Yellow Peril MGB GT result of ‘L’ of learning curve
Clive Harvey had a classic reason to take up driving later in life but finding and owning his MGB GT, dubbed The Yellow Peril, has not been straightforward.
After one feeble attempt to learn to drive my father’s work van when I was 17 no further lessons were considered for more than four decades.
The year after that embarrassing first lesson I went to live in London. Living in the centre, with fares on the Underground in pennies in those days, who needed a car? And neither did I earn enough to buy and run one and had nowhere to keep one.
So, as the years passed, the incentive to learn faded further and further. Even after moving to the suburbs, and with the public transport fares increasing way beyond those pennies, learning to drive and owning a car was just not considered.
I did have an interest in cars – vintage cars, classic cars, exotic sports cars, anything as long as it was not an ordinary everyday-type car. What I liked seemed way out of my reach, so if I could not have what I wanted then why bother to learn?
In 2005 I returned to live in Norfolk and, for quite a while, was happy living in the centre of Norwich, as virtually everything I needed in the city was within walking distance. My partner has a car but, as he lives in Downham Market, it was not simply a case of stepping out of the house and into the car whenever one needed to go somewhere beyond the city.
As time went by our circle of friends grew, extending far beyond the boundaries of Norwich and there were occasions when I had to beg lifts here or there and that became tiresome. The realisation had at last dawned that I needed to be able to drive, and I said as much, at a party one summer afternoon.
“I’ll teach you,” said a friend and a couple of days later he turned up at my house with an old Volvo estate car.
Those first lessons were held around the industrial estate behind the airport. I loved that old Volvo, it was an automatic and, at the time, little did I realise but the die had been cast. After a few informal lessons, I got in touch with a driving school but driving a car with a manual gearbox just did not come naturally to me, no matter how hard I tried. In the end I had to admit defeat and take lessons in an automatic.
Several summers before all of this I had rented an MGB as a gift for my partner’s birthday and we had driven to a classic car event in Lincolnshire. I loved it and was sorry when the time came to return the car. Part of my reason for learning to drive was to have my own MGB, although I had decided that an MGB GT would be more practical.
So then I had the job of tracking down a rarity – an MGB GT automatic. Regularly, I trawled the internet becoming familiar with so many different classic car sites. Then, one day, a search diverted me to eBay. I did not really want to buy a car from that site but there it was – a 1972 MGB GT automatic in Harvest Gold. The bidding was ending that very afternoon and were standing at a low figure. I placed a tentative bid and was almost immediately outbid.
I left it on my screen and went off and did various chores. After a while I went back to the computer screen to see how much the car had gone for, but the time had not run out and the bidding had not changed, so I bid again. I watched as the time counted down. Suddenly, there was the message on my screen ‘Congratulations, you have won the bidding’.
I stared at the screen “Oh my god! I’ve bought a car!” I had never done that before... and it was in Northern Ireland.
Weeks later my car was on a transporter heading for Norwich but there was no way it was going to negotiate the street where I live so I directed him to a nearby industrial site and that is where a friend and I first set eyes on what has become known as The Yellow Peril. It looked tiny beside the transporter. Having never driven anything like it before, I had to take a couple of turns round the car park before setting off for home. With no power steering it seemed like I was driving a tank.
There is nothing like having your own car parked in front of your house to give you the incentive to pass your driving test and within a month of getting the car I was able to put the green ‘P’ plates on it.
I have never regretted the purchase of The Yellow Peril and I have had great fun driving it, enjoying the looks it gets from people as well as from other MG and classic car drivers.
However, classic car ownership comes at a cost. In the little over 18 months that I have owned the car it has had to have a new battery, manifold and gasket, water pump, fuel pump, condenser leads and plugs, brakes, servo system, shock absorbers, radiator, alternator and distributor and those are just some of the things. I dare not add up the bills from my trusty mechanic Terry. While The Yellow Peril may be my baby, he has said he now thinks of it as his baby... it is certainly in his care.
Because The Yellow Peril has suffered the indignity of breaking down, more than once, on busy roads I have come to realise that in Norwich there are many kind men. Thank you, all of you, for having helped to push the car to the safety of the verge. The Yellow Peril and I both hope those days are now behind us.
Do you have some tales to tell about your first car? The adventures, scrapes, breakdowns, mishaps and maintenance just to keep it on the road. Email your motoring memories with a picture of the car to email@example.com or post it to Andy Russell, motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.