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.

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