Last night I paid my respects to Tom Magliozzi of NPR’s Car Talk. The photos the family had put together for the wake were fantastic, chronicling the life of a guy who’s primary signature was his laugh. A good many of the photos were taken with Tom and what he called his dream car, a 1952 MG TD he purchased after his 1963 Dodge Dart Convertible was destroyed. Seemed like a good time to take a look at the car.
When he purchased it, he spent $9,000 for it after his brother-in-law Eugene found it online. His brother Ray once wrote, “I think he typed in ‘fool and his money’ and Google took him right to the page.”
His $9,000 was apparently $6,500 more than Tom ever paid for a car in his entire life.
In fact, on CarTalk.com, Tom once netted out all that he ever spent for every car that he ever owned, balanced against any profit he’d made on those cars, and realized that $9,500 turned out to be more money than he’d ever spent on all the cars he’d ever owned.
But, in the end, Tom got a 1952 MG TD convertible, a car that probably brought him as much joy as anything he ever owned, too, so there’s that.
He wrote quite a bit about it when he first got it:
“I remember a car at some amusement park that looked like a TD. For a minute, I thought I was attempting to recapture my childhood, but my wife tells me that my childhood is alive and well — and residing in this old, decrepit body. And besides, you try driving $500 jalopies for 40 years — you’d cave in too.”
Ray Magliozzi looked the car over pretty well when he got it. He said it leaked gas, it leaked oil and wouldn’t stay in third gear.
I know just where the car was stored for several years. It was sitting above Ray’s beloved 1987 Dodge Colt Vista, and I can tell you for a fact that it’s still leaking oil…all over Ray’s car.
Tom and Ray wrote a review of the 1952 MG TD shortly after he bought it. It’s packed with great quotes:
“The driving experience is frightening. So frightening, we recommend you wear brown pants whenever you set foot in this car.”
“The top may or may not close and the windshield wipers look like something Thomas Edison could have designed. For all these reasons, we don’t recommend driving this car if there’s anything more than a 30% chance of rain in the forecast.”
“Would it get up to 75? Maybe. But, we’ve never tried it. When 30 feels like 70, why would you want to try?”
“Tommy has devised a simple rule: Never, ever drive the MG on any road built after 1952.”
“This car was made before heat was even invented, and only a few years after fire was discovered by Piltdown Man.”
“When it comes to comfort, on a scale of 1 to 10, the MG is about a 3; which puts it on a par with driving a tree.”
“The wiper blades…will never wear out — because they never touch the glass.”
“The speedometer works nicely, if all you care about is that you’re moving. Other than that, it appears to bear no correlation to the actual speed of the vehicle.”
“On the occasional day when it actually does run, the sun is out, and you’re tootling down Memorial Drive, nothing could be better. And, when your drive is over and you pull into the driveway, you’ll also experience a tremendous sense of elation when you get out. Why? Because you lived.”
The car is currently in the care of Car Talk’s Technical, Spiritual and Menu Advisor, John “Bugsy” Lawlor. Bugsy told me last night that the engine is currently out and getting rebuilt. It should be back running again in the spring. I’ll get a full drive report together when it happens.
In the meantime, we’ll have a cigar and a macchiato and remember one of the funniest car guys ever.
(IMAGE SOURCE: CarTalk.com and Craig Fitzgerald)