By Martin Berneman
Ever since I can remember, I have had a love affair with cars. My father told me that when I was a little boy and he was trying to teach me to read, he would have me read the letters and numbers of the license plates while driving. This progressed to teaching me all the brands and models of every vehicle on the roads. We would play a game at night and try to figure out what make and model the car was by the taillights. I was always really good at it.
When I was 8 years old, I remember getting my first subscription to “Car and Driver” and was so excited to get the magazine each month that I would read it from cover to cover. I would look in the magazine and admire each one for its design and beauty. My dad always had a bunch of cars in the driveway, and I grew up working on mostly American 60’s Chevy’s with my dad, but I always admired the European cars. I admired their elegance and clean lines, and this is what drove me to love all things CARS.
I turned 50 this year and my love for cars has not changed and specifically my love for the MGB. I grew up in Southern California and my first car was a 1985 VW convertible. I grew up with my parents always having convertibles and we would drive to Palm Springs with the top down and the wind in our hair. By the time I was in my early 20’s, I always had a drivable car but never had a project car on my own. I was now ready to have my own project car, and this was going to be my first car that I would work on. It took me awhile to figure out what that perfect vehicle would be, and I finally picked out the one that I wanted, an MGB for its timeless style, British elegance and of course a convertible. When I discussed this with my dad, he thought I was crazy, but went along with it anyway. So much so, that he found me the perfect specimen in the LA Times. It was a 1974.5 British Racing Green MGB and it had an electronic overdrive. I had to have it and we went out that day and bought it. I loved this car. It was mechanically perfect and just needed to be painted, the interior need to be slightly refurbished and a new top. The car was perfect for tooling around Los Angeles. Within a year I had it looking perfect. At that point, my job became my life and was I working 60-70 hour a week and really couldn’t enjoy the car. I decided that it needed a loving home and put an ad out to sell. Within one week, a gentleman flew to LA from England and was purchasing up a container full of MG’s to take back to London. It was on a boat the next week.
My 2nd MGB
About a year later, I kept on longing for the MG and regreted selling it. I employed my father to help me find another one. We finally found another 74 MGB and purchased it. It was in a little worse shape than when I bought my first one, but it was a perfect driver. The only thing difference from the first one was that this one did not have the electronic overdrive. At this point, MG’s were a bit harder to find and I was so happy to get one in good shape and similar to my last one. I restored this one to the same specs as my last one. It looked perfect, but just wasn’t the same as my first one. First of all, I missed the overdrive, but it just didn’t run and drive like my first one. Even with its faults, I loved it and wasn’t going to sell it and make that mistake twice. By the time I hit my late 20’s, I was buying my first house and needed money for remodeling, and I had to succumb to selling the MG. Life happens and I had to give up my little baby.
Cut to this past September, my father and I were discussing about buying a project car together. We had settled on several different vehicles; a late 80’s Porsche 944 Turbo or a “50th Anniversary Edition” 1984 Nissan 300ZX. We kept looking for these cars and hadn’t found one that we really wanted to buy. One day, I come across an ad on Facebook Marketplace with a picture of what looked like a junk yard of MG’s and Triumphs. When I saw the picture, I had to send it to my dad immediately. I knew we weren’t looking for an MG, but I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures he had on his ad. The Gentlemen had been an MG mechanic for many years, and he had 2 empty lots with about 40 MG’s sitting there and deteriating. I convinced my dad to go see them the next Sunday and maybe we could find one in good enough condition to remodel. We jumped in the car and trekked from Los Angeles to Riverside and an hour later we were in MG junkyard heaven. We narrowed it down to one car that we could possibly start rebuilding and the gentlemen was offering a decent price for the vehicle.
potential MGB project car
We left him and said we would think about it. When we were driving back, we just were not sold on starting a car really from scratch and build it back to new. So, while in the car my dad had his laptop open and started looking at what other MGB’s were selling in the current marketplace. We found a red MGB that was in decent shape but needed a new transmission and some engine work. We tried to make an appointment to go see it right away and we were waiting from them to get back to us. Then my father decided to widen the field and not just look in LA and expanded the reach for 500 miles. All of sudden a 1972 white restored MGB popped up in San Diego. From the pictures it was a perfect specimen fully remodeled from top to bottom. My father and I pulled over and started to do some quick math and we figured that if we had to purchase the dilapidated MGB that it would take us a lot more money to start from scratch than to purchase a totally remodeled version. We just didn’t believe that this MGB was out there and if the ad was real, “Why wasn’t it snapped up?”
I had to call immediately and find about the car. So, I called and spoke to a guy named “Mike” and he informed me that he was selling the vehicle on behalf of his school instructor. The Instructor was a teacher for a technical college in Chula Vista and they taught kids body and paint repair. This car had been a project car for three semesters at the school and now they needed to sell it and get a new project car. They had stripped the car completely and re-built it from the ground up. They had the engine rebuilt, painted the car and body, and installed all new interior. We couldn’t believe it; it was almost too good to be true. I kept thinking about my first MGB and couldn’t let this one go. By the time we drove home, my dad and I looked at each other and said we need to go and get this car. We couldn’t let anyone else have it. We called “Mike” back and I told him that I knew a lot about MG’s and had several of them that if everything checked out that we wanted it immediately. It was late Sunday, and we knew we couldn’t drive there for a couple of days. We asked him if he wanted a deposit to hold the vehicle for us and we would drive down the following Thursday. He didn’t want a deposit and said that he would hold it for us. Even though we weren’t a 100% sure that we were getting this car, I rented a UHAUL trailer, attached it to our Avalanche and left at 9am to San Diego to pick up the car. We both really knew that we needed to get this car. We went down there, and it was everything that was promised! The Instructor had informed us that the school had spent more money in rebuilding this car than what they were asking for. They even had all the receipts for parts and materials. It had a few minor issues, but we knew we could fix it or get it fixed and we both knew we needed to take it home. We loaded it up in the trailer and I could not believe I got a MGB again almost 25 years later and that it was such a special car.
The day we picked up the new MGB with my dad
My dad and I have since installed weber carbs and fixed a couple of minor things and it drives like a dream. I take it out almost every Sunday and drive along Pacific Coast Highway I get more “Thumbs Up” in this car than any other car I have owned. My dad and I did get that 80’s Porsche 944 Turbo that we figured we could spend time restoring that one while enjoying this MGB.