The Glory of the Open Road

I consider myself most fortunate, as my second story office at Moss Motors overlooks the new landscaping and our British sports car display area. This does have its drawbacks, as it can be difficult to keep my mind trained on the heap of paper work beneath my nose rather than on the cars below me and memories of past glories on the open road.

The cars are an impressive sight from this vantage point. Bob Cote’s blue 1275 Midget was recently purchased as a bargain-priced driver, but true to form. Bob has managed to transform it into a sparkling clean example on a shoestring budget. Rein Gabrielson’s black ’65 B roadster is a clean, unrestored example with loads of authentic patina and a particularly sharp original red tonneau cover. David Eichelbaum’s TR250 still sports its original Signal Red paint and silver racing stripe. The TR250 has the most incredibly wonderful exhaust note; it invariably catches my undivided attention every time David fires it up.

It’s my own cream TC, however, that gets my vote as the most beautiful of the bunch! The view from my window is above and behind the car. I can take in the long angular bonnet and narrow cockpit sandwiched between the most beautifully curvilinear set of fenders ever put on a British sports car. But it’s the dashboard that really speaks to me. Set into the mellowed black walnut facia is an array of green-faced Jaeger gauges only slightly less impressive than those on a Handley-Paige bomber. Above and beyond all the regular stuff, I’ve got oil and water temperature plus vacuum/pressure and a fully operational 0-14000 ft. altimeter! It’s the dash that beckons me to come on over and take a drive down memory lane.

I bought my first TD in 1968 and can vividly remember that original test drive off the used car dealer’s lot. $600 bought a whole lot more back then, but to say that this car only needed a little work was a gross understatement that only a used car salesman could say with a truly straight face. Nonetheless, it was a thoroughbred sports car to me. Every shift was an adventure and every new mechanical noise a mystery to be pondered. By early spring of my senior year in high school, I had the TD back on the road after an intensive winter rebuild.

There is perhaps no place more beautiful than spring time in Massachusetts, and no better way to experience it than from behind the wheel of an open sports car. With cheap gas and plenty of time, I spent glorious hours exploring the back roads of rural New England. The miles would click on by as I passed through one town after another, perhaps stopping along the way to check out an interesting old car sitting in a field or stuck behind some old rundown gas station. In those days, old interesting cars were usually left to do whatever it was that cars were supposed to do in their old age. As often as not, these nearly abandoned relics could be bought cheap if the owner could be tracked down, which was usually the hard part. While I did eventually buy a few neat cars as a result of these drives, my meager finances relegated most encounters into the “wishful thinking” category.

By 1972, I had completed a frame-up restoration on my first supercharged TC. While the practical side of me kept saying “don’t drive it, keep it for the Concours circuit,” the other side said, “what’s the good of it if you can’t drive it?” Fortunately, the driver in me won out and drive it I did. With supercharger wailing, I drove that trusty TC for thousands of miles, many of them permanently etched in my mind. From heart-stopping hill climb runs at the GOF at Waterville Valley, N.H., to roadside picnics with my wife-to-be on a glorious springtime day, my memories remain clear, as though it was just yesterday.

Since moving to California in 1975, much of my serious TC motoring has been club-oriented, and particularly
revolves around the adventures of getting to and from the major west coast MGT-series meets (GOFs in the parlance of the initiated). These trips are true adventures. The longer the drive, the more difficult the misfortunes, the more memorable the event! It’s really that simple. I’ve done valve jobs by the side of the road in Utah, climbed Pikes Peak at 7:00 am and froze my buns off along the Oregon coast.

On a particularly memorable drive from GOF East in Hershey. PA to GOF West in Lake Tahoe, CA, Chris Kepler (Moss Motors’ General Manager) and I found ourselves crossing the salt flats in Utah. The sight of mile upon mile of perfectly flat virgin white salt-conjured up all of the stories of MG’s glorious record breaking days with EX135, EX179 and EX181 and heroes of the MG history books, the likes of Goldie Gardner. George Eyston, Ken Miles and Phil Hill. As I shared these stories with Chris, I began to focus in on sharp clear tire tracks criss-crossing the salt, immediately adjacent to the slightly raised asphalt highway we were on. While there wasn’t a car in sight, that salt was beckoning me to share in the glory of my MG Heroes. The thought of actually driving on the salt with a super charged TC was just too irresistible. So with Chris Kepler mumbling something about “bad idea,” I slowed down to make my grand entrance and grand it was, at least for the first 25 feet or so until the TC proceeded to sink up to its running boards in Morton’s precious inventory! So there we were, 2:00pm, 105 degrees, not a blade of grass for 40 miles, basking in the glory of the world’s shortest flying record run! With Chris mumbling something like “I told you so,” I carefully pondered my next move!

This particular episode had a happy ending as the very first vehicle to come along pulled us out and we were on
our way—via the paved stretch—in no time at all. Obviously the thousands of miles of smooth sailing are therapeutic at the time, but it’s the misadventures along the way that become the basis for my fondest memories.

So there my TC sits, beckoning me to embark on yet another adventure. This year’s drive will take my old
friend and frequent co-pilot, Paul Johnson, and I to Grand Teton, Wyoming for GOF West during the first week in September. It’s still over two months until we depart and I’ve already started my intensive annual inspection. In 3,000 miles we are bound to have a few exciting moments, but nothing we can’t handle…I’ll always have room for a few more memories.

Why not plan your own adventure? Our cars are meant to be driven. Sure, you may need to check your car over
prior to departure, and it’s always a good idea to carry a good selection of tools and a few carefully chosen spare parts. Reasonable preparation will not only minimize your problems on the open road, but will give you renewed confidence to embark on a Saturday morning drive once you return.

Traveling with a group can be very reassuring and add to the fun. So why not build your own memories of the
open road? After all, isn’t that really what it’s all about?

By Chris Nowlan

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