The following Tech articles are the creations of Mike McPhail. They were originally written for the members of the car clubs Mike is active with: the Gulf Coast Austin-Healey Club and the Hill Country Triumph Club.
These tech tips are great starting points for club activities and discussions. And if you have additional thoughts to add about these projects, include them in the comments.
Replacing the Steering Wheel
Origin of This Odd Species
…A Bio of Mike McPhail
How, you ask, does a fellow get so enamored with those little British cars? My story begins in 1963 with a ride in the newly introduced MGB.
My dad had just been posted to Ludwigsburg, Germany. New arrivals are assigned a sponsor, usually an officer in the same outfit. On a brisk November morning, Lieutenant Hanley came by our quarters to pick dad up so as to show him around the area. I was invited along and was eager to see the town. Being a somewhat diminutive twelve year old, I fit comfortably behind the two men. The top was up and the sounds, smells, and vibrations were incredible.
When we got back to the States in 1965, we stopped in North Carolina to visit my “rich uncle” Rufus McLean He recently confided that he never earned more than $36,000 per year as bank VP…but he always had cool cars. On this trip I got to ride to the beach with him in his brand new MGB, this time with the top down. I was hooked!
Dad’s new post was in Auburn, Maine and New England in the sixties was British sports car heaven. I was soon to start my senior year in high school and was a newly licensed driver. My first car was a thoroughly worn out 1956 Buick Special. Well, what do you expect for $100? Fortunately it expired before school started.
The true object of my desire was a little red 1962 MG Midget, which was had for the princely sum of $300. I was so cool, or at least groovy, tooling around Old Orchard Beach with the top down. As graduation approached and summer was at hand, it became apparent that the MG was as worn out as the Buick had been. The kid I sold it to for $500 caught it on fire, completely destroying it, within a week.
Not totally put off by a car that only lasted five years since new, the roadster was replaced with a 1962 Nash Metropolitan. This ride was as unique as the MG and featured an MGA engine, continental kit, and, two-tone paint. At $300, I was back in the black.
After a short stint at the University of Maine, I was off to Corpus Christi to see the world and make my fortune. Back in New England my older brother’s roommates had introduced me to the Bugeye Sprite, Spitfire, and the wonderful TR3. I was into VWs by now, but longed for a side screen Triumph. Salvation arrived in the form of a 1962 TR3. This was a pale yellow with black leather interior gem, and only set me back $300. The plucky roadster barely got me home, but a carburetor rebuild soon set everything right. The Triumph seemed like ten times the sports car that I drove in high school. Over time, the top and interior were replaced, and the car repainted. It looked great and drove perfectly.
The “growing family” excuse led to the beloved TR3 being sold for $600. I thought it worth $800, but in those days few people seemed interested in owning such an automobile. Perhaps the poor availability of parts was a factor, and I did not own another English car for ten years.
Old habits die hard, and by 1985 I was searching the want ads for another roadster. $500 bought a very tired red Bugeye, which required the purchase of a 1966 MG Midget for parts. After much component swapping, I still had two running cars and was able to sell the MG for nearly what I had in it. Truth is, I don’t think that I have ever lost money on a British car!
While shopping for a used spare tire in Houston, I made an incredible deal on a newly restored Bugeye. This one was vermilion, well OK, orange, but really fit the bill. Since then, the bug has bitten hard and I have owned an Austin-Healey 3000 & 100M, more Bugeyes, TR6s, TR250s, Jaguar XJS, XK120, and XK8.
This is where I get around to explaining how I got to be so involved with the Hill Country Triumph Club. The buyer of the red Bugeye was HCTC member Phil Walden, who kindly invited Nel and me to join him at the monthly meeting. We had never met such an enthusiastic group. We had to get a Triumph fast! With help from the club, a beautiful 1970 TR6 was found that just needed a little work to be fully road worthy. We drove that car nearly every day for several years, clocking over 40,000 miles.
These days, I have returned to my first true love, the 1959 TR3 that we are presently enjoying along with the wonderful Healey 100.