Restore or Let It Die a Peaceful Death? Part 1

By Mike Shuck


Thirty years ago, I purchased a 1973 MGB with 85,000 miles on it, in Chicago.  My heart was seeking an MGA, but after months of searching, decided to get something in the garage that I could always upgrade.  A couple months later, I moved to Birmingham, AL and joined the Birmingham British Car Club.  My first trip with the club was a 145-mile excursion to Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN and I convinced my wife it was a couple of hours up and back.  

Leaving at 7 AM, we returned promptly at 8 PM, an exhausting day full of lunch, tours, and sampling.  Fearful I had given my wife a bad taste of car club excursions, she was a good sport about it and we enjoyed many events with the club.  A few years later, a new job took us to Hopkinsville, KY (hop town) where the closest club activities were in Nashville, and I was content to just drive it around on weekends.  Another new job in Plainfield, IL  saw me changing the plugs every 100 miles, and after pulling the head, I discovered the cylinders were scored.  

Over the years, most major components were replaced, but now a complete engine rebuild is in order.  I had once pulled an engine on a Toyota Celica with a friend, a 2 X 4 and a chain, but decided to purchase the engine hoist and stand.  I took it to the machine shop and said to bore it out and do a valve job.  I put it back together, and I had no compression.  I took it all back to the machine shop and said, I’m not sure what’s going on, but please fix it.  I put it back in, and now I had compression.  I started it up and had no oil pressure. 

I called John Twist at his noon technical hour, and he said it could be one of three things.  When he got to the second one, I knew my problem.  Gasket kits are for two main AND three main bearing engines.  There are two different oil pump gaskets, and of course I installed the wrong one.  Switch gaskets, and I had 50 pounds of pressure.  

Several years were spent in Plainfield, and the Chicagoland MG Club was just up the road.  A very active club with events throughout the driving months.  They had tech sessions where they would go out on a Saturday and perform various maintenance tasks at members request.  Leaning over a bunch of guys who knew what they were doing, one could learn a lot.  

When my windshield broke, it was time to put in a request.  Barney Gaylord (The MGA Guru) led the team, and sandwiches and drinks for all, got my installation complete.  To my heartbreak, when I went into the garage the next morning, it had cracked in the corner for some reason.  It was time to call the insurance company, who assured me their installer knew all about MG’s.  They did it in my garage, and after returning from an appointment, they were pumping black caulk around the windshield.  They were embarrassed, as I had caught them in the act and sent them off to the specialist in Naperville, IL who did it right and sent the invoice to the insurance company.  That is the windshield I have to this day.

I took my wife to see the movie Wild Hogs and suggested I could bond with my two brothers, who had motorcycles.  She verbally signed the permission slip and I already knew I wanted a Fatboy Harley, so I took the 3-day riding course within weeks.  Now, time had to be divided between the “B” and the “BIKE.”  Me and my two brothers did get together for a ride one summer, and soon the Three Brothers Ride was an annual summer event that lasted 7 days through the twisty roads of various southern states.  We went on to enjoy 7 Three Brothers Rides until cardiac issues took both of them from me.  I think of them every time the top is down with four or two wheels.

Click here so continue reading the rest of Mike’s MGB adventure