How I Gave Up My Dream TD and Learned to Love a Red TC
Octagon Newsletter … July 1985
By Alan Fraser
Long ago, in a generation far away, I was smitten with the desire to own an MG sports car. In those days all MGs were square-rigged. I remember one spring morning in 1953, standing mesmerized when the son of a neighbour arrived at church with a shiny new black TD. For years afterward I dreamed of owning my own black TD. This was the epitome of a sports car!
With the wisdom of twelve years behind me, I criticized loudly the introduction of the "modernized" TF with its flattened look and, shortly after, I agreed with my father that MG had lost its individuality with the introduction of the streamlined MGA. By 1963, I was resigned to the fact that MGs no longer contained wood and was even admitting, in my less sober moments, that the MGB was really an excellent car to handle. However, my dream of a sports car was still the black TD.
I enjoyed the comfortable dependability of a '48 Dodge Tudor and the unforgettable uncertainty of a purple '51 Morris Minor convertible, all the while watching the newspapers which abounded with ads for "MG TD, runs well, needs some work" in the $400-$800 range. One young entrepreneur living on the Esplanade almost sold me a very nice white TD which ran well but needed "some work".
In the autumn of 1964, a friend asked me to accompany him to look at an "old MG" he saw advertised in the newspaper. It turned out to be a TC model and really did look anachronistic with its big skinny wire wheels and square appearance. Years before, I had dismissed the TC as being ugly with its vertical gas tank and seating position on top of the rear axle. It just did not have the sporty lines of my dream TD.
We looked the old car over, noted the big dim headlamps, tattered black roof with its ridiculously small rear window and the heavily creased left door and side. We kicked the threadbare tyres and agreed with the owner that the leather seats were "pretty fair", meaning that none of the cracks were mortal wounds. This car needed a great deal of love. The owner was as doleful as we were … he was only selling because the insurance was due and he was soon to marry. My friend decided that the TC was just not worth the price being asked. After all, a fairly decent TD could be bought for less!
In the following days I thought a great deal about that TC. True, the body was rough and needed paint, but it seemed solid. The engine sounded loose, but there were over 56,000 miles on the clock. Although I had no real love for the TC model, I kept recalling the view through the little windscreen over the long bonnet with the high profile fenders and the outsized chrome headlamps. That car really had classic lines.
By the third day, I was back alone for a test drive. Actually, the owner drove and I just hung on. I finished the drive smitten by the mystique of a TC. That car could really perform! I promised to give the car a good home. We discussed the price and came to an agreement. All I needed to find was the money.
Like any other starving university student, I immediately applied for a student loan. When the bank manager asked me what I needed the money for, I answered solemnly that it was for the purpose of furthering my education. How prophetic! Hours later, money changed hands and the decrepit old TC was mine. I even inherited an old wooden box full of odd looking parts, including a Lucas SFT 462 spot-lamp.
Beneath the jaundiced eye of the former owner, I carefully backed out onto the road. I had never even driven a TC before! I finally got it into first gear, engaged the clutch, picked up speed, hit the clutch and shifted with the right hand which did little else but open the driver's door and return the vehicle to the standing position. I tried again. This time I used my left hand to shift (it felt strange but worked better) and found second gear on the third grind. So this was what you call a crash gear box. In the mirror, I saw tears of undisguised pain moistening the cheeks of the former owner. My education had begun!
In the next three years I joined the elite ranks of Messers. Kissinger, Pite and Harvey as we drove our tatty TCs in all kinds of weather, more often than not being found on the muddy shoulder of the unfinished Ring Road beneath our vehicles replacing some part that had decided to remove itself from the bowels of the chassis. There was never a dull moment driving "Fraser's Folly". Every year another part of the car was overhauled until today it drives well, looks good and has yet to undergo the indignity of a complete restoration.
One year I met a young lady who tolerated my vices, accepting my definition of a hot date as one where she helped sand fenders in the summer sun. Her father tolerated me because he knew that his daughter was fairly safe as long as she stayed in the TC … it is virtually impossible to misbehave seriously in that model, even with the greatest cooperation by both partners. In due course, the now-sparkling TC carried the young lady and myself off on our honeymoon. Human nature being what it is, the TC was pressed into service some years later for a wild ride around Prospect Lake Road in a futile effort to convince Number One Son that it was time to enter the world. The drive was exhilarating but N.O.S. waited two more weeks for his grand entrance.
Today the TC is enjoyed by three growing sons, guarded possessively by three dachshunds and still enjoyed by the young lady and myself on the odd occasion that we manage a drive as in ancient times. She informs me that if I sell the TC, she goes with it. Obviously I will have to find a buyer with a heated garage!
In the last twenty years the TC has gone from an old car needing "some work" to a well-maintained vintage vehicle and at the same time has provided us with fun, mechanical challenge, a family hobby, and now, through various club events, many good friends.
As an honest performer, there is more to an MG than just another sports car and there is more to a TC than just another MG. I haven't dreamed about my black TD for years … it really is an ugly car in comparison to the sleek TC!
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