1960 MGA 1600

There is an interesting story behind this car. Several years ago, my neighbor mentioned to me that a friend of his wanted to sell several MGAs. Now what's interesting about this is that evidently, this guy and my neighbor had been talking about me and my old cars for years and this fellow had said he would probably sell 'em to me when he was ready. All these conversations happened unbeknownst to me. I just found out about it when my neighbor leaned over the fence and told me that a friend of his had a couple of MGAs in his backyard and was thinking of selling them and was I interested? Well, what do you think? You bet!!

So, my neighbor and I drove out to meet the guy. He had a couple acres of land, a dilapidated house, an old barn and some hazily defined girlfriend trouble which required cash to mitigate. The pasture hadn't seen a cow(or lawnmower) for years and was waist high in grass and thistles. The first MGA I saw was a pretty straight 1960 1600cc with the engine starting handle stuck through the front bumper(not a good sign). Sure enough, engine froze up on that one. I asked how long that one had been sitting and was told: "Oh, a while." then, after a little reflection, the guy added: "About six years". Oh.

The next one was half under a tarp and was a non-runner as well. Anyway, they were all kinda like these two but were all pretty much together. Paint was awful, rust in the usual places and miserable interiors but complete and pretty straight. So, we struck a deal for $5,000 for the lot and, as I was leaving, he said that, since he no longer had the cars, he might as well give me the spare parts he had been hoarding. These parts were located in his barn and, when he opened the door, I couldn't believe my eyes. The barn was full from top to bottom with MGA parts. Frames, rear ends, fenders front and rear, trannies, top bows, side curtains, you name it. In fact, the car in this picture was, with the exception of the engine, totally built from the parts in the barn plus two bodyshells which were resting in his back pasture(he said I might as well have those too), as well as a bunch of parts I gleaned from elsewhere in that pasture.

Evidently, for many years, this guy visited relatives in Idaho and regularly drove through Eastern Washington. On occasion, he would spot an old MGA resting in a field and would ask the owner if he could take some parts from it. Thus, his inventory grew.

What a bonanza! This was during the time when guys from England were over here scouring the country for sportscars to reimport and sell for big bucks. I might as well admit it now that I was one of those scourers as well. My cousin in England and I worked a deal where I would buy the cars, fix 'em up to a saleable condition and ship 'em to him in England. He flogged 'em there and we split the profits. Worked pretty well for a bit but my Cousin flew too close to the ground for my taste, so we quit the business after a few containerloads. My Cousin's a real character and I should write a bit about our car adventures. I can do that now since the Crown has dropped all charges against him.

Anyway, it took me several Weekends to haul all that stuff off the seller's property and I had an MGA orgy on my hands.

First thing was to get the four non-runners running and driveable. I focused on the bodywork and offloaded a couple of the frozen up engines to a friend of mine to rebuild. Now, this guy is a story in himself. Last time I saw him he was driving sorta a Morgan trike he made by sawing a Kawasaki 1000cc motorcycle in half. Used the engine, chain drive and rear wheel for the drivetrain and whipped up a front end using a couple of motorcycle front wheels. The whole thing steered, braked and throttled by a big joystick in the cabin. I have a picture of it somewhere in my pile of stuff. Will include it when I find the damn thing. I might write some more about this guy later.

Anyway, got 'em all running and patched up pretty quickly and sold 'em all to a guy from Denmark for between 2 and 3 times what I had into them. This left me with essentially, a BMC/MGA parts bin and no MGA in my stable. So, I built one out of the parts I had left. I had everything I needed with the exception of an interior kit and one or two chrome bits. The 3 main bearing engine and tranny came out of an early MGB(as well as the oil cooler). In some sense, this experience was almost magical. You know how it is when you restore a car. You go through this involved calculus with each part you recondition. Is it good enough? Do I rebuild or replace or just clean up and put back on the vehicle? The decision depends on a number of variables such as: the availability of replacement parts, their price and their quality. You can get in quite a muddle considering these variables and spend countless hours sourcing acceptable replacements. Not me this time. I had my own parts store. Oh, this steering rack isn't very good is it. Well, what about this one or, this other one? Yeah, that one feels smooth and tight so, let's use it. Oh, that fender's a little lumpy well... what about this one? Yeah, it's a lot better. What fun.

I started with a bare frame that I sandblasted and painted. Then I went to my parts pile and dug out front and rear suspension bits, cleaned 'em up and checked 'em out and installed them. Using the original fasteners I might add since I drug at least four big buckets of fasteners out of the seller's barn. He really liked taking stuff apart.

Next, I selected the best of the two bodies I had, sandblasted that, painted it and installed it. Fenders, dash gauges and wiring harness next. I found a brand new wiring harness in the pile. Brakes, hubs and wheels all there just needing a good scrubbing and rebuilding. An interior kit from Moss and a repro steering wheel and I'm pretty well done and into the car about a grand or so. But-not to worry-I still had a giant pile of MGA parts. Another body and several sets of front and rear fenders. So, I made a deal with the "Parts Father" I wrote about in my TR3 page. He hauled this stuff to the swapmeet, sold it and we split the proceeds. Net cost of this car to me wound up to be negative and the only thing not on it is a top. I figured screw it-a tonneau is all you really need. If it's raining too hard, hide under a freeway overpass.

Finding those old cars and the conrucopia of parts in the barn is an old car story of the kind I had only heard about until it happened to me. I'm thinking there's something Karmic here. Those two guys talking about me and my car hobby for years before the deal. Suppose I had pissed my neighbor off? Would this deal have ever happened? I don't think so. Maybe what goes around does come around.

These deals are still out there and can happen to you. Keep looking and talking to people(and especially, be nice to your neighbors).

Also in the barn was a very complete 1934 or 35 Ford convertible. No, I won't give you the owner's phone number. He won't sell it yet but, that Ford's mine someday. He and my neighbor are still talking and it's only a matter of time.