A push start home from my first car show
Should I be worried that the other MG owners weren't at all surprised that my car wouldn't start? And that they all had more tools in their trunks than I have in my garage ... ?
Last fall, I bought my first vintage car, a 1967 MGB/GT Special, and I chronicled the turbulent trip home here on automobilemag.com. This spring, after sorting the car's scary brakes and feeding it new oil, spark plugs, and grease, I brought it home from winter storage at my parents' house. The first time I tried to take it to town for dinner with my wife, the MG began dumping gasoline onto its hot exhaust manifold. Lucky for me, the car didn't catch fire. Also lucky for me, Automobile's associate editor, Sam Smith, is an experienced MG mechanic and was gracious enough to spend last Saturday morning guiding me through the process of cleaning the sticky SU carburetors (and setting the valve lash, which wasn't affecting the errant fuel issue but needed to be done anyway).
And just in time, too, because the next day, I was registered for my first sizable car show—the twelfth annual Ypsilanti Orphan Car Show. Now, I didn't buy my classic to show it; anyone who's seen my far-from-cosmetically-perfect MG can tell you that. But Ypsi's orphan show (allegedly the largest of its kind, featuring marques that are no longer sold in the States and/or produced at all) is such a cool event that I didn't think twice about entering. Where else would you see a Powell station wagon with fishing-rod and tacklebox drawers? And a superclean 1960 Plymouth Valiant station wagon? And a patina'd AMC Rebel "The Machine"? And a near-mint 1971 Renault 16?
With such a wide variety of unusual cars to oogle, the day sped by quickly. Soon, it was time for the my class's "pass-in-review." I excitedly hopped into my car and turned the key.
Nothing. Try again; fingers crossed.
Feelings of embarrassment followed by mumbled expletives.
With the help of a few fellow MG owners and my brother-in-law, Scott Clark, I determined that some of the infamous Lucas wiring had fried itself at some point that morning, leaving the starter without enough juice to crank the engine.
When it came time to leave the show, Scott and I recruited a couple of very nice Triumph owners to assist us with push-starting the MGB--the only viable option other than trying to locate a trailer and a truck. Thankfully, push-starting worked on the first try, so I was on my way.
Nervously, though, because we still weren't exactly certain as to the extent of the electrical issues. A repeat of my glorious, smile-filled, heel-and-toeing, fourteen-mile morning drive to the show wasn't to be, particularly since the MG was also running low on fuel, but I couldn't stop at gas station unless I wanted to coerce some other customers to assist with another push-start. Still, the car didn't let me down, and it's now safely parked in my garage at home--albeit low on fuel and unable to start on its own.
I'd hoped to drive my B/GT a few days this week to celebrate the eleventh annual British car week (www.britishcarweek.org), an event that was sparked by a spring 1997 column written by respected car collector Peter Egan in Road & Track.
So, if you have a British car that is currently running, make sure that you drive it this week! In fact, drive it a bit extra for me, because my MG isn't going anywhere until I get a chance to dive into that rat's nest of Lucas wiring. While I'm at it, perhaps I can retrofit an MGA-style crank starter, too …