- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

Mike and Sharon Stephens were content in the mid-1980s. They didn't know they needed another car. Then their son, Kevin, came home from the University of Virginia for the summer and decided he needed a car.
Knowing his father's affection for MG automobiles the son limited his search to MGs, correctly thinking such a choice would be an easier sell to the man signing the check.
He soon found one with only 21,000 miles on the odometer for sale in Vienna, Va. At that time the MGB was just a 9-year-old sports car.
The origins of the vehicle are a mystery, but when the Stephens family entered the picture the second owner reported that the original owner had been a Navy captain who owned the car for six years. For most of those years the car was in storage because the owner was stationed overseas.
The low-mileage, chartreuse MGB captured the attention of both Mr. Stephens and his son. A deal was struck on the spot and Mr. Stephens followed his son home in the 2,290-pound MGB with the big rubber bumpers.
Glorious top-down summer days of motoring followed but soon the young scholar returned to his matriculation duties in Charlottesville sans MGB.
Mr. Stephens informed his son that the car was really for his mother, and that's why he couldn't take it to school.
That's when the scholar's parents had a brilliant idea. If he wanted the car at school, they informed him, he would have to earn A and B grades for a year.
It's amazing what an incentive can accomplish. Kevin's grades soared in his junior year and in his senior year the MGB went off to college.
"I don't know when he found time to study," Mr. Stephens exclaims. A year later, upon graduation, the car was returned with an additional 19,000 miles recorded on the odometer and with an admonition from Kevin, "You need to fix it."
Mr. Stephens tended to emergency measures and continued to drive the MGB another two years before the inevitable occurred.
March of 2001 arrived and with it the decision to redo the MGB. That's when a complete diagnosis of the 13-foot, 2?-inch-long car was in order.
The only rust problems were in the usual dogleg areas forward of the rear wheel wells. With the affected areas cut out and replaced with healthy steel, Mr. Stephens had the car repainted the original chartreuse color.
Mr. Stephens determined the original black vinyl upholstery remained serviceable. Besides, he wanted to actually use the MGB upon completion of the restoration.
The 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine was given a physical examination and was pronounced fit. With an overdrive unit the car can easily reach 90 mph, Mr. Stephens said. The optimistic speedometer registers up to 120 mph.
The nimble MGB rides on a set of 165 R14 84S tires supporting a wheelbase that is a hair more than 91 inches. This gives the MGB the ability to do a 180-degree turn in a space of only 32 feet. "It's so easy to drive," Mr. Stephens exudes.
Mr. Stephens is quick to vouch for the dependability of his MGB. For years he and the car have taken part in the Ballyshaners St. Patrick's Day parade in Old Town Alexandria. The Irish beauty selected as the Rose of Tralee is paraded though Old Town on Mr. Stephens' MGB. At a hair shy of five feet wide, the cockpit could be described as cozy. The 12-volt battery is stowed behind the passenger's seat.
Still a relatively low-mileage car now with 60,000 miles driven in 25 years, Mr. Stephens attributes its longevity to a four-speed manual transmission with overdrive in the third and fourth gears, essentially making it a six-speed transmission.
Mr. Stephens reports gas mileage figures of close to 40 mpg on the highway with a Stromberg carburetor feeding the engine. "It gets about 25-ish around town," he said.
Mr. Stephens, retired from being a home builder, is the owner of American Home Inspections. He is never tempted to take his MGB with the big, black rubber bumpers to work since the ground clearance is less than 4? inches.
In addition, he faces the same obstacle son Kevin encounters when he suggests that he take the MGB to his home that obstacle being Mrs. Stephens.
In all these years, lament the father and son, she's driven the MGB only once.
She's quick to remind the masculine members of the family that what really counts is the name on the title.
She hints, however, that she may loan out the car on occasion.
Mr. Stephens says that's an acceptable offer. In the meantime he remains a thorn in the side of auto-parts store clerks when he attempts to buy replacement wiper blades since the MGB has three.
"It's a bear to buy a box and a half," he said with a laugh.

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