1974 MG B of Rich Winslow
It all started on my wife’s birthday around 1985. She was impressed when I told her I was taking the day off… until she learned that I planned to go half way across Michigan to look at a 1974 MGB— but being good natured, she came along. It turned out to be in much better condition than the rusty ’68 B that I had, even if the Harvest Gold color wasn’t one I favored. But the price was fair and John Twist of University Motors looked it over and pronounced it to be in good condition despite minor flaws. So, I bought my third MG.
Once home, I transferred the 45 DCOE Weber carburetor with it’s long manifold from my ’68 B to “Mae” (as in “Mae B”). I read that the Weber was over-kill without a hotter cam and improved exhaust system so I next added an exhaust header and low restriction muffler. Initially I planned to attend car club shows including Windsor-Detroit MG Car Club meetings and Detroit British Sports Car Council events including a London (Ontario) to Brighton (Michigan) Homage Auto Run, the last English Day on the Green showat Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, a vintage race at Watkins Glenn in upstate New York, and University Motors’ Annual Summer Parties. Knowing some tracks cater to car club events by allowing “parade laps” at lunchtime, I wanted something suitable for spirited driving.
Improving performance was temptation that I did not even try to resist. Maybe it was the effect of living so close to Waterford Hills Road Racing Club’s track (I had visited it since I was old enough to drive. My son Tyler was a no more than 3 months old his first time!) We enjoyed working on Mae over the years, including retrofitting the 1968 grill, adding new Minilite wheels, matched the manifold to the head and shortening the gear shift lever.
Ty had been sharing “duties” with the car for 6 years when, for his 16th birthday, I bolted on a roll bar and gave him his own key to the car. Someone ran into him that same day. Not damaged seriously but enough to justify repainting it, she was repainted with its current metallic, dark Emerald Green. Moving to Battle Creek, Michigan in 1988, I joined the Mid Michigan Motoring Association and started participating in Mad Dogs and Englishmen British Auto Faires in their 3rd show (they held their 29th last year.) Tyler and I won 4 driving event trophies at our first event. We assisted in subsequent shows as well as in 3 International Sports Car Shows, all held at the Gilmore Car Museum near Kalamazoo, MI. This gained me invitations to auto cross with the Chicago Porsche Club and the Kalamazoo Corvette Club where Mae‘s agility compensated for her relative deficit of horsepower.
When I discovered SCCA auto crossing I got serious with suspension upgrades including having the head flowed, adding competition valves to the shocks, installing heavier sway bars with urethane bushings, competition front springs, aluminum hood, Yokohama 0032 competition tires, negative camber A arms, and a Jacobson electronic ignition control.
Auto crossing, even at the Tire Rack’s tracks in South Bend, Indiana, had limitations- specifically only a couple of minutes driving for the day. The GingerMan Race Track in South Haven, MI opened up track and practice days providing multiple 20 minute sessions a day. Waterford Hills and Grattan race tracks provided similar opportunities, and Mae loved to drift through the turns even if her acceleration was not competitive with newer cars. Driving Mae to and from events meant that we couldn’t afford to risk breaking her and we always drove home.
Mae made a cameo appearance at a Colliers Cup vintage MG race at the Grattan Race Track near Grand Rapids, MI; I attended only as a spectator. A competitor from upstate New York with a MGA bent 2 push rods; he had no spares so he put out a general distress call. Why not? His mechanic performed a double push rod transplant from Mae as the donor and continued to race for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, he reversed the process and thanked me with an invitation to the racers’ dinner and years of continued communications. Mae later ran that track a few times in parade and Autocross I events.
Overall, Mae rewarded my son’s driving techniques more than mine. We built a Triumph GT-6 as a more serious race car because I did not want to convert Mae into a competitive race car. When Tyler got married in 2003, Mae followed him to Los Angeles. The engine was rebuilt by a race mechanic and Mae exercised at Button Willow and Laguna Seca race tracks a few times for a year or so until he put in a milder cam for driving around town. After about 7 years, Mae was sold to a minister in Kansas, with a right of first refusal if he wanted to sell. She was ours for 25 years. Eventually he called to honor the promise. Yes! He had installed a polished and flowed aluminum head, stainless steel exhaust, a Momo steering wheel and new interior. We trucked her back to Calif. in 2018, and replaced the old, black vinyl top with a tan canvas top with a zip out window, and added a custom, ebony / teak gear shift knob that I made. She lead two SoCal MG Club cruises in Orange County to the Ortega Candy and Supply Store, each over 100 miles long, attended the Highway Earth Car Show, and Cars and Coffee in San Clemente and La Canada, including a brisk drive up Angles Crest Highway (CA 2) to Neucomb’s Ranch restaurant.
I finally decided to sell, with less than 50,000 miles on her, for a confluence of reasons; no single reason accounts for it. She was bought by a couple in Palos Verdes who want to make more improvements and intend to take good care of her. Look for her at upcoming Club events, I will !