“A place in our garage forever”
By Alan Kleinschmidt
I grew up in a small Midwestern town in Illinois during the Sixties. The typical cars around our town were your average Ford, Chevy or Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, with the occasional Rambler thrown into the mix for good measure. There just weren’t any “foreign” cars around other than a VW Bug every now and then.
I was drafted by the US Army in 1970 and eventually found myself in the jungles of South Viet Nam. After serving eight months of my twelve month tour, I left for a week of R&R in Hawaii. I rented a Ford Mustang to provide transportation but after a couple of days I decided I wanted a convertible. I went back to the rental agency and they informed me that the only convertible they had was an MG. I didn’t even know what an MG was!
The car I rented was an MG Midget and, WOW! It sure was small compared to that Mustang! I had so much fun with that car while in Hawaii. I cruised all the way around Oahu and all over Honolulu. This little car was so much more fun to drive than that Mustang! This LBC planted a seed that has grown in me over the years.
Upon arriving back in the States, after my Army tour was over, I found the first of several MG’s that would shape my life and feelings about cars. It was a 1970 MGB.
It wasn’t very fashionable to drive an MGB in those days because the era of “American Muscle” was in full swing. The MG’s little 1.8 litre engine was dwarfed by the Big Block engines from all the domestic manufacturers. Even the American Motors cars had a 390 cubic inch engine!
I had another MGB, MGA, and Nash Metropolitan before my life was forever changed by starting a family. Playing with cars was replaced by raising kids and family responsibilities out ranked everything.
28 years would pass before another MG would enter my life. It was 2008 and my wife called me at work one day and told me there was an MGB for sale in her employer’s newsletter. I called the seller and set up a time to go see the car.
It was a 1980 MGB LE tourer with 43,000 miles showing and had been sitting in his garage for 17 years. I asked him what the problem was and he said “it’s just not reliable!” He said “it’s almost like it just runs out of gas” and has to be towed home.
I bought the car on the spot and borrowed a trailer to pick it up the next day. After getting it home and changing oil, installing a new battery and airing up the tires I turned on the ignition rapped on the fuel pump with a screwdriver handle and heard a very satisfying ticking sound. “Black Betty” was on the road under her own power for the first time in 17 years.
Since that cool November day in 2008, “Betty” has traveled over 100,000 miles. She has visited 26 of these United States and been to Canada three times.
She has traveled the 105 miles of Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and all 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
She has wrestled with Route 129, “The Tail of the Dragon” in Tennessee on two different occasions.
She has run the entire length of Route 66 from Chicago to California.
She has done “hot laps” at Historic Road America and participated in a tour of the old road course into Elkhart Lake.
She has been at sea level in California all the way up to 13210 Ft at Monarch Pass in the Colorado Rockies.
This little car has motored through the Arizona desert at 106 degrees, visited the Grand Canyon and seen Monument Valley in Utah.
She has circumnavigated Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and in 2019 made a run around the North shore of Lake Superior before reentering the USA at Sault St Marie.
She sailed across Lake Michigan from Ludington Michigan to Manitowoc Wisconsin on the historic car ferry, SS Badger.
Covid has slowed things down, but our travels in “Betty” are far from over. This little car will have a place in our garage forever and as long as we can fold up and get in and out of her, we’re going to continue traveling in her. There is something very satisfying about driving an MG.
What a GREAT little car!
By Alan Kleinschmidt
Co-Director, Illinois Flat Land British Car Club