It was the curves that first attracted me.
Standing by the curb, she had an open face – twinkling and gleaming in the sunshine. We struck up an immediate friendship. I approached her and leaned in close, afraid to touch. She was British Racing Car Green, although I didn’t know it at the time. I was just 9 years old, walking in the neighbourhood with my 9-year-old friend, when I saw her.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” I sighed.
“It’s a car,” my friend yawned, bored with my fancy.
But I loved it and knew I wanted, someday, to own one.
Twenty years later, I did. A 1972 MGB. It was red, with the original chrome – built two years before new safety regulations were imposed requiring rubber bumpers instead. With a soft top that took 10 minutes to put up – a real pain if it unexpectedly began to rain.
I called it my motorcycle on four wheels. Like a motorcycle, it was potentially a bit of a death trap although I was blissfully unaware of it at the time.
And, as with a motorcycle, the driving experience was visceral – you could feel everything. The shocks weren’t very good, so you could feel every bump. If you drove by a farm that was recently fertilized you could smell every blessed drop. If it was a hot, sunny day, you’d feel the heat beating down on your head.
And when you lifted the hood you could actually understand what was there: the engine and all its parts easily accessible, working simply and elegantly together.
Throughout the six years I owned the car, those friendly curves that first attracted me also attracted attention I wasn’t expecting. On the highway, I’d be toddling along in the slow lane while families in mini-vans whizzed by. Their kids would turn in the back seat and wave and smile and give me the thumbs up. At the gas station, people would strike up conversations while I filled her up. Unlike some little red sports cars, there was nothing intimidating about my MGB.
While I went on many road trips in that car, autumn weekends like this were the ones I really looked forward to. With blazing leaves, the earthy smell of fallen leaves and the promise of winter in the crisp October air, I felt part of the scenery around me.
I’d take that MGB out for the final road trips of the season before putting it away for the winter. I didn’t want it to rust in the salt and grime of winter city driving. The soft top roof didn’t keep much heat in. And if it were to hit an icy patch – well, it was so light it would have just kept going.
So off I’d go, blasting the heat with the top down on a cold day, wearing a hat and gloves and, with a big smile on my face, enjoy the waning days of the season.
I’m not the only one who loves that car – this year’s the 50th anniversary since the first MGB was made and it’s brought out the poetic side of MGB lovers like this one: Fifty years of the MGB.