Or, How I Spent my Summer Vacation
By Rick Malsed
Ever since I was a teenager, I dreamed about owning a T-Type MG. After 40 years, I finally bought my dream: an Austin-Healey blue/gray-bodied, black-winged TD that I named MaGgie in honor of Maggie, my little black-and-white Shih Tzu companion and navigator (she thinks).
But now what? I’ve obtained my dream car. What do you do once a lifelong dream has become reality? I’ve always felt that all MGs were meant to be driven—driven anywhere the spirit took you. So why not drive MaGgie to an east coast Gathering of the Faithful (GoF) MG event?
What good fortune: GoF Mk 77 would be in Watkins Glen, New York, in September. Simple enough…at least until learning about the MG Summer Party Reunion in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a month before GoF.
How could we do it? What would I do with a month layover? But it just had to be done: coast-to-coast MGing for the 1952 TD’s 52nd year. It was what her heritage cried out for, even if the trip would be in North America instead of England. I had no doubt it could be done.
A tentative route was set; MG clubs in the travel path were searched out. Using eBay sellers from states along the route as a contact, more clubs, MG mechanics, and “host” driveways and showers were located. Then the idea of an MG towable trailer came to light: with something that could hold a two-person tent and a few spare parts, we could camp our way around the land. The trailer, dubbed “TD-BT,” for bedroom trailer, was personally constructed in Seattle the summer of ’03. It included a set of TD fenders and taillights, plus the protection of a TD rear bumper, then a custom-fit tonneau cover and paint job to match MaGgie’s.
By April 2004, a number of mechanical preparations and modifications had been completed, and all was ready for a test drive: a short 1,400-mile trek with the trailer in tow on the Route 66 Fun Run in northern Arizona and then on to Seattle. The SU carbs seemed less than happy with this exercise, and we became a popular visitor to mechanics along the way. Finally, Pete and the folks at Performance Motors in Seattle solved the problem by assembling the carbs in the proper order! They were perfect—in fact, the carbs took us the entire 10,000-plus miles, including over the 11,703-foot Continental Divide without any further adjustment.
Along the Way
Constant comfort came from being connected with MG lovers around the world through The Milwaukee & Greatlakes MG Motorcar Group website as I traveled my odyssey. If you take such a trip, get MG3 or your local club to post a website so others can enjoy the ride, too. We had over 4,000 hits in three-plus months.
Many Moss Motors parts incorporated into the trip preparation made for an amazingly dependable journey. Only three mechanical challenges slowed our progress. One was brake failure on day one of our trip. This was due to improperly installed replacement lines just before we left Seattle. The second was another brake failure, this time on the Blue Ridge Parkway mountain drive. The fault here was a leaky original brake/stop light switch. The last mechanical problem came to light while performing a regularly scheduled oil change and lube at Pat and Al Witt’s car-collector planned community in Lenoir, North Carolina. Again, it was an original TD part—the right-front wheel bearing had eaten its retaining clip. All was fine in just a few hours…and thus ended any idea that a long journey in an MG wouldn’t work!
Not only was it an amazing, mechanical-trouble-free travel adventure, but the heavens also blessed the little MG—in 83 days on the road (including dodging three hurricanes and traveling far out into the Atlantic for a Nova Scotia visit), the hood only reached the “up” position on two days!
My greatest MG travel comfort was “The Fellowship of MGing.” This is the camaraderie that exists throughout the country at gas stations, in grocery store parking lots, at rest stops or view points. MG fans even try to flag you over while driving along your happy way. The road is extremely well populated with “I-haves,” “I-hads,” and “I-knew-someone-onces!” Through 41 states and several visits to Canada, I was constantly approached by folks who themselves owned or once owned an MG T-Type, MGA, or MGB, plus the always-popular “My roommate in college’s first cousin on his mother’s side had an MG-something.” These are the uniquely MG joys of everyday drives, but just imagine the warmth from “the fellowship” along a 10,000-mile, 3-month drive. Be prepared to make lots and lots of friends along your trip.
Planning A Big Trip?
1. Trust your little British travel machine:
After such a smooth trip, I am somewhat at a loss for advice to others considering such travels. I think my MG would have done just fine even without the pre-trip engine work. I do recommend the 5-speed transmission, if only for peace and quiet. Most of my other mechanical preparations were done to tow the TD-BT.
My MG adventure was an extra joy due to the grand support from Moss Motors.
Although a funny little old English sportscar is not the usual place one might envision a Global Positioning System (GPS), I thank my lucky stars that Magellan facilitated the trip with their RoadMate 700 GPS unit. It not only found motels, banks, gas stations, and campgrounds for me, the Road Mate 700 would see around the corner in places like the switchback climb over the Rockies in Colorado and along the 400-some-mile Blue Ridge Parkway from Virginia to Tennessee.
2. Don’t be overwhelmed:
Remember that a long drive, like life itself, gains nothing from being done in a hurry, except that you get to the end sooner than you wanted. A long drive, even a very long drive, is just like the everyday drives of 200 or so miles you’ve already done many time—but now you’re just doing five or 10 or 50 of ‘em in a row.
3. You are never too old to have a happy childhood:
Thanks to these sponsors and hundreds of new friends along the way, Maggie and I were able to live a lifelong dream. And along the way I met hundreds of MG’ers who “wished” they could do the same thing, who had “always dreamed” of such a trip, who “someday” would take a country drive like ours.
Always, my response to them was, “A lifelong dream is a terrible thing to die with.”
Yes, I’d do the trip again…and again! It was easier than one in a modern-day travel machine—and 10 times the fun.