Submitted by: @DrEntropy
Once upon a time, the fall of 1976 to be accurate, the young lady now known as my wife was the new-to-her owner of a British Racing Green,1967 MGB roadster. The engine was showing some signs of fatigue, a bit of the blue-smoke-of-death from the exhaust. My proposed solution was to acquire another engine, rebuild that and do a one day swap. This was agreed to and we learned of a unit for sale at reasonable cost in a nearby county. The dilemma was that we had no access to a vehicle capable of transporting the three hundred pound lump on short notice. The solution came in the form of her father’s Ford Fairlane station wagon, old but reportedly in good enough shape to do the job, just under one hundred miles to the engine and back to the MG’s location. She set off with a friend to fetch the Ford.
On first seeing the wagon, my skepticism meter pegged, the thing was what in western Pennsylvania we called “the winter beater”. A car to sacrifice to salted winter roads just to get back-and-forth to work in the steel mill. But with no alternative, four of us set off to retrieve the engine. Future wife Mitsy, her gal pal, another guy friend for muscle and self as the driver. The gas gauge indicated we had three-quarters of a tank, so I thought we had enough fuel to easily make the journey. I was mistaken. We had just gone a few miles when the sputtering began and the Ford had to be rolled to the shoulder of the highway, engine dead, out of gas. The girls set off on foot to a gas station under a mile away, us guys stayed with the car. The girls were apparently persuasive enough to be given a one gallon size container on loan and payed only for the gas in it. That was just enough to get the Ford running and back to the station for fuel and to return the vessel. Onward to the engine!
To expedite the trip we could use a newly opened leg of Interstate highway, so that was our choice. About ten minutes into that, the left rear tire blew out! At that point I’d begun to think it may be a fool’s errand to fetch the engine. But, hey, a bit of bother to just jack up the car and change out with the spare, but it was not to be. The spare was flat. Okay, have the girls once again take a walk, over the Armco and find a telephone to call for support. They somehow accomplished that task and returned with the news that Mitsy’s pal’s bro-in-law would borrow the spare from his Mustang and get it to us. Now all this delay put the clock at about two hours of messing, less than fifteen miles of the journey. Spare arrives and we set of once again. We managed to achieve the rest of the trip to the engine, payed the gent and loaded the lump into the back of the wagon. Good to go.
The return run would be a straight shot to the MG’s location, my childhood home. Dad’s garage, where many of his and my cars had been worked on, from simple oil changes to full-on restorations. The engine change-out would be uncomplicated once I’d gone through this newly gained “spare.” Again, I was counting chickens ahead of their hatching. Half way to goal another tire let go. The other rear one. This was an ill-fated endeavor and my patience was wearing thin. Another trek for a phone booth and call for help. The Mustang owner had taken the “spare” back with him and at this point was kind enough to volunteer to have a tire mounted on the wheel and get it to us. Another couple hours’ wait. No one was talking at the site of the Ford wagon by this time, least of all moi. After the swap out of the second flat and once again we set off for our objective. The time all this had taken was such that it was decided we would stop at the gal pal’s house, her dad was a good friend of mine, her brother was the aforementioned “muscle” for the trip. We would stop there to let them off before getting the engine to the MG’s location. A few miles from their home, unbelievably, a front tire blew! So did I. We were close enough to that home it was attainable on foot for the two siblings. They walked the distance and the brother and dad brought us a third spare, this time from the gal pal’s Mustang. We got to their home to rest the Ford and figure out which wheels were which, to return each to their rightful owners after the end of the odyssey. On arrival there I’d had as much as I was willing to accept. Backed the Ford into a position where I could dump the engine into a drainage ditch at the front of the property, and did so. Told all I was taking Mitsy home and we would figure out how to further transport the engine at some later point in time.There was no conversation in the wagon for the short trip to my apartment, I got out of the Ford and walked away leaving her to drive it back home.
Mitsy assumed she’d never see me again, thought the project on the MG had been abandoned. A number of days later, after calming down and deciding what the next step should be, I went to my dad’s house to get a good look at the MG. It had been a new acquisition the month before, I’d not given it much of an exam. Did a compression test,that told me the likely cause of the oil burning could be the valve guides. Pulled the head, sure enough. Drifted out the old, pressed in and reamed the new, re-installed the head. All good. Mitsy got her car back in less than a week, we’d weathered the experience and maintained the friendship.
A‘fast-forward’ to 1982, Mits and I had left western Pennsylvania the year before, the winter of 1978 was the convincing factor in our decision to get to Florida. On a ‘phone conversation with the father of Mitsy’s gal pal, we spoke of the relocation and how we were managing our new digs. He mentioned he hadn’t had that engine removed from the ditch, and every time he would mow his property he would see it and be reminded of that day and have a chuckle. He kept it as a memento of the events and how sideways life’s things can go, even with a simple plan.
The events of that day convinced me that borrowing another person’s vehicle was complete folly, never to be done again. Rent the appropriate vehicle for whatever job that needs doing. And that MG made a trip to Florida and back in 1979, later finally succumbing to its exposure to road salt and was subsequently scrapped.