I Ruined My Friend’s Life with an MG Midget

Our cars mean a lot to us. They bring us comfort and friends, good times and lifelong memories. Many of us have entwined our lives with our rides of choice. We cannot imagine how our life would be without our vintage chariots. But what about when this goes wrong? What happens when a car drags its owner down rather than lifting them up? I have one such story for you.

Personally, I’ve always been a man with tastes above my station in life. I want only the best and most unique items to touch my personal world. Because of this, I can’t be bothered with safe or middling choices. I need flair and panache. This unfortunate personality trait leads me to suggest this same misguided course to others, often to their detriment. Case in point: a good friend and roommate of mine named Pete* was one day shopping for a new car. He was tired of his ancient and rusting Japanese pickup breaking down and had a little saved up. He planned on buying a fairly modern used car that had power windows and unbroken taillights and everything.

In other words, he was ready for the big leagues.

One night while shooting pool, he was flipping through the AutoTrader and pointing out Nissan Maximas and Honda Accords that looked particularly choice to him. I snatched the magazine out of his hands and, even though I knew less about cars than I do now (inconceivable as that may be), I proceeded to dictate at length how boring his life would be if he bought a Japanese family car. I animatedly reminded him of the following irrefutable facts: He was young! Single! A server at Applebees! The world was literally his oyster! What other time than now to have a unique and fun vehicle? What better way to proclaim your positive qualities and great personality than through some vintage sheet metal? None, that’s what I told him.

And then I found her.

Page 42, lower right hand corner.

An MG Midget.

“THIS, Pete, is what you NEED.  It may sound like an emasculating car, but you’re wrong Pete. This is your ticket to no-more-lonely-nights-burge. Oh look, it is even $2,000 less than you wanted to spend! This is such a good idea. Believe me Pete, I own a sports car and read all the right car magazines. I’m the expert here, and the expert is telling you to buy a candy orange MG Midget. “

He listened to me and promptly bought the Midget the next day.

His mistake.

For a while life was good for Pete and Bridget the Midget (Okay, so we weren’t THAT creative during our naming session). He seemed happier, and more outgoing. He made new friends and even scored himself a girlfriend. He got several months of open-top motoring and smiles out of Bridget, but then things all went pear-shaped for poor Pete.

Pete had never owned any truly unreliable car, especially nothing as uniquely unreliable as a British roadster. The roof started to misbehave and the car was suddenly a roadster only. Not great in snow-prone Utah but hey, it was summer; we (he) had plenty of time to fix it. The electronics (of course) started having a mind of their own. And then “the incident” happened.

Having only owned cars that generally behaved themselves, Pete didn’t realize that when the glaring and angry red oil pressure light comes on in a 1964 MG Midget that it is not a gentle suggestion, nor is it something to fix later. Pete kept driving, at freeway speeds, until Bridget ruefully disgorged a large percentage of her engine onto Interstate 15 northbound.

Lesson learned about that oil light then.

Bridget was towed to some chain tire shop in disgrace, and Pete was humble and heartbroken. He was never really the same after that. Fixing that little fiasco took months and he now had a hidden sadness and anger. The very thing that had brought him so much happiness had now betrayed him.

Once he starting fixing things on the MG, he fell down the rabbit hole familiar to many of us. He learned there is no such thing as just fixing one part. Once you start replacing, you can go all the way down to the frame with your repairs. The whole process lasted months, and in the end he lost a lot of money, lost his girlfriend, and worst of all kept his job at Applebees.

Pete spent the next few weeks just finding a local shop that was capable of basically installing a new engine into Bridget without being disgustingly expensive. He dumped about $4,000 into that little project alone. Bridget eventually got back up and running, but it was a different relationship now. Pete had been burned. It is doubtful that he will ever let anything or anyone inside the walls he has now built around his heart.  As the ladies say, he is now damaged goods.

Around this time Pete and I ceased living together and drifted apart. It could be theorized that I stopped calling him because I felt enormous guilt about what a shambles my suggestions had turned his life into. That theory wouldn’t be entirely accurate, but it wouldn’t be wholly inaccurate either.

I don’t know whatever became of Bridget, but I sincerely hope that Pete still has her. In my mind’s eye, he takes her out on especially nice weekends for a roll around the city while wearing his tweed driving cap. The two of us made some truly great memories together with that car, scenes I still hold dear to my heart. Our cars can mean a lot to us, but whether they are working perfectly or a pile of rust they give us memories and lessons. We learn with them and from them. For that reason alone, we should never give up on them.

So believe your warning lights.

Don’t pin your entire emotional well-being on an inanimate British object.

But most of all, don’t listen to my used car advice.

*Names and details have not been changed to protect the innocent, mostly because I’m the only guilty party here. If you read this Pete, get in touch with me.

Image Sources: postercorner.com, ebay.com, skateandannoy.com, eatworms.org, flickr.com, cartype.com, mclellansautomotive.com