Sometimes a drive is as good as a time machine

Published 2:30 pm Saturday, July 9, 2022

Ever wish you could step into a time machine that would instantly propel you back to say, age 25?  On Tuesday, April 27, 2021, sunny, 82 degrees, my purchased new 1971 MGB-GT started instantly, ran awesome as I drove around Oxford and Ole Miss from 3:30-to 4:30pm … a swell, healing hour.  

Home from Vietnam (July 1969-August 1970), assigned to my last Army station at the Armed Forces Staff College (AFSC) in Norfolk, VA (August 1970-August 1971), stepped off the jet at sister Mary Ann’s in St. Louis – sold my 1964 Chevrolet SS before leaving for Vietnam because I didn’t think I’d ever see home again, had to have a car, little time to search, bought a 1967 Pontiac Firebird, automatic, nice, but loved my M151 Jeep in Vietnam that nearly got me killed repeatedly, more. 

Army to first Master’s degree Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) in Cape Girardeau, Pike fraternity brother, Joe Lynch had a 60’s black MGB-GT, red interior that I loved…one forever Saturday, Joe and I drove to Continental Cars, St. Louis, MO, traded Firebird for my new 1971 MGB-GT off the showroom floor, bronze-yellow (orange), black interior, 4-cylinder, 4-speed, “250,000 MGB Special” (full console, clock, radio speaker, oil cooler, heated rear glass, plaque on wings…fenders), and still have….  

That drive from St. Louis back to Cape in my first new car is an out-of-body experience emblazoned forever on my brain!  Having inherited “some” mechanical genes, determined to do as much spanner work on my MG as possible, purchased a workshop manual, and although gorgeous, these Abingdon Brits were not mechanically reliable so my tools to this day gather no dust as I continue to wear out the workshop manual, U-Tube videos, and Oxford mentor Bub Brannan’s brain….

Through the years, single when purchased, married, three wonderful sons, stuff, divorced, still have and as the only owner of this new MG – to me and others, it is the best, all-original, one-owner MG in the world.  That drive on April 27 – like all others, was a time warp.  In between has been hundreds of hours, days, weeks, months, years, of wrenching, sweat, blood, tears, mega dollars in parts, tools, stress…but time added to this time machine.

After that swell drive on April 27 – noticed a wet spot under the right rear tire – drat, the rear brake cylinder was leaking and until Father’s Day, June 19, 2022 – knowing a full rear brake overhaul was needed, too many other projects including needing to rebuild the front swivel ball assemblies on my 1964 Land Rover IIA, ignored the leak, just made sure the dual brake reservoir was topped off, tried to avoid a panic stop, and carefully kept driving.

But on that Father’s Day, forgot to top-off the brake reservoir and on our Ole Miss Campus, a drive-challenged student pulled out in front of me, brakes hard on – blew out the rear brake cylinder, almost no brakes, and the “limp” back home was perilous!  Thankfully with little traffic, using the transmission mostly as a brake, catching lights just right, sweating bullets, made it home – whew!

Preparing for this, had all parts needed from my long-time MG parts buddies at Moss Motors in Vermont for a full rebuild of the rear drum brakes (and front discs), studied manual, great U-tube video, made a list of what to do, jack stands under the springs – rear drum off…dang – many years ago getting new tires in Oxford had them redo the rear brakes, all totally wrong, so on Saturday, June 25 replaced correctly the perished parts, shoes, springs, wheel cylinder, hose – took me 15 hours including research…will do left side in half that time.

But, I had backed the MG out of the garage into the harsh sun, heat, night for the first time in many years so I could get to the right rear brake and although covered with a cloth, was killing me to have my baby in this harsh environment! So, this past Wednesday, July 6, from 6:45 to 8:45 am to avoid the heat which hit 100 degrees, bled the new right rear brake and drove back into the garage where I’ll rebuild the rear left side and perhaps the front disc brakes – so relieved.

Wrenching on my time-machine MG is also ironically comforting because I know it so well.  But as I squiggle in with aged, replacement hips to drive, the years instantly melt away – same smell, fit, feel, key on, fuel pump ticking, choke out, reset console clock, instant start after all these years, check gauges, oil pressure swell, tap the tac – needle jumps, same sounds, gear shift falls familiarly to hand, and the swell drive is by a 25-year-old kid surviving Vietnam, life since, and all those memories flood through my new, youthful brain, thrusting me deliciously back into time…. 

 

Steve is an Oxford resident, worked on Campus, received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, is an LPC, NCC, and can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu.