A Resurrection, Restoration, or Simply a Miracle?

We found our 1951 MG TD entombed in a small backyard garden shed in Trenton, NJ. Her dignity intact, she sat upon jack stands, waiting to be released from her captivity. The TD was fully clothed with top and side curtains in place and even had a matching spare tire cover. The old girl appeared to retain all of her original pieces and was additionally adorned with a 1975 New Jersey Bi-Centennial license plate, which is believed to be the last time that she was ambulatory. There was a hang tag tied to the ignition key that stated: “needs all fluids before starting.” If only it was to be that easy.

Our family was in the process of moving from a six year adventure in the beautiful Garden State and I literally purchased the TD from a friend one week before our departure south. Once liberated from her garden tomb the TD was transported (along with a ‘79 Fiat Spyder that I had purchased after liberation from college) via commercial car carrier to my parents home in Camden, SC. A call soon came from my father, aka Grandad, inquiring as to what this funny little car was doing sitting in his yard beside my old Fiat.

Dad, who was a master machinist in his early days, had sent his two boys to college so that they wouldn’t have to work on cars or otherwise “work with their hands” as he would say. As a consequence I possessed none of the knowledge, ability, facility, or tools necessary to undertake the restoration of a pair of old sneakers let alone an old car that hadn’t run in a quarter century. At first, Dad sternly made a point of the amount of work and expense such an undertaking would require; until he learned that it was not MY car, but that of my wife Robin, whereupon he enthusiastically declared that he would restore the TD for her. Dad adored my Robin who, in his eyes, was incapable of doing any wrong, and took every opportunity through the years to remind me of that indisputable fact! So began the “family project” which suddenly occupied the free time of me, Robin, and our ten and twelve year old children, all under the watchful direction and guiding hand of “Grandad”. Little did we realize what the next 15 years would hold for us and the MG.

As is customary, the entire car was stripped down to bare chassis, with the parts and pieces cataloged into zip lock bags; an insightful procedure initiated by my wife and fully endorsed by Grandad. What needed to be scrapped, sanded or in other ways renewed with elbow grease, was. What became necessary to replace was assiduously ordered. It was mostly a fun, learning experience for everyone and Grandad reveled in having his grandchildren close to him. Grandad taught us all how to flare and bend new brake lines, hone wheel cylinders, and in general explained all things mechanical, which were so wanting in our repertoire. Then Grandad unexpectedly passed away. The family project was more or less abandoned for several years.

Finally the time came to decide the fate of the neglected TD, still languishing in Dad’s garage.

The kids were in high school with other interests, Robin was busy teaching, and I had taken a new job. So, what to do? Sell the completely disassembled parts, have it professionally restored, or soldier on without our sage and mentor? Ultimately it was decided that Grandad would want us to continue what we had started, to the best of our abilities; damn the results! After all, the project really became an exercise in not only working together as a family, but in learning and applying that new knowledge toward a given end.

So a garage full of parts and pieces slowly came together. After seemingly endless hours of internet inquiry, busted knuckles and band aids, invaluable tutelage from the BCCMC “Brain Trust”, and unselfish contribution of parts, the roadworthy TD was finally christened; Victoria. As demanding as any historic monarch, Victoria continues to confound, confuse, and delight after conveying us over 10,000 miles of beautiful backroads!


H.Vance Young, Jr., Ph.D.