14 August 2012

My Personal B List

Say what you will about New Jersey and shows like “The Sopranos” or “Jersey Shore,” but in the 1960s it was a sports car Mecca. And growing up in a family with sports cars, I noticed such things. As a kid, there were MGBs all around me, but other than the odd ride in a white B hardtop roadster it didn’t get personal until 1975 when my high school girlfriend decided to buy one.

Kathy’s car was a slightly bruised 1969 B roadster, but it was a really good car in British Green. She actually beat me to MG ownership, although I wasn’t far behind with my first MGA coupe.

My first B was a faded red 1963 that had really rusty floors and sills. I’d had it a week before I had to put the top up. The problem was, I was on a first date and we came out of a restaurant into a downpour. I pulled the top frame and top out of the trunk and was drenched before I realized it wouldn’t latch. My date was soaked and laughing, so all was not lost. Not being allowed a car at college the first term of freshman year, it was often used by my brother, who managed to drive it over a railroad tie at his frat house and repeatedly ran it out of gas. When he lost a wheel it I knew it was time to let “Milo the Wonder Car” go.

The biggest mistake I ever made on a B was when I paid way too much for a 1973 B/GT from a dealer. It was Blaze Orange — I hate orange — and had a dealer-installed stripe. It was comfortable and tidy, but one winter in upstate New York was very hard on it and used up a complete exhaust system. I’d exhausted all my money to buy it and really couldn’t afford to maintain it, so I sold it and bought an inexpensive green and primer gray 1967 MGB/GT that I called “General Disorder” because the starter only worked on occasions. I had it painted, recovered the seats and had huge fun with that car. With badly repaired rust damage it may not have been a good car, but it was a favorite. It was quick and could return 38 mpg on a long run. Once we had six people onboard, but the clearance was so low that people had to walk across any rough pavement. I also used it to drive the 200 miles from Central New Jersey to Schenectady, N.Y. When the exhaust dropped off, I threw it in the rear deck and when it broke a fan belt, I simply replaced it along the highway.

After I sold that GT I went a few years until I bought a second Blaze Orange GT. I had the rot cut out and I changed the color to British Green. With the head reworked, an Ansa exhaust, Cosmic alloy wheels, Koni rear shocks, early chrome grille and plush dark green carpets, it was a really nice car. 

While it was being redone I picked up a rusty 1964 B with a hardtop. It had sheet metal patches all over the lower body and for the floors and we called it Patches. Once the GT was complete, my future wife adopted Patches. I can recall some great evenings with the top down running around my hometown. Then there was the drive-in movie we went to. Every little while rain would come and we’d build the top. Then it would pass and we’d stow the top again. We must have done it three times!

Patches went before the GT and then in about 1982 or 1983 it was time for the GT to move on. With our wedding coming and an MGA coupe that I’d never let go, we couldn’t afford to keep it. But there are plenty of great MGBs out there and I’m sure I’ll have another one — preferably a Grampian Grey 1966 or 1967 MGB/GT just like the one my sixth-grade teacher bought new.

8 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Greg Perigo Fort Wayne, IN August 27, 2012 at 20:10
    John, we must be kin-folk ... MGs just have a way of soaking into one's skin. Thanks for another fun read!
  • 2
    Bob Ewing Southern California August 31, 2012 at 15:21
    This saga proves that one should never buy a car of any type whose history includes time in the Northeastern USA. My 1967 MGB roadster has never had these kind of problems, and is an enjoyable Sunday driver.
  • 3
    Bob Marek Madison, WI September 1, 2012 at 11:40
    Does anyone know if the 1963 MG-B was sold with English Cowhide (real leather) upholstery? Was it standard or optional? I had a 1963 B in 1965 and know the seats were very heavy black leather. I also had a 1979 MG-B and remember that those seats were black vinyl. Your answer may help settle a long standing debate between two friends.
  • 4
    Charles Spiher Detour Village, MI September 2, 2012 at 06:07
    Dear J.A.S., We need to change your medication, and get you away from Jersey. Good story, Dr. C.
  • 5
    Charles Spiher Detour Village, MI September 2, 2012 at 06:07
    Dear J.A.S., We need to change your medication, and get you away from Jersey. Good story, Dr. C.
  • 6
    Robert Stickle South Carolina September 18, 2012 at 23:19
    1963 MG MKI were sold with leather seats proud 1963 mgb owner for over 25 years
  • 7
    Chris Manner United States October 8, 2012 at 20:30
    I've had numerous 'B's as well (my 1st car at 16 was a '67 B-GT) but I've recently discovered the 'C.' Had I known what a 'C' had to offer, I would have never bothered with a 'B'.
  • 8
    Wildhacker John,That is really a ledoad question and truthfully, but it part:It appears that in the upper end of the highly priced automobile world,( millions ) , originality rules all the way to 500 point shows, the best of the best,There again, their are shows that are explicitly set for Hot Rods, Custom Cars and and Modified cars.This is the break away point from original to personal taste.I have been a purist in my automobile renovations, rotisseri types, nut, bolt and clip, and wax the underbody and frame before reattaching.Many owners do upgraded to their own taste, I would say it is to make their car perform better, look better and to correct factory known build issue's !I do enjoy all automobiles as a whole, especially from the late 1890 s-1973.Would make an exception for a 2005-07 Ford GT 40.I term, (90%) of modern day cars as throw away cars , meaning that they are to be used, handed down to a new owner and then used until ready for the shredder.I personally would keep any automobile of collector value as stock per factory spec.If I would vary from stock, I would most definatly keep the stock parts.If a new buyer does not like your modifications, he/she has the option of going back stock.Best I can come up with, much more could be written though,John November 3, 2012 at 07:24
    John,That is really a ledoad question and truthfully, but it part:It appears that in the upper end of the highly priced automobile world,( millions ) , originality rules all the way to 500 point shows, the best of the best,There again, their are shows that are explicitly set for Hot Rods, Custom Cars and and Modified cars.This is the break away point from original to personal taste.I have been a purist in my automobile renovations, rotisseri types, nut, bolt and clip, and wax the underbody and frame before reattaching.Many owners do upgraded to their own taste, I would say it is to make their car perform better, look better and to correct factory known build issue's !I do enjoy all automobiles as a whole, especially from the late 1890 s-1973.Would make an exception for a 2005-07 Ford GT 40.I term, (90%) of modern day cars as throw away cars , meaning that they are to be used, handed down to a new owner and then used until ready for the shredder.I personally would keep any automobile of collector value as stock per factory spec.If I would vary from stock, I would most definatly keep the stock parts.If a new buyer does not like your modifications, he/she has the option of going back stock.Best I can come up with, much more could be written though,John

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