1-MG Midget with RSM 1968

Recapturing Youth

Earlier this year I bought myself a 1975 MGB for my 65th birthday.  I have pleasant memories of owning a well-worn 1962 MG Midget and then a rusty 1954 Austin Healy 100 while I was in college.  But why buy a 39 year old British sports car now? I had trouble articulating my reasons.  I figured that before long the authorities would be revoking my license for hitting the accelerator instead of the brake and driving through a storefront window. So I might as well drive something that I like while I still could.   When friends asked about my new acquisition, I casually replied that it was a pathetic attempt to recapture my youth.  Despite the impossibility of achieving that goal, the MGB has already proven to be well worth its relatively modest cost.

Years ago I enjoyed maintaining my British vehicles despite having less than a strong mechanical aptitude. In 1968 I bought my first car, the Midget, for $425. It came with a broken windshield.  My father, a neighbor who had tools, and I managed to install a new windshield despite none of us knowing how to do it.  We shared a feeling of glorious victory when it was finished.  It was the first of many repairs that I fumbled my way through.  Each time I managed to fix something it produced a glowing sense of accomplishment.  Today I have rediscovered the enjoyment of tinkering with a car.  Although a modern car is a million times more reliable that any old MG, the complex collection of plastic covers and computer modules under the hood is an absolute mystery to me.  The MGB on the other hand is elegantly simple.  I have been studying the Moss catalog and shop manuals to learn which parts do what.   I replaced a leaky gasket. With the advice from my new online friends on the MG Experience forum, I removed some non-functioning smog equipment to unclutter the engine bay.  I changed my own oil for the first time in more than forty years just because I could.   The greasy work has been a refreshing new challenge; and unlike my younger days, I now have enough money to pay a real mechanic if I mess things up badly enough.

1975 MGB and RSM

Back in the late 1960’s nothing beat a carefree, top down drive on a warm summer day.   The coolness factor also contributed to my self-esteem. Back at college, girls to whom I had previously been just a face in the crowd, wanted to pile into the Midget to go to a football game.  It was red and shiny and we all wanted to be seen in it.  Today, with my MGB it’s still great sport to wind up the engine and go up and down through the gears.  I am always looking for an excuse to cruise around with the top down.  My journeys now are more likely to be something like a quick trip to the dry cleaner rather than trying to impress young women. Although it’s now gray hair blowing around on my head, I still feel pretty cool.

Friends and strangers, who are roughly in my age category, see my MGB and often recount their own youthful memories of British sports cars.  Although they are rare now, in the 60’s and 70’s they were very popular, especially the MG, because it was the common man’s sports car.  I hear great stories about road trips, adventures and misadventures decades ago, which are fondly recalled by my fellow baby boomers.  Those cars were small and finicky back then, but our youthful outlooks allowed us to value their intangible benefits over practicality.  So it is now for me as I set aside serious considerations to have some fun with a very old MGB.  Maybe, I actually have recaptured a bit of my youth.

By Robert S. Mangiaratti

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'Recapturing Youth' have 14 comments

  1. November 7, 2014 @ 7:43 am Al

    I can relate to this story completely (Recapturing youth). I had a 1975 MGB in 1978. Now at the age of 62 I have a 1973 MGB to again tinker on like I did in 78 and 79. I feel younger also when I’m driving down the road with the top down and my gray hair is blowing in the wind.

    Reply

    • November 9, 2014 @ 9:40 am BigAl

      Thanks for sharing “recapturing youth”. I to at 62 own a 76 MGB convertible. A sports car is a sports car only if it drives like mine. I retired motorcycling after 35 years without a problem and needed to do the open air sport-car thing. Like you say riding the back roads through the gears in this car is rewarding.Glad I didn’t buy the Corvette convertible with no trunk or legroom. My wife and I have been many miles in comfort to. A lot safer than the bike, it’s been a perfect replacement. A better car than I expected , and totally reliable. Enjoy. Allan Duarte

      Reply

    • November 14, 2014 @ 9:46 am V.Woody.Woodworth

      Great story I just bought one(1980 limited) on the spot at 63 years old after owning 3MGS as a kid.it does bring back great memories. I drove my old one all over the United States.Woody

      Reply

  2. November 7, 2014 @ 8:25 am Paul

    I can also relate…Although at 59, I don’t feel as if I’ve lost my youth……yet…..
    My first car, in 1973 was a 1964 Midget. It set me back 400 dollars and was a ‘scam’ car. It had new floors, and while I thought of this as a feature, it hid the fact that the frame had rusted out of the car. I could have been killed towing it home. At any rate, a top notch engineer my dad knew helped me weld a frame into that car. I loved it. Had it a few years then had to become more practical. A few years later, I bought a ’68 that came in boxes. Drove that one about a year, and again, practicality.
    I bought a lovely ’76 about 10 years ago and have really been enjoying it, 29 thousand on the clock. Almost time to put it away for the Winter, but I thoroughly enjoy playing with that car.

    Reply

  3. November 7, 2014 @ 9:05 am Ed Maly

    I really enjoyed this story! I also owned MGs in my youth. Upon turning 65 this month, I have also began to look for another MG or Midget I can tinker around with to recapture the joy of ownership that only these cars can provide! Thanks again!

    Reply

  4. November 7, 2014 @ 9:44 am George

    Ahhhh…yes ! I have been down a very similar road! At 17 I got my first “real” car a 1965 MG Midget with a bad engine ( rod right through the side of the block) After making new friends at the local imported car “junk” yard I was able to get a good used engine. It was a fantastic learning experience replacing that engine. Taking the bad engine apart was interesting investigative fun. No way to count how many nights I have read and still read Moss catalogs. I became a mechanic overnight so to speak. After a few years life caught up with me and the Midget parted company in favor of something larger that my date preferred. Forty years later I accidentally stumbled on a nice one owner 1979 MGB and the fun has started all over again. I promised myself I would never put a top on the 79 so I could enjoy it to the max. Early November rides are still some of the best, even if I am 61 and the wind is blowing through a lot more gray!

    Reply

  5. November 7, 2014 @ 11:03 am Russ Mullaly

    When I saw the picture of Robert and his ’62 Midget, I said, “That’s me in 1964 ! ” I bought a 1962 Midget in 1964 when I was 18. I still have it! At the moment, I am in my office of sorts, above the garage and the Midget is right below me. I will be taking it for its weekly ride today or tomorrow. I have plans to find a companion for the Midget soon. When I bought the Midget, I had to make a decision between it and nice MGA roadster. The Midget was cheaper, had only 18K on the odometer, I knew the previous owner (who had traded it for an MGB), so I went with it. I have always liked MGAs, so I am looking for one that is already rebuilt and in good running order, so I don’t have to do much more than maintain and drive. I first have to clear out the other side of the garage, which houses a 1965 Dodge Coronet, with 273 V8, that I inherited from my mother. It runs, sound body, but needs a good home. I helped my mom pick it out in ’65, but it’s not my style.

    Reply

  6. November 7, 2014 @ 2:16 pm Steve

    Great story, Robert! So many of us can relate, especially about wind blowing in our hair. We have an expression here in Texas…”I’d rather my hair turn gray than turn loose!”. At age 59, I’m experiencing a little of both.

    Having migrated to God’s country (Texas) in 1981, I brought my beloved ’73 TR6 down to Texas from Indiana. I thought I was in heaven as I could drive my car year ’round, even in July and August albeit during the evening (the Gulf Coast is only slightly cooler than the shades of hell during the summer). Then, an awful thing happened…I fell in love with the Shelby-AC Cobra. Okay, a replica Cobra. So, I sold my TR6 to partially finance the Cobra. Later, near the end of my marriage, I purchased a ’76 TR6 and rebuilt the engine, but sadly had to sell due to the divorce. Fast forward 15 years. My current “collection” includes a Ferrari, couple of 911s, and a 230SL, and yes, still have the Cobra replica. Each car its own personality, but I still felt something was lacking.

    Please don’t construe this as bragging. I still wanted a fun car I could drive without worrying about taking a second mortgage to finance a broken component or to ask special dispensation from the Pope or permission from the Queen of England to acquire a needed part. The TR6 was the answer! Earlier this year I contacted the local chapter of the Triumph Club and soon found another ’73 TR6! Tons of fond memories flood my mind every time I take her for a spin. What a joy it is to have rekindled my relationship with Moss Motors as I perform maintenance functions as well as bringing her back to her original condition without straining my bank account!

    Reply

  7. November 7, 2014 @ 5:09 pm Brian Rockwell

    I am 67 years old and have owned various British sports cars since high school; mostly MGs and Triumphs, although my first car was a Bugeye sprite. Robert’s story was very good and I am sure many of us slightly older folks could identify with it. Although I wouldn’t ever claim to be a mechanic, owning several British cars over the years has, out of necessity if nothing else, taught me a lot about mechanical stuff and how to replace, fix and otherwise do what was needed to keep them going. Even though British cars have come and gone for me (marriage and children can bring about a shift in priorities), I still value the feeling that those cars gave me. They certainly were very different from American cars. And I have still managed to hang onto an AH 3000 that is comfortably living in the garage, with a Mazda RX7 to keep it company. Sure, I have more “practical” modes of transportation, but when the weather permits and the 3000 and I are in the right mood, a quick tour can make us both feel a lot younger.

    Reply

  8. November 7, 2014 @ 7:59 pm Chris Rogers

    Man, do these stories bring back memories! My wife and I married in 1969, and our first car was a ’68 Sprite. What a great little car, a blast to drive on the winding, narrow mountain roads of New Mexico. Then, in 1971, I bought a ’62 Austin Healey 3000 that Bob and Al Unser had raced as teens here in Albuquerque. For those who know Healeys, ’62 was the only year they put 3 carbs in. Car spent lots of time being tuned but sure made up for it when on the road. It was in bad shape when I bought it, but much time, sweat and moolah brought it around. First kid came around, no health insurance, and there went the Healey. About 8 years ago, kids raised and on their own, my wife came to me with something behind her back. It was a picture of a ’79 MGB for sale. “Wanna just go take a look at this?” she asked. Needless to say, I cannot express the joy we feel when driving with the top down our ’79 MGB!

    Reply

  9. November 8, 2014 @ 10:57 am John

    Mine is a Blue 65 MGB. Actually it’s my late wife’s “Baby Sports Car”. We bought it new from Frank Millard, The Man in Red way back then.
    It’s suffered from neglect over the years when my wife’s illness made it impossible for Her to drive.
    About 7 years ago I replaced the worn out interior, then in 2010 I had the dinks and dents ironed out and replaced the chrome bumpers, trim, etc. It looks pretty good for a daily driver.
    Right now I’m in the process of redoing the front disk brakes, should have it back together and running in a couple of days.
    I too enjoy the .comments and praise from former MG owners and others. A couple of years ago I was coming hone on the freeway and a Red 65 B got on in front of me. We had a nice 2 car parade for a couple of miles.

    Reply

  10. November 8, 2014 @ 10:59 am John

    Mine is a Blue 65 MGB. Actually it’s my late wife’s “Baby Sports Car”. We bought it new from Frank Millard, The Man in Red way back then.
    It’s suffered from neglect over the years when my wife’s illness made it impossible for Her to drive.
    About 7 years ago I replaced the worn out interior, then in 2010 I had the dinks and dents ironed out, a new paint job and replaced the chrome bumpers, trim, etc. It looks pretty good for a daily driver.
    Right now I’m in the process of redoing the front disk brakes, should have it back together and running in a couple of days.
    I too enjoy the .comments and praise from former MG owners and others. A couple of years ago I was coming hone on the freeway and a Red 65 B got on in front of me. We had a nice 2 car parade for a couple of miles.

    Reply

  11. November 10, 2014 @ 4:31 pm Ray Diesel

    It was 1954 and I was about to turn eighteen and graduate from high school . My parents promised me a car as a graduation present . I wanted a 1949 Mercury coupe . That is until a neighbor bought a TD and gave me a ride . Forget the Mercury , I want an MG . I got my 1950 TD and started to personalize it . I changed the muffler ,replaced the valve and tappet inspection covers with polished aluminum . Upgraded to a Mark 2 head together with the matching intake and a dual exhaust manifold. Then came the Judson supercharger . Uncle Sam was calling , I answered and spent the next four years in the Air Force . In 1962 I was discharged and together with my dad started a restoration. We painted it Olde English White ,replaced the disc wheels with wires and added a Moto Lita steering wheel and switched rear ends with one from an MGA . 1993 it was time for another restoration . This time it was painted Alpine white with a new red interior and I also replaced the supercharger with one from Moss and the four speed transmission with a Ford 5 speed . I also replaced the painted wires with chrome . It looks nice and I still enjoy driving it sixty years later . The only difference is I shift at three thousand rather than fifty five hundred RPM . I’m not that anxious to spend my week end replacing a snapped axle half shaft or a holed piston after swallowing a valve .

    Reply

  12. November 11, 2014 @ 12:06 pm Peter Gulash

    Great stories, the first car I bought with my own money was a 1970 MGB GT, it was a repossessed car and I brought in 1974 for $900. I took that car on a cross country trip, covering over 25 states in 1976, starting in Wisconsin heading east to Connecticut down the east coast, along the Gulf, through the Rockies and landed in San Francisco for the Bi-centennial celebrations. I ever set up a tent in the back with the hatch open to camp in the car. I loved that car. I just recently, recapturing my youth, brought another 1970 MGB GT and am enjoying everything about it. I do love fooling around with the car and the British inverted the concept that a sports car is something that you get to fiddle around with every weekend. Enjoy the ride!!

    Reply


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