Dingo Blues

I suppose any 19-year-old college student in the late ’60s sporting his favorite pair of Dingo boots would have been upset to find them unexpectedly ruined while sitting in Western Civ class. A little investigating found the culprit to be my 1964 MGB with a leaking master cylinder. Brake fluid had found its way through the firewall and down the pedals onto my favorite fashion footwear of the day.

As if altering the color (stripes) on my Dingos wasn’t enough of a shock to a financially floundering freshman, I was now faced with the task of trying to rub enough nickels together (or beg my dad) to get the B’s master cylinder fixed. At 19, this seemed tantamount to breaking into Fort Knox. After promising my dad that I’d reimburse him when I could (amazing how many times he fell for that line!), I drove the B (now with no brakes) to the local brake and muffler shop for repair.

As I entered their drive, it occurred to me that I was probably not going to be able to stop. Being 19, having an MGB and long hair, the sole focus in my life was to be cool. I did not want to be noticed circling the building over and over, with no brakes, trying to coast to a stop.

Then it struck me—as many things have in my life while engaged in ridiculous or terrifying situations—I would open the door and drag my foot! After all, it worked for Fred Flintstone! So, coasting at about 30 mph (seemed slow enough to me), I applied the Dingo braking method. It’s amazing how much pain a young man will endure in an effort not to look uncool.

The MGB finally stopped and I limped inside to see the service man, who told me that, yes, they could rebuild my master cylinder, and could I please limp back on Tuesday of the following week. Later, my dad asked me why I was limping. I told him I must have stepped on something. (Yeah, the parking lot at the brake place at 30 mph.)

Tuesday, the day to pick up the MGB, come just about as quick as Christmas does to any kid. Four days of driving my dad’s ’63 Merc station wagon was as embarrassing as my fourth grade piano recital. But there was the B, right out front, and I could now get on with my low profile (but very cool) life.

After anteing up the payment for the work, I noticed the bonnet latch was up on the car. Carefully placing my hands in the appropriate position for closing (my non-Brit friends could never understand this maneuver), I pushed gently to close the hood. When my hands came up, the paint that had always been on the MG was now missing in handprint designs—and the paint was on my hands!

A infuriated as any cool, long-haired, 19-year-old could be with two strategically discolored hands, I convinced the operator of the shop to have my hood repainted because of the spilled brake fluid. Limping back to the MGB, I noticed that the mechanic had apparently left a tool on the engine when I closed the hood (you know…bonnet) and now there was a dent in the center underneath! Carefully raising the hood so as not to leave any more prints, I confirmed the ratchet left behind, and the dent, then I noticed the air filters missing from the carbs!

What little cool I had left evaporated as I convinced the operator to replace my air filters and fix the dent too. Being a man of his word (but a lousy brake mechanic), the fellow had my hood repainted, dent removed, and breathers re-attached.

Finally, once again, I was well on the way to cooldom with a new pair of Dingos and my MGB (with brakes). Just about the time the limping stopped, I noticed that my new Dingos were starting to have an unusual stripe pattern on them again!

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