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When I was younger, my parents belonged to a car club in London that allowed you to hire a classic machine for several weekends throughout the year in exchange for an annual fee.
The cost was high and the cars were a bit ropey, but it was probably the first time I took a serious interest in older cars.
As soon as I started work after leaving university, I scoured the classifieds for a classic motor, including Classic & Sports Car.
I wanted a JaguarMk2 but quickly found that the cost of buying a good one extended far beyond my modest means.
Then I found the MGB.
Decent ones came in at between £4000 and £7000. Here was a bona fide classic British sports car, small enough to run economically, and still relatively plentiful.
Speaking to Nigel Guild, a classic MG dealer in west London, settled it for me. He was incredibly helpful, gave me a tour of his dealership and let me sit in one of his cars.
Nigel’s MGBs were, however, at the top end of my budget, so I spent several months searching the internet before finding The One, a 1969 MGB GT with overdrive.
It needed a bit of TLC but the basics were there, including the colour: British Racing Green.
I had great fun for the first few weeks of ownership and drove it all around the south-east as well as on trips to Brooklands and Silverstone.
Then the problems began. I had been so desperate to buy an MGB at a good price and in the right colour that I had overlooked some fundamental warning signs.
Rust and gaping holes in the floorpans, garden hoses used as fuel lines under the bonnet, an ancient aftermarket sunroof that leaked so much water the car was basically an open-top, a screeching clutch and grinding gears.
Pedestrians would stop and stare, not out of admiration but alarm.
And then my father reversed his car into it and the driver’s door was crushed.
I drove the car for a few months debating whether I should repair the door and sell the car, or restore the whole thing.
When another customer at the garage laughed at my MGB and said it looked like Bonnie and Clyde’s car – the runaway gangster murderers who terrorised the United States in the 1930s – I knew had to do something.
A local restorer, Dan White of Bucks Bodyworks near Amersham, was my saving grace. He mostly works on modern cars, but he also has a passion for classics.
He owns several, including an MGB that he was restoring, and his previous restorations had won awards. And he called me “Mr Sharpe”, too. No one had ever spoken to me like that before (I’ve been told I look quite young for my age). Honestly, that clinched it.
Over the following few months, I saw my car transformed from Bonnie-and-Clyde lookalike to ghostly grey shell to concours-level rebuild.
I was shocked at the final result. With the light cascading off its deep green paint and sparkling fresh chrome, it was like a new car.
The interior was later redone with biscuit leather and I had the bottom quarter of each door panel carpeted – a little luxury that reminded me of the Bentley Mulsanne that my parents had once hired.
I have a rough idea of how much I have spent on the car over the past four years, but have never added it all up – I couldn’t justify it.
New paint, new interior, new gearbox, new clutch, new starter motor, new Webasto sunroof… The list goes on.
For a time I was spending about a quarter of my salary on the MG every month, but it was worth it. Not least because passers-by now stop and stare in awe, not alarm.
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