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Built to Last

By Ed Sweeney

My father is a craftsman. Not by trade, as he spends his days managing an industrial machine shop. Many of the same standards apply, but it’s much less of an artistic endeavor. He saved that skill set for home, which allowed me to observe the process. Rebuilding his MGB in the garage was our favorite activity together growing up. I learned that we fix, we don’t throw away. We repurpose rather than replace. It’s not always easy, and often requires ingenuity and creativity to keep your equipment going with limited resources.

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There was one project in particular that was completed well before I was around. For a senior project in college, he built a Redwood strip canoe from scratch, using plans from a 1967 issue of Popular Science. 18 and a half feet of attention to detail, that canoe defined my childhood every summer in the Pocono Mountains. I knew as soon as we reached my uncle’s cabin where the canoe was stored I could go down into that musty basement, dust off the varnished finish, toss it in the back of the family Pontiac and be on the lake within minutes. Early morning fishing expeditions and picking blueberries off of the shoreline, the canoe left an indelible mark on me; you don’t have to buy cool stuff, you can build it yourself.

Years passed, the cabin was sold, and the canoe ended up at his other brother’s place further north. It was used sparingly, and eventually settled under a lean-to where it sat for the past 16 years.

Although the canoe was dormant, the British car connection in our family continued to evolve. My father still has his MGB, and my first personal car purchase in 2004 was a 1968 MGB GT. That MG set me on a course for working on vintage cars for a living. 15 years later I’m still following my passion with my own restoration shop called Proper Noise.

The GT eventually made room for a 1958 MG Magnette in the garage, with rear seat room for my own family. Part of the motivation for acquiring a Magnette was the opulent interior appointed with a full-wood dashboard and door cappings. I knew that my father’s experience with woodwork on that canoe and countless home projects would be put to good use. So as I started to fix the rust, he was tasked with restoring the sun and water damaged walnut and mahogany veneers.

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Special Delivery in the Magnette with Ed and his father Ned.

Finished in 2010, the Magnette was put together to drive, with the perfectly varnished dashboard contrasting almost comically against the worn old paint. The addition of a Moss Motors supercharger added to the fun factor as well. The uniqueness of the MG has made it a sort of calling card, so I try to drive it as much as I can.

When I opened Proper Noise in 2017, it allowed me to relocate back near my childhood home. Living near a lake with room to store the old canoe, the time had come to rescue it. What better vehicle than the Magnette to bring it home?

Equipped with a luggage rack, ratchet straps, bungee cords, and a cooler full of snacks, we set off early in the morning to retrieve it. With a busy career and children of my own, it’s a rare treat to be able to spend that much time with my father. We laughed and joked and enjoyed every minute of the ten-hour drive. It was pleasantly uneventful as that old MG just hummed through the hills of Carbon County and brought the dusty old canoe home. Looking over the wood dash of the car and seeing the skillfully assembled bow of the canoe bobbing along down the highway, everything seemed right with the world.

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The canoe was dusted off and immediately put back into service. It hangs in the garage next to the Magnette, both ready for future adventures. The MG still needs paint, and the canoe could use a new coat of varnish. Sounds like a good excuse to spend some time in the garage with the kids.

 

Proper Noise is located in Reading, Pennsylvania.
610-775-3228
www.propernoise.com

 

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