My MG-TC Legacy
By James Beal
It was the late ‘60s. I was between classes when I spotted an Austin Healey Mk-1 Sprite in a parking lot. I left a note with my name and phone number just in case the owner would consider selling the car. That call never came. Several years later, the owner of the Sprite and I were introduced by a mutual friend, and we both had a laugh about my note. A few years after that he moved into my neighborhood, and our paths crossed occasionally; he with his Sprite and me with my Mk III Midget. He knew that I’d recently sold an MG-TF and he mentioned that his father had a TC. Of course, I left him with a verbal reminder to call me if his father ever wanted to sell the TC.
Fast forward to January 1997. We had just moved from the old neighborhood into a new home. The phone rang. “Hi Jim,” said the familiar voice on the other end, “I’m just back from Arizona where I was resolving my father’s estate, and I have his TC in the back of a U-Haul truck. Do you still want it?” I think I mumbled something about just buying the house and not wanting another big expenditure. A couple of days later he called to ask if he could store the car in my garage because he had to return the truck. OK, I guess I could let something with anti-freeze in it sit outside temporarily to make room. So, the TC ended up in my garage. But a few weeks later I called to let him know I was getting tired of scraping ice and snow off my windshield every morning. His car had to go.
And that was the moment when those magic words echoed in my head for the first time: “Maybe you don’t find the MG. Maybe the MG finds you.” After some negotiating, the TC3418 kept its place in my garage and in my heart for two decades! My friend’s father had owned the car since 1952. It came with an extensive inventory of new and used parts, and a meticulously maintained log documenting every interaction my friend’s father had with the car until his health failed. As I read his legacy of the car, I watched his precise and exact handwriting become more illegible over the passing years until the final entries were made by his son.
The log book told me that the TC3418 had been well cared for, but one incident stood out unresolved: an altercation with a Buick. The repairs and replacements were fully explained and noted but there was never a mention of investigating to see if the frame had been bent. At speed with two people on-board and luggage, the car would do a little hula dance that I wasn’t comfortable with. After I installed a lift in my garage, it was fairly easy to take diagonal measurements to see if there was any lozenging of the frame – and there was.
I found a local body shop whose owner had helped another friend with his TD. After showing a few photos of the TC and telling my sad story, the owner put it on the frame rack. After it was pin registered, we found that the frame was bent in two more directions. The TC was a joy to drive after the straightening. This is what I mean about the importance of a legacy. The documentation by the previous owner gave me an important clue that eventually led to a much-needed repair.
TC’s name, HUGOX, is derived from his Ohio historic license plate HU90X fitted on the the front splash panel
That MG and I had a 20-year romance that was supposed to last forever, but life had other plans: knee and shoulder surgeries. The outcome was that I could no longer keep my left knee bent when driving between gear changes. The TC simply has no place for an extended left leg. I looked at the car just sitting in the garage for as long as I could bear it. And this is where the legacy comes into play once again.
Once a month a group of MG enthusiasts gather at a local watering hole for Pub Night. It was here that I was introduced to a fellow TC owner who was lamenting that he did not have a TC to drive while undertaking the long process of restoring and reassembling his basket case. Half seriously, I said, “Why don’t you buy my TC? It’s a wonderful car to drive, great legacy, in very good condition, and I am having some physical difficulty operating it now.” He thought about it for a minute and asked when he could see the car. That is when I heard the echo of those magic words again, “Maybe you don’t find the MG. Maybe the MG finds you.” It found him when he came to look at it. He bought the car in March, 2017.
It seems that a car, in my mind particularly an MG, seems to be the sum total of all of the experiences of its previous owners – its legacy. The better documented the car, the more you can tell about why the car does what it does both well and poorly. I tried to chronicle all the significant additions and alterations that I made to the TC3418. Hopefully, its new owner will do the same and continue the legacy.
One last thought about legacy. To me, my cars have always been a little like my children. I always feel better knowing where they are and what they are doing. I am comforted knowing who has the car, where it is and what they are doing with it. I’m pleased to see the legacy of TC3418 continue.