My First Car: No quick fix but living the dream
07:27 08 March 2016
Alan Avie was living the dream when he rebuilt his 1936 MG PA and it made him a lifelong fan of its sports cars.
Going back, as far as I can remember, I have always been car-obsessed.
When my school friends were getting Saturday jobs in local shops, or paper rounds to earn some cash, I found a weekend job serving petrol at a local BP station – that was way before self-service and petrol was selling for 10½d (4p) a gallon. Customers used to tell me we’d never sell any if it went over two shillings (10p) a gallon.
At the age of 15, after saving up, I purchased a tatty-looking Ford C-Type ‘Barrell’ with the intention of removing the body and building my own, unique sports car. However, after uncovering a severely rusting chassis – on this vehicle, and another I subsequently bought – I eventually abandoned this idea and resorted to saving some more.
On my 16th birthday, I purchased my dream car – a 1936 MG PA. Having caught fire, it was an insurance write-off, and therefore in my price range, but was in need of a complete rewire, not to mention a respray!
My dad and a neighbour towed my precious purchase home for me and we put it in the garage.
I couldn’t afford to pay for professional repair work, but my dad – who was extremely innovative as well as very handy – offered to help me fix it. We visited an ex-Army store in Walthamstow, east London, and found and bought a loom from an ex-Service Bedford three-ton truck. My dad used this to completely rewire the MG.
Next came the respray. Dad made up our very own spray outfit using a fire extinguisher for a tank and a used fridge compressor. We bought and fitted gauges and a good-quality BEN spray gun, then mounted the whole assembly on a shortened scaffold board, made mobile with the addition of an axle and two wheels. When the respray was finished, despite the fact we’d had to cut off the MG’s running boards which were beyond repair, the car looked a million dollars – in my eyes anyway.
Mechanically, the MG was in reasonable shape, although there was a problem with the dynamo. The overhead camshaft was driven by the vertically-mounted dynamo, which was in turn driven at the base by the crankshaft. One of the camshaft’s end oil seals had leaked and seeped into the dynamo, rendering it useless. We replaced everything and, after an additional brake reline, I was ready to take to the road.
Little did I realise there was yet one more obstacle to overcome – insurance. At the age of 17, the mention of my age, plus the make and model of the car, had insurance brokers gasping and sinking behind their desks – in those days insurance was dealt with in person. I was so grateful to finally find a broker who would insure me that I remained loyal to him for 40 years.
I drove my beloved MG PA all over southern England for seven very happy years, and I didn’t put the hood up once! I eventually sold it for £150 – I wonder what it would be worth today?
I had become a huge MG fan. My next car was a 1947 TC, and I later owned a TD, a TF and an MGA Twin Cam – those were the days!
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