Turn the key and the engine sparks into life, that heady roar settling to an anticipatory purr as the instrument needles flicker.
The intoxicating odours of leather, rubber, oil and petrol combine to awaken the senses, as everything around springs to life.
Every time I sit in the cockpit of my MG and feel emotions that both thrill and calm my spirit, the excitement builds as a new drive begins.
This is the third MGB I have owned, and it is now very much a part of the family.
My first car, owned since before I could legally drive, was a Morris Minor van.
It was a schoolboy odyssey, with Rover P6 seats and a hand-tooled leather dashboard sporting Jaguar XJ6 dials and switches, finished off with brass-studded brown velvet door cards and ceiling linings.
The homemade small steering wheel looked cool in period and the ‘Steve and Watch this space’ sunvisor certainly polarised viewers’ opinions.
Hindsight, however, is a truly marvellous thing, and I’m pleased to say I moved on by falling for the two-seater sports car experience.
Turning down a poor example of an early Healey Sprite, I spotted a Bronze Yellow MGB in a garage.
I was finishing furniture college and spent all the money from my first commission acquiring that MGB back in 1980.
Packed with woodworking tools and a suitcase, it took me away from home as the journey of a life with cars began.
As is often the case, the MG was exchanged for a partner (in 1983), because she found the steering too heavy in London traffic. But the longing for another remained.
Via a series of rather bizarre circumstances, I became the owner of a Mercedes 280SE.
It had non-matching numberplates by one digit and was first registered in Nairobi, but as time passed I realised the car was above my station.
By selling it, though, I was able to revisit my passion and welcome an MGB GT into the family.
But, once again, it was another sad day when the car had to leave, this time because the children, who were fast growing up, could no longer fit on the shelf of a back seat.
So began another period of longing and waiting, but as the years rolled by, a beautiful roadster at last came into our lives.
It’s the only car I’ve had that was delivered to me by transporter. That was an exciting day.
By then my knowledge of MGBs had developed, so I went right through the car putting things right. And so the restoration began.
On the drive home from having new sills fitted one of the coil springs snapped in half, so a front suspension rebuild became an immediate priority.
Next came a reconditioned engine, followed by all the other mechanical parts being restored.
I’m handy with a spray gun because of my furniture work, so I wasn’t daunted by the idea of a bare-metal respray and have managed to get a reasonable car within a sensible budget.
Our daughter went off to Tarragona, Spain, for her Erasmus year during university, so we drove through France and over the Pyrenees to visit her.
Arranging to meet on the main Rambla Nova, Emily said she knew we were coming by the smell and sound of the car before we came into view.
Our most recent European trip I named ‘Balconies and Hairpins’: visiting balcony roads in southern France and winding through the Italian Alps to the Dolomites, then returning via Switzerland – and with the top down for all but three days of the three weeks away.
The only hiccup was when the fuel pump packed in.
We were recovered from a toll road and relayed to a garage forecourt, with an hour to go before closing time, and I managed to replace it with a spare I had on board.
The tow truck lifting the MG by its towing arm drew a small crowd, which was amazed that a tourist could crawl under the car and wield the spanners, spoiling a good shirt with petrol in the process!
Living with a classic is more than a hobby or even a passion: it’s an all-encompassing love affair.
So many aspects of classic car ownership bring rich experiences, both on and off the road.
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- Owned by Stephen Owen
- First classic Morris Minor van
- Dream classic Ferrari Dino 246GT
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