In my MGB, Italian tuna always hits the spot

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Courtesy Judy Newman

“Italian tuna sounds good,” I said to my husband, Jeff, as I shifted up—quite smoothly, I have to say—into fourth.

I love driving my 1974 Tundra Green MG on the back roads between our house and Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Canaan Southfield Road is winding. Traffic’s usually light—not too many intimidating SUVs bearing down on me. It’s a perfect 30-minutes-each-way trip. And Jeff, who typically has been allergic to food shopping throughout our decades of marriage, is happy to join me—as long as we take the MG.

“I’ll get breadsticks, olives, white beans, some of that nice goat cheddar, and the Italian tuna,” I said. “You can wait in the car.”

“It’s not Italian tuna,” Jeff said, nodding in approval as I downshifted and made the turn onto Cross Road in third—not second—gear, which he’s been encouraging me to do more of. “It’s Italian tuneup!”

1974 MGB rear three-quarter
Courtesy Judy Newman

You might know what an Italian tuneup is, but I—children’s book publisher, new classic car owner, and avoider of anything that sounds even vaguely like an ethnic slur—did not. But I know now: It’s a slang term for attempting to restore engine performance by driving a car to its redline, which theoretically flushes out carbon deposits.

I also know that when Jeff starts talking about Italian tuneups, it’s his way of telling me I’m shifting too soon. Revving it high just feels too aggressive to me, like I’m pushing too hard. But I’m listening to Jeff—and hearing him—and I’m going to keep working on my shifting to get it right. Because I love this car and everything about it—including the fact that Jeff (a 1971 Jaguar XKE owner) and I have started an interesting new chapter in our marriage.

1974 MGB front three-quarter
Courtesy Judy Newman

Last Mother’s Day, Jeff bought the MG for me from a friend who bought it from its original owners, two women in Tennessee. The bill of sale included a note: “Goodbye Fun Car.”

And it is fun. I get so many compliments out on the road, and for the first time in my life, I’m enjoying the journey as much as the destination. The best part? Jeff and I have so many new things to discuss and rehash and obsess over. Long married life is great, for sure, but after a few decades of it, there’s often not a lot of new ground to cover. But he’s always interested and inspired when we’re talking about my latest trip in the MG.

It’s undeniable, Jeff and I have a ménage à trois going with this MG. She is the best kind of new partner. She’s beautiful and ageless, and she is not ashamed of going topless; she’s always up for a new adventure and is fun to be around. We three share a love of the open road; of driving for the fun of it; of going to the supermarket for an Italian tuneup, and maybe even picking up some Italian tuna for dinner.

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