The Day The MG Gods Smiled On Me

When I was in the Navy in 1978, I was stationed in San Diego-Long Beach area. When I reported from the East Coast to California, I found I was going to be stationed on a ship that had just entered dry dock for a complete overhaul. This meant no sea time (a constant theme throughout my service). So now the Navy was like a nine-to-five job and I could get an apartment and go home most every night.

(Welcome to Jalopnik Father’s Day, where we are celebrating the wonderful dads of the Jalopnik staff. This is a story from David Marquis, dad of Jalopnik managing editor, Erin Marquis.)

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It also meant I needed wheels to get around. It turned out a shipmate was getting out and needed to sell his car. A brown 1969 MGB. I fell in love the minute I saw it. I loved the sports car aspect of the MGB, it had great pickup, even if I had to tune it up about every month (Weber carbs are very touchy). I even went out and got one of those caps the English cabbies wore, just to complete the whole British look. I was ready for motoring.

I actually drove the MGB on a three day trip from California to Detroit while on leave from the Navy. I slept in rest stops with the seat all the way back. I’m a pretty skinny guy, so the leather seats passed for comfortable. I didn’t have a single problem with the car on the way to Michigan, but on the way back, somewhere in Wyoming on I-80, my oil pressure dropped. It looked like something had let go and the car was now leaking oil.

You may not believe this next part, but I swear it’s true.

I pulled off at the very next exit, and I’m in BF Egypt, as we sailors used to say. There was a phone booth at one corner. I entered, and there was even a directory! So, I was looking up auto repair when I happened to glance out the booth window. There, painted on the end side of a big red barn, was the MG logo. Yes, the MG logo.

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I looked closer, and it was an MG repair shop! I decided not to chance my engine and push the MGB across the street to this shop. Turned out I blew the oil pan gasket, and he of course had the exact replacement. I was heading back to California within half an hour. I still have no idea why a mechanic would specialize in MGs in the middle of nowhere. This shop just appeared like something out of a Ray Bradbury story—like the magic shop that appears, sells you something from hell, then disappears!

When I got discharged in 1979, I sold the car to a Coast Guard friend. Two weeks later he totaled it. I later drove a Triumph Spitfire and a Cortina GT which had a Lotus high performance engine, but I will always have very fond memories of this car. It had a very good sound system and I recall going to a drive-in to see Close Encounters. At drive-ins, they broadcast the movie sound through your car stereo. Well, when the UFOs appeared and did that music bit, my whole car was shaking. Really added to the effect!

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