The Story of Barb’s MG

Barb grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and, when she turned 21 in 1961, struck out for California in her 1960 Pontiac Ventura. She landed a job working for General Dynamics in Pomona, California. In 1963, she sold her Ventura and bought a new Pontiac Tempest convertible. In 1964, despite it being almost brand new, she sold the Tempest and bought a used 1955 MG TF1500 which she had fallen in love with. (English sports cars were very popular at the time). In the fall of 1965 she decided to return to Lincoln and found a job with Notifier which was a manufacturer of commercial fire alarm systems. She came back to Lincoln driving her MG with her most valued possessions – her sewing machine and her Great Dane. Herb was just starting his final semester in Electrical Engineering at the University of Nebraska and was working part-time at Notifier as a junior engineer. He had been driving a 1957 Triumph TR3 which he had bought in 1959. In the fall of 1965 he bought a new 1965 Austin Healey 3000 as an early graduation present. As luck would have it, Barb started in the engineering department where Herb was also working. When Herb first met Barb, he thought she was pretty cute but when he found out she also drove that red MG that had shown up in the parking lot – that sealed the deal – he had to get a date with her to get to know her better. To make a long story short, they not only started dating, but got married in July of 1966. They honeymooned in the Colorado Rockies in the Austin Healey leaving the MG in Lincoln.

They continued to live in Lincoln using the Healey and MG as daily drivers. In 1969, they decided to sell the Healey and buy a new Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme while still keeping the MG. In 1974, they realised that the MG was getting a little long in the tooth to use for a daily driver so they ordered a new Datsun 260Z. Less than a year before that, they had had the MG completely re-upholstered inside and out with the intention of having the engine rebuilt and the car repainted. They were planning on keeping the MG to have fun with so when they took delivery on the 260Z, they used some space in an extra garage her folks had to keep the MG out of the weather – fully intending to drive it now and then. Barb vowed: ”I want to still be driving that car when I am a 74 year old grandma.” As luck would have it, just prior to taking delivery on the 260Z, they found out Barb was pregnant with their first child. If you have ever seen the MG, you would know that it was not designed to accommodate pregnant women (it barely accommodates normal sized people). The MG remained in the garage. In that same year, Barb’s parents decided to move to California and Barb and Herb bought their house – an acreage that was just outside of the Lincoln city limits at the time. The MG again remained in the garage. In 1985, they bought a horse for their oldest daughter who was now 10. Herb built a horse stall and paddock down by the garage where the MG was stored. The MG was pushed farther into the garage to make room for hay and feed storage. After the horses were gone and their two daughters had grown and left home, the MG languished in the garage almost forgotten. For several years thereafter, Herb would promise Barb that for her birthday, or perhaps as a Christmas present he would work on the MG and get it running again. Never happened – the MG still remained in the garage. The garage, where the MG was being stored, began to show its age – the foundation walls were starting to bow in severely and threatened to collapse (probably the only thing holding it up was all the crap packed inside). The decision was made to clean out the garage and get a quote on getting it repaired rather than tearing it down. This would make better use of the garage and give them a good place to keep the MG after it was restored (Barb had just turned 74 in June and was a grandma twice over – her vow was in jeopardy).

Herb searched the Internet for somebody local that was capable of restoring old vehicles. He came upon Gary Otto’s Otto Performance website and was impressed with what he saw and read. He contacted Gary and, yes, he would be interested in taking the MG restoration on as a project. On July 2, 2014 (one day before Barb and Herb’s 48th wedding anniversary), Gary and his son Shelby, who works for Gary, came to pick up the MG. It had to be winched out of the garage and onto the trailer because one of the rear wheels was frozen. As it came out into the light of day for the first time in forty years, Shelby kept saying “This car is so cool! This is going to be so much fun to work on!” It is mid-November now and the garage has a new foundation and is waiting for a break in the weather to get some cement work done, a retaining wall built and a new garage door installed. The MG is distributed around Gary’s shop and his brother Todd’s paint and body shop. The frame has been sand blasted and painted, the body parts have been stripped for repair and painting, and a ton of parts have been ordered from Moss motors. The rebuilding process is about to begin.

Barb’s vow: “I want to still be driving that car when I am a 74 year old grandma” is about to come true.

Ed’s Note: Herb and Barb Griess kindly sent me this article from Lincoln, Nebraska via Barrie Jones, MGCC T Register Technical Specialist for the TD and TF models. The TF1500 is TF6596, one of the first hundred 1500s. I’ve promised Herb and Barb that TF6596 can have pride of place on the front cover when it has been completed… and now to another TF, but on this side of the ‘pond’!

Chris Postle over in East Anglia has been ‘beavering away’ on TF2680 for the past few years. The ‘pic’ above shows it arriving in 2004. The next few ‘pics’ show the standard of restoration that Chris has achieved so far. He is hoping that the car will be completed later this year.

And now, one of the interior behind the seats:

And a couple of the refurbished steering wheel…

Chris told me that his steering wheel was refurbished by Paul Banham 01843 844962 of I contacted Paul and asked him to let me have some further information about the service he offers and he responded with the following: At Steering Wheel Restoration we not only specialise in repairing steering wheels for a multitude of different vehicles, cars, trucks, buses, tractors, planes, boats from the turn of the previous century to date. We also mould and reproduce exact replicas of original unavailable steering wheels. We work with wood, celluloid, bakelite, steel and aluminium. Our aim is to repair or reproduce your steering wheel in a way that is fitting for the age of the vehicle and your requirements. We particularly specialise in wheels from the 1910s onwards when most steering wheels were covered in celluloid over steel or aluminium frames. Many of the wheels produced during this time were made by Bluemels for which we have moulds and jigs to reproduce the detail of the original celluloid coverings. Later period steering wheels were made of Bakelite. We can finish the steering wheels in black, colours marbled, clear or even recover in leather. With regards to MG steering wheels, we have moulds dating from approximately 1930 onwards, as well as later moulds for MG TC, TD, TF, MGA and MGB. With some of the earlier manufactured wheels we can offer brand new replacements rather than repairing the original. MG TD and TF wheels were often finished in a marbled effect and we can replicate this. The MG TC is a particularly weak steering wheel and if necessary we can replace the whole rim, retaining all the original detail. We have also been surprised to see MGB wheels coming into to be restored with the spokes parting company from the inner rim; we re-weld these and can recast a new rim. With MGC wheels we also cover them in leather. We also offer an exchange service on the MG TD & TF steering wheel although restoration normally only takes one week on the majority of these wheels. Two more photos follow, one of which highlights the loose spokes which these wheels were often manufactured with, leading to the cracking at the intersection of the spoke to the rim. Some steering wheels have been found to have not been welded at all!