Special Delivery: Moving MGs from east to west

A round 1957, when I was about 10 years old, my father took me to a Firestone store and bought me a plastic model of an MG TD made by the Ideal Toy Co. It had movable wheels, a flip-open hood and an electric motor. I loved that toy, but not because it was a British sports car. I loved it because I was a hot rod fanatic, and its clamshell fenders, exposed headlights and prewar roadster styling reminded me of a hot rod.

    Although I was only 10 years old, I vowed that I’d someday own a T-Series MG. Through the years, that goal eluded me several times. In the 1980s, I met a car dealer from Kansas City on the Great Race. His name was Joe Egle, and he had a rare car called a White Prince, but he also had an MG TD that someone had disassembled. He offered me the MG for $5,000, but that was too much for my budget.

    Around a decade later, I was on a trip to California to participate in the Meguiar’s Award program. I stayed at a nice hotel in Venice and hooked up with writer Rick Freibusch, who took me to a collector car dealership in Santa Monica. The dealer had a gorgeous red MG TD on the floor with a sign offering it for $14,000. After a bit of discussion, the dealer said he’d sell the car to me for $9,000. I should have bought it, but that still seemed like too much money.

    Another decade passed, and my car collection kept growing. I had Pontiacs, I had Chevys, I had Buicks ‘ but no T-Series MG. Then, Sept. 11 happened, and it made me realize that you can’t put everything you want to do off until tomorrow. I decided to buy the first T-Series MG I could find at a price I could afford.

    A week after the 2002 Iola Old Car Show, there was an auction in Fremont, Wis. The handbill listed an MG TF as one of the items for sale. I attended the auction and found the car to be in rough shape, but I was still willing to offer $1,000 for it. The bidding opened at $800, my bid was $900 and another man got to put my $1,000 offer in. The auctioneer said all of the bids were too low and withdrew the car. (Later, I found out it sold the next day. Jim Wagner, one of the partners behind the fabulous Zero-to-60 Garage in Sherwood, Wis., is currently restoring that car. He has done a fabulous job on it.)

The Hunt

    I was still hot to buy a T-Series and within a few weeks, I found two cars available for $8,500, which was as high as I wanted to go. Both were OK condition-wise, but needed work. One was in Chicago and one was in Buffalo, N.Y. Neither car could be driven home. When the seller in Buffalo offered to deliver the car for free, I bought it. The car had a bad oil leak, and that knocked the price down to $8,000, delivered. The man had his own flatbed and brought the car to Iola a few weeks later. I think he was sorry he offered free delivery, but a deal’s a deal!

    The oil leak was easy to fix, but the carburetors needed rebuilding. That winter, I sent the carbs to Joe Curto in Queens, N.Y., and spruced up some other things. The summer of 2003, I drove that car more than 8,000 miles, even though it had no turn signals, a big hole in the muffler and a top speed of about 55 mph.

    As I learned more about MGs, I read of the MG TF that arrived in 1954. By that time, signal lights had become required equipment in the United States, so they were standard on TFs. I also learned that a TF was faster than a TD, because it had  higher rear-end gearing. Unlike most people, I still liked the TD’s looks better, but the idea of owning a TF had taken hold. Almost exactly a year after buying the first car, I saw a TF listed for sale in Old Cars Weekly. The owner was in Connecticut and wanted $9,500, which was more than the $9,000 I wanted to pay. Eventually, we split the difference and I bought the car for $9,250.

    There was no free delivery this time, and I thought I would just drive the car home. I had a friend from the Pontiac-Oakland Club International named Peter Van Scoy inspect the car. Peter lived just 10 miles from the owner. He considered driving the car to Wisconsin for me, but it ran rough and had a grabby clutch. Peter changed his mind and said I’d probably be better off hiring someone to trailer it home.

The Retrieval

    I had never used the services of a transporter before, and I knew my budget could not afford the big trucks operated by my friends Frank Malatesta and Bob Pass (who became a TF owner himself last summer). So I began checking the No. 9510 Transport section in the Old Cars Weekly classifieds to find a hauler in my price range.

    For some reason ‘ I don’t even remember why ‘ I was very impressed with the ads placed by Patrick S. Aldrich, who ran a business called The Packard Ranch. Aldrich’s business dealt in parts, restoration and vehicle transportation at that time. (The last I heard from him, Pat was no longer transporting cars).

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A “special delivery” from The Packard Ranch on Sept. 29, 2003. The haulers who advertise in Old Cars Weekly have always come through with flying colors when we need a vehicle transported.

    Because Pat was advertising in Old Cars Weekly, I knew he did not have complaints about his service. That instilled an immediate measure of confidence, so I called him up to talk about rates and schedules. Even by phone, Pat came across as a straight-talking fellow with a ring of honesty to his words. We were able to work out an arrangement on price, and Pat was certain he could work the car in with two others he was transporting from the east to points west.

    Pat Aldrich turned out to be a very conscientious worker. In fact, I have found that all of the haulers I contacted through Old Cars Weekly since that time fit the same profile. People who haul cars, and who have been doing it for years, seem to be amazingly careful and reliable folks. In most cases, it really comes down to a matter of price when purchasing this type of service. The price can depend on timing and luck. If you catch a hauler who is bringing five cars in your direction with a six-car trailer, you may get a good deal to fill that sixth spot.

    I knew that Pat was picking up one old car in Pennsylvania, then traveling to New York to get my MG. (After I paid for the car, Peter Van Scoy picked it up for me in Connecticut and took it to his place in New York for safekeeping). Pat was also hauling a modern exotic car, which was an Audi, I believe. From our conversations, he knew I was anxious to get the TF, and he really made the whole experience perfect. He contacted me by cell phone almost every day, letting me know where he was and when my car would be picked up. I felt like I was riding with him the last few miles to the place where Peter had taken the car.

    On Sept. 29, 2003 ‘ two days after getting the car from Peter ‘ Pat’s big Chevy pickup and long trailer pulled up in front of F+W Publications. There was my yellow MG TF sandwiched between another vintage foreign job and a low-slung silver sports coupe. Patrick said that the car in front of the MG was a very rare, early-postwar DKW convertible. He wanted to tell me more about it, but I had something to tell him, too.

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The MG was strapped down very securely and had a safe 1,200-mile ride on Patrick Aldrich’s trailer. The transporter kept in touch by cell phone on a regular basis and generally made hiring him a very happy experience.

    Patrick’s tale went like this: The Dutch-built DKW was destined to go to a man in Michigan later that day. Patrick had been told that the car was one of only 11 DKW convertibles shipped to t he United States. He had winched the car out of a muddy field in Pennsylvania, because the man from Michigan was restoring another one like it. The restorer needed the cowl section from the Pennsylvania car to complete his project. That was a good thing, because some other parts had blown off the car during the trip. (Pat recovered those parts.)

    Then I told Pat my story, and it went like this: Not a mile from where his truck was parked lives an Iola resident named Lee Bestul, who is a former aircraft mechanic. Lee has been working on restoring two cars for quite a few years. One is the hand-built Bestul roadster that he originally built as a young man. The second car is a DKW convertible, just like the one on Pat Aldrich’s trailer. Small world, huh?

    Within the next hour, Pat unloaded the MG at my house, and I paid him the agreed price for his services. He took a quick look at my other cars, gave me a brief description of his Packard Ranch and set off for Michigan. I have not seen him again, though I did call him a few years later when I was trying to get another car home. That’s when he told me he had stopped hauling cars commercially. I finally hired another great hauler who advertises in Old Cars Weekly ‘ Guy Morice ‘ to bring home my other car. But that’s another story for another time.

As for the TF, it needed a little more work than the TD. Eventually, I rebuilt the carburetors and engine, replaced the shocks and springs, had several gauges repaired, installed a new starter, changed the front bumper, re-intalled the overriders, replaced the tires, added new tie rod ends and had a little wiring done. The car is still “cosmetically challenged,” but it runs better than some shiny ones do and always puts a smile on its driver’s face. Plus, it has blinkers and can probably do 70 mph (downhill at least)!

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