What a Ride it’s Been

by John Bures

I brought this car to the states over 50 years ago. Drove it up and down the LA freeway with Al Moss. But my little story starts before then.

I loved English cars and wanted to travel through Europe. In 1962, MGTCs were not expensive in the UK. As soon as I arrived in England on a Holland American Ship, I began my search. I met a nice elderly Englishman who was willing to accept $500US dollars for his 1949 MGTC. During our conversation he asked me what my intentions were with his car. I replied that I would likely take it over to the continent, France and Spain, and later to the US. He roughly snatched the papers from my hand and said, “The deal is off. The car is not for sale!” A lesson in patriotism.

So, I took a trip to Gold Seal Motors in London where they weren’t so patriotic, and I found my TC. The car was on the street with a hole in the top, bald tires, rust, and it did not run. The car was a one-owner and they were asking $600US dollars. I made a deal with them asking for remold tires, a new battery, and to get it running.

Off I went without a map or a plan. I headed south into France searching for warmer weather. I stopped for fuel and, without my knowledge, the mechanics put two-stroke gas/oil in the tank. I drove out of sight of lights in the freezing rain and the engine started sputtering. I limped back to the garage on one cylinder where the mechanics were warming their hands over a stove with grins on their faces. They then asked, “How much money do you have?” With a drained tank and cleaned spark plugs, I went on my merry way.

In about a week I was greeted by a Spanish border guard, which was a welcome relief. I stocked up on camping gear, such as a tent and stove, and stayed for a month in Valencia, Spain. I then proceeded up the coast to the Costa Brava region and thought it would be nice to stay in a decent hotel for a change. I ran out of money, and the hotel clerk overheard my conversation with the American Express office. He immediately locked the poor TC in a horse stable. Funds finally arrived, so I then drove to Gibraltar where I camped on the iconic rock overlooking the Straight with Tangiers in view on a clear day. From there I shipped the car over to Morocco and toured that country for about a month.

While in Casablanca, I became deathly ill with anemic dysentery. I huddled in my tent for over a week trying to regain strength. After recovering, I moved on to Marrakesh where I had my only accident with the TC. An ox cart rounded a corner and clipped the parking lamp clean off my front fender. As I was leaving the campground in Marrakesh, I nearly collided with a Swiss gentleman who leaped in front of the car with a camera. After an apology and a friendly chat, he handed me a card with his home address.

While camping in Ifrane near the King’s Palace I was arrested for cooking popcorn and escorted to a building with a large empty room. There were several people pointing to large rule book written in Arabic. I had violated some sacred decree and was going to a dark place without my TC. Evidently the King did not like popcorn or classic cars. After being held for several hours, I was released and handed my worldly belongings. I drove the TC as fast as it would go out of Morocco.

I pointed north toward Portugal where I teamed up with some lads playing Beatles music and traveling through the country. I had my guitar strapped to the fender. We played music in seaport clubs and collected tips. While driving around a town square in Lisbon with my mates sitting on the back of the TC playing their guitars, I was arrested and then thrown in a dungeon. From a small opening in the wall I could see a crowd surrounding my TC. The mob became aggressive, pelted rocks at the police station, and chanted, “Free him! Free him!” Rather than deal with the unrest, they decided to free me, and I walked to my TC with a cheering crowd. As we drove through the mass of people, they patted me on the back. And in one last act of protest against the police, we made a final loop around the square playing our music.

I then proceeded to the Boulogne/Dover Ferry Terminal in France to return to England. I drove the TC onto the ferry in the early morning and was promptly greeted by a ticket agent. He instructed me to park the car on the ship and see the chief purser before departure. Since at this time I was completely broke, I complied with his wishes but only after we set sail to England.

The purser declared that the car would be confiscated with all my belongings until I paid for the passage. On arrival in Dover all passengers and cargo were unloaded and funneled through Customs. The Customs officials were very skeptical of me since I had been in Morocco. I was detained along with all my belongings while they tore through the TC trying to find any illegal activity. During this time the ship sailed back to Boulogne. The Customs officials were unaware of the unpaid passage fare and I was sent on my way.

This little trip was seven months from leaving and returning to England. As you know, travel is slow in a ’49 TC.

I spent another five years in England and during that time I took several trips including the Swiss Alps and Germany. As mentioned earlier, the camera man that I almost ran over in Marrakesh lived in Basel, Switzerland. I decided to look him up since I was in the neighborhood. I knocked on the door and the fine gentleman appeared, gave a look of astonishment, threw his arms around me, and invited me in. There were pictures on the coffee table of his vacation in Morocco and on top of the pile was a photo of my TC!

This beautiful TC is still in my possession. She hasn’t aged a bit, unlike her owner. We are planning on giving her a paint job and new road springs. We enjoy driving the TC more than modern computerized cars. And, no, the car is not for sale. MM


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