By Casey Yunker
I became infected at the age of four in 1978. You know how the story goes, Uncle Rick had a 1965 MkIII Austin-Healey, black with red interior, and he’d take me for rides. The disease spread quickly in our family, given how contagious it is, and my father in 1981 got it in his head that he needed a British car. My Dad and I joined the Texas Healey Club and one or both of us have been participating in their yearly show and rally “Roundup” weekend ever since.
My father would buy non-running MGs in the winter, and he and I would fix them up to sell in the spring. When I finally reached the age to drive on my own, I took over the ’59 MGA we had at the time. It was a blast, even if when powering through a hard left turn I’d have to lean over to hold the passenger door shut.
I learned a lot with that MGA, including the lesson: “When the right price is right, everything is for sale.” I was offered $6,000 while sitting at a traffic light and the car was gone. A couple of months later in December my dad found a Tahiti Blue 1974 Spitfire. A co-worker of his would part with it for $300. A running, driving car with a little rust. It didn’t have a top but I drove it anyway, after all we lived in Louisiana and it didn’t get that cold in the winter. The next spring I found a second Spitfire—a ’72, Apple Green with a header, double SUs and a bad rear end (the one in the blue Spit sounded like it was grinding tin cans). I made one car out of the two and enjoyed it for the next two years. Those Triumphs cemented my love of the Spitfire and its ability to take a corner at whatever speed you have the tires for, and for the way it makes you feel like you’re driving 30 mph faster than you really are.
My dad and I went through more than 50 British cars between the time I was eight years old and when I graduated college, most of which were MGs with the occasional Triumph and Healey sprinkled in the mix. Currently, I have my daily driver, a primrose 1968 MGB GT, and for the past year I have enjoyed owning my uncle’s car—the black Healey that started it all.
Now I have kids of my own. Two girls: Addison (10) and Carson (8). Since they were four-years old I have had them in the garage with me turning wrenches and washing cars. We have been through a couple of starter cars, but I felt it was time to start a real project. We’ve settled on a 1973 MG Midget donor and a 1967 tub.
The project has really taken off in the last couple of months. The tub and all the panels are off and with the painters, and the donor car is really getting stripped down now, with only the suspension and brake lines left to remove. The girls do 90% of the work leaving me there to break bolts loose and make sure they are safe. I have found that planning the work takes as much time as doing the job. The benefit of planning is that both girls can be working for a couple of hours, which is about as long as they can last, leaving me to bounce back and forth as a helper. So far, they are loving it and I hope that never ends, at least that is the plan.
For those of you with hopes of eventually doing a car restoration with a child or someone from a younger generation, my advice is this: Just start a project, no matter how small, and learn and grow from there.
In Addison Yunker’s Own Words
Growing up with British cars, and with a dad who has a little bit of an obsession, has seriously influenced my life. On occasion I would go and help him work on the Healey or MG, and now I have my own car (although it’s in many pieces) for us to work on. We work on it quite often now. With school and soccer, it’s a little hard to find the time to spend on the car, but somehow dad creates time for us to go out and continue striping down the Midget in preparation for a beautiful teal paint job.
I think that fixing cars teaches me so many things—life skills and social skills. In one of our latest trips to the garage I learned to “visualize” while removing a nut on the backside of the dashboard. I especially enjoyed this part because I tend to day dream, so I liked seeing the hidden, inside of the car in my own cartoon version. While taking off the tires with dad and my little sister I learn synergy and teamwork. I think this is important in life because it makes working on school or work projects easier.
The best part is each time I come in from the garage I end up with a better relationship with dad.