Sunday, April 30, 1989

The First Time Around

When I was 17, I got the itch to get that old car in the back of the garage on the road again.  I had a cool car--a Tomato Red 1980 Renault Le Car (Note: sarcasm evident)--but that little MG just begged me to get it rolling.  It was the cylinder head that had cracked and the rest of the car was rotting away.

My dad found a used cylinder head somewhere (a 12G295 head--which I had reworked later on and still have) and I began disassembling the engine.  My dad did a lot of bodywork, buying a cheap MIG welder and floor pan repair panels, outer rocker sills, and some sheet metal, and welded and brazed the body back together so it was roadworthy.  I rebuilt the engine and front suspension.  I remember my dad hoisted the front of the car up to the rafters, with the back still on the ground--the car was at a 45 degree angle and he welded the floor pan patch that way.

My parents knew I worked hard and really wanted the Midget. They gave me a front suspension kit and the keys for my birthday.

I remember when we put everything back together under the hood.  It was late at night but I didn't want to go to bed... so we fired it up and got it running.  It was amazing to hear it run--I didn't remember what it sounded like.  I don't know if he did, either, but it was a very happy moment for us both.

My dad used to own a concrete/construction business.  He bartered with our neighbor, who happened to own a vintage auto restoration shop, and for the price of a sidewalk I got a paint job in a real paint booth.  My dad painted the car.  I remember driving the car to the shop, sloooowly, and then back, even more slowly.

We finished sometime in 1991 and I drove the Midget for another few years.  I remember working on it in the parking lot of my apartment complex, replacing a timing chain (which is no fun any time, but I don't recommend doing so in a parking lot).  I had problems with the carbs getting gunked up which I finally traced to crud in the fuel line, having neglected to clean it out back in 1990.  But hey, it was a fun ride and I rarely saw another British car on the road, other than a gorgeous XKE and once a Mini.

After a while, the engine developed a case of low oil pressure (premature bearing wear--hey, it was my first time).  We happened to have the original block as the one in the car was apparently 'extra' when my dad bought it.  So I rebuilt the original engine, paying close attention this time, and by all accounts I did good.  That motor would pull to redline in 4th gear, and if I could have hit 88 I think I would have gone back in time before it exploded.
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