TALES OF 40 YEARS #16-PAR-T

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.

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