HOW THE MG BECAME PART OF OUR LIFE by Harvey Rutstein
When I was in high school, a friend of mine would occasionally bring his father’s 1952 MGTD to school at the envy of every kid, including me. I always remember the many fun times we had riding in the MG. I told myself that one day when I was finished working my way through college, I would also own an MG just like it. After graduation, I went to work as an engineer for Texaco Inc. It wasn’t very long before the timing was perfect for me to find that MG I always wanted since two great things had just happened. One, I recently met MaryJo, who I knew I would marry and two, I received a great promotion that came with a company car. I always believed that all good things came in threes, so this had to be the best time to buy my MG. The year was 1969 and sure enough there was an assistant Fire Chief in East Cleveland, Ohio who was selling his 1954 MGTF. I purchased the car and the next night I picked up MaryJo in my used MG and headed to a local park were I played in a weekly regional Volley Ball game.
When I first arrived at the park, several of my friends came running over to greet MaryJo and me in my new ivory colored MG. The first thing that one of our friends’s said was “This is my car!” I politely said, “I know just how you feel Bob, that is why I bought it”. Bob said “NO, this really used to be my MG!”
I knew Bob collected sport cars but I never thought to call him when I quickly made up my mind to buy this used MG. Bob easily convinced me that he was the second owner, as only another MG car owner could do. I found out that night that not only was he a past owner but this car was originally Fire Engine Red before he painted it ivory. When I got back to my apartment, the first thing I did was move my newly acquired company car outside and relocated the MG to the underground heated garage in the high rise apartment looking out onto Lake Erie were I was now living.
In 1970, MaryJo and I were married. A year later we bought a beautiful English Tutor Home with leaded glass windows and a two color slate tile roof about a mile away from my old apartment on Lake Erie. It was a great location, we could look out our front windows and watch the sail boats make their turn during the summer Sail boat races right in front of our home. The MG now had its own English Tutor Garage with the same slate roof and once again it also faced Lake Erie. We soon became very active in the local Home Owners Association. We were constantly being quizzed by our neighbors why a young couple would buy such a large home without having any children. My new standard answer was that we bought our home so we could park our MG in an appropriate English garage. In 1973, our first daughter was born. Whenever there was a parade, neighbors insisted that the MG be a part of it. Everyone always wants to see a classic cars in a parade.
We lived on the east side of Cleveland, just a short distance from an area known for its very large mansions. Whenever we decided to take the MG out for a short ride, we would travel west past these million dollar homes. Not far from us on the east side was an area were the three of us would go for long rides into the hills and beautiful country side. I bet most people would be surprised to learn that there is an area on the far east side of Cleveland that has such gorgeous scenery.
In 1976, someone must have heard that the MG and the three of us were too content and that we must like the cold and dreary weather since we didn’t complain, so we were given the opportunity to move to another Great Lake City, Chicago, Illinois. MaryJo and I spent a very long week looking for a place to raise a family and also enjoy the MG. We found the perfect place just northwest of Chicago. A beautiful small village surrounded by lakes and ponds. The Village Hall is a much photographed large Dairy Barn with a very ornate orange Spanish tile roof. Adjacent to our village was another village called Long Grove that was made up of antique stores, gift shops and restaurants with a picture perfect wooden bridge that we would drive over when we would go for an evening drive to visit the local ice cream shop.
We stayed in the Chicago area for six years. This was long enough for another daughter and our first son to be born. I became very active in the Village and was elected as a Trustee of the Village of Hawthorn Woods and also President of the Park Board while MaryJo held several offices for the local Women’s Clubs. We also became part of the MG Car Club in Chicago and attended many local parades and car shows in the area. The parade most remembered by our children is the 4th of July since they enjoyed the time spent decorating the MG. Being on the local government, I was always asked to carry the local Queen of the Parade in my MG which I gladly accepted. It was a tough job! MaryJo always kids me about her having to walk or watch the parade while I drove the local Queen of the parade in my MG. I always blame it on the classic lines of the MGTF.
In 1982, after going through some of the coldest days in Chicago’s history, we were once again given the opportunity to move and this time it was south to Houston, Texas. Each time we moved I drove the MG into the large moving van were the movers strapped it tightly down and then built a metal frame “dog house” around it and filled it with blankets and pillows. Looking back, I would say the MG traveled across the country better than we did.
The first time we moved to Houston, we were looking for a two story home with a three car garage. We found the perfect new home in the right school district but it didn’t have a place for our MG. The builder told us that “you are in Texas and that it would not be a problem”. The home was located on a corner lot were a road would someday be built. He explained the problem to the Developer and the local Planning Commission and sure enough the road was quickly under construction. Our builder constructed another 1 ½ car garage connected to our 2 car garage with an inside door tying it together and a second driveway out to the new road that was finished just in time for me to drive the MG on it the day we moved in. Our builder said “Only in Texas could this happen!” I think he may be right. Sure enough my MG now had a new place to call home. The MGTF took to the hot weather as if it was never in the north. In the early eighties, I learned of a man who specialized in a custom leather interior. I had him find one large leather skin which he used to reproduce all the leather that is in my MG, down to the rolls and pleats. He did a great job! We lived in the Houston area until 1989 when I was given an opportunity that as an engineer I thought would be fun to do. After spending all my time with Texaco in Engineering, Plant Management, Operations , Logistics & Economics and managing an IT group, I was given the opportunity to manage a five state Sales area, whose HQ would be on the outskirts of Washington DC , located in Fairfax County Virginia. I was able to pick my new office building and hire the people. We quickly said yes but I had to get the MG painted back to the original Fire Engine Red before we left Houston and moved to Centerville, Va. The MG was taken down to the wooden frame and a new Fire Engine RED MGTF was back to its original color.
We moved to Virginia. I found an office just five minutes from my home allowing me more time to drive the MG with my family since I no longer had long commutes. Because of our location, the MG and our family would visit many monuments, historic places and battle fields all located within a short distance from our home. In a quick two years, I was requested to come back to Houston to become the National Marketing Manager for Texaco’s Havoline brand.
Needless to say, we backed up the moving vans and headed back to a new home in Houston which included another three car garage (one for our 1954 MG). As part of my new job, I would have to attend the NASCAR and INDY races plus other major sporting events and work with our National Customers and Distributors who always enjoyed meeting the many Texaco Havoline drivers and car owners that we sponsored. I kept that position for about 8 more years until I took an early retirement in 1999.
After I retired, I was asked to be a consultant for Chevron and then Shell Oil. A couple years later I co-owned an Mfg Rep Business representing 14 companies selling materials to the commercial construction industry in the state of Texas. I sold that company to my partner and now I just look for part time jobs since I love to travel, garden, drive my MG and enjoy the company of our family and friends. Some of the benefits of belonging to the MG Car Club of Houston, besides meeting the great people, and the large amount of expertise dealing with MG’s that they know is the many new places that we have had an opportunity to see. In the last five years, I also had a well known Houston restoration company owned by one of our club members perform extensive work on my MGTF. I want to make it easier on the next owner who would have the opportunity to bring this great little sports car back to the way it was in the 1950’s. Our MGTF has been with us now 45 years and I feel it is time to find another owner who can continue restoring this MGTF. The MG car will always introduce you to new people and new adventures. The great thing about any MG is the enjoyment that it will bring to the owner as they go through life. I am looking forward to the future since I would now like to buy an MGB and sell my MGTF. Anyone interested in buying the MG, please contact me.
Harvey Rutstein- firstname.lastname@example.org