While still in high school in 1963, I purchased a used, 1957 MGA. Many, if not most MGAs, wound up being converted to LHD and shipped to the USA. The linkage crossing from the right hand side, the presumed driver’s seat, to the left hand side was placed inside the firewall. In the cockpit! It did not take my friends long to discover that they could “help me drive” by placing pressure on the rod that was in front of their feet. We had some harrowing drives. When I sold the MGA a few years later, I thought I was through with challenging “conversions.”
Fast forward 20 years. Fuel prices in the US were relatively high in1983. As always, fuel was even higher in Europe. Many people on both continents were opting to downsize their vehicles. I thought this was a good time to purchase a used, six or eight-cylinder foreign gas guzzler (old enough to be exempt from EPA regulations) for “Sunday drives.”
I mentioned this to my good friend John who was working as a service manager in a car dealership in Fife, Scotland. John called soon and said there was a 1967 Mercedes 250 SL with low mileage waiting for me in a nearby village. If I didn’t want it, he was going to buy it. That was all I needed to hear from a mechanic’s mechanic. But John said there was one catch—the German LHD had been converted for driving in the UK; It was now RHD. I was beginning to have a reverse déjà vu.
Our plan was to ship the car across the Atlantic as most do, roll on/roll off a freighter. Through a very pleasant set of circumstances, the car was shipped airfreight to JFK and was home in Connecticut for Father’s Day, 1984.
At this time, our son Jason was a year old. I found a car seat for him that we could buckle into the space behind and between the two seats. Perfect. Jason’s car seat happened to have a pretend dashboard and steering wheel attached to it. Magnificent. When Jason and I would take drives together, I would strap his car seat—including the steering wheel—into the car’s left hand seat. We know how it is driving a well-maintained classic car--the car is frequently appreciated. But people were really shocked seeing us when we would be the first car of a line stopped at a red light, and drivers were making the turn into the lane next to us. There’s a baby driving that car! The looks on so many faces were priceless.
Today our car is 47, our son is nearly 30, and my wife would not be happy if I were to mention her age. We still enjoy taking rides in the 1967 250SL – but not all of us at the same time anymore;-)