- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

What would posses Pat Thompson, a woman with an affection for spirited British sports cars, to acquire a car she herself describes as, "Slow as molasses with two people aboard."
Ms. Thompson was minding her own business in the mid-1990s when she received a telephone call from a distant cousin she had met once so long ago that she couldn't remember when.
The cousin said she and her military husband were being reassigned to Fort Monroe in Virginia and wouldn't it be nice to get together?
When they met they discovered their mutual affection for British sports cars. Her cousin's husband had acquired a used 1974 MGB GT in Seattle, which was then driven on a regular basis at least for a few years.
The car had not been driven for several years before it was transported crosscountry to Virginia.
After a few years in Virginia the cousin and her family in 1998 received word that they were being transferred to Nebraska. That's when Ms. Thompson's relative asked if she would be interested in buying their MGB GT, which hadn't run in several years.
Although it was an interesting model, Ms. Thompson declined the offer.
The next evening her cousin telephoned with an offer Ms. Thompson could not refuse. She could have the MGB GT at no cost, her cousin explained, with the single stipulation that she had to maintain the car and upon her death ownership of the car would revert to the cousin.
In essence, the cousin had found a no-cost place to keep the MGB GT and could eventually get the car back.
Only because the MGB GT is such a desirable model did Ms. Thompson agree to such a deal.
The 12-foot, 9-inch-long sports car was delivered Jan. 1, 1999, on a trailer to a Springfield shop where the car could be put back into working condition. At that time the odometer had recorded 63,000 miles.
With a nod to legality, Ms. Thompson insisted on paying a dollar for the car. Even at that price the car was no bargain.
A lot of work needed to be accomplished including a new exhaust system and a new front suspension along with new leaf springs and a new fuel pump. Work began on the car in April 1999.
Ms. Thompson recalls that the ragged interior was gutted. An authentic air conditioner was purchased and is awaiting installation.
Before that comfort accessory is working, however, Ms. Thompson in Texas found and bought a factory-fresh Britax sunroof. She had the appropriate size hole cut into the roof of the MGB GT to accommodate the accessory. "I wouldn't have that car without a sunroof," Ms. Thompson said.
What little rust was eating away at the car was cut out. The left front fender had been damaged and was patched together in a very unprofessional manner. An orange-colored replacement was found and a new black engine hood was installed.
The two original S.U. carburetors gave Ms. Thompson so much trouble she replaced them with a single Webber carburetor.
So many years has passed since the car was in daily operation that a new brake system, front disc and rear drum, was installed.
Parts of the all-black vinyl interior were replaced as deemed necessary and a stylish three-spoke Nardi steering wheel was added to dress up the cockpit. From lock to lock the steering wheel makes only three turns.
A fresh coat of glacier white paint was applied to complete the makeover in the autumn of 1999.
Research revealed to Ms. Thompson that a total of 9,581 cars like hers were manufactured in Abingdon in Great Britain and 5,682 were exported, most of them to the United States. When new, she says, the car had a base price of about $3,100.
If the car had been one year newer she says she wouldn't have it today because 1974 is the last model year with chrome bumpers. The next year the ugly government-mandated rubber bumpers protected the cars.
The diminutive MGB GT is an eyelash shy of 5 feet wide and stands with its distinctive profile an inch and a half more than 4 feet high. On 5.60x14-inch tires the car has a 5-inch ground clearance and can be turned in a 31-foot circle.
Ms. Thompson reports that with an overdrive and a four-speed manual transmission the top speed indicated on the 120 mph speedometer is almost within reach.


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