Should Tom dive in and restore the family heirloom sports car?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2007

Dear Tom and Ray:

OK, perhaps life begins at 50 with a 55-year-old sports car. My brother Eddy (No. 3 out of six), acquired this wonderful chick magnet of a car back in 1964. My parents swear that the only reason they assented to the purchase of this risky vehicle was that Eddy had already been given a death sentence -- Hodgkin's lymphoma, diagnosed in early 1964, which would end his life just before Christmas in 1965. After Eddy, Joel (No. 4) took over behind the wheel, under the hood and under several skirts. He was, by far, the most successful handler of the fire-engine-red sports car. When Joel went off to college three years later, it was Billy's (No. 5) turn. He had to wait a year before he was old enough to drive, but he made up for lost time by running it out of oil twice during his reign. I think it was the second thrown rod that convinced my mom and dad that the car (or was it my brother Billy?) was just too much trouble. The white knight, my brother Bruce (No. 1), swooped in with an offer my folks couldn't refuse. He took the car off their hands. And there I was, brother No. 6, a year before my 16th birthday, denied my destiny! Until today, when the white knight rolled in, trailer in tow! He'd driven all night to get from Rockford, Ill., to Baltimore, where I live now. So, here I am, some 35 years later, the proud owner of a magical 1952 MGTD. That's the good news. The bad news? It's not exactly in pristine condition. I'm thinking of restoring it. Any thoughts, other than "run away, as fast as you can!"? -- Tom

TOM: Go for it, Tom. As you may know, I also happen to be named Tom. And I also happen to be the proud owner of a 1952 MGTD. And it has brought me nothing but joy.

RAY: And repair bills, oil leaks, foul odors, drenched clothes when it rains, and lots of worn shoe leather from walking when it wouldn't start.

TOM: Hey, I never get wet in that car when it rains. It never starts in the rain.

RAY: This car has a wonderful history in your family, so you have to restore it, Tom. But give yourself plenty of time -- like decades, so you won't be frustrated by the inevitable setbacks.

TOM: You shouldn't have any trouble getting parts, since they're all still available.

RAY: Yeah, just drive along behind any other MGTD and catch what you need as it falls off.

TOM: The problem is that -- your parents were right -- it's not a very safe car.

RAY: Yeah, important structural parts of it are made of wood. And in an accident, the steering column is angled to go right through your thorax like an apple corer.

TOM: So, once you get it restored, restrict your driving to back roads at low speeds. I only drive my MG on roads that existed when the car was built. I don't take it on any expressways or highways built after 1952.

RAY: I'd restrict it even further -- to Shriners parades. But that's ultimately up to you, Tom. This is indeed your curse -- I mean your destiny. And as such, you have no choice but to restore it and care for it ... until you can foist it on an unlucky member of the next generation. Good luck, and be careful!

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