Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lazarus the MGB

Berkley 3 Jan 2009

We drove Obie, our ’79 Orange MGB, (Obie, Orange-B, get it?) up to Berkley to see the prospective 24 Hours of Lemons race car. I was able to talk my last-straw-spouse into going with me on one condition; that we stop for dinner on the way home at a Caribbean Jerk Chicken restaurant in East Palo Alto called Back A Yard.

Ok sweetie-pie! It’s a deal.

I learned a long time ago to trust my food-network-addicted-spouse when it comes to food. Every one of our vacations have revolved around something she has seen on the food network or read about somewhere. She has never let us down when it comes to new places to eat, which is a passion for both of us. We both also have the travel bug, so it works out quite well except for my ever expanding waistline.

We arrived at the recently closed MG & British automotive repair shop (The MG Garage) to find a half dozen old men scurrying about, yelling at each other and struggling to move miscellany into a large yellow moving van that dominated the driveway.

After yelling a few times for Hillary, followed by the rest of the group joining in and yelling for Hillary, an old man shuffled out and said “Can I help you?”

He was the quintessential MG mechanic, back doubled over and hands leathered from decades of toiling on British tin. I could see the man had more knowledge in one boney finger than I had in my entire body. The deep creases on his face contained a multitude of memories, and he alternated between guarded and revealing, probably due to years of dealing with oddball customers, one privileged and snippy, the next passionate and friendly.

"Hi, I spoke to you yesterday about the MGB on Craigslist?"

"Hello there, glad you could make it". He spoke with a soft yet slightly gravelly voice. "Well, here it is".

Hillary pulled back the car cover and revealed the pale old yellow MGB.

“Meet Lazarus” he said. “Many times this car has come back, just like in the bible… well anyways, its name is Lazarus. I got it off the original owner a few years ago, and have known this car since new. It keeps coming back. Now it’s old and tired. Probably needs a new engine."

We talked for a short while about the car while I checked out all the MGB problem areas, wiring, rocker panel area, crack of doom (yup, but on the passenger side instead of the usual driver side, interesting). The doors opened and closed nicely as did the hood and trunk. Interior was garbage.

Every panel was straight, but also edged in the beginning stages of rust. It looked much more weathered than the photos showed. The more I looked at it, the worse the rust was. All of it was surface, and still in the repairable stage, but it would take a lot more work and money to fix correctly than the car was worth. Rubber bumper MGBs just are not that desirable, and this one was in danger of ending up in the scrap yard. Just one day left, and no one else came to visit.

“Will you take $500?” I asked. My rolling-eyes-spouse stifled a giggle, 500 being the limit for a LeMons racer (and she thinks I'm a terrible negotiator).

Hillary paused for a moment, leveled his gaze on me and said “Yes, yes I will”.

A handshake later, I gave him half down as a deposit and he gave me a handwritten receipt, not that either of us thought I needed it. The car was not going anywhere, and needed to be out of there tomorrow. I promised to come back the next day with the rest of the money and a trailer to retrieve my prize.

On the way home I asked my eerily-quiet-spouse what she thought of the car. “It’s cool.” she responded. “You owe me some Jerk-chicken” she said turning to me with a smile.

Next: The Race Car

Previous: Craigslist!

From The Begining - The Hook... (Part 1)

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