I had always wanted an MG TD. When I was about 10 my dad took me to a Firestone store and bought me a toy MG TD. (Do you remember when Firestone stores sold toys, and tools and bicycles?) I liked the TD because I liked hot rods. I did not see many hot rods growing up in new York City, but I did see TDs and they reminded me of hot rods. OLD CARS WEEKLY founder Chet Krause was a carpenter who found great success in publishing, but he remained “Just Old Chet” and never took much to fancy car shows . So we never went to Pebble Beach. I wanted to go there once in my life and started thinking about how I could make an almost free trip. I had earned enough credits for a free airline ticket and I was offered a complimentary hotel room from auctioneer Rick Cole. All I needed was a rental car. National rental car had a new program renting old cars in California. They rented American cars in LA and British cars in San Francisco. Pebble Beach was near San Francisco, so I arranged to bum one of the British cars to take to Pebble Beach and do a story about the experience of driving a vintage British classic to the concours. The rental car turned out to be an MG TD with right-hand drive and MG TF seats. I thought I needed practice driving it for the first time, so the young lady from National rental Cars said to go around their parking lot once and then out on a straight road. The straight road suddenly changed into a six-lane highway and I learned real fast how to drive that car. It was do or die! About a half hour down the road it started raining, so I learned how to “erect the hood” (put the top up in British venacular) on the side of the road. I took the MG to the historic races at Laguna Seca and ran into Michael Lamm. Then, I took the car over to The Lodge at Pebble Beach. The Automotive Fine Arts Society was having a party there and let me park in their area (try that at Pebble today). I took pictures of all the artists and some of the guests in the MG. I still have the black and white photos and could probably blackmail people with them now. On Sunday I had too much fun at the car show. After it was over, I couldn’t find my car. Every parking lot looked the same. Eventually i found it and drove back towards SFX. I have no recollection of that ride. This was in the 1980s. Later, when I bought my own MG TD in 2001 someone wondered if I wasn’t too big for the car. “Did you ever drive one?” they asked. I smiled and said, “Yes I did. Only once, but I remember it — sort of.” In another segment I’ll tell you about the ’57 Olds J-2 convertible that National loaned me in LA. Then comes an even better tale of how I wound up buying one of the rental cars at an auction in Arizona.That turned into a nightmare, but it is another tale for another day.
Gunner’s Garage with John Gunnell
"Gunner" is one of of the most prolific authors and most visible characters in the old car hobby. He has written dozens of books about old cars for Krause Publications and is the former editor and publisher of Old Cars Weekly. His collecting pursuits range from old Pontiacs, to MGs, to retired police cruisers, to Indian motorcycles. He remains a frequent contributor to Old Cars Weekly and owns and operates Gunner’s Great Garage, a classic car restoration and gift shop in Manawa, Wis.
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