Dad discovered his love for British cars when he was just 15 years old. He and his high school friend spent their spare time working on his friend’s Bug Eyed Sprite. It wasn’t long before Dad bought his own car–a 1967 MGB GT for just $200. It needed some work but before he could finish the restoration, a man offered to purchase the car for $1,800. Dad sold the car and used the money to buy a 1967 MGB Roadster.
The Roadster needed new floors, paint and a little bit of engine work, so dad taught himself how to repair the car, fixed the MGB and drove the car all through high school. He loved tinkering with the engines and fixing up the damage on these cars. As his older brother Tom has said, “It’s like creating a work of art.”
He set his hobby aside for a few years to raise a family, but Dad never stopped scanning classified ads for the perfect purchase. Traveling a lot for work as a helicopter mechanic, Dad always had his eyes open for an MGA or TR3 parked in driveways, tucked under car covers or hidden in backyard garages. He even taught his four children to watch for those little British cars.
In 1995, Dad found a treasure in Gallatin, Tennessee–a 1956 MGA. The owner had taken the car apart and had acid dipped the frame and the body panels to clean the corrosion. The rest of the car and its parts, including new parts, were in boxes. Mom agreed to let Dad take up his hobby again. He bought the car for a mere $2,000, gaining more in new parts than what he paid for the car.
Dad brought the car home from Tennessee to Utah almost a year later with his youngest daughter, Megan, as navigator.
When they arrived, the shell of the car was pushed into the garage and the boxes of car parts were carried into the basement. Over the next six years, Dad spent Saturdays and weeknights tinkering with his treasure as time and budget would allow.
The restoration was a long process. One particular repair took Dad months and a lot of money to search for what was wrong only to discover that the brand new, high-end spark plugs he had purchased were malfunctioning. However, once the spark plugs were replaced, the little red car ran like a dream and soon became a family favorite.
Dad would take us for drives around Highland and Alpine and he and Mom have driven the car to the Tetons, Capitol Reef and Jackson Hole. Personally, I love driving the car through the Alpine Loop in autumn with the top down and the colorful leaves drifting by as the car hugs the tight corners of the canyon.
Dad still offers to take his kids and grandkids for rides and lets us take the car out ourselves. He has also watched each of his married children drive away in his MGA on their wedding days. In fact, he will be hauling the MGA to San Diego in October for my wedding.
According to Megan, “That car holds a lot of memories of cool, summer evening drives with my dad, driving into the sunset after my wedding reception and cruising to British Field Days to participate in the races.”
Dad’s hobby didn’t stop with the completion of the MGA. He bought a 1969 MGB GT for the engine and transmission. He sold the rest of the car before he found another MGB GT, completely rust free, in California for $250, the catch being that it was missing engine and transmission. Dad brought the car home, painted it, replaced the interior, and installed the engine and transmission. Eventually, Tyler, his youngest son, took the car on a club ride to Heber. The MGB struggled through the canyon, and made it home with an engine that needed to be overhauled. Dad is still working to overhaul the engine.
Dad’s oldest son, Justin, joined the British-car bandwagon after he graduated from high school, buying a 1961 TR4, while Tyler has claimed the MGB GT as his own (though Dad will refute that). Tyler hopes to eventually buy and restore an original Mini Cooper.
“Rebuilding British cars is a hobby,” my dad has said. “You can spend hours on them and learn so much, but once you’re done, there are still so many things you would do differently. But ours is well done.”
Dad loves his MGA, but I think he loves that he can share his hobby with his family even more, whether it’s the love of British cars we all share or the memories we make in his little red car.
By Kelly Lux