Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dad's 1963 MGB returns home, restored again

Charles Haynes' father ordered this Iris Blue 1963 MGB after seeing one just like it in a sales brochure.


The prodigal 1963 MGB. A son restores, then sells a classic, 25-year-old MG that belonged to his father since it was new. Twenty years later, the son, Charlie Haynes of Guntersville, Alabama rediscovered the 1963 MGB, 
that his dad bought, in a Hemmings Motor News ad. As fate would have it, the Iris Blue MGB caught Haynes’ eye just like it caught his dad's eye during his mid-life crisis.
  Charlie's story follows, in his own words.


Charlie Haynes' dad, Charles, washes his "mid-life crisis" 1963 MGB.

My Dad's MG  
  This story begins with my wife's recovery from what we thought to be a life-threatening illness. To celebrate her first day out of bed, I suggested an afternoon outing in nearby Huntsville, Alabama. She could shop at her pace while I amused myself at a bookstore until she returned. I ordered a coffee and found a table. As usual, I scanned the flying and motorcycle magazines, and then looked over the magazine rack for other entertainment. Staring back at me was a Hemmings Motor News. Although a faithful reader of Hemmings many years ago, I hadn't even looked at one for at least 5 years.
  I went straight to the MG section to find out what MGBs were selling for these days. While doing so, I saw the following want ad:

"... Iris Blue 1963 MGB roadster, second owner, restored by first owner, 82,000 original miles, complete books and records. Call ... in Atlanta."
Could it be?
  Well, I remembered selling a 1963 Iris Blue MGB roadster to a fella from Atlanta in 1988. Could this be him? My wife returned shortly afterward and I told her about it. She suggested I call "because she had never forgiven me for selling the car and thought we should get it back." In reality, I didn't want to sell it at the time either, but I was finishing an experimental aircraft that needed an engine and one used Lycoming aircraft engine at the time equaled one 1963 MGB roadster in immaculate condition.

  I called the Atlanta telephone number and a familiar voice answered. Don had been trying to find me to see if I wanted to repurchase the car. I had moved, though, and all my old telephone numbers were useless to him. He said that he had retired and was getting out of the car collecting business. He had sold all his collection except the MGB. To be honest, I had called only out of curiosity and really didn't want the car again as I had "moved on" from hobby cars since 2004 and had even sold my airplane in 2005 after 16 years of reliable service. The longer we talked, however, the more reasonable the price became. To make things even more interesting, my Dad began to talk to me ...

Mid-life crisis

  I was in graduate school at Penn State in 1963 (a long story in itself for an Alabama boy) when my father had a mid-life crisis. He called to say that he had bought a new MGB without even looking at one in the flesh, only seeing a sales brochure with a pretty blue roadster on it. He had ordered the one in the brochure. Since I was about 1,000 miles away, he figured that I wouldn't be back to wreck it for him. He did, however, drive it to Pennsylvania for a visit, and later to west Texas after I had begun a petroleum engineering career out there. My dad commuted in the MG to his truck driving job at the steel mill for several years, obviously posing a strange sight in a "Buy American" work locale.

  In the late 1960s I was between jobs so I interrupted my career to get a PhD at the University of Texas and then joined the engineering faculty at The University of Alabama. One day in 1975 Dad called and said that the MG was available but needed some work. He had the "hots" for a Ford F-150 pickup and was out of garage space so the MG had to go. Having only one car at the time, my wife and I were only too happy to get it even though it had seen better days. I did some basic repair to make it safe for daily use, put a cheap paint job on it, recovered the seats, and used it as a second car for several years. In the early 1980s I decided to rebuild it, so that started a 3-year ground-up restoration project. By 1985 I had an as-new MGB. I then turned to the construction of an experimental aircraft and by 1988 it had progressed to the point where an engine was needed if it was to be finished and flown. What could I use to fund the engine? An ad in a car magazine was hastily placed:

"1963 MGB roadster. Iris Blue. Family owned since new. Ground-up restoration in 1982-85. As-new condition. Call for details."

New owner flies in

  The prospective new owner flew in on a commercial aircraft, walked across the airport to my hangar, looked the car over, gave me a check, dropped the top, and drove it back to Atlanta. He made the trip OK, though I feared that the MG might not make it to its new home without a tow truck. I called about 4 hours later to see if he made an uneventful trip. He said it was one of the best he could remember. We kept in touch into the 1990s but lost contact in 1995 after I wrote him asking for first dibs, if he decided to sell it. Meanwhile, I wanted another MGB and scratched the itch by restoring a 1971 roadster for its owner, a 1976 roadster that I cosmetically restored and sold, and rebuilt a basket-case 1964 Tartan Red roadster that was probably my best work. I sold it in 2004 during a toy-clearing episode before moving to our new retirement home.


Haynes' 1963 MGB underwent a second restoration when it returned to the family in 2008. 

Back to the present time ...  
  My wife and I, now into our 40th year together, took a tow dolly to Atlanta, got the MG, and headed home to Guntersville. It was in remarkable condition considering that it was now 45 years old. Each time we stopped for gas or goodies, some fellow, of my vintage would walk up, examine the car, comment on its fine condition, and mention that he longed for the "good 'ol days" when he was young and had an MGB. I too had aged a lot over the MG's life but it looked perpetually young.

  As I drove it around town over the next few months, several small things were put on the to-do list. It still looked young but had a few aging problems. Finally there were enough of them on the list that another teardown would be necessary. I started this round of rebuilding in December. This time, work is confined to the inside of the car, with removal of everything possible in the interior, including the instrument panel, all instruments, cables, wiring harness, heater, firewall accessories, all hydraulics, chassis alignment, and renewal of anything that is soft and worn. The floorboards are being resealed as well, still original and still without rust holes. The project is now completed, although it really never is ... The old reliables, Moss Motors and Victoria British, are still in business so good reproduction parts were available. The e-Bay store, unknown at the time of the last restoration, is rife with MGB parts new and used. We entered it in a local car show in August and won 2nd place, so it has reached the good balance of being a daily driver as well as a show car.

  Is dad talking to me about all of this? Is he enjoying the strangeness of it all? Can't really say. I'm not superstitious by nature, but sometimes in the evening when the workshop is very quiet I can look at his smiling caricature on the wall and almost hear him. He has been gone since October 30, 2000. I decided to drop by the nursing home around six that evening to look in on him and had a strange feeling that he was in the process of leaving us. At 10 p.m. they called me to confirm it.

"I'm sure he is amused"

  Dad was a very religious man. If he was able to claim his "heavenly reward" and is capable of celestial observation, including the ability to see through earth's supposedly dirty atmosphere, I'm sure he is amused by my seemingly perpetual MG maintenance. He would have enjoyed this strange turn of events. Sorry it didn't happen while he was with us.
  Dad, this may be my last time around on MGB restoration, so what do you think about this ad ...
"1963 MGB roadster. Iris Blue with matching original-style interior and tops. Everything works. Owned by my family for 26 years and by others for 20 years, but loved and maintained by both. Restored in 1982-85 and 2008-09. Should last a hundred years or more given proper care. Call ... "

Story submitted by Charlie Haynes; Guntersville, Alabama



Know of a car or a junkyard I need to visit or want to send me photos and info about a barn find, car or junkyard?  
Send emails to Jody Potter at junkyardbull@gmail.com.