A Short Tale

By Ned Surleth

With most of our projects hibernating during this season of winter wonder, I thought, why not snuggle up to a cozy fire with a hot-toddy and share a yarn I call the “Post-Holiday Hot Wires.” Comfortable?
Here goes…

Once Upon a time in a land called Tenn-Es-See there lived an old geezer who foolishly thought he would restore a little British sports car which he had purchased sight unseen. This little roadster, named “the MaGi,” soon became a garage full of dismantled parts. However, the man was a wise old crow since he took the time to tag, sort, label, box, and bag each rusty, grease coated fender, bonnet, boot, brake drum, assorted nuts, bolts, screws, et al. He particularly tagged the ratty wiring harness that would drop pieces of rotten braiding like dandruff from Santa’s beard.

Years went by and the old codger, slaving away like one of Kris Kringle’s pointy eared elves, cleaned, primed, and painted parts till they sparkled in the sun. Those that were no longer serviceable he replaced with authentic Moss Motors mechanicals. And when the MaGi’s body needed new bones, the old man painstakingly reattached posts and sills amidst spitting slag.

Hours he toiled with Bondo, sandpaper, and primer till his fingerprints became as smooth as freshly Zambonied ice. When the MaGi whispered, “Paint me,” in the old crock’s hairy ear, he was deaf to its implorations. And so the MaGi’s gray primered hull languished forlornly on a sleigh-like wooden dolly in the darkness of the unused toy shop, aka garage.

Two years passed, and the MaGi, ready for a coat of glistening ebony, continued to gather dust while spiders happily spun webs in its hollow shell. But one day, the old curmudgeon decided, “I’ll put the body back on the chassis and paint it at the booth on the far side of town.”

The MaGi, overjoyed at the man’s rather delayed decision, once again sat proudly on its dolly, looking forward to being rejoined heart and soul.

Well, no sooner had the old fella come to this monumental decision, when neighborly help knocked on the door and the MaGi’s body soon found itself placed gently onto its rolling chassis. Now the ol’ thumb twiddler had a renewed purpose: make the MaGi run again.

Soon, a dented radiator found its way back home. Then the lungs of the MaGi, its SU carburetors, were transplanted back into the chest of the little roadster. “It won’t be long before I’ll take to the street again,” thought the MaGi. “All I need now is an electrical harness.”

The old coffin-dodger read the MaGi’s mind and climbed the ladder, rung by rung, to the top of the shelf where the old and new wiring harnesses had been placed years before. After no little struggle coming down while carrying a box of electrical goodies, he set his bounty down on the toy shop floor and began to unwrap the old and new braided and color-coded wiring.

As I said earlier, the wise old quibbler had tagged each original wire when he disconnected them from the organs of the firewall and dash early on in the MaGi’s resuscitation. He then laid the old and new harnesses next to each other, switching tags from one to the other as nearly as he could, since many tags had succumbed to the ravages of time or had become soiled beyond legibility by the greasy old braiding. Nevertheless, he soon had four harnesses tagged and ready for installation. The new front to rear braid already hung neatly under the chassis.

The main harness, lying on the floor like the roots of an evergreen, branched out in all directions with tags hanging here and there like ornaments on a Christmas tree. With some trepidation the old cur grasped the multi-branched set of colorful wires and proceeded to lay it in place near the control box, fuse unit, and direction indicator relay unit, which he had already installed on the MaGi’s firewall.

Thinking ahead, the old coot also put the wiper unit in place, knowing to do so later would be as difficult as getting reindeer to fly.

With three wiring diagrams at his disposal, the determined old fusser set to work attaching color-coded wires here and there. Although the guru of all MaGi, Barney Gaylord, suggested step-by-step installation instructions in one of his many missives, the contrary old crank ignored that advice and simply connected the many branches one at a time willy-nilly.

Nevertheless, after a day of contented joy, the main harness lay happily in place. The old fossil rubbed his hands together and retired to his chalet with thoughts of dash harnesses dancing in his head.

The next day, suffice it to say, the dash and main harness were hung from the body with care, in hopes that ignition soon would be there. The negative grounds tested positive at all points, and the wires were nestled all snug in their joints.

Now, the time had come to reattach the twin power supply, turn the key, and give the sleeping MaGi a nudge awake, which is exactly what the old boss did.


Another tug on the cable unsettled the MaGi who began to starter switch smoke. “This could become a bad habit,” the MaGi coughed. Hurriedly, the old grouser released the cable, switched off the key, and disconnected the two-lobed-positive-earth power supply.

Days later and after tracing down each color-coded wire and its proper terminal, all to no avail, the old grinch was stumped. Why even an extra starter switch caused the MaGi to smoke as badly as before. Yes, indeed, it was a real head scratcher. “It ran when parked,” he thought.

“Who ya gonna call?” the MaGi intimated.

“I’ll call Ted, the Dalai Lama. He’ll know what to do,” said the old mutterer.

For two hours two graybeards tried two starter switches, two ways, with and without harness, but the MaGi simply refused to budge. Why, they couldn’t even get a shiver out of its starter. “Let’s bypass the switch and touch the battery and starter wires together,” Ted proposed. The old growler, although fearful of too many amps, did as Ted suggested, and like an AED, it worked; the MaGi’s heart gave a jump and began to pump!

Bad switches seemed the obvious conclusion, and Ted returned home, leaving the old gaffer to order a new one.

Later that week, the UPS man and his brown sleigh arrived with a new switch from Moss. Installation soon commenced. But lo and behold, like a yule log in a fireplace, the MaGi continued to puff away. Although three bad switches seemed as unlikely as a fat man coming down a chimney, the old stager ordered another, hoping that would cure the MaGi’s smoking ways.

While waiting for the fourth switch to arrive, the old pensioner wasn’t one to let a stone go unturned. He hobbled to his computer and posed the problem to The MG Experience forum. Back and forth the conversation ran with this possible solution or that. Till finally, someone called for a picture of the starter, hooked up and sitting in place like a plate of cookies and milk. The old patriarch whipped out his trusty cell phone, took a picture, and posted it for all to see.

Well, before long, Ohmite, a helpful elf, replied with a possible diagnosis: could the cable to the starter be shorting out on the starter switch case? The old ganger shuffled quickly to the toy shop where he rotated the end of the starter cable connection, added a spacer to boot, and like Rudolph’s red nose guiding Santa’s sleigh, his problem was solved!

With the new harness in place and the little electrical gremlin rooted out, the old hermit gave the starter cable a tug and rejoiced in the MaGi’s rumbling cacophony. Then, in a what felt like a blink of an eye, wiring harnesses, seats, steering wheel, and tires found their homes.

And just like that, the MaGi backed out of the toy shop and out onto the driveway, deliriously happy in its new found freedom. Finally, the little roadster’s body and chassis, sans fenders and doors, had become one, and he could scoot around the yard like a young colt once again with grandkids in the saddle.”

There you have it, a ‘short’ tale on encouraging your MaGi not to take up starter switch smoking. By the way, should you ever need a starter switch, I know an old-timer who has three extra. Come to think of it, I’ll bet Ted will need one for his MaGi makeover.

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'A Short Tale' has 1 comment

  1. March 31, 2024 @ 1:44 pm Marcy A Hotz

    I’m not a car enthusiast, merely the wife of one, but I certainly did enjoy the little ride you took me on through your travails with the MaGi. Congratulations on the rebuild, and on writing a superbly composed, amusing chronicle!


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