Cruising the campus in a time machine

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2023

By Steve Stricker

Saturday morning, Aug. 19, before taking grandson Stephen III to the Memphis Airport after a swell visit, we went for a historic drive around Oxford and Ole Miss in my ‘71 MGB-GT stopping for photos at the Lyceum. 

“Grandad, this is the oldest car I’ve been in and to be here with you, to sit where dad did, is awesome,” he said.

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Arriving home, I wanted to start my 1964 Land Rover, Series IIA – not safely drivable, but rebuilt to the point where it always starts. It could be driven with refurbishment of the front swivel ball assemblies. No start!  Now what?

The next day I recharged the battery and checked the power to the coil, fuel line was clean, fuel pump working. I pulled a spark plug and it was fouled, big time. After cleaning the plugs, instant start.  My  fear is that just sitting in the driveway it will eventually allow it to revert to all the issues when I got it in August 2014. 

By just starting it every few weeks, and not driving or letting the engine get hot to burn crud off the plugs and the vehicle work as it should,  is the worst thing for it.  I changed the oil a few years ago, but it’s black for all the same reasons and I was going to change it but couldn’t find a new drain plug or copper washer in my Rover parts.

I ordered those from my go-to dealer, Rovers North in Vermont.  I have all the other parts needed to rebuild the dreaded front swivel ball assemblies, just have to create a step-by-step list of how to proceed and do it. But, going through my mountain of Landy parts was like Christmas because I found swell stuff I forgotten.  

Once I have my list and finally begin taking things apart, I’ll be okay unless I run into other major issues. Lacking the most is motivation.  I’ve never driven this classic Brit further than down my driveway,  and am somewhat scared after all the work I’ve done that I won’t like to drive it.

The MG was purchased new a year after returning from Vietnam, before I was married. Doing almost all the wrenching on its finicky, not very reliable Lucas carcass, every drive in it for me is like stepping into a time machine.  Later as my only car, three sons a wee bit squished, we went everywhere.   

That drive around Oxford and Ole Miss with my grandson, Stephen III sitting where his dad Stephen II once did, was a real mind bender and heart enlarger for me.  And, if and when I get my Land Rover operable, that first drive on Oxford after nine years – well, I can’t even imagine, but you will be able to hear my Rebel yell.

Go Rebels! 

Steve is an Oxford resident, received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, and can be reached at