>By Steve Laifman
March 27, 2000
Then it happened, I fell in love. She was a little thing, her foreign accent delightful to my ears, her slim, slender shape a joy to behold. Such graceful lines and sweet curves. I knew I must make her mine. And, she could be had! For only $1795. A 1950 BRG MG-TC! The last year they were made, and only for part of that year. Different, with the newly added front bumper, and required turn signals garnered from US School Buses, it was still grand. But, I didn't have the money, and was deeply involved with matriculation and college plans.
Maybe later. Maybe never.
By the time I was ready to take my new car (can't risk my life on the first freeway in Los Angeles, to Pasadena, in the Ford, I reasoned and pleaded for the loan). By the time enrollment in college was settled, and housing accommodations were made, the MG-TC was no longer in production. The MG-TD had replaced it. Softer of line, rounder, more modern suspension, steering, brakes. The TC became a bit of an anachronism, with a 1/4 turn free play in the worm/sector steering, vs. the sensitive rack and pinion of the TD, and the coal-cart ride compared to independent coil spring front suspension, and available with only a few miles on it for a reasonable (to me) price. A decision that was probably right, but a longing for those spidery lines still has a place in my heart. And yes, that is me and that is my car. Sorry, but photography was not one of my hobbies so I did not document my early years.
This car served me faithfully, through all the rigors of rallying, time trials, off-road-in-the-mud English Trials, Hill Climbs, Gymkhanas (Auto-X, now), drag strips, anywhere there was a challenge. During this period I met, and knew a lot of people who were later to achieve some success and notice. When I took my car to International Motors, on Sunset Boulevard, Ken Miles was the head of the service department, Roger Barlow owned the agency before running of to South America with the 300 SL deposits, and Phil Hill was the young mechanic who tuned the car. Lew Spencer owned Worldwide Westwood, a Morgan distributor, from which a friend based his CSCC racing days. In later years, Ken Miles was working there. Right about the time he was racing Sunbeams and building his prototype. Amongst those I knew was a fastidious Swiss mechanic on Wilshire Boulevard small garage. He would wash his hands after touching the carburetor. Raced in Europe, he said. Wow!, what did you race? Well, it was a Rally, but their pretty fast in Europe. I raced a Buick. A Buick? Well, that was Otto Zipper, later to become a very wealthy VW, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari dealer! Others were Lance Reventlow, of Scarab and Woolworth fame, Bruce Kessler, wild young man about town who raced his mother's Jag, and went on to direct the racing scenes in Steve McQueens Bullit chase in San Francisco. Well, that's the short list. This town becomes graspable as you narrow your interests, and the sports car racing crowd was close.
After throwing a rod, and cracking the crank, I decided some major changes were in order. Forecasting Shelby's efforts more than a decade later, a large American engine was stuffed into a small British roadster. A late 41 Studebaker yielded the straight 6 and 3 spd OD transmission. A Ford column shift was cut to about 4 inches, and located horizontally at the rear of the transmission, foreshadowing a nearly identical Cobra arrangement. The firewall was cut back into the passenger compartment, replacing the battery box (shades of Jim Barretts 351?), the exhaust was split front/rear 3s with parallel exhausts - ala Jaguar M, and the heads and carburation were Vic Edelbrocks aluminum - forecasting the LAT F4B. The car was equipped with a heavy duty radiator, and forecasting the Tiger, had cooling issues in traffic! This externally stock car was a real stoplight sleeper, changing many sneers to distress. A few other firsts were on that car. The hood was louvered by an old guy, with a set of dies, named Emil Dietz. Emil had hand-built the beautiful aluminum Eddie Rochester Anderson's roadster, but was better known as the body maker for the Meyer-Draker/Offenhause/Deitz Indy cars that dominated the circuit. The car's louvres were hand-stripped by an ex-Packard man when von Dutch was still learning a trade. He did some work on my Jag, much later. My thanks to my friends Jim and Gene, whom I still see, for helping the R&R in my garage before you could rent a hydraulic hoist.
A marvelous thing happened in 1954. The English Pound dropped from $5 to $3.50. All of a sudden the Jaguars I had been drooling over dropped from an unimaginable $5000 Movie Star price, to $3450. Well, that wasn't really cheap in those days, but it was attainable, depending upon what you were willing to give up. I had accumulated some money during profitable summer work, paying off debts, and even having some left over. Enough, with the sale of the MG, to buy the car. It was all smooth, slick, fast, and had an unbelievable exhaust note that resonated throughout your body with a low, deep note. I wish I had a picture of it. But here I am now, next to exactly the car model and color I had. This car served me well throughout my work/University program to graduation.