A roadster can provide relief from muggy weather. It can transform a tedious errand into a little adventure, but there are considerations: Seats that roast buns, temperature gauges that threaten, carbs that boil, insects and haze—all of these can be the ingredients that are the makings of adventure. I prefer a temperate autumn day, clear and dry, and cool enough to endear me to the heat that enters the passenger compartment.
Mist seems to be the catalyst that sensitizes one’s retina to the vibrant fall foliage. It’s in the way the brightly colored light radiates through the translucent leaves, in contrast to the velvety black of the wet bark. The big, freshly fallen leaves cover the roadsides and swirl like giant snowflakes as the low-slung roadster barks back at them when downshifting at the approach of a curve. The huge chromium-plated headlights bend the geometry of the passing overhead branches and motley clumps of vegetation into a sort of non-Euclidean impressionism. Could M.C. Escher have gazed at such curved reflectors while driving in the fall?
Jack Frost was considerate enough to drop by early last year for a brief visit, turning fall in Illinois into a major attraction; beauty was just outside of the door. The little TD was able to light up a few more smiles this year because the weather remained quite mild, but low temperatures cannot suppress MG-philes. Whenever the streets were dry and the sun was shining many grins were exchanged by the top-down crowd. On very cold days the car’s foul weather gear and a little sun kept the frigid blast away, and enough air leaked in to ensure safe visibility. Ladies of all ages are willing to brave the chill in for a ride in such a spirited car.
January in Northern Illinois affords few of such opportunities, and by February it’s time to be installing a few of the parts that I should have ordered months ago.
But it’s supposed to be clear next weekend.
I bought the car in May of 1982 as a rolling chassis with body tub remounted. The rest was in a nondescript heap in a dark corner covered with the standard hue of body-shop dust—a sort of graymaroon.
It caught my eye that day, suspended in the midst of a restoration. Although the little roadster was undergoing a metamorphosis, it appeared that the going was slow. It was during one of those moments that Jim Hills decided to unload some of his toys—too many irons in the fire. I always wanted a TD and Jim drew me into a rather impulsive purchase that I’ve never regretted for a moment with the “I know you would do it right and I’ll be around if you get stuck” rationale. After a few six-packs and hours of inventorying what amounted to a rolling chassis and a parts heap disassembled a year before, we struck up a deal. My buddy Jack Tweedle, the owner of a British shop, might have preferred Jim sell it to someone from out-of state. Incidentally, my carefully detailed inventory missed a small part—the spare tire and wheel!
At any rate, the engine was fresh and crisp, the drive train was in order, and much of the new wood was installed. It was more a matter of paint, wiring, and fitting the body parts, upholstery, and foul weather gear. Merely …
With the help of a professional crew, and whoever else meandered in, I was on the road by the next February, grinning like a 1951 Buick. I installed the hood and side curtains at home, where it was clean. The only snags in the process involved fitting the front apron, getting the headlights to look even, and making and welding on the little nubs that hold the hubcaps on. The wood was a lot of fun.
Most of that is behind me now, and it was well worth the effort. Everybody loves my car. Many admirers check to see if it’s the genuine item and break into a big grin upon inspection. A couple of purists take exception to the dirty undercarriage (only occasionally cleaned), and the not original color scheme, but I drive it almost daily while their toys sit and consume their energies. If there is such a thing as right or wrong, I consistently gravitate towards the wrong anyway.
By Roderick Padilla
Story was originally written for Abingdon Classics. It appeared in March of 1985. The TD has been recently overhauled a couple years ago. It and I are ready to snort through the Morton Arboretum, a really nice facility not far away with the most beautiful fall leaves.