Nothing holds a candle to an old flame

| 28 Feb 2012

Over the past few weeks, I seem to have become something of an automotive stalker. It all started with our bumper 30th-birthday issue (on sale this Thursday!), and more particularly the Our classics memories story within it.

That nostalgic trip through my motoring past, together with being tasked with writing the 50th-anniversary story on the MGB – and hence getting to play with five of them for the day (below) – has reignited an old flame: my 1980 MGB GT.

It's a passion that will be greeted with derision by many in the classic world – not least a certain Stroud-based Mancunian columnist – but I can't seem to stop memories of that car popping into my head. I guess there must be a heck of a rose-tint to those imaginings – I can't remember being exactly blown away by the last late-model B I drove – but I loved a lot about that car.

For one, it sounded great. I still think it looked pretty cool, despite its rubber bumpers (though it would look cooler still with them taken off, the ride height dropped by a couple of inches, and sporting some gunmetal-grey Minilites), and it was a lovely car to live with: quick enough, comfortable and great fun in the wet.

I reckon Simon Taylor is right: if you find a car you truly love, never part with it. That's why he always regretted selling his gorgeous AC Ace 2.6 (above), and bought it back at the first opportunity. Now I'm under no illusions, I know a clumsily facelifted BGT is no AC Ace, but the principle is the same. And besides, I still have the steering wheel from it, a Mountney job that has adorned no less than four other classics since.

There is also a hefty emotional bond. VMA 520W was sold to me by my much-loved cousin William, now very much missed since he succumbed to cancer a few years ago. When he went I thought a lot about him, and a lot about VMA (pictured below outside his house in Newcastle), and once again regretted not keeping it.

Now I wonder whether it might not be the perfect daily driver for me. I realise that the back seats are a wee bit compromised – OK, a lot compromised – but it's otherwise a fantastically practical machine.

Which brings me back to the subject of stalking. First came the back issues of C&SC, in particular June 2000 when I reported on the car's departure with new owner Jerry Roughton. There's a very cheesy photo of me pretending to weep as I hand over the keys, but I will confess that there was a certain amount of artistic license. I was, I'm afraid, rather relieved to see it go, because I was already on the lookout for its replacement.

But my comment that it was 'like losing a limb' does now ring true. Perhaps I am one of those one-marque bores that I always swore I would never be because, although I've owned around 10 other – ostensibly more interesting – classics since the BGT departed, the only one with which I've really connected in the same way is the MG Magnette that I now own.

Stalking behaviour Part 2 led me to and its useful vehicle check system so that I could see where it is now. Roughton told me in 2000 that he was buying VMA because he was "bored with driving", but unfortunately it seems he soon tired of the MG as well, because it hasn't been taxed for the road since 1 September 2003 (below). Incidentally, I also looked up my first car (Morris Minor 1000, UBP 800F), which has been off the road since 2002...

Thing is, that knowledge has made things worse. Is VMA being lovingly restored in time for this year's big celebrations? Is it mouldering in a field somewhere or, worse, is it a 4ft cube of corroded steel waiting to be melted down in a Chinese plant before being turned into a new Geely – or, if there is any serendipity in the world, a new MG6? Or maybe, just maybe, it's sitting patiently in a reasonably watertight garage, waiting to be rescued by an overly romantic former keeper?

No, Al, stop! Never go back! ...or should I?

I'm hoping that this curious feeling will pass. It's dreamland, because I'm unlikely to find it, the owner probably won't want to sell, and even if he did I can't afford to buy it. If the sensation doesn't go, however, what's my next step? A call to the MGOC and MGCC, perhaps, to see if they have Roughton or VMA on their books.

I think perhaps someone ought to issue a restraining order fairly sharpish.