By the year 2001, my rally brother Steve and I had participated in three New England 1000 rally events: 1998, 1999, and 2000. We had every intention of making it “four in a row”, except, we had a small problem. After each running, we had excitedly exclaimed to our girlfriends how thrilling it had been to drive the bucolic highways and byways of New England in a classic convertible with like-minded enthusiasts. After all these years of listening to our exploits while they sat at home, they wanted in.
For Steve, that meant gearing up the Tiger for yet another run, and given its exemplary performance so far, there seemed to be nothing that would prevent the Tiger from achieving a Grand Slam.
For me, that meant obtaining a rally-eligible car.
To car collectors, this is what is known as a “good problem to have”. Many a hobbyist will tell you that the thrill is in the hunt. While I generally agree, my hunt was complicated by the facts that a) I had just gotten engaged, and there was a wedding to plan; and b) we had just purchased a house, and were planning to move into it in March.
What do we do when faced with such challenges? Of course: we confine our search for a rally car to the local area! So it was with a great amount of fortuitousness that I happened to see an online listing for a 1972 MGB roadster, in western Hunterdon County (only 30 minutes away) for sale for $5,000. I drove out to see the car; it had some issues; I conveniently ignored them. I offered the owner payment with a personal check; he accepted. I drove the B home. Things were looking up!
To prepare the car for the upcoming rally, I installed a set of Vredestein tires (I must like that brand, as the Alfa has Vredesteins on it), and while the tires were off, resprayed the painted wheels with wire-wheel paint from Moss Motors. An oil change, a quick tune-up, and we were rally-ready.
This MGB was my first British car. Like all Bs before and after, it had a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine, in my case, producing about 95 horsepower. Carburetion was via two SUs, complete with manual choke. Transmission was a 4-speed manual, without the desirable overdrive. The color was a true ‘70s pumpkin orange, complemented by a beige and black interior. (I was later informed that the seats were out of a later-model MGB.) Braking was discs in front, drums in rear, and steering was rack & pinion. As a 1972 model, its chrome bumpers were much better-looking than the big rubber bumpers soon to come. It was an easy car to drive, and a very easy car to work on.
The complete story of our participation in the 2001 New England 1000 rally will be covered in the next blog post. Suffice to say that after three years of joyously sharing seat time in that Sunbeam Tiger, this MG proved its mettle as a formidable (albeit slower) competitor.
All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.