A Legacy of Love and Restoration

By Marissa Neely

In the world of car restoration, the passage of time often intertwines with the preservation of memories, creating a tapestry of family bonds that transcends generations. It is a realm where grease-stained hands become the conduit for passing down not just mechanical skills but also a profound sense of heritage and tradition. Our story begins not with my husband, Chris, but with his parents, who shared a passion for restoring MGs before they even exchanged wedding vows. It was they who laid the foundation for their youngest son to become the English-engine addict he is today.

Sharing a love story similar to our own, Chris’s parents got together when they were very young and could be considered textbook high school sweethearts. Instead of buying something off the lot, Chris’s parents embarked on a restoration project together, an MGA, back in 1973. It was a shared endeavor that ignited their love for automotive restoration. Over the years, they acquired many MGs, refurbished them, and sold them as a source of income.

As their collection grew, they found themselves in possession of two MGB wrecks, one in considerably worse condition than the other. These forlorn vehicles found a home behind Chris’s father’s photography studio, gradually succumbing to the elements, slowly rusting away, and overgrown with weeds.

Fast forward to the early 2000’s when Chris’s older brother, Jon, expressed interest in undertaking the MGB restoration project. The family decided to transport the car to their mountain home, placing it in the garage. In a short time, however, Jon shifted his focus to other hobbies, and the project sat, barely started and forgotten about. But a few years later, Chris, the younger brother, stepped in, taking up the mantle when he was just 12 or 13 years old.

Months of dedicated work followed, with Chris pouring his heart and soul into the restoration project with his dad giving guidance every step of the way. Finally came the time to breathe new life into the car by replacing her rusty, multi-colored exterior with bright white paint. So, the father-son duo put the car on a trailer and towed her back down to the valley. In the paint booth she went, and she would come out a few months later looking like an entirely different car. Tragically, during this time, Chris’s father passed away from his battle with cancer. It was a tough time for young 14-year-old Chris, but when the MG emerged from the garage, its pristine, glistening white exterior adorned with classic blue stripes down the center, Chris was determined to complete the build, fulfilling his father’s vision and making him proud.

It was during this time that our own love story began. Chris and I started dating, and as we lived three hours apart, many of our nights were spent on FaceTime. His phone was often propped up on a workbench, allowing him to chat with me while diligently working on the car. With help from friends, the internet, his family and (of course) Moss Motors, Chris was able to complete the build after years of tinkering, trial, and error.

On my birthday, he surprised me with a fully functional sports car and a picnic basket ready for a lakeside adventure. Our first date in the MGB was the start of countless unforgettable moments.

The MGB soon became Chris’s daily driver during high school, and he honed his skills navigating the winding mountain roads without power steering. As a teenage boy he definitely tested the limits with his car, but never with me in the passenger seat. It was a combination of his gentlemanly care and his tenacity to see things through that led me to saying “yes” without any hesitation when he asked if I would be his wife.

In 2018, we celebrated our wedding and drove off together as husband and wife in the MG—a car that had become deeply intertwined with our love story. There were moments when Chris contemplated selling the car, but I staunchly refused. The MGB is a part of his legacy, and I couldn’t bear to see it part ways with our family so easily… even if our attention and time was directed elsewhere for a while.

Following our wedding, we moved aboard our 1979 Cheoy Lee 41 sailboat, Avocet, that became our home. A humble living situation for two newly-wed-twenty-somethings with barely a dollar to their names. While we transitioned to life afloat, our beloved MGB became a storage unit for bags of clothes, boxes and other things we hastily removed from our apartment while trying to assimilate into boat living. During the same time, Chris expressed his desire to install a overdrive, necessitating the removal of the transmission. Unfortunately, boat projects took precedence, and car projects were reluctantly set aside for the next four years.

However, while sailing Avocet in Mexico, we experienced a near-catastrophic engine failure that led Chris to rebuilding our English Perkins 4.108 engine, which brought him right back to the days he spent leaning over his English car’s engine bay. That experience, although stressful and unplanned, reignited Chris’s passion for automotive restoration. Upon our return to California during Mexico’s hurricane season, he channeled that tenacity and was determined to revive his beloved car.

After weeks of tinkering and meticulous care, he had the MGB up and running once more. Oh, how I missed the sound of her sturdy engine echoing in the mountains. To celebrate, we packed a picnic basket and set off for the lake, experiencing a sense of déjà vu. The MGB, with its rumbling engine, once again became a vessel for our land-based adventures, a testament to Chris’s unwavering dedication and love for restoration, and a tangible link to the legacy his father passed on to him.

Our summer in California came to an end as our life afloat Avocet beckoned to us. Parked in the very garage she was built in, Chris and I put the cover on over our sweet car that would be waiting for our return. While sailing on Avocet, we will have plenty of time to plan for a proper road trip this coming summer. After all, with a packed picnic basket, some driving gloves, a wide-open road and a capable car, the opportunities for adventures are endless.

'A Legacy of Love and Restoration' has 1 comment

  1. January 13, 2024 @ 11:47 am Janice Erdman

    A wonderful story ❤️ and since I know of this family it makes it all the more special!


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