Driving Old English Iron

Octagon Newsletter November 1999

By Alan Fraser

Over the years we have heard horror tales about owners attempting to take their anachronistic British cars on drives of more than one hour in duration and the consequent disasters they suffered at the side of the road. These legends that grow until we wonder why anyone would leave the city limits in such an auto. We should examine this all-encompassing condemnation closely.

None of our MGs are "new" or even "mature"; they are "old"! The last MGB rolled off the Abingdon assembly line almost 20 years ago, so that if you own one of the latest products, all the parts attached to it are old and generally well-used. Most of our cars are older than the Mk IV MGB. We curse the SU fuel pump that has been suffering beside the battery for years, covered in mud and water and ignored by most drivers until it finally expires from neglect after two decades. Old neglected tops leak, old upholstery wears, old instruments fail and old wires leak smoke. The engines are hardy but the valves burn, clutches wear out, release bearings grind themselves into oblivion when not treated well, brakes fade and leak and front ends wear when denied essential grease at regular intervals. When any of these parts finally expire, we curse the builder, forgetting that all real cars require regular preventive maintenance. Failures do occur with well-maintained older cars, but not in epidemic proportions as rumoured.

In the past years our club members have taken cars on two 2,000 mile runs to California. They have toured to Kamloops and Lake Tahoe with relatively few problems, apart from John Braybrooks' water pump failure or Len Smith's attempts to make the Piston Broke Award his own trophy. This past summer a dozen cars toured 1200 miles around southern BC without mishap. Our own 51 year old TC toured to Mount Washington and Whistler with no effort, and my wife Sue's YA got to Whistler with only a hot radiator to show for it. (I can't understand why it got hot on the hills because I cleaned that radiator out 26 years ago!)

As the wet season fast approaches, we should be preparing to go over our old British cars to prepare them for next year, rectifying any problems in the garage rather than on the roadside.

No machinery will run indefinitely without maintenance and our British cars require much more personal attention than our dependable daily Japanese cars. However it is my experience that a properly maintained British car will give its owner great deal of dependable pleasure where it should be on the road.

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