- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

Most Americans think of open two-seat sports cars whenever the British MG automobile is discussed. However, four-door MG sedans were manufactured both before and after World War II.
The Z series of MG Magnette saloons was produced from October 1953 to December 1958. A total of 18,075 ZA models were followed by 19,025 improved ZB models. A precious few of the 37,100 MG Z series cars ever came to the United States.
A used 1958 ZB model ended up in the hands of Clemson University student Doug Campbell. He happily drove his MG while courting his wife, Kay. In the mid-1960s the MG was demolished during a close encounter with a much larger American car.
Though she mourned the demise of the MG more than he, they still were married leading him to believe that he was the sole object of her affection.
Little did he know.
In the spring of 1977 she saw a 1958 MG ZB Magnette saloon advertised for sale.
A London resident had bought it new and first registered it Aug. 1, 1958. Later, his son became the second owner. When the MG was 19 years old, the son decided to sell it to any crazy American who would gladly pay too much. He shipped the car to the United States where the plan was for his father-in-law to sell the car at an exorbitant price.
The Campbell couple, along with their two children, waited for a weekend and drove to New Jersey near the Delaware Water Gap area to inspect the car.
When the garage door opened, Mrs. Campbell was smitten by the black saloon with its maroon interior.
All the parts it should have, it did have and, though well-worn, the MG was in very presentable condition.
But, unlike crazy Americans, the Campbells had previous experience with a Z series MG and knew what the honest price should be.
After a bit of negotiating, the Campbells became the third owners of the MG that is an inch more than 14 feet long.
Although it was to be Mrs. Campbell's car, Mr. Campbell drove it the 200-plus miles home. That way, if it broke down, she would have someone to blame. Also, the manual four-speed transmission and clutch were foreign to her.
The first order of business, after the uneventful trip home, was teaching Mrs. Campbell the intricacies of the manual transmission.
Mrs. Campbell soon christened her stolid MG, which sometimes would behave as if it had a mind of its own, Winston. To her the sturdy car exhibited many of the same traits as Winston Churchill. "I'm here to tell you that once you name a car you're totally helpless," Mrs. Campbell explains. From that point on, any needs of the car take precedence.
The diminutive 91-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine, fed by a pair of single-barrel downdraft S.U. carburetors is just barely up to the task of propelling the relatively heavy 2,430-pound car.
"When you buy a pig in a poke, you never know," Mrs. Campbell said. "We got lucky."
The Campbells drove Winston a few years on its 5.50x15-inch tires on a 102-inch wheelbase, in the United States until 1980 when the Air Force transferred Mr. Campbell to Belgium.
Of course, Winston went with them.
Their first week in Belgium the Campbells learned to their dismay that the Belgian drivers have no concept of traficator turn signals. Traficators are the illuminated arms that flip out from the side of the car to indicate the intention of turning.
The French Citroen that ignored the traficator was hauled from the accident scene on the back of a truck while Winston sustained only a bruise on its fender. "Winston is a baby tank," Mrs. Campbell said proudly.
After four years in Belgium the Campbells were reassigned to Germany. During the transfer the MG was taken to England where it underwent a superficial restoration and was repainted in the summer of 1985.
From Germany Mr. Campbell flew to England to retrieve the MG and drive it back to Germany. On the autobahn approaching Stuttgart, a passing Mercedes-Benz cut too abruptly in front of him. The rear bumper of the Mercedes-Benz caught the front bumper of the MG. The end result was the front bumper of the MG was bent, while the rear bumper of the Mercedes-Benz was lying on the highway.
The bad news was that the accident occurred. The good news was that repairs didn't involve any bodywork.
Peering through the three banjo spokes of the steering wheel, the driver sees the 100 mph speedometer. After enjoying the joke Mrs. Campbell said, "Winston is happiest at 60 to 65 miles per hour."
Sipping premium fuel from the 9.5 imperial gallon fuel tank, the car can deliver up to 20 miles per gallon.
From Germany the MG crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the third time and was delivered to the port of St. Louis where Mr. Campbell took delivery. He drove Winston to Dayton, Ohio. After retiring from the Air Force, he drove the MG to Northern Virginia.
Door handle to door handle, the little MG is only 5-feet, 3-inches wide, which makes the interior comfortable for four passengers five if the three in the back seat are friendly. "Winston doesn't like being full," Mrs. Campbell said.
Since Winston has been back stateside, the Campbells have continued a regular maintenance schedule. The mahogany dashboard with walnut inserts has been refinished. The maroon floor and seat covering has also been replaced. The package shelf beneath the dashboard needed no attention.
"The bottom nine inches of the car," Mr. Campbell said, "have been replaced." Unless the car is garaged, the lower parts of the fenders and doors simply wither away, Mr. Campbell said.
Regardless of what other cars the Campbells have in their stable, the MG has always been the one to count on.
"Winston has always been a dependable workhorse," Mrs. Campbell concludes.


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