A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland



MGA MKII British sports car

The green Mini 850 had been sideswiped

The repaired by ‘dodgie brothers’ crash shop at Medindie, so bad was the repair, if I wanted it done that badly I would have done it myself, I lost my interest in the car. 

MGAs were to capture my interest, among the cars I looked at was the car a motoring friend Bob Selby had owned.  Bob and I had met on the ride home from work one afternoon, we had met while waiting in the far queue at the Regency Road Train crossing at Islington. His MGA, Bob had spent time and money, a lot, on the suspension and motor modifications, however, his mechanic had in Bob’s opinion stuffed the engine as it had developed a serious oil-burning problem. 

I spotted his MGA by the Light Green colour, on a used car lot in Plympton, on a test drive it lacked power, so not for me. 

The Twin Cam MGA the bee’s knees but had an unreliable reputation
The Twin Cam’s poking up re-splendid

Another MGA a Twin Cam (Light Green), in a yard on Main North Road Enfield, tempting but it was hard to start and there was a loud clacking sound from the overhead cams.  In retrospect, that was the car to buy and restore (not that I had any foresight or understanding of the word Restore), but unfortunately, I was always looking for the next best thing,  with no understanding of the preservation of future classics, I needed many more years before I would come to the understanding of preservation over modification. 

On the 4th of March 1968, I traded the Mini for an MGA MKII (actually a replica MkII), at Thompson Motors Pulteney Street.  MGAs were sports cars, not high-powered sports cars, MG British Pucker. 

The MGA I did buy was advertised by Thompson motors in Pulteney Street. It was a 1962 MKII. Well, I checked it out did the Test drive and struck a deal traded the Mini, and signed up for some finance. The Deal was done. Well! Yes, how to buy a car, how to NOT to buy a car.

Driving the MGA was a hoot, the other MG drivers would signal with a finger discreetly raised when passing on the road. They would on one occasion when I was parked on Greenhill Road Wayville, scream to a hold, leap out and start inspecting the MGA MKII, without introduction, then declaring “it’s not an MKII” while looking under the rear mudguard, leap back in their MG ‘A’ and drove off.

What did I know, nothing. I had bought a car without knowing anything about the model, as it happened the MGA was 1961, at least the rear mudguards were, noted by the welded-up holes, and later the Engine was a 1600cc, an MKII has a 1620cc engine, so there!

Lesson number  1. I needed to remove the front wheels, but alas it was stuck fast.  Thompson Motors replace the two front tyres with ‘new’ tyres, they directed me to a Tyre place in Pulteney Street where they set about bashing the wheel with a big rubber mallet to loosen the wheel.  The wheels were rusted on, lesson learned, grease the Splines on a wire wheel hub every time the wheel is refitted.  Years later yet another wire wheel I needed to bash off with a rubber mallet, yes remember to grease when refitting the wheel.

This car had a well-worked head, bigger valves, shaved to the bone and so on, with performance to match.  On a trip to Murray Bridge, the spark plugs were oiling up, the engine was miss firing badly on overrun, then spluttered a while until the oil was burnt away when powering on.  Soon after that run a friendly mechanic from the workshops Ted Kaminski assessed the engine, it needed rings and one piston replacement.  Thompson Motors came up with the parts needed and Ted (a highly skilled mechanic) put it together for me. 

Well, (story of the 3 Wells)! Driving the MGA, to Murray Bridge for Loon’s 21st celebration with Phill, the performance was great, quicker than the Mini, top-down wind in the hair, just great. On the way back, well! Winding down through the hills by Devil’s elbow, the engine was telling us how much it does not like traveling downhill, oh no. What was happening? On the overrun as I backed off at each bend the engine would splutter and misfire with much to do. Then when accelerating away eventually it would clear and all was good, until the next bend, by Devil’s elbow the engine was protesting and I needed to be very gentle all the rest of the way home.

Well, Driving my MG I did all the MG driver stuff, acknowledging other MG drivers with a raised finger, the myth of girls flocking to ride in the MG must have been for the earlier models, however, one girl Darryl suggested I should meet did go out with me, the fact her brother had an MGA had no influenced on her decision.

On a group outing to the National park, we were kicking the footy around when plop it landed on the soft top of the MGA, well more a ‘brittle’ top as the vynal hood shattered into a large tattered hole.  Oh dear, not to worry down at the wreckers the following week I picked up a beaut second-hand vynal hood for 30 bob.  30 bob that £1.10/- or $3! yeah!

With the ‘new hood’ the old paint job was looking a bit blotchy from various repairs over the years, I contracted a mate from work Tommy to respray the car in original red.  Tommy did an excellent job the MGA looked a real treat. 

Soon after the new paint job, I was driving back from Murray Bridge when the motor began to miss fire again. The  MG was looking great but not running so good.  It was evident the head was well worn, the hotted-up head now declared unserviceable.  Again at the wreckers a newly reconditioned head. 

I did a nice job fitting the head however the very lack of performance was mind-numbing slow. 

The MGA sports car had the performance of a family saloon, not the pucker British sporting car.  Time for a more practical car, but what would a young lad buy.

Dickie, an observation by Loon.  A fine lad and very thoughtful towards his best mates i.e. Me because he knows quality when he sees it.  He should at this stage of ’68 sell his BF MGA 1600 sports because he has missed out on several trips such as Daly’s, Melbourne at Easter (which was a tearier), Whyalla, Mt Gambier and I could go on.  The silly boy, although 21 years of old should forget about HP and be free again.  He has the very very right idea of women i.e. get what you can and state your case and get right down to business.  Good work Dickie.  10/10 full marks to a fine chap who will study until he becomes a Trade School Teacher.  Fine & Excellent. 

The thoughts and ideas expressed above statement are not endorsed by his publication.

Farewell to the MGA and the life of a free-spirited, in the words expressed by Loon “silly boy” Farewell!

Out and about

After the refurbishment of the Engine, and replacement of the Soft-top, Tommy did a great job, he had mastered the skill of spray painting and finishing the job in such a way it looked all original and in superb condition. Thanks, Tommy.

The MGA had provided the Sports car experience, but for the shortcomings of only 2 seats, lack of a roof to put the surfboard on and finally the reliability from that old engine that had too many hotting-up modifications I traded it on a Mini, yes a Mini, not just any Mini a Mini Van 850cc 12 months old. The car dealer I visited had a very nice Mini Cooper S as well, could I see past the Van?

Yes side curtains, when it rains put up the side curtains, how quaint A

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