The Day The MG Gods Smiled On Me

Illustration for article titled 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.)

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.

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!



Great story Dave, thanks for sharing! What do you drive now? Gonna guess we’re about the same age, BTW, I’m 64.