My First MG Drive
Corona Competition entry, week 1
by Wayne Hardy
My very first drive in an MG occurred when I was nearly 15 years old, living in Orange, Texas in 1953. I knew all about MGs from first reading Kings of The Road by Ken Purdy, and from reading a new magazine called Road and Track. I saved and hoarded and reread these things over and over. At one time a few years ago, I had every R&T published from 1955 through 2015. Anyway, I first spotted an MGTD on a used car lot in Orange and had been giving it the eye for several days. When I finally decided to go give it a closer look, I found the lot closed; but someone was there and opened the place for me. Now, Orange had a big Navy presence during the war and the base stayed open for a number of years afterward, so for the past few years we’d seen sporty European cars— Jaguars, Simcas, a big Lancia, a few VWs and several MGTCs and TDs—brought home by Navy GIs. This was one of those cars, traded in on something else, American made.
On that fateful day, I rode my bike downtown and parked it in an alley where it wouldn’t be seen from the car lot (I don’t know why, but I thought this would make me seem older, not a kid on a bike), and walked around the corner to the car lot. I sniffed around the car a bit and here came the salesman from the office. I asked if I could roll down the tonneau cover (the top was down) and look at the insides. No sooner did we do this than another customer came into the lot who had his attention for a while, working on completing a sale started earlier. When the salesman returned to me, I was sitting in the car studying the owner’s manual that was still in the glove box. Believe it or not, he asked me if I would like to take it for a drive. Oh yeah, I would.
Now, I could drive and operate a clutch and gear box from driving the old ‘35 Dodge on my grandparents’ farm in the summers, and taking loads of grain into town towing a trailer. This was done all the time in the farming area of Indiana, and it was not unheard of for 10-year old kids to drive farm buggies around town to sell grain or hay to the CO-OP. Still, the MG was a different deal; but I had been studying the controls layout in the owner’s handbook and I was ready to go!
I pulled the choke out a bit, pulled the starter and the thing fired up! Salesman said he was alone at the lot, but if I’d be really careful, he’d stay there and let me take it out by myself. Now remember, I’m 14 years old, no driver’s license and no insurance either. I took it by to show to a couple of school friends, and then by my own house to show my dad what a find I’d made and to discuss my car-owning possibilities for the near future. Not a smart move… He was all concerned that I had no driver’s license and no insurance, and pretty mad at the car lot salesman for turning me loose in a car without asking about either of those things.
Of course we had to take it back immediately, but Dad couldn’t find the starter and I wouldn’t tell him where it was, either, so I got to drive it back to the dealer lot with him riding and my mother following in the car to bring him home. My bike was still safe in the alley, of course, being 1953 not today.
Well, there were lots of discussions with my dad about what a foolish thing that was to do. Still, he recognized the fact that in the summers I drove around the farm and delivered loads of grain worth several hundred dollars into town five miles away, without incident. My Grandfather trusted me, and he should trust me too.
No, we didn’t buy this car, but I did get a driver’s license before I was 16, and did buy a different MGTD in late 1956… followed by a TC, followed by a TF-1500, followed by an MGA, a Midget, MGBs, and 2 MG ZB Magnette sedans, mixed in with a TR-3, an AH-3000, a Jag XK-120, an MK1 Jag sedan, and 3 XJ Jag sedans (2 XJ-6s and an XJ-8 model).
I still drive an MGB along with a nice older Corvette. But my very first drive in an MG, 67 years ago, was that black one with “apple green” leather insides.