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Homepage. This page: The owner of a white MGB tells the story of his Australian-built car, and its travels.

MGB Roadster.

Dave contacted me via the site recently, attaching the interesting story of his very well-travelled MGB, which started out in life as a kit that was shipped to Australia before being assembled. It was later shipped to the USA, then back to England once more, where it still resides in Dave's ownership. This is the diary of his classic MG, and its extensive worldwide travels.
This is the story of a 1972 Australian made MGB that has found its way to where it started life in bits and pieces. It left Abingdon in kit form and was manufactured in Sydney in July 1972. Typically Australian MGs were 45% local content. I became the car’s third owner in October 1993 in Canberra. The Little Great White as I call him, now resides in the land of warm beer and cold pies.
The MG's engine, and back home in England

Detroit - January 2009.

Even with good pacenotes, one is never certain of what is around the next bend and as our lives twist and turn, so goes the fortunes of our MGs. It’s January 2009 and mine is in the USA, shivering in a Michigan garage. He’s afraid to come out for fear of attack by the Evil Road Salt or, being small and white, getting lost in the snow until spring. The car and I spent our first years together in the MG Car Club Canberra from 1993 to 2000. Over time, I had made a few changes and the colour scheme is now pretty much black and white, except for the blue engine. I like that colour though it always draws a rise from the purists. As an Australian Army officer, I was posted from Canberra to Melbourne in 2001 where the car enjoyed a Victorian life for the next five years. The interior was redone in leather and everything that needed doing was duly carried out. In late 2006, I rebuilt the engine in preparation for my retirement after Christmas that year. Then came November and that “Five Left”. This is where the story begins.
“Would you put off retirement and take this liaison posting to the US Army in Detroit? It’s just for a year.” said the Boss (Andrew – he gets a key role in all of this a bit later). I strained my thoughts through a bit of single malt over the weekend, ran it by the real Boss and said “Righto, job’s on” that Monday. Now, what to do with the car? The one with 100 km on the engine and everything working (well, alright, as much as a thirty-four year old car and The Prince can actually manage). Even though I would be covered for about half the storage while I would be overseas, the thought of it sitting in a shed behind the proverbial Dodgy Bros. Pty. Ltd. wasn’t appealing. At the other end of the scale, The Chequered Flag Stables in Melbourne has an excellent facility for keeping classic cars and no doubt the little guy would have loved to settle in with the exotic mob of Jags and Porsches. Alas, it would have been like buying the car twice over if I stayed away too long so I needed another solution. A call to John and Brian in Canberra was in order.
“Maaaaaaaaaate, have I got a deal for you blokes.” While John’s paddock was full, there was just enough space for one more classic at Brian’s place. They agreed to keep the car for a year. “Registration and everything is sorted, so treat it like your own and use it as much as you want.” I ran the engine in on the drive to Canberra just before Christmas. The car settled itself in Brian’s garage, looked over its MG stablemates and felt it had reached classic car heaven. The intent was to leave it there for a year and then shift the little guy to England where we planned to spend the first few retirement years. I went back to Melbourne, threw the turkey on the barbie, said my farewells and then headed to Detroit in early January. I wasn’t quite sure how I would later get the car to England but reckoned I’d have most of the year to work something out. Or so I thought. “Five Right”.
“Would you stay on longer in Detroit? It’s just for a year.” said the new Boss after I had been over here for a while. And Brian tells me that they are selling the house and moving to the Coast. There would be no room for the little guy. I needed a new plan. “200 to Crest”.

Shipping the MG to the USA.

Why not bring it over? I didn’t want to store it in Australia, you truly need two cars in the US of A and it would get it closer to the UK for the next leap. A temporary, resident alien importing a 1972 Australian made British car into the USA can’t be all that hard, yeah? In most cities there are two or three firms that transport cars internationally. In Detroit, there are thirteen. No worries. I’ll shop around and get the professionals to make it all happen. After many phone calls with people younger than my car, I was drowning in a haze of Customs and Border Protection, licences, fees, duties, the US Environmental Protection Agency Guidelines and Regulations, condition and mechanical reports, Department of Transport rules, Michigan Department of State Certificate of Title, insurance, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety, Bumper and Theft Prevention Standards, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a few others things I had never heard of before. Not a mention of how the car would actually get here. While none knew exactly what the car was nor grasped why I was here, they were keen to have a heap of dollars to work something out for me. So I decided to do it all myself.
A bit of research and a few calls to those who put things on big boats and the plan came together. As long as I didn’t sell the car, use it for a drive-by or leave it on the street when I departed, the Americans said I could bring it in with no trouble at all. In Detroit, anything automotive is just fine. The biggest part in the success of the move was the help back in Oz from John, Brian and Andrew. John retrieved the car from Brian’s garage, put it on the Canberra Club’s trailer (not it’s first time on there by a long shot!) and hauled it to Andrew in Melbourne. On 1st March 2008, Andrew got the car on the MV Tamerlane bound for Baltimore. I then stayed awake until 24th April thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I flew over to Baltimore early that morning and took a taxi to the Marine Terminal. The ship had docked a couple of hours earlier and the Wallenius Wilhelmsen staff said they would let me know as soon as the car came off.
I hardly had time to finish the coffee they kindly gave me when its arrival was announced. They brought it around to the front door and handed me the keys. What excellent service! There was not a scratch anywhere and even the golf umbrella was still in the boot. After one quick signature and a few Customs formalities, I flipped the hood down and headed for Motown.
It was a brilliant drive in the warm, spring sunshine. The car purred all the way to the Motor City. Before long, it was proudly wearing its new Michigan licence plate with my not-as-yet patented Australia-USA plate adaptor.
The car is my daily driver. It’s great fun zipping by and around the Detroit mastodons, pick-ups and 4WDs. I’ve become very familiar with a vast array of mag wheels and eyebrow raising bumper stickers. I soon joined the Windsor-Detroit MG Car Club. The international camaraderie gives the club a unique character. Meetings alternate across the border so I have to remember to take my passport to every second one. Crossing the border, the Customs mob often asked if I was going to leave anything in Canada. “Just a bit of used engine oil”, I usually replied. We have felt very welcome in the Club and if you change the place names and accents, it’s just like the Canberra club. I think the little guy enjoys showing the other cars the proper side for the steering wheel. Still, it’s a bit of a stretch at parking garages when you are by yourself with the hood up.
Last summer a few of us went over to the British Sports Car Club of London Classic in Ontario. There were eighty cars with thirty-two MGs. The car took first place in its category. Must have been the Down Under novelty factor perhaps? There is an active undercurrent of British car enthusiasts in North America with no shortage of events. Each year the Detroit Triumph Sports Car Club hosts the Battle of the Brits which draws three hundred cars. In the last one, the MGs took the prize for the greatest number.
1972 MGB in Detroit, USA

Woodward Dream Cruise.

Now, THE major outdoor car event in Detroit is the Woodward Dream Cruise. On a Saturday in mid-August, more than 40,000 muscle cars, street rods, custom, collector and special interest vehicles cruise the 16 miles of Woodward Avenue. The natives, with lawn chairs and eskies, fill the verges along the route. Only in Detroit would a million people sit on the curb all day to watch traffic! The car and I enjoyed a great day out flying the flag and inhaling the automotive atmosphere. With the right hand drive and in elbow-on-the-sill cruising mode, it was easy to chat with the spectators as you ambled along in the traffic. I was having a word with a couple on holidays from Australia until I was encouraged to keep moving by something that had more horsepower in his starter motor than I had in my car.
The two year tour was coming to a close in the autumn of 2008. The plan for next phase of our lives in England was still in first gear when I should have been cruising in overdrive by that time. I was starting to fuss a bit and reckoned I had better get stuck into arranging for a big boat heading East. Or so I thought. “Y Junction over the crest”
“Would you stay on longer in Detroit? It’s just for a year.” said the newest, new Boss. Apologies to the Eagles but it was starting to feel like Hotel “Michigan” – You can check out anytime you want but you can never leave. Anyway, you already know the answer as the little guy is still shivering out there in the garage. It was minus 20C the other day and I thought I’d turn the engine over. Just out of curiosity really. Buckley’s! It was having none of that. I will have to wait for spring. So here we are for another year and looking forward to enjoying the car in its adopted land for one more season. And that is a happy thought as life is good in Detroit and Americans are a wonderful mob to share your motoring time with. After all, it is the Motor City.
I now have heaps of time to make a plan for the rest of the odyssey. A colonial importing a 1972 Australian made British car into England can’t be all that hard, yeah?

Detroit - January 2010.

“I’ll be back.” I said in the deepest voice I could manage. The little guy was shivering as he looked up from the cold floor of Rodney’s garage. He’d heard this all before. I was heading back to Melbourne but had decided to leave the car in Detroit with one of my mates. The plan was to go back to Australia for six months, get myself retired and then head for England. I would pick him up on the way through. As it turned out, I didn’t make it to the UK until April this year and it was June 2011 before I could return to Detroit to retrieve the car.

Meysey Hampton, Gloucestershire - November 2011.

After the house hunting, settling-in and purchasing a good British Strassenkreuzer for everyday use, it was May before I dusted off my file on how to move a MGB around the planet. Again, many phone calls with those younger than the car, but this time most knew what it was. “Yes, of course I know what a MGB is. My Grandfather had one.” Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before I was treading water in an ocean of MOT Test Certificate, Vehicle & Operator Services Agency, Number Plate Authorisation Certificate, tax discs, DVLA, HM Revenue & Customs (and just to keep me confused, one form still says HM Customs and Excise), freight forwarders, car transporters, licence plate makers, classic car insurance and lots of forms beginning with “V”. My DIY approach from last time fell apart rather quickly. Other than booking the passage again with Wallenius Wilhelmsen, I let the professionals do most of the spade work this time.
I went to Detroit in June and spent a few days tuning up the car. He had wintered well and after a few checks
At home in its English garage
and some minor maintenance, fired up at first go. He was a bit sulky at having been left, but happy to be on the road again. My initial plan to drive him to the same dock in Baltimore was thwarted by world events. Things have tightened up a bit this year and an ordinary person can no longer enter the Marine Terminal without special authority, paying a small fortune for an official escort, or having a note from Barack. So onto a car transporter he went. I was a bit nervous about this but the young bloke driving the rig told me his uncle had an MGB so the little guy would be well looked after. He arrived in the Cotswolds in August after a boat ride and short truck trip from Southampton. And again, without a scratch! Just a lot of shipping labels which took ages to scrape off. The first meeting with his new big brother, the Jagasaurus, was a bit cool but they get on fine now. They are both Top Gear fans and share some fantasy to do with the Nürburgring. The LGW is happy – he gets the garage.
The car is revelling in its new life in the Motherland. It’s wonderful driving on the roads that the car was designed and built for. It feels very natural and brings out the joy of a British sports car. Naturally we joined the MG Car Club and are with the Abingdon Works Centre and on the MGB Register. Wonder if there are any other fair dinkum Aussie MGBs in the UK? We also joined the Fairford Classic Car Club which is non-denominational and has a very interesting mix of classic cars. In October we had two outings – one to the Prescott Hill Climb and the second with the FCCC to Upton House near Banbury, Warwickshire. The car has become a regular outside the village pub. Wherever we go, the blue engine draws a few comments.
It’s so good to have the little guy here. I’ve been telling him that 2012 will be a marvellous time to have a MGB in the England. I think he agrees as he looks up at me from the garage. He is smiling.
Fascinating story, thanks for sending it over!
Find more owners' stories in the Your Cars section at oldclassiccar.

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