Octagonal Time Machine

Octagon Newsletter .. November 1993

By Peter A. Lee

I discovered a time machine, perhaps not as or­nate as Jules Verne would have wanted or as precise as H.G. Wells would have portrayed, however, for me, the journey back into my younger days was a reality. My Grandfather used to make my toes curl if he started a sentence with "When I were a lad …", so you readers should now place a heavy object on the top of both feet.

When I was a lad, sitting watching my Uncle Ray read his latest copy of 'Motor Sport', in between the short bursts of intense concentration of ESP to in­duce him to give it to me, I would dream of the cars inside the covers. Like Walter Mitty, I would win the sprint against Stirling Moss across the short stretch of Le Mans tarmac and leap over the door of my beautifully prepared MG - dark green of course. A few years later, by a series of accidents ( I prefer the analogy that the gods were smiling on me), I became the proud owner of an 'PA' MG. In hindsight it was not the immaculate, well maintained road burner I thought, but it gave me the history of the marque and a reality to my dreams. After many happy miles with the PA it was replaced by a newer, more luxurious, more powerful machine that still looked like a proper sports car and not like one of those aerodynamic MGAs. My TC was Bugatti Blue, not patriotic, but I loved the colour. With a little attention to the engine and a few minor modifications to make it really mine, the world was my oyster.

Today's MG owners are familiar with the TC but not all are familiar with the handling and ride of a traditional British sports car as designed in the 1930's. Compared with even the dated suspension of the MGB, the TC is a lifetime away with hard semi-elliptic springs and live axles, thin tyres, massive shock absorbers and primitive steering geometry, all of which combines to mean "once driven, never for­gotten". My TC eventually was succeeded by the 'family car', a series of econo-boxes with independent suspension and disc brakes. So, after 28 years, the sharpness of even a good memory turns a little dull, and so to hone the blade, a bottle of Turtle Wax ap­plied to a red TC was the first step in activating the time machine.

It was a perfect morning, sunshine, blue skies and just a trace of mist. With leather jacket and the green checked cap screwed securely onto the head the moment came - ignition and a pull on the starter brought the distinctive sound of a TC engine on fast idle, a check of those pale blue dials meant oil pres­sure 'OK' and showing a charge, let it warm up, depress the clutch, I was warned "It might make a noise - ignore it." It did, I did, and accelerating away down memory lane that looked just like Cedar Hill Road. The years rolled back as the speedo ticked up the scale.

Driving around the smooth city streets, the high geared steering and responsive throttle was very pleasant, but on the hilly and windy country lanes with sudden changes of camber one finds the phrase 'user friendly' does not apply to the TC. It is a vehicle that needs to be driven and given undivided attention at all times.

The morning was spent showing the cars off out­side the Legislative Buildings, afternoon brought the rally. After a well-intentioned first leg of the event, with me trying desperately to remember and put into practice everything Eric Carlsson had taught me, we ended up going the wrong way. This was probably the fault of the TC as it is a right-hand drive car being driven (most of the time) on the right side of the road, so of course we turned right. Consequently, it was just a good reason for a drive in the country with an excuse to wave at other MG and British car drivers. It was with reluctance that I took the TC back to its owner, the time machine was in fast forward the in­stant I sat in my Volvo, but the memories will be with me for a very long time, thanks to Alan Fraser owner of the TC.

The vehicle to which I am concentrating all my ef­forts - that is just one way of saying 'still looking for all the parts', is one of those 'aerodynamic A's'. If the gods are still smiling on me, the restoration could be finished enough for me to drive in next years Anniversary Meet, but that is an Octagon of a differ­ent colour.

Oh, by the way, in my daydreams I really did out-­sprint Moss across the tarmac!

1948 MG TC

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