Mike H

The Rustoleum Special

I have owned my 1951 M.G. TD since 1973. I spent the winter of 1973-74 disassembling the car down to a rolling chassis out in my parents’ driveway using two pair of vise grips, because none of my SAE or Metric Craftsmen wrenches fit anything!

After ordering a complete set of ash body framing from Abingdon Spares, I soaked everything in a mixture of turpentine and linseed oil for a week and then began to piece the body tub back together retaining almost all of the original sheet metal, crudely patching in some metal only where it was too far gone at the bottom. Then I coated everything in Rustoleum primer and undercoating and reassembled the body on the chassis, outside in the driveway, after dark, in February! Lucy thought I was crazy.

Fortunately by that time, upon hearing how I had taken the car apart, an M.G.C.C. member, who was also a retired mechanic, sold me his entire collection of Snap-on Whitworth tools for $24! (Still have ‘em!) So at least I didn't have to put it back together with two pair of vise grips!

The "Rustoleum Special" was road ready in the spring of 1974. Later that summer I painted it silver and black, again out in my parents' driveway. When I rebuilt the engine I added an oil cooler under the front apron. Because of this the front license plate could not hang below the bumper or it would block air flow to the cooler. So it was mounted to a bracket such that the plate blocked the crank hole in the bumper. I only used one nut and bolt to secure the plate and could just pivot it up if I ever needed to use the hand crank.

Lucy and I have many memories of outings and trips in our TD. We've met many life long friends over this car, and traveled as far away as Florida in it. But perhaps our best memory is this one from 1976:

The summer that "She who must be obeyed" and I got married the starter quit and there was no cash for a replacement. So I always made sure to park on a slope and was able to roll start it every time with little trouble.

Anyway, the day of the wedding my dad offered to wash the car for me while I was getting ready for the ceremony. Unbeknownst to me he spied the missing license plate hardware, got another nut and bolt, and fastened the my pivoting front plate down properly. As the car was parked on a slope, I just roll-started it and drove happily off to get married.

After the wedding and the reception, it was time for the bride and groom to make a quick and very public getaway. The parking area was perfectly level so I had to crank start it in front of all the wedding guests, who were well provided with rice. Did I mention it was raining? With great ceremony I installed Lucy in the flower bedecked M.G., retrieved the hand crank from behind the driver's seat, and walked around to the front of the car. Couldn't budge the license plate! Had to flip open the bonnet, get tools out of the tool box and unfasten the license plate! Then I cranked...and I cranked...and I cranked...AND I CRANKED.... You get the picture - so did several of our wedding guests! FINALLY it fired up, sort of, running on maybe a couple of cylinders and shaking like something out of an old cartoon. I wasn't about to shut it off after all that work, so I got in and we PUTT, PUTT, PUTTED off down the road to the great amusement of our drenched guests.

A block or so down the road was an elementary school with a covered entrance. I pulled under and flipped open the bonnet to try to figure out what was the matter. My new bride was in tears and my reputation as "the man of the house" was on the line for real. Turns out my groomsmen, one of whom was the shop foreman at a local Rolls Royce agency and the other the Tech Director of the M.G.C.C. Washington D.C. Centre, had switched the plug leads on #2 and #3 plugs! I quickly switched 'em back, fired it up on the first pull of the crank, and we motored smoothly off to the amazement and delight of my lady wife of going on 38 years!

During our honeymoon trip we just happened to stop by Abingdon Spares (when Jerry Goguen was still running it out of the basement of his suburban Boston home) and she sprung for a new starter out of the motel money!

How many folks can say that they still own the car they got married in nearly four decades ago? Our wedding TD is still out in the garage, ready for the next evening cruise. The body of the "Rustoleum Special" is just as solid as when I assembled it over 40 years ago, and the front plate still pivots!

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Jack Weiszer Poerage, Michigan June 11, 2014 at 17:03
    Nice story.

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