When I think about the many years that MGs have been in my orbit, I found there are so many moments of pure joy that its hard to pick just one story from the many. The bottom line is: I love MGs and always will.
Already from the age of five I was drawn to two things: ships and cars. When I turned 15 and finally got my driver’s license, my first car was a 1962 Triumph Herald that my dad bought me. It was in bad shape, but I loved it and Dad and I would work on it together most weekends. I have fond memories of passing him tools, doing a valve grind and just fiddling and listening to my dad explain how things worked.
I don’t remember seeing an MG for the first time, but I do remember the moment I wanted one. The curves, the lines—so different to anything else on the road. I joined the Australian Merchant Navy to be a Navigator, and at the same time as I was following my passion for ships and the sea, I proclaimed, “I’m getting an MG.” All through the first year at sea I saved every penny. As soon as I got back to Maritime School I bought my dream car: a 1966 MGB. I called her the Jalopy. She never behaved and yes she would break down—a lot.
There was a month-long period where I had to park her on a hill to roll-start her. And out of necessity I figured out a way to push start her by myself. I bought her in Tasmania and managed to drive her up and down the east coast of Australia a number of times all the way to Cairns. We had thousands of miles of adventures. The muffler, though, seemed determined to escape, and on one drive it tumbled off and speared itself through the tire. Cell phones weren’t around yet, it was ten at night, and I was in the middle of nowhere. I happened upon a lovely couple who took me in for the night and helped me the next day to get on my way. On another drive my generator died in the Blue Mountains the night of New Years Eve. The first car to find me in the darkness turned out to be a tow truck. The driver hooked her up and took us to a mechanic friend of his.
I loved my Jalopy, I would be at deep sea on an oil tanker for months and dream about seeing that beautiful dash. I knew she would be there waiting for me on land. Going for a long drive at sunset was the first thing I would do after a long stay at sea. We had a bond, a connection, and although she broke down there was reliability within her unreliability. I fell in love in that car a few times and have fond memories of driving over Sydney Harbor Bridge with my and my companion’s arms in the air loving life. I drove in the torrential rain with the roof off and kissed that boy at the stoplights. And nothing could top driving topless from Brisbane to Sydney and not meaning with just the roof off.
Leaving her behind
The Jalopy had decided to jump out of gear and roll down my dad’s long driveway, which was on a hill. She squeezed between two trees, turned by herself and missed a ditch by inches.
Trying to convey the depth of my love for that car is beyond the words I know, but alas, I wanted to move to America. So I left the Jalopy with my cousin and started a new life in New York. After three years people suggested I sell her, but I liked knowing that I still had her and whenever I would go back to Australia she was there. I dreamed I would one day give her to a daughter…
I owned the Jalopy for 12 years and for reasons unknown to me even now, my cousin called me one day to tell me he had sold her. I was devastated. As time wore on I often thought about that dash and that ride and just that feeling I felt when I walked up to her. I know that somehow the souls of all the previous owners were wrapped up in her. Something was missing from my life without an old classic.
I moved to Los Angeles and times seemed to get hard. I wanted an old car but neither money nor the right car were around. I was spending a lot of time at sea, too. A classic would have been hard to manage, so I just rented cars or walked a lot. Finally three years ago I started my search for an MGA. I researched but just couldn’t find the right one. I was struggling with work and wanted to plant roots on land. I went to sea for my last contract and one week into my voyage, I saw her online. She was beautiful and something about her just felt right. I contacted the owner and he said if he hadn’t sold her by the time I got off the ship then I could come and see her. Every day I hoped that she would not be sold. I printed out her picture and had her in the cockpit on the bridge as I passed through the Mediterranean. Every day I dreamed.
So, after three months at sea it was time to walk down the gangway for the last time at the port of Rome. I flew around the world and rented a car to San Diego because by some luck no one else had taken her home. Instead of driving my rental back to LA, I was getting to know a very beautiful black 1958 MGA, soon to be named Mary Gertrude Audrey. I have to say I had tears in my eyes and a big smile on my face on the drive north. It had been almost eight years since my cousin had sold my first MG and so many beautiful times and memories were rushing back. And I got to look over a beautiful MG dash again.
Now, 15 months and 13,000 miles have gone by and land is treating us well, life seems to be so much better when a classic is in it. We have had a few breakdowns along the way, but usually there is a great story to tell afterwards. I met dear Alfie, a Vietnam vet, standing over Audrey playing the harmonica. Alfie, who I call my musical mechanic, and I have taken her head off and worked on her a bit together, with musical intermissions in my garage. Some of the best parts of driving a classic are the people you meet along the way, seeing faces light up with appreciation, and the support and help from fellow MGA owners.
There have been people who proclaim that I should respect her and just drive her once in a while on weekends. I feel I am respecting her by driving her daily and keeping her parts moving through these modern city streets. I thank my lucky stars every day for being so blessed to drive my rolling work of art. She is a black beauty who loves racing through Hollywood on a Sunday morning, taking Sunset Boulevard all the way to the beach and then over to Malibu. To look over my shoulder and see the smooth curve of her fender gets me every time.
By Anita Hodson