Retirement came with a couple of unexpected realizations: I was in a good position to adopt a dog, and having prepared for retirement meant stocks left me by my mother were uncommitted.
For many years my 1959 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I was my only car since as a San Diegan I could ride my Harley almost all the time. I did my food shopping early Sunday morning to exercise the car. My tandem garage meant I had to roll one or two Harleys into the alley, back out the Rolls and put the Harleys away before driving off. And do it all again when I got home. After years this got old.
Down to one Harley, I realized I could add an original Mini and park my Harley next to it in the outer space and keep the Rolls in the inner space. Then I could drive or ride without pushing anything around!
In the mean time I adopted Lily, a retired racing greyhound. If you see greyhounds racing on YouTube you might think they are a handful, but actually we call them 45 mile-per-hour couch potatoes. In five years I have only seen Lily run full speed twice. They take retirement seriously.
I had bought an original Mini and Lily happily rode in the back seat standing on a rubber backed throw rug. The Harley languished while I took Lily everywhere. Most greyhounds aren’t anxious to put their heads out car windows so she didn’t mind that the rear windows don’t roll down in a Mini. If this sounds like strange dog behavior, know that one vet where we go jokes they treat three types of pets: dogs, cat and greyhounds.
By this time I had arranged my estate so over 90% goes to animal and wounded warrior charities. I decided my mother’s unanticipated stocks would be more enjoyable in the form of classic cars. I figured if I chose with care they wouldn’t do too much worse than stocks and I had to have some way to spend my retirement. Also sometimes cars given to charity demand a premium, helping them rival stocks for appreciation.
The Mini had proved to be less than perfect as a daily driver and I added a 2006 Jaguar X-Type. I had been amazed to find it on a list of the most reliable cars, but Ford completely changed Jaguar in this regard. Jaguars from this century are really dependable. Lily’s rug moved to the “new” car.
For complicated reasons I found I had access to free storage. I stumbled on an eBay deal on a ’73 E-Type Open Two Seater that had not included XKE in the description. As the only bidder I got it for the reserve back three years ago before the latest big run-up in E-Type values. This car has surly beaten the stock market by a wide margin.
Here a slight problem emerged. When I took Lily to the weekly greyhound walk in Balboa Park I was amazed that a dozen or two greyhounds would stand in a close group without noise or excitement for almost any amount of time. I learned they stand because they don’t like to sit. Because of genetics and drugs they are probably give while growing up at the track their thigh muscles are so enormous it’s uncomfortable to sit. Greyhounds may look skinny at first glance but Lily is more like a female Olympic track sprinter, no body fat and big leg muscles on a light-weight frame. At the track greyhounds are also trained not to sit so they won’t be sitting when the box opens at the start of a race.
In the E-Type Lily had to sit. It was a bit of a struggle to get her positioned but her pose was something to see. To me it suggested Audrey Hepburn or perhaps Lily thinking, “I deserve this.” People took pictures when we drove around.
I was fortunate to find a 1947 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet that got me invited to the Pebble Beach Concours! Lily likes this car but only with the top down as there are no rear windows to look though. The same is true of the ’85 Rolls-Royce Corniche Drophead I bought, which has very small rear seat windows.
For some unknown reason I received an announcement that the 2014 MG T-Register Gathering of the Faithful was to be at a hotel only a 5 minute walk from my home in Mission Beach. For no reason I saved it. Months later I was looking at Craig’s List when an MG TC reached out and grabbed me. My first car was an MG TD and I always longed for a TC. This car wasn’t running due to carburetor problems and so it had a quite reasonable price. My inspection yielded no rust or wood rot. I paid a bit extra to have the seller deliver the car to the shop where I store my cars. One float bowl stayed dry and the other overflowed. My mechanic James and I, using the well-known “thump on the carb with the butt of a screwdriver” technique, had it running with 15 minutes. James jokingly suggested I go try to pass the seller driving home. It turned out I had to replace the wheel cylinders to get the brakes working but then the car was roadworthy.
When it came time to move the TC home to attend the big MG meet I put Lily in the car. After I explained that she didn’t get the whole front seat she decided to try sitting on the door cutout. I knew this wouldn’t do and managed to get her squeezed into the passenger seat. For those not familiar with the MG TC, it is a very primitive car. With a solid front axle, leaf springs, tall spindly wheel, and a somewhat flexible frame, even driving in a straight line takes continuous effort. By the time we reached Sea World Drive Lily had done something she had never done before: she buried her face in my shoulder. If she could speak I think she would have said, “Are we going to die?”
We did make it home alive, but I had learned my lesson: no more TC rides for Lily.
So by all means adopt a retired racing greyhound but don’t expect it to squeeze into a roadster! Get something at least as big inside as a classic Mini.
–by Tom Wright