This issue is about traveling, because British Sports Cars were designed to be driven—not to be museum pieces that slowly decay from lack of use. Our editorial staff determined that their most memorable British car moments were often found on the road. This highly scientific conclusion evolved over many pints of ale, much laughter, and just maybe a tear or two.
My most memorable trip involved packing two people, our dog, and enough camping equipment for two weeks of road travel into and onto a long-suffering 1970 MGB and heading off from the snowbound mountains of Colorado to the summer climes of Arizona. The year was 1982 and the MG, though mostly original and ratty, had been fixed up with a paint job and new engine. Bought for $500 with a bad rod and ugly fading paint, the car was now the dream machine that would whisk us away from the daily grind and transport us in style to a world of wonder and beauty.
The first lesson learned: When replacing a windshield, always use a new rubber seal, and leak-test before traveling. The lesson struck home when we hit torrential rain in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it seemed to be raining harder inside the car than outside! We found that if you ask nicely, a hotel manager doesn’t mind you using their forecourt awning for shelter while you dry and seal the windshield with silicone.
The next lesson learned: After 10:00 pm the only service stations still open were spaced based on the cruising range of big American cars, and that 2:00 am in the Arizona mountains is not a good time or place to start running out of fuel. Being a techno geek, I had installed a trip meter in the car, and it was a bit daunting watching the available range start counting in negative numbers. Finally with a cough the engine died, and my passenger woke to the eerie sound of rolling tires, and no assuring engine noise. The dog kept on sleeping. Luckily we were on the long slope down toward Phoenix. Finally, we rolled into a rest stop, which caused a few looks from other travelers who wondered about the world’s quietest MGB. We were rescued by the grace of an extended family from Idaho, which donated a gallon of gas with no question of reimbursement. Their care and generosity to strangers allowed us to get to our destination that morning.
During the visit to Phoenix we were invited to visit a nudist retreat by my friend’s aunt. Driving through the gate, we managed to hit a large pothole and knock the exhaust system off the car. As we pulled into the lot, the cacophony woke up the snoozing sun-lovers, who were quite a welcoming committee. Another lesson learned: The MGB does not make a very good off-road vehicle. This was literally hammered home when we took a wrong turn and had to drive 25 miles of dirt trail. The weakened exhaust system lasted about two miles, then broke. We stopped after a few more miles, and the poor dog refused to get back in the car. We proceeded again slowly with the dog happily trotting alongside the car. At a small repair shop in the next town, the owner took pity and welded the remains of the exhaust back together. Refusing payment, he wished us well. We realized again that something about a British Sports Car brings out the best in people.
Finally late that night we drove through the snow into our hometown, Leadville, Colorado, and had to laugh as our shorts and sandals were very out of place in the snowdrifts and ice.
That trip and others in my tatty 1970 MGB were some of the best times of my life, and I still reminisce fondly of that car, which left my ownership many years ago. That’s probably why I dropped everything when I recently heard of a 1970 MGB for sale at a reasonable price. My latest acquisition is on the cover of this issue.
I’m older now, heavier, and a bit stiff in the mornings. But there is still life left to live, and there is a white roadster in my garage whispering that it is time to get up, get out, and drive. I don’t intend to try to relive my youth, but my wife and I are looking forward to new driving experiences that will become the memories of tomorrow.
By Kelvin Dodd