Bert Shirey Passes on the Torch

I had been on the hunt for a nice Bugeye for several years, but I knew that there was a beauty owned by fellow MGs of Baltimore car club member Bert Shirey. I made it known to him years ago that I would love to have his if it ever came time to pass the car to a new custodian. Sure enough, in October of 2021, I got a call from Bert. His main concern was that the car would go to someone who would care for it the way he did. We got together for a long chat, and the little 1960 Old English White sweetheart was soon safely in my garage.

Bert had owned the car for almost 30 years. He also had made the previous owner aware of the fact that he would like the car when she was ready to part with it. Her name was Bobbi Tarte and she had purchased it new from Foreign Motors in Baltimore when she was the parts manager for that dealership. At that time, she was the only female parts manager in all of Baltimore. Her name was actually Barbara, but the dealer did not want it publicly known that a lady was running his parts department, so he told her that she would be known as “Bobbi.” Times were very different back then. Bobbi became her nickname for the rest of her life. So, Bobbi retired and contacted Bert and he took the Sprite home and began the process of making it road worthy again.

Bert Shirey and I have both been members of MGs of Baltimore for about 40 years, so we go way back. I can say, without a doubt, that he is as fastidious about his cars as anyone I have ever known. They are always as original as possible. They are garage kept and pampered and NEVER go out in the rain. I was quite honored to be the person selected to enjoy and care for this beautiful little Bugeye.

One of the coolest parts about this car is all the documentation. Bert saved everything. The ownership records are fully authenticated, as are all of the service notes for the past 30 years. Original sales brochures, service guides, handbooks and the original window sticker ($1,953) all came with the car. Also, enough parts, many NOS, to fill a pickup truck. A perfect factory hardtop was included.

I have spent a good bit of time with “Buggy” over the past year. It needed just a bit of TLC to get it purring, and I also stripped the paint under the bonnet and repainted it to freshen it up. The exterior and interior are beautiful. I have driven it almost a thousand miles in the past year, and it is just crazy fun on the road.

Thank you, Bert, for trusting me to care for your little friend. I’m going to drive it and love it and show it off, just a bit!

~Steve Williams

The Midget was placed in BMC’s lineup as a starter car. They were cheaper to acquire than an MGB, and thus more likely to be abused or left to rust. There were a total of 26,601 Mark II MG Midgets built. North America received 13,435 LHD versions. They are rare birds today.

Where do you find one that isn’t a rust bucket, hasn’t been restored, or doesn’t need to be restored? Does a Midget time capsule exist?

Bert Shirey, purchased a 1965 MG Midget (GAN 3L/38868), actually titled as 1966, on October 4, 1965. The car was bought at Foreign Motors in Baltimore for the window sticker price of $2,214. Bert traded in a 1960 Bugeye Sprite, and applied the trade price of $534 towards the Midget. The window sticker shows an optional heater for $59, and a tonneau cover for $35. The car also came with seat belts, which were mandatory in 1966. They added another $20 to the price.

The car was always pampered, but it was Sandy and Bert’s only family car for 10 years. In 1976, it was retired to their garage and only occasionally driven.

Bert proudly stated, “The car has never seen rain since 1976.”

After almost 60 years and a little over 58,000 miles, this car is a testament to Bert’s loving obsession with it. Bert carefully conserved the Midget in as near to original condition as possible. In order to retain original features, minor imperfections of use and the patina of time were left alone.

Recently, Bert’s move to a retirement community, and his bad back, reluctantly prompted him to find a new owner for the Midget. He wasn’t going to have a garage to keep his baby in any longer. But you couldn’t just buy the car. You had to pass the test Bert had for the new owner. This meant the car had to be protected in a garage. The new owner had to promise to maintain the car, and not drive it carelessly. Bert was not going to let just anyone be the new caretaker of his beloved Midget.

After multiple phone calls and emails over a two-and-a-half-week period, photo documentation of the space the car would live in, and after a two hour in-person interview, Bert was comfortable with me as the new owner of the Midget. I am extremely honored to continue Bert’s obsessive care of the Midget and appreciate the trust he has in me to do so.

A lot of interesting and hard-to-find items came with the car. The original Maryland license plates that were placed on the car in 1965. The window sticker displayed in a picture frame. The original sales invoice from Foreign Motors on NCR paper. A letter from the British Motor Heritage Trust indicating the car was completed on March 18, coincidentally my birthday. I turned 14 years old the day the car rolled off the assembly line. Lots of books, parts, and Bert’s car show trophies. I am hoping I can add to this collection.

I can’t thank Bert enough for allowing me to continue the preservation of his lovely Midget. It is an honor, and a responsibility. In the future, if you vote for this car at MGs on the Rocks, you will be voting for Bert. I’m the “designated driver.” Bert deserves all the credit.

~Jim Orrell

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