2024 How It Got Here
In 1955 my dad moved his family across the country from Western Pennsylvania to Sunny Southern California. I was 6 years old. We moved to a new development in the San Fernando Valley community of Reseda. My father was very much like the several other fathers who headed families very much like our own. If there was a theme that ran through the lives of these men it was that they had all been veterans of World War Two. They all had kids and wives who stayed home to look after those kids. The houses were the same and so were the families.
There was, however, one man, also a WW2 vet. Also, with a new house and a family. He was the same as everyone else except in one regard. This man, his name was Dan, had an MG-TD. For a guy living in what might later be described as a Stepford community it was a wildly impractical car to have. It was also my introduction to English motor cars. At the age of 6. By the way, it really wasn’t a Stepford community. My mom lived there.
For a young boy, my neighbor Dan was a fascinating character. I’m certain he was one of those G.I.s that had been stationed in Britian during the war and caught the bug. Poor guy. Anyway, I watched Dan drive this strange vehicle. Wash it, work on it and generally obsess over it. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around his weird behavior toward this car. Granted the car was very different from any of the other cars on the block. But none of the other dads treated their Buicks, Chevys and Dodges, their station wagons etc. like Dan treated his MG.
Fast forward a few years and Dan sold the MG and came home with a Triumph TR-3. I was by this time around 10. But I could tell this was an entirely different animal. Just how different was impressed upon me when Dan invited me to go with him to Sears and Roebuck. After getting the O.K. from my Pops away we went. On the way back, riding along the 101 Freeway Dan casually leaned over to inform me that we were going 100 miles per hour. I was oblivious to the significance of the century mark because I was busy leaning out over the TR-3s low cut doors and was mesmerized by the passing pavement that was, I swear, only two inches from my nose.
This was my real introduction to British iron. Neighbor Dan would go on to acquire other British cars. Among them a Vauxall, which of course no one else had ever heard of. Then Dan and his family moved away. But not before he helped my dad find a Hillman Minx. The Minx was our “economy” car in the early 60s. It was also the car on which I learned to drive a stick shift with its four on the column.
A few years later a high school friend had traded his Alfa Romeo Spyder for a Triumph TR-4. This is when the fun really began. You can say what you will about how bad the traffic is in Los Angeles. But one thing you can’t complain about is the lack of fun roads. There are a lot of places in the Santa Monica Mountains where two high school boys in a TR can have a good time.
After graduation from high school there was a girl. Her name was Charlotte. And in my desperate attempts to gain favor, my good friend let me use his TR-4 to squire to young damsel about town. He was indeed a good friend. Alas, my infatuation with Charlotte came to naught.
Years later I found myself with a roommate who had a yellow TR-6. And I had many occasions to drive this car also. And there was another friend who let me drive his MGB. When I look back at these times, I can only guess that the reason I didn’t have my own British sports car is because, well, they aren’t very practical. Of course, back then I rode motorcycles quite a bit so that’s not a very good argument against them.
All of what I’ve been going on about happened over 50 years ago. Over the years I’ve had my share of cars and motorcycles and now, in large part because of my familiarity with English cars my current ride is a 1971 TR-6. Teddy as he is called. As in TR, as in Teddy Roosevelt. Over the years I’ve longed to get any number of old cars.
When the Covid-19 pandemic first came on the scene I told my wife Gail that I thought if there was a chance, I might succumb suddenly to this unknown menace I should get myself a toy. My wife, my darling, supportive, loving wife happily agreed. So, the hunt was on. (It must be said that when I met my wife, she was driving a Miata. So, she’s a roadster chick at heart.)
We were living on the East Coast at the time, in Pennsylvania. I looked online at various web sites. At cars in Virginia, Tennessee, and Ohio. Eventually I found this one in New Hampshire. It belonged to a British car restoration guy. I spent a good deal of time on the phone with the guy and his wife. Asking and getting numerous pictures. And records. And assurances. Lots of assurances. Finally, I pulled the trigger and bought the car. Sight unseen. It was a gamble, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else do the same. Certainly, I won’t ever do that again. But fortunately, my gamble paid off. The car was shipped from New Hampshire to the Philadelphia area without a hitch. Better still after locating a British mechanic in Malvern, Pa. I was informed I had snagged a very good car. Relief is an understatement.
That was four years ago. 15 months ago, with the kids grown and mostly moved out, Gail and I decided to return to California. She grew up in Napa Valley and had gone to Fresno State. So, coming to the Fresno area was a no brainer. Once we moved into our new home and the car arrived safely, I knew I needed to connect with some fellow enthusiasts. Lucky for me I found the Central Valley British car club. I’ve been a member for less than a year now, but you’d never know it from the welcoming I’ve received from the members I’ve met so far. A big shout out to all these fine people.
It's winter now. But, unlike winter in Pennsylvania. Teddy won’t be stored away. Living in the Fresno area offers many opportunities to engage in what a wiser fool than myself calls spirited foothill driving. Kind of like in my youth. With that in mind, I think I’ll ready Teddy for a drive.