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MG TD TF 1500 - In defense of my ratty hood...

Saturday I got the TF out for its first proper bath since late last fall. The garage where it lives shares space with the central vac system, and it had collected a good coat of dust even under its dustproof (yeah, right!) cover. I had taken it out a few times over the winterand this wasnt the first weekend it had been out since the weather started warming upbut it was the first more than a quick hose-off since it got put away for the season.

As I washed her, I reviewed all the tasks I had performed on the car over the winter. I put together a long list before the winter, made up of three basic categories: maintenance/repairs, upgrades, and cosmetics. I noted with some satisfaction as I hosed the dust off the wings that every item in the maintain/repair and upgrade categories had been handled. New speedometer cable? Done. New choke cable? Done. Carb rebuild? Done. Stuck gas tank sender valve? Fixed. pertronix? Done. MGB seven blade fan? Installed. Broken wing mirror? Replaced. All fluids? Replaced. Brake system? Bled, checked and refilled. All belts and hoses? Checked and replaced where appropriate. Ready for another season.

But it also occurred to me as I reenacted the Karate Kid (wax on, wax off) that none of the cosmetic items had been dealt with. Not a single one. I got a brand new Stayfast top for Christmas, but the ratty old double-duck item that came with the car was still on. The all-but-chromeless cowl brackets for the windshield? Still all-but-chromeless and still on the car. The dash panel with three extra holes (and switches) that do nothing? Still has four A knobs that do nothing. The worn-through felt in the side curtain box? Still worn through. The missing passenger door latch cover? Still missing. The inch gap at the bottom of the same door? Still gappy.

My first LBCand actually my first carwas a 1967 MGB in primrose bought when I turned 16 back in 1985. Dad and I spent months looking for just the right car, and found it in Mags. Tired paint and interior but no rust, overdrive and a rebuilt engine with an Oselli head and hardened seats. A perfect driver. And God, I loved that car. She was my only car until 1993, and while I knew (and knew how to fix) every square inch of her, shed reached the point where she needed a complete restoration to stay road-worthy and I just didnt have the money to do it. So I bought a two-year old Miata and put Mags in dads garage.

She came out in 1995 when I got my own garage, and over the next two years I gradually brought her back to better-than-new condition. But I just didnt drive her that much once she was done. Part of it, to be honest, was how much better an overall car the Miata was, but partially it was because she was just too nice. I used to drive her on the highway all the timeshe was my only car, after allbut now I didnt want a stone to chip her perfect paint. I took her out on weekends, but it wasnt the same. Plus which it was just kind of silly having two convertibles.

Got married in 98 and the wife also had a two-seater so we decided to trade in the Miata for something more practicalan Explorer. Thats when the paranoia factor really kicked in on Mags. She was just too darn good to risk. But I realized in early 99 that I really missed having a project car so I picked up a 57 MGA (Fiona) withyou guessed it, tired paint and interior but a solid engineto work on. Except I didnt work on her. I drove her. I drove the crap out of her. I drove her more than the Explorer. Great little car. I did the usual cooling/reliability stuff, but nothing more than that. Paint was still tired and the interior was still shabby. And Mags got dusty.

We bought our dream house in 2001 and needed a little extra cash to fix it up. I was sad to do it, but Mags deserved a home where shed be loved and driven, and so off she went. And I kept driving Fiona. But by 2003 shed reached the point where she really needed at the very least a respray. Was considering going the fully monty on her when my uncle died and left me his 75% finished 1962 Morgan +4. Gave Fiona a Maaco respray, and spent the rest of my money and time on Nigel. And continued to drive Fiona as she was.

I finished Nigel in late 2004. And, once again, he was just too nice to drive. Apart from occasional Sunday afternoons he just sat in the garage and gathered dust while Fiona kept racking up the miles. And when Alice got pregnant in 2005 and we needed a new car for her (hard to manage a baby in a Z4) and a nursery, Nigel financed both of those without too much heartbreak on my part.

In 2006 Fionas head cracked. Once I had that out, I figured I might as well drop the whole engine out and rebuild the whole thing. And as long as that was out, there were a few rust patches that needed looking at. And I couldnt stitch the drivers seat together again so I might as well put new seats in. And so by mid 2007 Fiona was better than she was when she left Abington. And too nice to drive. Crap.

My problem is I cant just do a little bit of cosmetics. Once I start I just cant stop. And so Fiona went in 2008 to finance a kitchen remodel. I went LBC-less for about a year, and then got the itch for a TF. A few months hunting turned up Ash, a 53 with a recently rebuilt engine and a ten or fifteen year old paintjob and interior. I got him last June, and he racked up 3,000 miles before the winter set in and he went into the garage and I put together my winter to-do list. He looks great from ten feet, and sounds great from any distance. Hes just about perfect. And I dont want to mess him up.

After I finished the wax, I took him over to Home Depot to get some Killzwe had a leak from an upstairs toilet. Fixed the leak, but had a nasty brown spot on the ceiling in the kitchen that wanted fixing. Went to the paint aisle, found the Killz, picked up a can, and turned around face to face with the Rustoleum rack. I was feeling kind of guilty about the lack of any progress on my cosmetic jobs over the winterespecially the new top my in-laws gave me. But not only does the top need replacingthe frame was painted black at some time, and now its flaking. If I take the top off, I need to do the frame too. And so there I was, feeling guilty and facing the Rustoleum rack. It felt like fate. I ran my finger down the colorsalmond, hunter green, gloss white, primer rednutmeg. Out of stock. At least four cans of every color under the rainbow except nutmeg. Now THAT felt like fate. Somebody is saving me from myself.

In the parking lot a guy was standing over Ash giving him a good once-over. Turns out the guy had a TD back in college and was getting the itch. I opened the bonnet and fired him up so we could listen to him run and, damn, he sounded good. This is the kind of car I want, he said. You can tell that this car gets used. Damn right. We took a spin, and then I dropped him off and drove home with my ratty double-duck top flapping behind me. I know Im going to have some explaining to do when my in-laws come to visit next, but putting that new top on would be the beginning of the end. I just hope I dont get caught in the rain.

TF 0537
Andy T White

Andy... a fabulous story.... keep driving 'him'.....

This thread was discussed on 05/04/2010

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