Yes, it’s that time of year! It’s sports car season! The garage hibernation is over and it’s time for the MGEEEB to stick it’s nose from under wraps and to face the elements. The season starts later here in the northern latitudes, unlike the year-round season of Southern California. That may be one of the reasons it gets intense. One minute there’s none and then the first sunny day of spring sports cars are everywhere, only to disappear with the first winter rains.
With the warmth of the sun, the sports car afficionado starts thinking of restoration. It’s spring and rebirth, a time when the new replaces the old or when the old feel young again. Anyway, I started to think of all the things that had to be done to the MGB. I rolled out the British marvel, washed it. and started to investigate previous encounters of the crunch kind. The MGB is a 1966 and I bought it in 1969, when I was really looking for a VW. Since that time I have had many adventures and many memories tied to it. When my wife and I were first dating, she realized that this British Beast of Burden came with the long-haired hippy gnome. Now it looked like the time to restore it.
Scars have always been a permanent mark. At times they have been a statement about the person who wears them. The Prussian sword cut on the face comes to mind. Some societies would use patterned scars as ornament, and who can deny a sailor and his tattoo? Most
scars, though, have been caused by accidents, like the one the cat gave me when I tried to give her a bath. The MGB has scars which separate this MGB from any other. I started to examine these scars which the ravages of time had wrought.
At the front end of this British export you notice the chrome hood pins. The hood is made of aluminum and the British failed to install a double safety latch. At forty miles per hour the hood flew up and caused a mild sensation. The first time was a fluke; the second time called for strapping the inside frame and installing hood pins. The front edge of the hood also looks a little different. That came about from a pickup truck that didn’t see my roadster parked behind it, and managed to crunch the hood just above the grille. Did I mention that the hood is made of aluminum? My amateurish attempts helped hide most of the damage with body putty.
Before we leave the front of this British masterpiece, let me explain about the from bumper. People used to ask me where the front bumper was, until I installed an air dam on it, and told them that now, bumperless, it could go 180 mph.
Really though, I have to confess…it was my fault. It was a dark night in North Hollywood. There was a stoplight flashing red and I decided to cut through the closed service station, thus avoiding the loss of a couple of seconds. Would you believe that major oil companies give out awards to gas stations that can come up with the worst landscaping, especially for cars cutting through their stations? Boom!!! Before I could see it, (Electrics you know), I smacked the biggest boulder. Some landscaping! The twisted bumper gave the MG a demented sneer, what with one bumperette hanging this way and the other in the opposite direction. It wasn’t long before I lost those bumperettcs someplace on Mulholland Drive (An infamous sports car road – Ed). I still have the old bumper in the garage. I hate getting rid of old parts.
Creases from parking lot encounters keep the “Love of my Life” from getting 100% at a concours. Both doors show that fissure which is affectionately known as a stress crack. I guess that’s not too bad considering that a friend with a rubber bumper MGB had them through four different windscreens. Scratches on the front knockoff are evidence of brake failure. I bounced the car off the curb to bring it to a stop. The emergency brake didn’t work. Why brake failure? It was a failure caused by using the wrong voodoo mixture in an alien brake system. It helps to own a manual, otherwise you too can use the wrong brake fluid and replace the complete system. By the way, did you know that some British transmissions do not use 90wt. oil like a 1956 Chevy?
There is a medallion attached to the lower right fender, like a brand on a hairless cow. It says “Burbank Sportscar Center.” I can’t make out the rest of the logo because it is intricate and countless waxings have filled it in. They must have made some good glue back in 1966 because I’ve been trying to take it off for years. The trunk lid has four holes in it from a luggage rack. I removed the rack because it destroyed the purity of line, but lately I’ve been thinking of pulling it back. Water gets in the trunk.
This piece of vintage metal also has a spotlight. Hey, I didn’t put it on! The car came that way. I didn’t even like them on 1950 hot rods. Why it’s still there I don’t know. Yes I do! If I look it off, there would be two more holes for water to come in and turn vintage to rust. The spotlight did help me from going over an embankment near Lake Isabella, and it has come in handy on gimmick rallies. It’s easier to see paper plates on telephone poles.
There are traces of French blue paint on the driver’s door. The blue color came from acrylic paint that my three year-old son found in the garage. He promptly started to finger-paint the tan MGB.
It was a warm night, years ago, that the following incident occurred. It was three o’clock in the morning in North Hollywood. The windows were open in our upstairs apartment. Suddenly, my wife and I were awakened by an alarm, soon followed by a male voice from the next apartment yelling, “Stay away from my car you sons of *(#St*@&!!!!.” A shotgun blast came from his apartment window. We heard running feet. We heard screeching tires, and Rambo of the Valley was out on the street firing three more blasts. Did I stick my head out the window? No way, Jose! I was on the floor with my honey calling the police, who promptly put me on hold.
By the time the waterbed reached calm, there were voices out on the street. We ventured forth to recreate the scene. We found the empty shells; evidently, Rambo must have blown out the thieves’ back window. Glass was everywhere! Two hours later the black and white showed up (fast, considering the station was a block and a half around the corner). We later learned that John Wayne was cited for discharging a firearm in a demilitarized zone. We retired after giving our version of the event to the police. It didn’t match any of the other twenty versions. The next morning, I went to drive the B to the market. I found pock marks on the side of the car and on the spotlight housing. My side mirror was shattered and the tail light was disintegrated. You never know what is going to happen when you leave your car parked on the street.
A lot of these events happened years ago. but the scars tell the story. I can point to each one. You can’t do that to a concours MGB. This Scarface from Abingdon has a visible history that hasn’t been erased by cosmetic surgery. When you do a restoration, do you replace a part because it is old and not shiny anymore? It’s still serviceable, but it doesn’t go with the new paint. I’ve seen some MGBs that are ten on the scale of ugly, but they are also used daily. A difference in philosophy? Maybe. I won’t restore it. The MGB is running great, even though it looks like Quasimodo. The sun is out; there’s a nice warm breeze, and I have the suspicion that the Scarface from Abingdon won’t be restored this year either.
by Conrad Campos Jr.
Conrad will receive a Moss gift certificate for his contribution.