Submitted by ByJohn Simpson ( @brother john )
My love affair with British cars began in 1953 when I was thirteen years old. One of the young men back from the Korean War had a 52 MGTD in his driveway, and that did it. It was lithe, lively, low, and sexy. I think it was that TD, and not the local girls,that first got my hormones churning. As priorities at my house were education, education, education, and as my Daddy (rightly) believed that cars would dilute my level of pursuit of things academic, I would forego ownership of a car until it was a practical necessity for my parents. Ownership manifested itself in a 47 Chevy four door, then a 50 Ford 4 door. Then I chanced upon a 54 MG-TF 1250 at a used car lot in Montgomery, AL while working a summer job. It was love at first sight, and I gleefully test drove it; but alas, it was a hopeless love.
I burned with passion, tempered by resignment to the fact that I was still going to college and couldn’t possibly afford its fifteen hundred dollar purchase price. Upon dropping out of college, I bought a 50 Crosley for $25 to drive home in. I had to shim the rod bearings with brown paper about every fifty miles, and sold it to a little person when I arrived home. After army basic training, my buddy Joe and I bought a 49 Chevy convertible (crash-damaged before purchase) and then a 51 Caddy convertible (could kill mosquitoes for miles around) to cruise the eastern shore somewhat successfully looking for girls who would appreciate our southern gentility. It wasn’ t until I returned from an Army tour in the Philippines that I finally could pursue my burning love for the Britishcar.
As soon as I returned, I bought a much-used 58 TR-3. I loved it! I loved the way I could practically drag my elbows on the ground as I drove it. I loved its lightness and its sprightliness. I loved the way I could easily hang the tail out powering through turns. I loved its look, feel, sound, and smell. I drove it happily until I happened upon my first love in a paint shop in Harrisburg , PA. There under an old paint-stained tarp was a British Racing Green 55 MG-TF with a louvered hood, a 50’s era hot-rod nerf bar inplace of the front bumper, and 60 spoke Healey wire wheels. It was and remains all I ever wanted in a car!
The seats were set loosely on the wooden floorboards. There were side curtains, but the canvas was brittle and the plastic was brown and opaque. There was no heater, and cold weather was approaching fast. But I didn’t care, because the sloping hood with the slanted classic grille, and the headlights frenched into the swooping fenders exuded more sex than did Brigitte Bardot! AND it would perform! The firewall had been moved back fourteen inches, so the seats were right against the bulkhead at the rear of thefloorboards. It had a Healey rear end, and a two-barrel carbureted 265 inch Chevy V-8 fitting snugly under the hood. With the fourteen inches of engine setback, it had nearlyperfect fifty-fifty weight distribution. But the 265 lacked performance. It wouldn’t beatmy buddy, Charlie Zeiders’ 56 Corvette with a fuelie 283 in it. So I bought Charlie’s fuelie unit, added the Duntov cam of the day, and an overdrive, controlled by a toggle switch on the dash, to the three-speed Chevy tranny. Now it was a Cobra-killer!
Once back at the University of Alabama, my favorite trick was to lull a Corvetteor Cobra driver into showing his posterior at a traffic light, and then pouring it on after he was half block ahead! I have yet to have as much fun as I had with that car for the next four years. As in any story, all good things must come to an end, and my relationship with the MG did as well. I had married and needed a dependable car for a job I had linedup (but didn’t get) with the Yellow Pages. So the MG, which by then had a blueprinted, balanced, stress-relieved, ported 8000rpm 375hp fuelie 327, a Chrysler Torquefight, and MGA coupe front suspension, got traded for a couple of Volkswagens. The engine endedup in a pickup truck, and the body was probably scrapped.
Regrets? I have a few.....but it’s just as well. A trip to New Orleans for MardiGras – 350 miles on two lane highways, including through cities, in three hours and fifty minutes, negotiating bumper to bumper traffic mostly by driving at over a hundred in the opposing-traffic lane, should have resulted in my early death. Surely had I kept the car, I would not be here today to tell of it. God takes care of fools and small children, doesn’t He? But would He mind if I managed to get a Noble V-8 kit car? I don’t know, but I don’t see it happening on my teacher retirement...