|As a kid growing up in New Jersey, my most frequent
automotive encounter was with a four door American sedan. Common in our neighborhood were
my Dads 1954 Oldsmobile, our neighbors Cadillac, a Packard Caribbean across
the street and the more common assortment of Chevrolets and Fords. I could name any
car that passed by but very few sport cars ever did - at least not in our neighborhood.
My first encounter with an MGTC was at the Long Island Automotive Museum while on vacation with my family. I had never before seen a car like it and to this day I believe it to be one of the most graceful and beautiful cars ever built. This is the story of my search for an MGTC of my very own.
As I approached the ripe old age of 40, I realized that if I were ever to own an MGTC I had to take a more active approach. So, I ran the following ad in the San Diego MG Club (SDMGC) Newsletter:
While this ad prompted some phone calls and I spoke with some very nice MG people, no car ever materialized. Fast forward about ten years . . . .
My B.C. (British Columbia) TC adventure began on Saturday July 13 at Western Speedway in Victoria, British Columbia. Sharleene (my wife, hereafter referred to as Shar) and I were beginning the last full day of our 25th wedding anniversary trip by attending a slalom hosted by the Victoria MG Club (VMGC). I was speaking with Jack Baker who, along with Victor Chan, is responsible for the VMGCs wonderful presence on the Internet. He told me that he had received a message on the Internet that morning from a man who had a 1947 MGTC for sale.
I immediately relayed this news to Shar, who was helping with timing and scoring, but she informed me there was no way we were spending the last full day of our trip looking at cars. When one is on ones 25th anniversary trip without the children, one listens to "she who must be obeyed".
Many phone calls ensued upon our return home. VMGC Activities Director Peter Lee was kind enough to give me Jack Bakers phone number so I could call to get the phone number of the man with the TC (turns out the car was registered as a 1947, but it was really a 1948 based on its TC5850 VIN number). A week later, Peter further suggested that VMGC President Neil Fawdry might have seen the car on a recent trip to Penticton, B.C. The following morning I called Neil at 6:45 A.M. apologizing for the hour and explaining that I wanted to catch him before he left for work. Neil explained that I woke him up as he was on vacation, but all was forgiven since I wanted to talk about MGs. Turns out he had not seen the car.
During the next few weeks, many more phone calls followed to U.S. customs, AAA, transport companies, the Environmental Protection Agency, bankers, and various people in Canada. Eventually, the deal was made and the B.C. TC was mine - but still in Canada.
Sunday, August 25th, Shar and I were leisurely rearranging cars in our garages in anticipation of our "new" 1948 MGTC arriving from Canada. Mackie Auto Transport had assured me that they would notify me 24 hours in advance of picking up the car in Peachland, British Columbia (east side of the Rockies, roughly north of Spokane, Washington). Naturally, I assumed that the seller would call me as well. So, when the phone rang at 5:30 P.M., I was really excited. The caller identified himself as the "Mackie driver" and informed me that he was through U.S. Customs with my car, two and one half hours north of San Francisco and would be arriving at my house at 6:00 A. M. the next morning. Shar and I were greatly relieved to realize that we already had a space for it.
Monday morning arrived. I was up before the alarm and sitting on the front step
at 6:00 A.M. waiting for the semi to arrive. Finally, around 8:20 this absolutely gorgeous
semi tractor and six-car enclosed trailer drove down my one-block long street. Having
purchased this car from pictures my heart was in my throat with anxiety over what this
vehicle would actually be like.
As the driver dropped the rear door (the little TC was the only vehicle in this huge trailer) I noticed that a rear light was on - not generally a good sign. As I walked around to the side door, I noticed that the tires looked low on air and one of them actually looked flat (apparently clear, fresh, Canadian air just doesnt hold up like our smog-filled California air). Anyway, I asked the driver to wait while I put air in the tires before he backed the car out. In the bright sunlight it was now apparent that this car had been painted with a spray can and buffed with a brick - a little different from what I was led to believe from the seller and his pictures. Additionally, it now wouldnt start and it was beginning to look as though I wouldnt get to drive my new car before going to work. The driver told me it was a great car and really "ran good last night" (when he drove it and apparently left the lights on). AAAAAAAARGH - this guy had driven my car on flat tires and I hadnt driven it at all! The driver and his partner then proceeded to push the little TC out of the semi, up the driveway and into my garage. After all, their job was done. But mine was just beginning.
Upon lifting the bonnet I noticed that it had a 12 volt battery, albeit positive ground, so I hooked up my battery charger/booster. As the fuel pump came to life I immediately noticed that the cross-over fuel line between the two S.U.s was leaking gas. I was, however, determined at this point to drive this car before I went to work. So out came the duct tape and hose clamp repair (not necessarily recommended in the owners manual - dont try this as home). Sure enough, that stopped the leaking enough for me to start the car - but it ran badly.
One trip around the block, with the car choking and sputtering, satisfied most of my curiosity, so I was intrepid enough to invite my youngest son Matt (age 5) to accompany me on my second lap. Unfortunately, it turned out to be only half of a lap because the TC ran out of gas. So home we walked to get gas from "4 BALL", my 1968 MGC. My older son Chris (age 7) and I walked back to the TC, poured in gas only to find out that the battery still was not charged enough to start the car (which didnt arrive from Canada with a crank). So, our first outing resulted in 1.5 laps of my block, a DNF (Did Not Finish), and a ride home behind our Dodge van at the end of a tow rope, Nevertheless, a success. Finally, I was off to work.
Later that week I found that sand-blasting the oily spark plugs, charging the battery and filling the car with gas made all the difference in the world. The car ran great. Sunday, September 1st, Chris and I test drove the TC over to Dennis Yards house. Sure I didnt have lights, but we were hoping to be home before dark (that is after all the Lucas motto, isnt it?). Dennis, good friend that he is, refused to let us go home with loose and exposed wiring dragging from the rear lights. Austin-Healey owner Bob Segui, who was visiting Dennis from Riverside, was kind enough to note that my car could charitably be considered "rough". Oh sure, slam my dream car. (Not only does he not have a T-type, but his Bug-eye Sprite doesnt even qualify as a "real" Healey! - why would I listen to him?) Once home, Shar and I "fiddled" with the lights enough to determine that the TC at least had headlights, though no taillights. This encouraged me sufficiently to believe that I could, and should, drive it to the upcoming SDMGC business meeting on Tuesday night. After all, I would only need light on the way home.
The TC and I ventured out to the SDMGC meeting on September 3rd without mishap - but the sun was still up. The meeting successfully concluded with me asking that someone follow me to the Natter at Dairy Queen to act as rear taillights. With my turn signal left on (at this point it didnt blink), it actually appeared that I had one taillight, but I didnt want to explain that to any police officers. So off we went with our dimly glowing headlights following Dick and Susan Rowe and being followed by Anita Johnson.
All went well at DQ and ice cream was devoured and enjoyed by all. After arranging for Maggie Conway and Ann Flynn to "convoy" me home, I went to the parking lot to find that the TC would not start. Not to worry, after a quick push by Richard Every and the Security Guard the little MG roared to life and I headed off to meet my convoy (who by now were the only people left in the parking lot). As I passed the flower stand and turned on the headlights, the TC started to sputter and eventually stalled.
Maggie, Ann and I reviewed our options at that point and decided that the most promising one was to jump the TC with Anns 1969 MGB. After getting out the jumper cables, exposing the battery behind the seat of the MGB and putting batteries in Anns flashlight so we could see what we were connecting to what we started to worry about the fact that her car was negative ground and the TC was positive ground. We tentatively began to hook up the jumper cables but quickly stopped when sparks started to appear. Not wishing to fry anyones wiring, we clearly had to go to Plan B. Unfortunately, we had no Plan B. I suggested that either I could go home (about 4 blocks) to get another battery or they could push start me again. Of course they were delighted with the latter suggestion, but after a little coaxing they agreed to push. (Sorry, no video is available of this event. You will have to make do with the reenactment photo.)
Once again, the TC roared to life, only this time I didnt turn on the lights. It was agreed that we would caravan home and that Maggie would go first to serve as "headlights" and Ann would follow to be my "taillights" (please no comments). That proved to be the answer and I arrived home at 10 P.M. without further incident. In all, my first SDMGC outing with my dream car, the 1948 B.C. TC, could be considered a success - at least by British car owner standards. British car ownership is truly a group project and I thank all those who helped this dream come true for me.
By the way, I still havent given up on the idea of one day owning or at least visiting one of the ten TCs which left the factory on my birthday in 1947. So, if you know of such a car, please call me. Again, if Shar answers . . . well, you know what to say.
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