I wanted a Miata. Ok, that's not entirely true. I wanted a late '60's Jaguar XKE, but have you seen how much those things cost?? Much less one that needs a little TLC (READ: really, really, dirt cheap if you're willing to get dirty to fix it). Those tend to combine the word 'frame' with either the words 'rust' or 'bent' in the description, or at least they would if they were honest. I don't know much about frame repair, but I know they make a machine that does that and only that and there isn't enough room in my garage for one of those. Since I have a chronic but not entirely deliberating case of the 'poors', the XKE was a nonstarter. I did find a completely reasonable one once. All it would have cost me is a divorce. Not because of the money, but because the guy said he'd give it to whoever married one of his three daughters first. He is the father of one of my wife's college friends, so I would have had to ditch the current wife to get the car…. I mean marry one of his daughters. They're all perfectly nice people, but after a good 8-12 minutes of deliberation, I decided I loved my wife too much. Besides the car was a coupe and I had my heart set on a convertible. The marriage wouldn't have worked out. The car and I were incompatible.
I set my sights on a Miata. What's not to love about a Miata? Two door, drop top, fun in the sun. It's all modern with modern car bits that drive like a modern car bit car is supposed to drive. You can drop the top with one hand. It handles like a dream. The aftermarket is crazy, so you can always tinker with the thing, but it works. They sounded cool. They were exotic! Ok poor people exotic for those of us with the chronic poors. Plus they were Japanese – the gold standard in reliability. They were the symbol of reclaimed youth and vitality. They were freedom on ZoomZoom wings! I'm pretty sure Frank Sinatra would have bought one if he were coming up today because they were both the same degree of cool. The Miata was the key to my middle aged salvation! Not originally though. Originally I thought Miatas were stupid.
My best friend in the world had bought a brand new 10th anniversary edition Miata and I hated it. Well, not exactly hated it, more like hated him for having it because I had just bought an entirely sensible 4 door Honda Accord (4 cylinder, not the 6 because it got slightly better gas mileage). That's the sort of sensible decision an adult does, not a silly two seater sports car. For christ's sake, you could hardly get a box in the back, much less move all your stuff that one time you have to do it every three years or so. What was he gonna do, rent a $20 a day moving truck when that day happened??? That's crazy. Why not buy a perfectly good boring sedan that kills your spirit a little inside because of its boringness every time you climb in it? That's what adults do.
He had done it once before when we graduated high school (we go back to diaper days, him and I). He was a year ahead of me in school, so he decided to stay in town at one of the local colleges for the first year. The daily drive was a good haul and a half each way and his mom needed her car to get to work, so he needed to get a car. He went searching and found the stupidest, least sensible car known to mankind – a 1978 MGB. The thing was OLD. And convertible with NO ROLL BAR! What if he rolled? He'd be killed (oddly in my mother's voice in my head). And the lights did funny things when you turned on the radio. It only sat two people. I drove a VW Rabbit and we once stuck 6 dudes in that thing. You couldn't stick 6 of us in an MGB. No way. He should have gotten a Civic or maybe even a Rabbit. A good sensible car is what was needed because he was, at 18, a grown- up and grown-ups drive sensible cars. Think of the gas mileage man! The GAS MILEAGE! But not my friend – he bought this silly looking, not even a Jaguar XKE, British MGB thing. Here he was driving around in this stupid, two seater, light dimming…. No roll bar…. Old…. Beautiful… fun looking…. blast to ride around in…. glorious gateway to a misspent youth of driving nirvana car. And I was stuck in my dad's old Taurus (the rabbit done died) 4 door sedan. Nobody once asked me, "Hey! Want kinda car is that! Looks really cool!" when I was in either the Taurus or the Rabbit. He and his car were just stupid. The both of them. At least my radio didn't make the lights dim.
A weird thing happened along the way though. I love to drive. Love it. I like being out on the road, crankin some tunes, enjoying the hills and curves. I love switchin the gears (the correct number of pedals is always 3). Maybe put the windows down and let a little air in. Honestly that's when I'm my happiest – on the open road enjoying the ride. But as much as I love it, I can't help but notice something – my stupid friend with his stupid convertible two seater cars has a grinnier grin on his face when he's doing the same thing in his cars. Doesn't matter if it's the old thing or the new Miata – he's havin' more fun than me. Don't get me wrong, even though he's stupid and his cars are stupid, I love him to death and I'm happy he's having fun. But what can I do to get that much fun? I want that kinda look too. I've suffered through my allotment of boring and sensible. I want my share of stupid. Dammnit, I want a stupid car!
Fast forward to the mid to late 2000's and I'm having one of my occasional remission of the poors and I'm thinking, "I'm gonna do it! I'm going to get me a good mid-life crisis!" Luckily as long as I agreed to not include any other women in my mid-life crisis, my wife was supportive. So I went looking for one of those Miatas. I looked high and low for the prefect car. I wanted a 6 speed. I wanted the second generation model. I wanted a low(ish) miles. And I wanted it cheap because although my poors were in remission, they have a nasty tendency to flare up and the worst times. The game was afoot!
I have a second friend who, like me, thought our friend's car choices were stupid and he was stupid. I actually don't know that's true, but I like the comfort of solidarity so he can write his own stupid journal if he disagrees. He, too, felt the need for a mid-life crisis car and he bought one – a 1977 MGB. In fact, this one happens to be the cousin to our friend's '78, as our stupid friend's stupid uncle bought this stupid '77 at the same time he bought his stupid '78. So my second friend bought it off the uncle and brought it home like a proud papa. Here's the thing about my second friend – he doesn't know much about working on cars. However, we still have our mutual stupid friend who happens to know a LOT about working on them, particularly MG repairs as the three of us has collectively undertaken a number of them on his stupid '78 over the years. The '77 was…. Rough. But it was dirt cheap. Like 'destined to suck a bank account dry with repairs' cheap.
Let me list a partial detail of the known problems with the '77. The interior? Mostly shot. Floor plans need cut out and replaced. The seats simultaneously both rattle and won't move. There is no carpet. There are no window cranks. I'm not entirely sure if there are windows to be cranked, actually. The center arm rest is cracked, which is ok because it's in the trunk. The HVAC controls are keeping the center console company there too. The brakes don't work. And by 'don't work' I mean the clutch pedal gives more resistance than the brake. The battery is dead. The fuel is old and crappy. All the rubber is in need of replacement since it has the texture of the Mojave desert. Some fool painted the wheels a gold color. Most of the car is a hideous shade of yellow. The rest is a hideous shade of primer. There is no hood latch. There is no trunk latch. One of the front headlights is literally held together with duct tape. The windshield is broken. The only way you can say there are working seals in the thing would be to tow it to Sea World, grab one out of a tank, and toss it in the passenger's seat. There is no top, which isn't really a problem considering there is no top frame to hold the top anyway. There are rust spots here and there… and there… and over there… and a few more there. And that's just what we can see.
The clock works though.
In short, this is the stupidest MGB in the history of stupid MGBs. It's the definition of a rolling deathtrap headed toward a bottomless money pit. And my newly renamed 'Stupider' friend bought it! HA! Idiot!
Set on my Miata sites, I assembled some money and I went hunting. Nope, not that one. That other one's automatic? Come on! I don't like white of this one. That's a first generation that has enough miles on it to almost make it to the moon. They want how much for this other thing? The search was fruitless, but I kept at it day and night.
Then the recession hit and my poors flared up big time. Worst case of my life. My little pool of mad money keep dwindling and dwindling on annoying things like food and mortgage payments. Worst. Midlife Crisis. Ever. Cruel irony stuck and I found the perfect Miata a little over an hour from me. The only problem was by this time, it was 4 times what I could afford unless I sold my house, and I was pretty sure my wife had SOME limits to her willingness to play along with my midlife crisis. Plus I'd never get the paper work signed before someone else snatched it up. All hope was lost.
At the exact same time, my stupider friend was coming in an increasingly annoying realization – his kids like to eat. A LOT. Like every damn day in nearly predictable time patterns (I'm led to believe that time frame is 'constantly' like grazing cows). He also realized he isn't exactly the most mechanically minded. Nor is body work his forte. And interior work isn't any fun. In short, he has a glorious path to freedom on the open roads and the only thing standing in his way is time, money, ability, and an innate desire to do the work. Four little things, but important things none the less. Then came the final nail in the already ignored coffin in the form of his wife wanting to park her car in the garage like a normal, sane person. The Money And Death Trap had to go.
And thus went a casual conversation between myself and my Stupider Friend – "Want it cheap?" "Sure!"
That's right, in four syllables I had rocketed myself to the pole position. The supreme place. The head of the class. I became……. The Stupidest Friend Of Them All!!!
So, yeah, here she is: Kaylee. She's falling apart, I have no idea what I'm doing, I can't afford anything on it even if I did, and my only resources are a person I spent the better part of a couple thousand words referring to as 'stupid' and the Internet to guide me through as I measure once and cut twice through the project. And you know what? I love this stupid car and it gives me a stupid grin on my stupid face when I look at her.
But damnit.... the clock works!