- - Friday, October 8, 2010

A 1966 MG roadster Mike Hughes owned while a Georgetown University student brought him together with his wife, Lucia.

The car broke down on M Street one Friday night in October 1971. As Mr. Hughes walked across the campus for help, he spotted his future wife, a fellow student, and was able to convince her that helping him push his MG was a great way to spend a Friday evening.

“We got the car started,” Mr. Hughes says, “and drove it to Fletcher’s Boat House.” There, they discussed the finer points of MG automobiles. They were married in 1976 and drove off to a life together in a 1951 MG TD. Mr. Hughes has always been infatuated with British cars manufactured by MG.

Mr. Hughes has been an active member of the local MG club since 1971, which came in handy 10 years later. His wife likes MG cars, but roadsters with the top down are not friendly to her hair. Mr. Hughes saw not a problem but an opportunity when his wife brought that to his attention. The solution, he determined, was an MGBGT model built from October 1965 to October 1980. The 12-foot-9-inch-long closed cars were 60 inches wide, 48 inches high and rode on a 91-inch wheelbase. The only problem now was to locate one that had not rusted away.

The search for a good MGBGT had gone on for a year when his MG club membership saved the day. A fellow member had a 1971 MGBGT that he raced and had slightly hopped up the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The body, however, was falling apart. The owner of that MGBGT was looking for parts for his car in Banks Truck and Auto Salvage in Woodbridge when a pristine 1966 MGBGT with a blown engine was towed into the junkyard. The search for parts ended, and he bought the 1966 car, took it home and swapped the engines and transmissions.

After a year or so he wanted to move up to a more powerful car so he offered the 1966 MGBGT to Mr. Hughes. The deal was a no-brainer as far as Mr. Hughes was concerned. The body and interior were in very good condition, and the more powerful engine was healthy. The four-speed manual transmission even had overdrive in third and fourth gears.

Mr. Hughes learned that the 2,401-pound car left the factory in Abingdon, Britain, early in 1966 and was sold new in San Francisco to a young Marine officer who later took it to Hawaii. When he was reassigned to California, he brought his car with him. Eventually the Marine was transferred to Quantico, which explains how the West Coast car ended up on the East Coast.

The car served reliably until it started smoking in 2000, prompting Mr. Hughes to rebuild the engine. A couple of years later, the Hugheses decided there was no new car on the market they liked as well as their MGBGT, so they decided to restore it. What small amount of rust was on the car was excised before its repainting. All of the identifying MG badges were removed as well as the front-to-rear side molding. The vehicle was then sprayed the original white color. Even without air conditioning, Mr. Hughes says, it won’t fry you. The rear quarter windows pop out at the rear to help ventilate the interior. The large windows in the doors have been replaced, but the other six windows are original.

Beneath the gray head liner virtually everything is red, including the metal dashboard and the carpeting. “We had to kill two naughas to cover the seats and door panels,” Mr. Hughes jokes.

Mr. Hughes replaced a couple of the chrome pieces, but didn’t send anything out to be replated. A grille and both bumpers, all in very nice condition, came from a donor-parts car. The 14-inch tires are mounted on 60-spoke chrome-spoked wheels.

Because the back seat was never used, Mr. Hughes removed it, which now leaves a large platform for luggage or other cargo. On trips they have made, Mr. Hughes reports highway mileage of about 26 miles per gallon.

Now that Vintage Restorations in Mt. Airy has completed the job, Mr. Hughes finds his time with the car limited because Mrs. Hughes has laid claim to what she refers to as “my little white egg.”