By Ken Smith
Many people each year attend British car events of one kind or another, some driving thousands of miles to be with and greet friends. Others just pop down the road a few miles to their local meet. However, many other owners claim it’s too far, or they haven’t time or their car is not good enough to take to a meet! Well, let me regale you with a story of courage and determination, a passion for British cars and a lifelong friendship sharing the passion. It might just make all of you out there who think it’s too much trouble think again!
Buddy Houck met his wife-to-be Betty at the Cotton Bowl roller rink in Dallas in 1946. Buddy at the time was a mechanic and Betty a clerk. They married and moved to Oklahoma City, where Buddy raced a 1937 Ford stock car for Rusty Compton. However, he raced under the name of Dick Houck, which was actually his father’s race name, as his then boss did not want Buddy to be associated with motor sport! Most teams at the time also had a female driver, who was known as a powder puff driver. Thank goodness we’ve come a ways since then, and female drivers are accepted as equal competitors! Following Buddy’s lead, and exemplifying the theory, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” Betty also entered stock car racing as a powder puff driver, piloting a 1937 Ford two-door coupe for a team from Texas.
She became quite successful and was only prevented from winning the Oklahoma championship after the officials discovered that the fuel in her car was not legal, a fact of which she was unaware! However, despite this, she finished runner-up in the Oklahoma championships, having run fewer races than anyone else due to an appendectomy and subsequent absence from the track!
Buddy’s interest in MGs began when a friend of his brought him a TD with transmission problems, which Buddy offered to fix in his garage. This led to Buddy acquiring a TD of his own. By this time, he had married Betty, and had joined Kodak Ltd. working in the microfilm department. Buddy stayed with the company for 35 years until he retired in February of 1983. Not one to be idle for long, he started his own business again, associated with the microfilm industry.
Anything that Buddy could do, Betty also determined she would do! When Buddy obtained his pilot’s license, she followed his lead and got a license of her own, both of them flying Acroncas and Cessnas.
It was in November of 1983 that tragedy struck and Buddy suffered a massive stroke and was hospitalized, an event which totally incapacitated him for three months. Always a fighter, he was back to 95% in six to nine months and he was still fairly mobile. However, in 1984 Buddy had to sell the business he had started.
He and Betty had attended their first MG GOF at Tulsa in 1976. The MG bug had really bitten by then, and they owned several MGs, one of which won a trophy. Betty and Buddy have been showing one or another of their great collection of British sports cars ever since, winning numerous awards. At one time they owned a four-seater TD which was believed to be the forerunner of the Inskip stretched TD, as well as an MGA Twin Cam and an MGA 1500, both of which they sold to fund further purchases.
However, the stroke problem reoccurred, and by 1990 Buddy was confined to an electric wheelchair, and now needs oxygen close by wherever he travels. And they travel a lot—Buddy and Betty are regular attendees at the major MG events across the country.
From swap meets at Hershey and Carlisle, to Harrisburg for the Best TC in the World event, where they placed fourth; from their home in Tulsa to Toronto for the NAMGAR meet, where further trophies were gained, the Houcks travel many miles each year in a GMC motorhome, trailering one or two of their collection of classics and Buddy’s wheelchair. Throughout their travels, Betty does all the driving, and claims navigator Buddy gets her lost! They are regulars at the MG Summer Party in Grand Rapids, and your scribe met them most recently this past July at the GOF Central in Arkansas, where they not only placed third in the TC class (Betty having polished it to perfection), but also brought along a 1959 Berkeley for the attendees to admire into the bargain! A diorama of the Houck’s garage also won first place in the model contest.
Married for 46 years, the Houcks have lived for the past 30 years in Tulsa, OK, where they are members of the Brown County MG T Club. Their current stable includes no less than five TDs, a TF, a TC, an MGA, the aforementioned Berkeley and a Bugeye Sprite! Betty and Buddy both work on the cars; however, the really difficult tasks are undertaken by a friend, Donnie Day, in the quaintly named town of Hogeye, Arkansas.
We asked Betty to recount the most eventful moment of their lives on the road, naturally thinking that the GMC motorhome would be a prime player because of the miles pulling a trailer. Not so! She told us of the time when they attended a GOF at Snowmass in Colorado. After she had refused to drive Buddy in the TF up the 12,000-foot high Independence Pass, he settled for a sightseeing tour with him navigating and Betty doing the driving. It wasn’t too long before she realized that he had navigated her up the pass without her knowing!
On the way down, she suddenly felt the steering on the TF let go and lock up, with a fierce drop on one side and a wall of rock on the other. “I was terrified,” Betty recalls, “and was literally frozen in the car.” Soon, along came some other T-types, and upon examination it was discovered that two bolts had fallen out of the steering box coming round the last bend down the mountain! The others walked back and found them, after which Buddy and Betty drove carefully down the rest of the way.
We have met Buddy and Betty along the great MG road many times, and never cease to be amazed at their resilience and fortitude. Against all odds, they are cheerful of spirit, charming to all they meet and are an object lesson in what can be done if you really put your mind to it—a lesson which should be taken to heart by all the faint hearted, “Too far,” “Haven’t the time,” “Too much trouble” brigade out there!