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Andrew Martin: A little MG magic makes the motoring dream work

Andrew Martin and Co find something to celebrate with their classic MG

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I sort of thought there was some gender significance of the term Venus and Mars when at school an attractive feminist fourth year started sporting a satchel with these words and picture of two pool balls.

She rolled her eyes at my kind offer to give her a backie (she would have got the cycle seat while I pedalled) to the Community Centre disco.

Only later did I learn that Venus and Mars was the fourth studio album by the rock band Wings and the sixth album by Paul McCartney after the break-up of the Beatles in 1970.

Many years later in my working life there was more eye-rolling. A particularly unpleasant line manager rolled her eyes at my kind offer to make the organisation more efficient. Then, as a put down, announced “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”.

I still don’t really know what Wings were on about, or how relevant the 1992 book ‘Men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ authored by John Gray is, but here’s my take on the rebukes. The fourth year pupil was telling me I was out of my league. Fair point.

An aversion to Aston

The lady boss was telling me that, as a man, I think differently from the fairer sex and get everything wrong. A little unfair.

Sadly, there is something in this. Let me explain. A divorcee known to my brother bought a nearly-new Aston Martin as he thought this would make him attractive to ladies 20 years his junior. A year later the Aston was sold at an eye-watering loss, and the poor fellow now has two new best friends called Whyte and Mackay.

And this resonates with my own experience. Alice has an aversion to anything Aston Martin. As you will remember I had AML 1 (at the time on a DB 11) on test some years back. She would rather take the bus than ride in that car. Alice despises motorised status symbols. The attraction of driving a Lexus is, and I kid you not, is that “it looks like a Hyundai”. As for car events on Sundays with me? Forget it.

Last month when holidaying around in a Tesla (incidentally she doesn’t like that brand either) she joined me to view an MGB GT at one of the most imposing houses in Broughty Ferry. I’ve tried to buy an MGB since my late teens but have always been thwarted by cars that are either ridden with rust or ridden with major mechanical maladies. Or both.

Then Broughty Ferry car was being sold out of a deceased estate, and had done very few miles since 2010, but had clearly been cherished by its three owners. Sure, the interior needs work, but I’ve already bought sill carpets and it came with the original deck chair seats (which I’m refurbishing).

The widow and her daughters selling the car were just lovely, and both Alice and I enjoyed talking with them while I walked around the MG in the sunshine.

Finding the “happy car”

The deceased owner’s grown-up daughters spoke affectionately about regularly riding around in the back seat, and long journeys on holidays! After about an hour of good humoured chat Alice sensed that it was deal or no deal time, so politely left.

I then offered too much, and the family graciously accepted. Returning to the Tesla Alice said she hoped I’d bought the “happy” car. Wow, I’ve never seen her so attracted to a car.

Some 10 days later I picked up the car and drove it all the way home. Of course it’s a handful on the road. More physically demanding than it looks with manual choke to get engine started, a manual gearbox, brakes that are like my old boss, dangerously inept, requiring massive pressure to slow down in conjunction with rapid gear change-downs to just pull up at traffic lights.

Of course, there’s no power steering and the underpinnings owe much to the horse drawn era. That said, when it all hooks up, I’ve my arm out the window and I’m threading the Mountney steering wheel through my hands, it’s pure joy.

Now hear this. Last weekend Alice actually agreed to do an MG Club road trip in “the happy car”. And the B never missed a beat. Well, it missed two. We lost power and freewheeled to a silent halt at the side of the road twice.

My old friend and MG owner thinks it’s the electric fuel pump, as after rolling to a halt, and waiting, the engine does reignite. How did the breakdowns affect the MG occupants? Well, we both agreed you can’t be upset with Happy car!

Little wins

We both love this car. So far, it’s done over a thousand miles with us, as I’m using it to both commute to work and for leisure trips.

Of course, Happy Car has needed work after standing idle for such a long time. It’s racking up bills for: battery, coil, timing, thermostat, choke cable, carbs work, with the re-trim and fuel pump work in the diary for summer.

There are a number of little wins that makes the car more endearing to me. It’s now deemed ‘historic’ by DVLA so no road tax, it has had an unleaded head conversion and, as it was when leaving the factory, the spare ignition key is still screwed to the bulkhead. I also love the fact that the number plates and rear window sticker still bear the supplying MG dealer’s name.

However, the greatest appeal is that, at last, I have a car I can share. I’m from Mars (a Martian?) and Alice is from Venus, but Happy Car brings us together. And finally, some relationship advice from Agony Andrew; if you are looking for love, don’t buy an Aston Martin, buy an old MG.