By Dave Renner
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare
Recently I was at a family gathering with my dad Corky, my brother John, my son Patrick, my cousin Dalton and his dad, my Uncle Plute, when we began swapping stories about this and that. Along the waymy uncle started to reminisce about a raggedy old 1938 Dodge truck he once owned that Dalton and his brother Ray had christened “Rackity Boom.” That led to memories of another uncle’s bilious green1950ish Ford truck that we all called “Algae.” And the memories continued.
The conversation then wandered to the 1926 Model T touring car I drove to high school, which went by the well deserved moniker, “Old Clunker”, because it rattled and creaked but kept on ticking. Dad now has its reincarnation, a very similar 1926 Model T touring car naturally named “Clunker 2”, in his garage.
So, what is my point? Just that many car (or truck) owners ascribe a personality to their vehicle when they give it a nickname. It is very common in auto circles to hear a car referred to by its name and it may become more famous than the owner.
Mention “The Beatnik Bandit” or “The Ala Kart” to hot rod lovers of my generation and clear images will appear in our minds of those cars. It may also remind us of the doodles we drew in our spiral notebooks and on the paper book covers that covered our textbooks. Those cars were real to us. Just as the names “Old Yeller” and “The Flying Shingle” resonate for the young sports car lovers of the same era.
In MG lore, no vehicle is more famous than “Old Number One”, the prototype stripped down racer that defined the marquee. Another beloved relic is “Old Speckled Hen,” a late ‘20s vintage MG Featherweight Fabric Saloon that was used as a shop vehicle at the Abingdon factory. It acquired its name from the dappled surface that was created when paint splatter collected on it.
In our club, several well know MGs proudly wear nicknames. Greg and Dottie Ulrich have a beautiful 1953 MGTD called “Daddy-O,” named in honor of Dottie’s father, who previously owned the car. Gordon Smith regularly drives his regal Old English White 1964 MGB that he calls “Regi.”
And Roger Sykes, who created the infamous Sykes Formula we use to figure mileage for the MG Driver Award, campaigns a pitch black 1965 MGB beauty known affectionately as “Tar Baby.” Is it called that for the color or is it called that because it is like the character in the Uncle Remus Tales written by Joel Chandler Harris that stuck to poor old Brer Rabbit when he tried to get loose from it? All of these names have meanings to the drivers.
A few years ago I resurrected a 1963 MGB that I dubbed “Patience” because I realized that it would require more than a little persistence for the red roadster to move under its own power again. Once that was accomplished, I couldn’t wait to sell it to purchase another project car to rebuild, a long neglected 1968 MGB/GT.
Little did I know that the GT restoration project would make the endurance spent on getting the roadster back on the road pale by comparison. As work on the coupe has laboriously progressed, it acquired a nickname with several layers of meaning to me.
I call it “Winnie”, both in honor of my mom, who answered to that nickname, but also because “Winnie” was the affectionate name given to Winston Churchill, the quintessential British figure known for his bulldog tenacity. I realized it would take that kind of grit to get the hardtop to move under its own steam again one day.
Moreover, I like the name “Winnie” because it reminds me of Winnie-the-Pooh, the whimsical fictional bear created by British children’s book author A.A. Milne. Milne and I happen to share the same birthday, January 18, and that day has been officially designated Winnie-the-Pooh Day in his honor. I like that coincidence. As a matter of fact, the “pooh” part has resonated on many levels as the GT revitalization has dragged on.
So, nicknames often tell as much about the owner as they do about the vehicle. And Winnie-the-Pooh would add in agreement, “Oh bother.”