By Eric Glomstad
In my early years as a financially challenged school teacher, I often purchased sports cars in the summer months on which I would practice my budding restoration skills. The idea was that come spring I could sell the vehicle and make several hundred dollars profit. My long-suffering wife saw through this ploy after a few years, but early on it was quite a successful sales pitch.
In 1978 I spied an MG Midget on the lot of a local car repair business. I stopped to have a look and, after talking to the owner of the repair facility, found that the car had been abandoned. It seemed the owner did not want to pay for the complete engine rebuild which had been performed. I was eager to make a deal! This one would make me money for sure. I bargained the price down to $1300 and went back with my wife to pick up the car. It wouldn’t start.
After a battery jump and several squirts of starting fluid, the car came to life with a roar. Smoke poured from under the driver’s side and a rattling metallic clatter could be heard from the bonnet. I proudly drove this car home. When I arrived, my wife who had been following me asked, “Are the lights supposed to work?”
For the next several weeks I was in heaven. Actually, I was in my garage…but you know what I mean. I spent absolutely no time on the drivetrain, after all, looks make the best first impression, right? I purchased black vinyl by the yard and loop pile carpet by the foot from Pacific Fabrics and dove into a full interior remake. The door panels were flat and responded well to my efforts. I sewed an edging on the carpet pieces I had carefully cut and when glued in place, a transformation took place.
The driver’s seat needed attention, but upon removal, I found that with a needle and thread I could sew the split portions together by hand. I covered the steering wheel with a tan laced plastic cover, added a Sears and Roebuck tape deck, and things were definitely looking up.
A friend of mine painted the car in his shop. My vision was “French Racing Blue” but, when finished, the color more closely resembled “whale wash.” Recap tires with while walls and a brand new vinyl top finished off my efforts and I was ready to sell.
These were the days of curbside selling and the car generated lots of interest. I explained the hard starting on the fact that the car just needed to be run and that this feature would soon be a thing of the past. My secretary in the school office where I worked purchased the car and named it “The Blue Frog.”
I am sure that many of you have been warned not to sell a car to a friend or co-worker, but I was young, euphoric and stupid. I proudly flashed the cash in front of my wife, “Honey, I made $350 dollars!”
One week later I visited my secretary’s garage. The car would not start. I told her I would tow it home and get her Blue Frog back on the road in no time flat. There was an oil slick the size of the Exxon Valdez on her garage floor. The motor had two dead cylinders. After removing the valve cover, I was surprised to find that a former mechanic had used multiple washers in its assembly to “bring things to level.” With a heavy heart, I used my profits to buy a used engine at Aurora Auto Wrecking in Seattle, WA, and installed the replacement in the car. The Blue Frog croaked to life once more. The night I delivered the car back to its happy owner, I sat at the dinner table surrounded by my loving and patient wife and our two small children. I was looking over the latest issue of Auto Trader and I saw an unbelievable deal. A 1967 Sunbeam Alpine, which was for sale by the original owner! It had been sitting in a cow pasture for the past four years and was sunk up to its rear axle in mud. With an excitement born of passion and pride, I looked my wife in the eye and said, “But Honey, I can make money on this one!” MM