A new member of the family
by Richard LewisAll of us British car aficionados have felt the urge to obtain perhaps our first, or in some cases our fifteenth, totally impractical but totally irresistible LBC, sometimes regardless of its condition or price or our circumstances. We see a car, or we dream about a car, or we hear about a car, and are caught up in a feeding frenzy that few of us are able to repel. Your Loyal Correspondent (YLC) is especially guilty as charged, having made innumerable terrible decisions regarding cars that he felt he just couldn’t live without, but later wish he had. The following purports to be an account of such a journey, perhaps with happier results than most, which YLC’s good friend and fellow PBCA member Bob Manske recently embarked upon.
Bob is the happy owner of a simply gorgeous MG TF 1500, circa 1955, that he has wildly enjoyed driving and showing, often coming home with top prizes from car shows due to the car’s wonderful, un-restored condition and remarkably low mileage. In fact, according to our best information, it has perhaps the lowest mileage of any TF in the United States. One would think that the possession of such a car would satisfy the needs of almost anyone, and make the ownership of another car totally unnecessary. Not so. Thereby hangs a tale.
A little more than two years ago, Bob got word of a TR3 resting serenely in the garage of someone who had not used it in several years. Investigating a little further, he discovered the car had belonged to a gentleman who died, and his widow was willing to part with the car in order to make plans for the future.
Upon arriving at the widow’s home, he indeed found a TR3; however, it was a TR3 that hadn’t moved in better than ten years, was covered with dust, loaded down with boxes and other paraphernalia that couldn’t fit on the floor of the crowded garage, and... well, you get the picture. Still, Bob was intrigued. He had always wanted a TR3 and he, and fellow PBCA members Rich Willows and Mike Lindley, saw the same thing — possibilities. Clearly a case of seeing whatever one wants to see.
After further conversation with the widow, Bob and she settled on a price, Bob being careful not to take advantage of someone in these circumstances. Soon he and his co-conspirators were trailering home a white TR3 that hadn’t run since Hector was a pup. They had put air in the ancient Michelins, so flattened on one side that even when they finally freed the brakes enough to roll the car onto the trailer, they thumped mightily with each rotation.
They also had to remove numerous mouse nests cradled in the upholstery, friendly little mice that had dined on some of the upholstery and wiring. Still, the body and frame were sound, the interior passable, and the paint, although covered with a patina of more than ten-year-old dust, looked quite good. Still, worry gnawed at them all regarding an engine that hadn’t turned over in ages, or even longer. Still, Bob was happy. His plans were to do just the minimum to the car and enjoying the driving of a far-from-perfect car, but one that was reliable — a drivable dream.
Home to Pensacola and Rich Willow’s workshop, where triage was performed by all three to the extent of new gas, battery, plugs, oil, radiator fluid, and all the things one might do to start a car that last saw ignition maybe during Nixon’s administration. Now was the moment of truth: would the car start? With Bob at the controls, Rich warily applying starter fluid, and Mike standing ready with a fire extinguisher, the starter was engaged.
Contact! Cough, sputter, grind, and start! Well, if you want to call it that. The engine sounded like a bucket of bolts thrown down the cellar steps, but it was running. However, coming out of the tailpipe was black, blue, even violet and green smoke. Then, surprisingly, with another cough, the engine smoothed out and ran quite normally, except there was no oil pressure. When Bob felt heat on his shoes, he looked down to see the floor covered with oil. Shutdown and discovery: the oil line to the oil gauge had severed, spewing oil under the dash and onto the floor. Clean-up and repair and refill of the oil sump and another try, with surprisingly smooth running this time.
During its stay in Rich’s garage multiple additional repairs and replacements were made, such as radiator, brake shoes and master cylinder, clutch cylinder and plate, wiring, period-correct gauges and new tires, along with having the carbs refitted by a master, Ted, of British Restorations in Roanoke, Va., and our friend Gerald at All Pro in Milton (one of our long-time sponsors) removing a broken head bolt that resisted everyone else’s best efforts. You get the picture. Bob, Rich and Mike, with help from Dick Maddox and Franz Bachman, spent at least 200 hours on the car, collectively. But it was up and running.
Perhaps now is a good time to tell you that, during this time, Bob had constructed a gorgeous workshop, with numerous amenities, including especially a lift capable of hoisting a school bus. Suddenly Bob found he had friends he never imagined. However, he is always happy to share. Now the TR3 could be moved to Bob’s facility for anything else needed, which soon required it to be sent out for a transmission overhaul at Winged Wheel Garage. By now, the message is clear — one thing leads to another, and we begin to see mission creep rear its ugly head, forcefully encouraged by TR fanatic and close friend, Franz.
The car is now certainly serviceable, but the camel’s nose is under the tent. The TR, in Bob’s mind, shows so much promise (in fairness to Bob, TRs are becoming very much an iconic car and values appear to have nowhere to go but up) that it makes sense to re-upholster the seats, replace the carpet, the starter and the alternator, remove the engine and have the engine bay and hood (bonnet) underside painted, repair the transmission, and again, you get the picture. Franz even helped with electronic ignition and a high-flow fan, among other things.
By this time, Bob and all the co-collaborators, including professional shop folks (all PBCA sponsors) like Raley’s Brake and Alignment and Winged Wheels, have probably spent some 500-plus hours or more on the car, and Bob has devoted quite a few shekels to it. Moss Motors and the Roadster Factory (also long-time sponsors) kept those parts coming.
Expensive, time-consuming, frustrating, yet at the same time satisfying, building a sense of confidence and accomplishment, cementing friendships, and overall, just having a good time that ends up with a car that one can enjoy for years to come (plus an opportunity to hoist a few Yuenglings). The truth is, it was a success overall and for everyone.
True, Bob’s story isn’t for everyone, certainly not for the faint of heart. Still, it’s hard to complain when a new member comes into the family.
Happy endings cheer us all. So did the recent events engaged in by PBCA members and friends:
August 21 — Fancy Friday on the Town saw about 15 PBCA members and friends show up at Jackson’s Restaurant in downtown Pensacola. Jackson’s is a special treat, being one of the best in all of north Florida, which means one can’t afford to go all the time, but it is a special treat that everyone enjoyed.
August 22 — After the Friday night affair at Jackson’s, it was a task to get up the next morning to be at the Wentworth State Museum, but about 23 of us toured this extraordinary facility that had its basis in Mr. Wentworth’s private collection of artifacts related to Florida and especially northwest Florida’s rich history. One gains a greater understanding of Florida’s beginnings after just a few hours there, especially if the visit is followed by lunch at the Tin Cow, home of extraordinary burgers of all types. This was a great day for us all.
Some of the following events will have transpired by the time you read this, but we will update you when we meet again.
September 16 — At 12 noon, PBCA Executive Board meets at the Grand to continue our work on the affairs of the organization.
September 18-19 — Brits on the River in Natchez, Miss. A great show in a beautiful town. PBCA often sends a good representation to this show and they always praise it.
September 21 — PBCA monthly meeting at 7 p.m. at Sonny’s, Navy Boulevard. Business, fun, and prizes.
September 25 — Fancy Friday on the Town. Details given by e-mail.
September 27 — Dog Days Rally for the benefit of the Pensacola Humane Society. This event always exceeds our expectations as we provide food and funds for the Society, and have a great rally. Tom Matsoukas is in charge and will always surprise us.
October 3 — SABCC Ice Cream Social at the Cunninghams’ in Daphne, Ala. This iconic event brings together friends and members from all the area British car clubs for great homemade ice cream, food and companionship. You don’t want to miss this one.
October 6 — At 10 a.m., Breakfast at the Grand, followed by the Show Committee meeting. This breakfast has become a PBCA institution and always draws a big crowd. Join us.
October 14 — At 12 noon, the Executive Board meets again to continue the work of the club.
October 17 — Night at the Drive-in. Organized by Marc Cherry, the featured car-related film and drive-in refreshments will both come as a surprise. Details to follow via e-mail.
October 19 — PBCA monthly meeting, 7 p.m. at Sonny’s. Details to follow via e-mail.
October 23-24 — SABCC Welcoming Party and show in Fairhope, Ala. This is always a special show and we will send details via e-mail.
Until next time, one wonders if you learned anything from Bob Manske’s TR3 experience. One wonders, did he?