That Certain Insanity

You have to be just a little crazy to own a British car, and all British car owners will proudly proclaim that fact. It’s a case of constant breakdowns and repairs, strange and obsolete parts, bizarre mechanisms. But they love ’em, and my husband, Craig, is no exception.

He is the owner of his second MG Midget. When I met him in college he had a ’71 Midget—bright orange. He used to wear a jaunty corduroy cap when he drove it, and I was intrigued at first by his attractiveness, that he lived in Manhattan Beach, and that he drove a cute sports car. (Hey, it was the ’80s!)

He liked driving the car with the top down; that is to say, that no matter the weather, the top would remain down. In Southern California, this is generally not a problem. But when we would venture on vacation, say, into the mountains in the snow, he’d crank the heater up and I’d sit bundled in a sleeping bag!

He is the perfect British car owner: adventurous, clever…and mechanically inclined. Except that he is just a bit absentminded. Case in point: The time we were getting ready for a trip and he was checking the brakes. It was late, and he was driving me home when suddenly we hit a bump. The car lurched and fell low in the back with a terrible scraping noise and a shower of sparks. In the darkness something large bounded away.

Stunned, I sat stiffly in the passenger seat. “Was that…the wheel?!” I asked.

“Yup,” he answered sheepishly.

He’d forgotten to tighten the lug nuts. He managed to retrieve the wheel, but the lug nuts had been scattered to parts unknown. He took one nut from every other wheel, replaced the wheel (tightening all the nuts this time!) and drove me home. The next morning saw our trip delayed by several hours as he made phone call after phone call, trying to locate lug nuts that would fit. He finally found some, about 75 miles away in the opposite direction from our destination!

The car was full of memories of rewarding trips, like the time our fuel pump went out on us when we went cross country skiing in Frazier Park. We got to the top of Mt. Pinos when the problem was discovered. But instead of fixing it right away, my husband (then boyfriend) suggested we ski first. “Why waste the day?” Who was I to argue? So, we skied all day, and when night fell, we coasted down the mountain as far as we could, then we hitched a ride into “town” in the back of a pick-up truck. My husband called his father, who was apparently used to rescuing his son with auto parts in faraway locations! And so we waited in the local bar and grill.

“You folks from out of town?” some crusty locals asked us as we watched darkness descend upon their little berg. “Manhattan Beach,” we replied (about 100 miles south).

A quizzical expression crossed their faces before they asked, “‘Zat past Gorman?” (Some 10 miles south—Ed.)

Oh yes, memories! I learned to drive a stick shift in that car and I, like him, missed the Midget’s passing when he finally sold it. Yet, the reminder of that car is still with us—he used the money to buy my engagement and wedding rings!

11 years passed before he finally bought another Midget, this time a ’61. He drives it to work and I sometimes drive it to my work on weekends. It’s a bit scary on the freeway. One is very vulnerable in a car that small. I know the other Midget was just as small, but I didn’t have a child and a mortgage then! Each groove in the asphalt jerks the tires, and sometimes I feel as if I’m driving a motorized skateboard. Also I’m shorter than motorcycles!

Still, I don’t mind. It’s the romance of the thing. It may be noisy, sensitive, and shaky, but I have to admit it is FUN to drive. So I guess I’m the perfect wife to an MG owner; I’m a little crazy too!

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