by R.L. Corn
I decided to call my brother-in-law who is a Master Mechanic and an owner of several vehicles from across the pond. In minutes, we found a break in the condenser wire. Unfortunately for me, none of the boxes on the front porch held a new condenser—another call to Moss Motors.
At this point, I was on a first name basis with the young sales lady at Moss. My wife began giving me the evil eye every time I would call her by name or laugh at some British car humor. I would either have to restrain my natural, God-given charm or find a new parts supplier. I would like to add that it is hard to find a good parts supplier for a fifty-year-old car, so I did the reasonable thing—I restrained my “charm.”
When the condenser arrived, I called my brother-in-law, confident that with his help I could fix the car in no time at all. After some hemming and hawing, he informed me that he was going to be pretty busy for the next several years or longer (if necessary), and I was basically on my own. As a side note: I know him well enough to know that this spring he is going to want to help with the headers and exhaust system.
To call myself a man of many talents—a renaissance man, if you will—would not be truthful, but I do like typing it and seeing it in print. Therefore, grabbing my screwdriver, I marched down to the driveway with the confidence I needed, and surgically replaced the condenser.
The tension was palpable. I turned the key… Nothing. Maybe it was time to throw in the towel.
I have now owned the car for approximately three months. I drove it home on the day I took possession of it from my friend, and then to the tire store the next day. Since that time the car had only traveled courtesy of AAA. The good news being that my tires were still new, brand new.
With the car sitting at its now all too familiar place in the driveway, the neighbors were starting to place wagers as to whether it would ever run again, or if we would just plant bushes in it. I started to question the wisdom of this purchase. I then remembered it was in my first MG that I took my wife-to-be on our first date. (She also had an MGA coupe we when met.) We even naively picked a Bugeye Sprite for our first car as newlyweds. Needless to say, this was not the first time I was unable to get my British car to start.
I took to the internet to find anyone in the state of North Carolina that expressed any knowledge of British cars. If the mechanic liked the Beatles, that was reason enough to add them to the list of potential garages. One call led to the next, and then to the next, and then the next.
And then I found him, a fellow who lived near Asheville and worked on MGs in his garage. He offered to take a look, but I would have to find a way to transport Rita to his place as AAA had lost interest in moving my car any further.
As we were talking about the wonders of British engineering and the strides that Lucas Electronics had made since Ben Franklin first came to grips with the concept of electricity, he made a suggestion.
“I tell you what… before you go to all the trouble of hauling your car down here, do me a favor. Check if the condenser is hooked up wrong.”
“Wrong? There is only one wire. How can you hook up one wire wrong?” I asked.
“Well,” he said in a slow Carolina drawl, “you have to be sure that the wire is on the correct side of the insulator. Otherwise, you still won’t have any power to the distributor.”
“Insulator? What insulator?!”
I ran out to the car. I moved the condenser wire to the “hot” side of the nearly invisible insulator. Sweat was pouring off my face and palms as I put the key in the ignition. Slowly turning the key, the engine roared to life as if it had just come off the assembly line. Somewhere in the distance fireworks exploded in the sky. Corks flew effortlessly from Champagne bottles. Children danced in the street, and I am sure that I saw a lion lay next to a lamb. Could it have been this simple all along?
Marcee thought that I was having a seizure, but no, I once again owned an MGB that ran. I hurried back to the phone to tell my new best friend in Asheville that he was a genius. I would be in his debt for the rest of our natural lives.
Now, here is where things got surprising. He said that he had been talking with his wife while I was fixing the condenser wire. They were planning a trip to Banner Elk to see the changing of the leaves. If they came, he would be happy to run by the house and reset the points and timing if I would like for him to. The next thing I remember is waking up on the driveway with Marcee wiping my face with a cold damp towel.
Only in places like the high country of North Carolina can you find a mechanic who can diagnosis your car over the phone and then volunteer to make a house call.
The Proud Owner
I spent the following week in anticipation of my tune-up. We took short drives to enjoy the autumn colors of “leaf season.” Every day, one more small project was completed and a new item was added to the list of working lights, gauges, and switches.
Saturday morning my new best friend showed up at our house with tool kit in tow. He immediately started to operate on my recovering MG. Within 30 minutes, he had taken off the distributor, reset the points, set the timing, and fixed the headlight switch. (Over the last week some smoke had escaped from my headlight wiring). I was elated to say the least. Even after paying him for the work and an $80 house-call fee, I felt as if I had won the lottery. The car didn’t just run, it purred. I grabbed my wife and with my “traveling mix” of music we hit the road for a short drive.
With the top down, we were transported back to the seventies and were on our first date once again. There are few better feelings than driving a slow car fast along the mountain roads leaving a wake of colored leaves in our path.
The next few weeks were spent buying parts, fixing wiring issues that were brought about by driving a 50-year-old car for the first time in many years. Even a little smoke and the occasional smell of burning wiring could not dampen our renewed excitement of owning another MG.
With winter was just around the corner, there were just a few other jobs that needed to be done before putting Rita away. I talked our local foundry into welding a spare tire mount in the trunk. The original had mysteriously been removed at some point in the car’s life. Just inches away from the gas tank, I watched from an increasing distance as the torch was lit and the bracket welded into place.
I found a gas station that sold gas without ethanol, and with a little fuel additive squirted into the mix, the car would be ready for a winter nap.
As the weather changed, we knew it was time to put Rita in the basement. I built two homemade ramps to help navigate the car under the house but held off till the last minute. One morning, just before a rainstorm, my wife and I ran outside, grabbed the ramps, and pulled Rita inside. With an inch to spare on each side of the car, it slipped into our basement. As the rain began in earnest, Marcee and I vacuumed and polished Rita before we put the cover on and turned off the basement lights. MM
September 25, 2021 @ 2:55 pm Patti Connelly
I saw pictures of the lovely Rita in the parade! She is certainly a beauty and glad she purrs like a kitten! I look forward for more adventures of the lovely Rita and the Corn family in the future!
September 27, 2021 @ 5:09 pm Robert Conr
Thank you Patti. I really appreciate your taking the time to write a comment.
September 25, 2021 @ 2:58 pm Amy Freels
Love the article “One Last Time II”. Very clever and witty writer. Enjoyed hearing about his Rita MG.
September 27, 2021 @ 5:10 pm Robert Corn
Amy…thank you so much for posting a comment. It just took a few days for it to post, but it is here now. Cant’ wait until you guys come up to see us. We will take Rita out for a ride.
July 5, 2022 @ 7:30 pm Wallis
Have seen couple places where the clutch slave cylinder, plunger is too long!!! But haven’t seen the absolute proper length? Please like to know to measure mine, before I maybe mess up the new clutch?
September 25, 2021 @ 3:20 pm Don Harmon
Great story! I’ll be watching for more.
September 27, 2021 @ 5:12 pm Robert Corn
Hey Don…thanks for your comments. I appreciate your taking the time to write a note. Glad you liked the story. I took Rita out today and she is running strong.
September 28, 2021 @ 3:33 am Robert Corn
Thanks so much for commenting Don. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a note. Appreciate it!
September 25, 2021 @ 4:13 pm Barbro Andersen
What a great read!
September 27, 2021 @ 5:14 pm Robert Corn
Barbro…thank you so much for reading the article. It has been a lot of fun putting Rita back together again. Marcee and I took her for a ride this afternoon. The mountains are beautiful this time of year. Waiting for the time when you two can come and see us.
September 28, 2021 @ 3:31 am Robert Corn
Thank you so much Barbro. You are so sweet to have taken the time to leave a comment. I appreciate it so much. There is nothing like riding through the mountains during “leaf season”…just saying!
September 25, 2021 @ 5:00 pm Lauren Brewer
Love this! Thanks for sharing “Rita” and her journey!
September 27, 2021 @ 5:15 pm Robert Corn
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on the story. Rita is alive and well, but will have to go back in the basement in another 6 weeks or so, and we will start on the next phase of her restoration.
September 25, 2021 @ 5:34 pm Bailey McWhorter
That’s was a great article. I enjoyed reading it.
September 27, 2021 @ 5:16 pm Robert Corn
Thank you for your comments Bailey. I appreciate your taking the time to write.
September 25, 2021 @ 6:07 pm John White
Great article! Very cool car! So glad the author has made the effort to keep this gem on the road!
September 27, 2021 @ 5:18 pm Robert Corn
I took Rita out this afternoon. She enjoys the mountain roads as much as I do. But winter is coming, so we have to take advantage of “leaf season” while we can. Thank you so much for writing.
September 25, 2021 @ 8:00 pm Wes Brandon
Love the car, love the tag, love the article & love the author. Win, win, etc.
September 27, 2021 @ 5:19 pm Robert Corn
Thank you for writing Wes. I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment on the article.
September 25, 2021 @ 8:32 pm Molly Wantland
“The next thing I remember is waking up on the driveway with Marcee wiping my face with a cold damp towel.” – I can absolutely see this happening! Great article, as always. Rita is lucky to have y’all as her owners!
September 28, 2021 @ 3:34 am Robert Corn
I might have just cried a little, but it was just a little! Thank you for commenting Molly.
September 25, 2021 @ 8:45 pm Mike Coleman
Good article! Interesting. Informative. Written with great humor and love of the sport.
September 27, 2021 @ 5:21 pm Robert Corn
Mike…thank you for reading the article and taking the time to comment. I am not a mechanic so every project that actually works is a major victory. In the next few months, she will got back into the basement and I will continue her restoration. Thanks again.
September 25, 2021 @ 9:29 pm Joann Patterson
Good article by Rob Corn.
September 27, 2021 @ 5:23 pm Robert Corn
Thank you JoAnn…I appreciate your taking the time to read the article and comment. It will be an ongoing project for the next few years I imagine. Thanks again.
September 26, 2021 @ 7:25 am John Moses
Rob Corn, you’re always a good read! Fix me up an MGTC, please!
September 27, 2021 @ 5:25 pm Robert Corn
I will get right on it! Thank you for commenting John!
September 26, 2021 @ 8:19 am Sue G
Lovely to put new life in to an old soul, Rob Corn! Thanks for sharing!
September 27, 2021 @ 5:26 pm Robert Corn
Thank you Sue for commenting. My wife and I have been working on MG’s most of our lives. And while this may be our last, it is still as much fun as it was the first time.
September 26, 2021 @ 11:26 am Dottie
It’s all about the journey, not just the end product. Rob Corn draws the reader into his MG adventure with his gift for words and humor. Great article!
September 27, 2021 @ 5:35 pm Robert Corn
Dottie…thank you so much for reading the article and commenting. I appreciate all the kind words. It is a good thing that “it is about the journey” because there never is a finish line to restoring MG’s. There is always a challenge just waiting to catch you off guard when you’re driving down some remote mountain road…but that is the fun of it. Thanks again for commenting.
September 26, 2021 @ 2:51 pm Linda Homesley
Where did you find this writer, Rob Corn? Love how he writes so effortless. Hope he writes some more stories for your magazine! I love his humor and the fact that he seems so down to earth. Not trying to impress, but just telling his story in a very appealing way!
September 26, 2021 @ 6:44 pm Barbro Andersen
I agree 100%!
September 28, 2021 @ 3:37 am Robert Corn
I think if we are being honest, it is more like 47.83%, but I appreciate the thought.
September 26, 2021 @ 8:35 pm Debbie Bratton
Persistence pays off!!! Wonderfully written story.
September 28, 2021 @ 3:42 am Robert Corn
Debbie…thank you so much for commenting on the story. I appreciate your time. You are sweet to comment.
September 27, 2021 @ 6:08 am Clayton
Drew me right in. I’ll be waiting for the next installment! Hopefully it will become a regular feature.
September 28, 2021 @ 3:40 am Robert Corn
The folks have been so nice to let me ramble on for several issues. I don’t know how long it will go on, but I appreciate any space they give me in the magazine…and thanks so much for commenting.
September 27, 2021 @ 10:31 am Steve Richardson
What a fascinating story. Now while I don’t think it will win a Pulitzer, Mr. Corn has a way of making you feel you are right there with him through the trials and tribulations. I look forward to his next installment.
September 27, 2021 @ 5:30 pm Robert Corn
Steve…thank you for taking the time to read the story and comment. I have even waiting by the mailbox every day for the folks at Pulitzer to write, but the mail has been running slow. It has been a lot of fun restoring the car and documenting the “trials and tribulation” and the occasional success. Thanks again, Steve.
October 18, 2021 @ 5:05 am Steve Farrell
Great article. I recently acquired a 1969 Triumph TR6 in wonderful condition. I’d love to know who this mechanic is Asheville is as I live in Black Mountain and might (will) need some help.
Best in all,
December 4, 2021 @ 5:11 pm Robert Corn
Hey Steve….I did not know you commented on the article until tonight. I will try to look up his name and number and pass them along to you. Thanks for reading the article.
December 4, 2021 @ 5:15 pm Rober Corn
It may be “Made in England Sports Car Repair in Candler, NC 828-670-5655
May 9, 2022 @ 10:04 am Steve Farrell
Thanks Robert. Steve J. has since become my best friend too.
January 30, 2022 @ 11:13 pm Gracie Mathew
I will be watching for more. Great post. Highly appreciated
July 17, 2022 @ 8:28 am Rob Corn
Thank you Gracie…I am just now seeing your note. Sorry it took me so long to respond!