The ‘Laws’ for British Sports Cars

From Moss Motoring 1985

By Don Hayward

Many distinguished scientists have worked their entire lives to try and figure out why British autos never seem to obey any scientific laws known to man.¬†Most of us are familiar with the physical laws thought up by Isaac Newton, the guy who invented gravity. He said things like ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’ and ‘if you sit under a tree long enough, an apple will eventually fall on your head, provided you are sitting under an apple tree’.

Issac was considered very intelligent and was eventually responsible for the invention of calculus, which was a new kind of math for people who thought math wasn’t already hard enough. He is also the reason why, even today, people who work in apple orchards often wear large, protective hats.

Newton’s Laws made sense for hundreds of years, and everybody believed them. They believed them right up until the time when British sports cars were invented, when it was suddenly realized that a whole new bunch of laws was going to be needed.

Many distinguished scientists have worked their entire lives to try and figure out why British autos never seem to obey any scientific laws known to man.

These eminent scientists, with names like Morris, Healey, Leyland, Mowog, and Murphy, shook the scientific community when they published their new theory of mechanical behavior called ‘THE LAWS FOR BRITISH SPORTS CARS’. Many people are not familiar with the five major laws, so they are listed below with a brief explanation of each.


‘The name of a British Sports Car shall consist primarily of letters and numbers, with said letters and numbers chosen in random fashion so that the resultant vehicle name is wholly devoid of meaning.’

This law explains why British cars always have spectacularly bad names like ‘XKE’ or worse yet, ‘MGBGT’.


‘Any book, manual, pamphlet, or text dealing with the maintenance, repair, or restoration of a British Sports Car shall be written so that at least every fourth word will be unknown to the average reader. In the event that any portion of the text is understandable, the information contained therein shall be incorrect.’

Most people are familiar with this law. Here is an excerpt from page 132 of the MGA shop manual: ‘Before rebushing the lower grunnion banjos, you must remove the bonnet fascia and undo the A-arm nut with a #3 spanner.’ All attempts to publish an English-language version of this manual have failed.


‘The more a British Sports Car malfunctions, breaks, and/or falls apart, the more endearing it becomes to the owner.’

You buy a British Sports Car. You have had it a year and a half and have replaced every item on the car at least twice. When the engine is started it sounds as if someone has thrown a handful of ball bearings into a blender. But when someone offers to buy it, you are offended because ‘It is like part of the family and besides, ‘It is so much fun to drive’. British Sports Car owners often stare into space and smile a lot. This is referred to as the ‘Foolish Person Syndrome’.


‘All British Sports Cars, regardless of condition or age, shall always have at least one system or sub-system of components which is entirely non-functional, and cannot be repaired except on a semi-permanent or semifunctional basis.’

The famous Lucas Electrics Law.


‘Any component of a British Sports Car which is entirely unknown to the owner shall function perfectly, until such time that the owner becomes aware of the component’s existence, when it shall instantly fail.’

Case in point I have owned a rather natty MGB for six years. I never knew there was such a thing as a ‘Gulp Valve’ until I saw new ones offered for sale by Moss Motors. The next day while driving my MGB to work, the Gulp Valve fell off the engine and was run over by a truck.

I do not know what the Gulp Valve gulps, nor do I particularly care to know, since it sounds messy and dangerous. But I figured I would buy a new Gulp Valve and install it myself. One look at the shop manual and I decided to have somebody else install it (see LAW OF CRYPTIC INSTRUCTIONS, above).

While I’m driving the car over to the local repair establishment, I notice that the MGB is performing just as well as it ever did, and that the loss of the mysterious Gulp Valve has not had any effect on its behavior. I figure this is due to the NON-FUNCTIONAL ATTRIBUTE LAW, which means that the Gulp Valve probably wasn’t gulping anything anyway, so I decide not to replace it after all.

Three days later the engine had no more oil in it and promptly seized into a solid mass of metal. The tow truck operator, being ignorant of the LOVE OF HARDSHIP LAW, offered to take the car off my hands for $100.00. I just smiled.

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