The Family Car

By Buddy Andrews

In July 1962 my pregnant wife Lynn, our daughter and two sons arrived in Lufkin, Texas, and started setting up our newly (to us) purchased home. I had just completed a 2-year active army tour of duty in California and had gotten a job with Lufkin Foundry, Trailer Division, in the Industrial Engineering Department of three people: Bill Woodward, the chief/boss Jim Riggs, a classmate of mine at Texas A&M College, and me. Lynn and I were living ‘the dream’, although we had to live it month-to-month as we had no money.

I was an avid reader of Road & Track magazine and had desired/admired/dreamed of/hoped for a Jag or at least an MG TD. We drove a 4-door Chevy sedan, and Jim Riggs drove a VW Bug; as his family was soon to grow to four, he traded the Bug for a Microbus, but he craved a Porsche 356.

We spent our days working, taking care of wives, kids, and home, putting on club dance parties, mowing our lawns, going to church, and talking about English and/or German sports cars. Eventually, we did more than talk.

Jim was raised in Houston, about 90 miles from Lufkin. In 1963, he suggested we drive to Houston some Saturday and follow up on classified ads for sports cars, i.e., Porsche and MG. So, we did. We kicked tires on car lots and at individual sellers. Late in the day we took a look at yet another MG (the third of the day) we had located at an individual’s home. It ran, appeared complete, and was well (very well) used. And then I drove the car. Any (all) good sense left me, and emotion took over. The man wanted $400. That was an entire month’s salary, and we had no savings. Jim took me aside and said he would/could loan me the money. I made the deal; I gave the owner $20 earnest money, a handshake and promise to return soon with the remainder and a tow vehicle. Jim and I returned during the week with my 4-door Chevy sedan and a home-made tow bar I had built to pull a 1940 Ford chassis with flathead engine T-bodied hot rod I had created. I paid for the MG, got the title, and drove the MG about 5 miles away to Jim’s parents’ home in Galena Park. There, Jim used Ox acetylene to modify some angle iron so we could attach a tow bar to the MG. Ever drive a right-hand drive, worn-out MG with dim lights and full side curtains mounted in the dark to an unfamiliar location? Like driving in a tunnel with a dim flash light.

We got the MG tow bar hooked up to the Chevy and hit the road for Lufkin, to which we arrived about midnight. Lynn came out of the house to look at the MG, and after unhooking the tow bar I said, ‘Come on, let’s take a ride.” So, we did.

I worked on the MG, fixing things I could that did not cost much money: cleaned it up, fixed the windshield wipers, the rear-view mirror, the horn, and the spark plugs (which I purchased from a tractor supply store). For the plugs and a carburetor kit, I went to a regular auto parts store. The man (remember this is 1963, in deep East Texas) said, “A 1950 MG? That’s one of them furrin cars. We don’t have no parts for ole furrin cars.” So I checked the ads in back of Road & Track, and saw an ad for Moss Motors which advertised MG parts and a catalog. I ordered the catalog and an “Official MG Factory Manual”. I was completely hooked, on Moss and MGs.

We drove the MG everywhere, to work, on errands, for fun, to church, and drive-in movies for $1/car load. We put the three older kids (Cynthia, 5y; Mark, 4y; Ben, 2y) in the back; Lynn would put baby Jim in a small plastic carrier under her legs. We enjoyed our MG and our lives—until the MG transmission started jumping out of second gear. It got to the point that it was difficult to even hold it in second, so I said to myself, I can fix this. I pulled the trans, began working on it, and discovered it had been worked on previously by some other ‘shade tree mechanic’ who probably knew less than I did about transmissions. In the process of pulling the trans, I discovered the main wooden sills on both sides of the car were extremely rotten. At that point I decided to take on a full restoration of the MG. Jim Riggs and his friends helped me with sand blasting the tub and painting it with a zinc chromate primer. Another friend who had a hardwood lumber mill provided me blanks of ash and other hardwoods per my dimensions. I fashioned these blanks with a borrowed bandsaw and wood rasp into all the bodies’ wooden frame structure. They were installed into the body with weld wood marine glue and brass screws plus some steel plates. The fellow with the lumber mill (George Henderson) put the tub in a pressure tank with a wood preservative for 24 hours and said he would refund all my money if the body did not last a hundred years. Of course, he had not charged me for any of this. After more than 55 years, the body is still tight and solid. Another fellow, a mill wright by the name of PeeWee Hambrick welded up sheet metal parts on the body. He also helped fabricate a cowl brace which the car frame did not have. I did not know about the cowl brace until I saw it on a frame in a Moss catalog. We fabricated it out of 1 ¼” steel tubing with a 3/16th well and bolted it to the frame. We did all this work after hours – with permission – in the Lufkin Trailers shop.

In February 1964, I received a letter from the Department of Army (DA); they wanted 1st Lieutenants and/or Captains to return to active duty. I still held a reserve commission as a 1st Lieutenant. Lynn and I decided that if they would send the entire family to Germany I would return. Of course, we knew that Viet Nam was being built up but we were lured by the locale (Germany), Formula 1 races, Porsches, and the type of assignment I would get that included more responsibility. In about two weeks, I received a positive reply from the DA with orders to US Army Europe with instructions on how to proceed with processing, i.e., immunizations, passports for Lynn and the kids, and other administrative details, for September 1964. We couldn’t take the MG with us, so the parts went into storage in my folks’ garage in Yoakum, TX. After 3 years in Germany and two additional kids to make 6 in total, we returned and I attended a military school for another year; after that in 1968, I had orders for Viet Nam, so I contacted a shop in Madisonville, TN called Foreign Car Service (FCS) which advertised in Road & Track. They indicated they restore MGs, so Lynn and I towed the car to them. We agreed on $1000 for a complete restoration.

In July 1969, we received a letter that the car was nearly completed and requesting a color scheme; we chose BRG with a tan interior. In August, I returned, and we moved the family to El Paso. We called FCS to inquire as to status of the MG and learned that only the engine and transmission had been rebuilt! We decided to pick the car up and tow it to El Paso (Ft. Bliss) with a stopover in Yoakum to get the body finished. Despite three tires peeling tread towing from Tennessee to Texas, which we replaced with tires from Sears (total $54.74), we had an enjoyable trip. In Yoakum, Archie Woods agreed to paint the body but only got two coats of primer on the main shell. A lifelong friend Ray Manning had the remaining parts (all but the main shell) sand blasted in Victoria, TX. Ray and I primed parts for about $10.00 (includes beer). By October, we had spent a total of $897.71.

Between 1 November 1969 and 18 December 1970, the MG was painted (plus metal work) by Doc Lehman’s in El Paso. We reassembled it, and with the help of another friend Dick Church during this period did a complete brake job, rewiring, dashboard, and instruments, and rebuilt the steering wheel/column.

Between mid-January and July 1971, we finished installing parts necessary for the MG to run. It started on the first try! I started driving it to work and finished upholstering the interior and installed a tonneau. We towed the car from El Paso to Yoakum – even with a plywood shield on front, the trip chipped a lot of paint mostly on the rear fenders. Jim Riggs built a trailer, and we trailered the MG to our new posting in Leavenworth, KS. Here, I drove the car most days to class/work; we installed the top, rebuilt side curtains, and replaced starter and starter switch. During winter, I had to scrape frost (ice) off the inside of the windshield, and Lynn gave me hubcaps for Christmas 1971. We spent a total $556.91 with Moss Motors, and by the next February, had spent a total of $1906.39 on additional work.

The MG and family then moved on to Kempner, TX (Ft. Hood) from 1972-74, while I was in Korea for a year in 1973-74; from there we moved on to San Francisco (the Presidio). We drove the MG all over San Francisco, including several times on the ‘crookedest street in the world’. Lynn drove the car daily to the kids’ school where she volunteered as a teacher’s aide even when it meant she had to push start it because of a low battery. The MG during these periods in Leavenworth, Ft. Hood, and the Presidio, required only routine maintenance (oil and filter changes, carbs, ignition, and yes, a battery). After the Presidio, we moved back to Germany with our four younger children. Our eldest remained in San Francisco, and we deposited our son Mark at the Texas Institute of Technology. The MG went into storage, first with my brother in Houston and then with our sons Mark and Ben in Waco, TX. The tour in Germany lasted five years and we absolutely enjoyed it: the food, the beer, the people, and racetracks at Hockenheim and Nuremburg Ring. In 1982, we returned to the US with a Porsche 911, and I retired in 1990. Lynn designed and we physically built about 95% of a timber framed home on 10 acres outside of Kerrville, TX. It took us about 5 years, after which the MG and the 911 came out of Waco into Kerrville.

Around 1997, I did the second complete rebuild of the MG; complete frame off body, parts painted separately before reassembly, and mechanically a Moss rear oil seal on crankshaft, plus brakes, and rebuilt front and rear suspension with Moss parts. This time we painted the MG red! In July 2012, Lynn died. I decided it was time to start distributing life’s plunder to our children who wanted it. I priced it all, and it became part of their inheritance. Mark, who owns a motorcycle shop in Waco, wanted the 911 and the MG; he can afford the insurance, licensing, and other fees and has room to keep the vehicles inside. He can also maintain and drive them, which he does with great enjoyment.

And that’s part of the story of our family, and our MG.

Postscript: Mark’s MG TD story

Lufkin, TX 1963. I didn’t know how the 1950 MG TD #0333 arrived, but it did. After a tour in Germany from 1964-67, Lawton, Oklahoma, from 1967-68, Austin, Texas, from 1968-69, and El Paso, Texas, in 1970 the MG TD came back into our lives after long term storage and partial restoration. One evening, I was in the garage “helping” work on the MG. My Dad had completed building the wire harness. We had tested the lights, horn, ignition spark, etc. Now it was time to test run the engine. I was positioned on the lefthand bonnet open side. The MG started almost instantly, ran 10-15 seconds, then one throttle blip later died. A few words I hadn’t heard before arrived on the scene; because of my position I noticed the instant the MG stopped running that the brass object attached to the back of the generator rotated in sequence with the throttle blip touching a wire nut on the distributor. I made my dad aware of my observation. More new words arrived on the scene. I decided to leave the scene and went into the house. Minutes later my dad came inside and said, “let’s go for a ride”. It was dusk, and we went a few blocks to a newly constructed four lane divided median, the Transmountain Road. Our current family hauler was 1964 Plymouth station wagon which my dad drove sedately, like a father of 6. The MG ride was very different, sliding around the turn openings in the median, seeing roadway that close, I could have reached out and touched it on the turns. That “ride” made me realize one of the rewards of the restoration process. With my dad acquiring the 1950 MG TD #0333, through his knowledge and guidance, the use of hand tools and commitment to follow through long term on projects has by far been my greatest reward. Every time I can enjoy the MG, I am reminded of this.

Thanks Dad and MG TD #0333.

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