7 thoughts on “The British Reliability Run”

  1. My first major road trip was in a Morris Minor, though I don’t remember it. I was a a few months old, and my parents were moving me, my sister, themselves, and everything they owned to St. Louis. My Dad was a Brit car buff, and raced them on the side. His midlife crisis car was an autumn gold MGB-GT, which he let me drive as a chick magnet (which it definitely was). Unfortunately, my Mom’s favorite doc ran under the wheels one morning, and was killed. Though Mom was more than understanding, Dad was so grief-stricken that he sold it.

    My first car was a Jeep CJ-6, with a 250 hp Dauntless V-6 engine. A friend of mine, though, had a Land Rover. It had an aluminum body, the British Leyland 4 cylinder engine (aluminum block, cast iron sleeve, 1.6 liter, 50 HP), and four enormous tires. Even though I had low-low range in my transmission, and his Rover weighed probably 40% more than my Jeep, he could outclimb my every time. The common features of my Dad’s GT and my friend’s Rover were the 1.6 liter engine, and that they both had the British Leyland reverse gear noise. Very distinctive.

    [The Japanese stole the design for the Leyland 1.6 liter engine, and reproduced it (along with the transmission noise) in the Datsun 510. I bought one of those from the daughter of one of my college professors for $75, put 120,000 more miles on it, and sold it for $100. I wish I had that car. It was absolutely indestructible.]

    But the tales of Lucas electrics are not apocryphal, and “Prince of Darkness” is apt. The professor whose daughter sold me my Datsun also once owned a Jaguar (though he was a die-hard Corvette fan). He had perpetual problems with the Lucas electrics, but also with the fact that his Jag ate oil at a rate of a quart every 1,500 miles. It didn’t show up on the concrete, and didn’t seem to come out of the tailpipe. The only thing the enigmatic Jag dealer would tell him was that “Yes, that’s normal.”

    We’re headed into a new era, though, where we don’t own cars. We just call them from a smartphone app, and they drive us. All in all, an advance. But the history should be preserved.

    1. My second car (which I bought in HS, with a loan co-signed by my father, based on my income from being a radio-station engineer, among other things) was a ’67 MGB-GT. It could have been a chick magnet, but I wasn’t…

      And the kinds of chicks it would have attracted, I wasn’t that interested in.

      One of my best friends at the time was also an owner of a CJ-5 (and a TR-3). We were envious. #60s

      1. Hey, I was no chick magnet (as you can attest), but that lovely convertible autumn gold GT, with its throaty thrumming motor and supple, smooth lines, was irresistible to a certain redhead I knew (and was hot for) in high school. Moreover, one of my best friends and I picked up several hitch hiking young ladies in that beast – who we gave a lift to a destination, I add in haste – when they had turned down other rides. The only better chick magnet is a dog.

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