relatively low prices that they command. I’ve driven a few and they are fine. Back to the plot and there is a story attached to my GT that just has to be told (a phrase used by many journalists to justify writing boring tripe).
Me and the considerably-better half were looking round for a classic to loon about in and reckoned that a MGB GT would be just about right. The fun factor of a ’B with the marginally better convenience of a hardtop. We saw one advertised and it was a mere 10 miles away. I rang the bloke up on a Sunday afternoon and drove straight over for a look-see. It was undoubtedly a bit of a dog, but seemed reasonably solid and the motor sounded sweet, so the deal was done. We couldn’t get all of the cash out from a hole-in-the-wall, so we struck up a compromise – we allowed him to keep our credit card, took the MG away and said we’d return on the Monday to collect the card and pay him the balance. Looking back, that was a bit of a cranky thing to do, but that is exactly what we did.
The MG had a full ticket, but I’m not sure how this ever happened, because the steering was so stiff that I had to wrestle with it to avoid going straight on when, in fact, I wished to turn a corner. Also, the brakes were poor and it took three stabs on the pedal before anything reassuring came about.
I borrowed a mate’s garage and gave the car a good going-over, discovering that one of the king-pins had seized, causing the heavy steering. I sorted out the steering, serviced the motor, tuned the carbs (twin SUs are an acquired art, one, fortunately, that I had acquired) and topped up the cogbox and back axle. It was then treated to a re-spray, but a very poor one. The garage had an old wooden roof and after the repaint, when it was left to dry, it rained torrentially and the roof gave way, depositing large quantities of water all over the fresh paint. I spent ages rubbing it down and repainting it, but it never came up too well, despite my best efforts. Even giving it a couple of coats of clear lacquer failed to provide any sort of decent sheen.
I spent so long on the car that the MoT certificate was getting close to its expiry date. I’d already decided that I didn’t want to keep the car, so I got my local village garage to issue a new ticket – all it needed was one headlamp being adjusted and the seat belt mechanism freeing off – and put it up for sale on their forecourt. It eventually sold and I walked away with an extremely modest profit, something like £50. Buying the paint, king-pin set and a few other sundries had taken its toll on my finances.
Before the sale went through, I had a couple of calls from the garage, explaining that a bloke had been looking at the car and wanted to know all manner of stuff, which I thought was totally irrelevant and simply being too picky. One of his questions was whether it needed a heater under the sump at night to make sure the engine started in the morning. He’d read in a magazine that old cars required such pampering, I assured him that all was good and the car was as rugged as they came. Surprisingly, he eventually bought it.
About a month later, I was in my job as a newspaper sub-editor (production editor, as it happens, and why shouldn’t I blow my own trumpet? No other geezer will do it for me) and the boss said he’d employed a freelance to help out. At the time, the paper was exceedingly short-staffed and any assistance was most welcome. This grumpy old geezer came in, plonked himself down and, friendly fellow that I am, I asked him where he came from and all of the usual stuff you chuck into a conversation to make somebody feel at home.
It transpired that he lived just a few miles from the village I inhabited back then. The conversation turned to the place of my abode and he said he’d bought a car from the village garage. Well, OK, that was mildly interesting. He continued by saying he’d bought it for his daughter and that he should have been more careful because, on getting it home, he had a closer inspection and found that the body was quite rough in places and appeared to have been re-sprayed rather badly.
Hmm, so what was the car? I felt compelled to ask him. He told the whole office that it was an MGB and that he would dearly like to get his hands on the previous owner. There was a hushed and very awkward silence and I positively glared at a colleague sitting opposite, visually warning him not to mention that I messed around with cars and specifically to make absolutely no reference to the MGB (which I had spoken of a few times). Nothing more was said on the subject, mostly because I virtually threatened my workmates – who kept giggling stupidly during the day – to keep their mouths shut.
The bloke wasn’t much cop at his job and was not invited to return after that first day. All this happened about 16 years ago and I’m counting on the bloke having forgotten all about it and also not being a reader of Classics World.
However, if you do read this, sorry, old chap, but at least you’ve provided me with something to write about and for that, I am eternally grateful.