By Rob “Right Foot” Krider
When I was a senior in high school, my parents had a very inviting little automobile sitting in our driveway that I wasn’t allowed to play with. It was a vintage British convertible sports car, an MGB, and nope, I was not supposed to drive it. I was told back then by my parents that the car had too much sentimental value to let a teenage boy drive the delicate little machine into the ground. History will show that my parents were absolutely right about this.
The sentimental part comes from the fact that the car was a gift from my father to my mother on their sixteenth wedding anniversary. He bought her the car that year because on my mom’s sixteenth birthday her parents generously gave her a brand new MGB. For obvious reasons, it was her favorite car ever. What sixteen year old girl wouldn’t love a brand new convertible? Regardless of my mom’s glowing memories of her first new MGB, the MGB my dad bought her a couple of decades later wasn’t new; in fact it was far from it. Unfortunately for ole pop’s scoreboard, the blue MGB he picked up was a bit of a lemon. He promised to restore the car for my mom so it would be like new, but he never really got around to wrenching on it.
Therefore, the new-to-our-family but far from new, restoration-required-MGB wasn’t a good fit with my mom. Every time she went to drive it, the car broke down. There were more miles on the odometer from being towed than were on it from actually being driven. The car didn’t make my mom feel sixteen again. Instead, the car just frustrated her and made her feel her age. She, of course, blamed my dad for this, because he just couldn’t find the time to fix the car. British sports cars are known for their mechanical problems. It wouldn’t have really mattered how many hours my dad worked on the car, you simply can’t fix British automotive wiring. Lucas electronics, known as the Prince of Darkness, ensured that if something could go wrong electronically it would, especially with the headlamps, on a curvy road, at night.
Regardless of my mom’s issues with the car and her age, I still thought the MGB was insanely cool. I didn’t care if the tires were old or if the paint was faded. I was in high school; I just wanted to cruise around in a convertible. Any convertible would do. Any beat up convertible was still cooler than my daily transportation at the time, which was an El Camino. Yes, an El Camino. In comparison to the car/pickup hybrid (or redneck Cadillac), riding in the MGB while it was being pulled behind a tow truck would still have been an improvement over the El Camino.
It didn’t matter what I wanted. The MGB was my mom’s, not mine, and even though the car just sat rotting in our driveway, my folks didn’t want me zipping around town in it (which was intelligent on their part). That left me saddled with the El Camino, which had no backseat to get in trouble in with the ladies. Appropriately, no back seat is needed for action in an El Camino because ladies don’t go near El Caminos.
After watching the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off way too many times as a teenager, I finally got up the courage to play hooky from school and get the little MGB out on the road. I met a girl (obviously I wasn’t in the El Camino at the time) and wanted to take her out on a first date. I ditched school one sunny day, stole the MGB and headed out to pick up the new girl. My parents were at work. They would never know I had the car. My glorious Ferris Bueller day was just as advertised; the girl loved the little convertible and we put miles upon miles on the car. We were young, life was good. We enjoyed the freedom of no school with the wind in our hair and a touch of rebelliousness. It was a day I’ll never forget.
As five o’clock approached, the sun began to lean toward one side of the sky, meaning the deadline for getting the car back into the driveway (before mom and dad got home) approached. I said goodbye to the girl (complete with a kiss –thank you MGB!) and headed back to my house. I was feeling like a million bucks as I raced the sports car back home. Then the motor blew up.
About three houses away from making it home, the motor committed suicide. Smoke came out, terrible noises erupted, and the car was done for. I pushed in the clutch and coasted the MGB right back to its original parking spot in my parents’ driveway. Safe!
Since the car and my mom had so many previous problems, I figured I wouldn’t say a word. I couldn’t really, since admitting the engine was blown would be admitting that I was driving the car, which meant I would be admitting I cut school. All of that would mean certain restriction doom for me. It didn’t happen to Ferris Bueller; it wasn’t going to happen to me. So, like any good red blooded American high school boy, I lied. I never said a word about the car’s engine. Who knows what happened to it? I blame those British blokes who built the thing. Maybe they had too many pints of Guinness that day in the engine barn.
Life has a way of working things out (and punishing those who deserve it). A few weeks after my grand adventure with the MGB, I graduated from high school (barely, due to some unexcused absences). My loving parents threw a graduation party for me. At the party there were some large boxes sealed in colorful blue wrapping paper. I opened the first present, and it was a brand new steering wheel for an MGB! The look on my face was of shock. My dad said, “We know how badly you’ve wanted the MGB, so your mom and I decided to give you the car and in those boxes are a few parts to fix up the interior.” Nope, there weren’t any boxes with parts to fix the failed engine.
So, justice prevailed, I was given the graduation gift of a car that didn’t run because I had just recently lunched the motor while cutting school. And that’s how I learned about Karma (which I honestly thought back then was spelled Carma). I spent that summer pulling the engine out of the MGB. Before I could get the car finished to go on a second date with the girl, she met a different guy. He had a motorcycle.