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My First Car - a 56 MGA (Vroom vroom - or putt putt, clunk, clunk)

This is really for Tommy so I hope he gets to read it. I love the story/info on Tommy’s 1952 MG TD - I really wanted one! It was also the year I was born. So, what did I do when it came time for me to buy my first car? I bought the first used British car I could find - a 1956 MGA!!! It was fire engine red, soft top & drop in sliding Plexiglas window, just what a 17 year old needed! If you know this car it’s really sleek, no external door handles so you have to slide the NON locking window aside, reach in and grab the pull cord inside the door opening and pull the door open. When you go to start it the key only works the fuel pump (which I didn’t learn until it stopped ticking one day) so you turn the key, pull the choke out then pull on the starter cable. I bought it from the son of a local large landscaper. He wasn’t around when I went to look at it but one of his dad’s salesmen was. He showed me the car and receipts for HUNDREDS of dollars worth of repairs. This should have sent any sensible individual running away but I had my rose colored (or fire engine red) glasses on that day and it was ONLY $650!!!

So I bought the stupid thing and drove it through the winter of 1970, sometimes down to -10 F, and into the spring of 1971. It always started (until the fuel pump wiring failed one day) and always ran UNTIL it started clunking badly and threw/broke a rod. I got one of my buddy’s to help tow me home with a rope around the bumper and we drug/pushed it into the garage. We put it up on jack stands, crawled under it and I started laughing my a** off – it really wasn’t funny but what can you do? One of the rods had broken and then proceeded to swing around in the engine and ripped right through the oil pan.
We continued to investigate the rest of the motor and to my surprise there had already been another hole in the upper part of the block, behind the oil filter, hidden by a piece of greasy CARDBOARD that the previous owner must have installed to keep oil from leaking out of the engine from a previous similar breakdown (see mountain of old repair receipts). Well that was really the end of my MG driving. It sat in the garage for a few years until I finally realized I would never get around to fixing it, so I sold it to a local foreign car rebuilder for the same $650 I originally spent. End of story.
Tommy, does that now make us “brothers under DA HOOD?”

P.S. I went back to riding my 175 Yamaha motorcycle until I bought my next car – a 1966 VW Canadian notchback! There are a few good stories there too.

My college roommate (school year '66-'67) had an MGA that was not too old, say a '59. We took it to Greek Peak (Cortland, NY ski area) and various other places. When it quit running one of us got out and tweeked the wires for the electric fuel pump (I think it was near the passenger side rear wheel under the trunk) and we were back in business. Driving in snow and ice in this very low riding car seemed to pack ice and gunk in all the wrong places. Living with an MGA was and will always be a special experience you will either love or hate. Me, we had a great time in that car.

I always wanted an MG Midget or the equivalent Austin Healy Sprite. However, by the time I could afford one, these manufacturer had ruined these cars–roll up windows instead of side curtains and exterior door handles. The really choice car for which I couldn’t find a good used one was an Austin Healy bug-eyed Sprite. This was back in 1965 when I got my first full time job.

The bug-eyed Sprite was such a great little car to drive when I was 6 feet tall and weighed 150 pounds. It’s amazing what could be wrung out of a 55 cu in engine. I saw one with a 283 V-8 shoe shoe horned in. But the wiring and those dual SUs were just too much for most drivers.

For me, a 283 V-8 shoe horned into a Sprite would ruin the car. Wringing out the power from a 55 cubic inch engine by using the gears to maximum advantage was the fun of the A-H Sprite.

One of my best friends has a Sunbeam Tiger-2. Sweet little car, very hot engine. Vroom, Vrooooooooom!

My first car was a 1948 Chevy “Stylemaster Deluxe” with the stovebolt 6 engine, and puerchased for $125. It had been repoainted in a bright green metallic, and soon came to called “The Green Hornet”. It always started in the winter and had a powerful heater. Classmates in college with MGs often borrowed it for dates for those reasons.

One English major I dated, who had a wry sense of humor, called it “the heater with the car attached”. The car saw mw through my 4 years of engineering studies, and it lived a further 3 years after giving it to my kid brother then going to teacher’s college.