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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • SUMMER IN ITALY, 1951

Grandpa Fred: 1958

Grandpa Fred: 1958

Chula Vista, California, 1958. Grandpa Fred in his MGA on Madrona Street. Photo by my father, home on leave after his second year at West Point. View full size.

Know why the British didn't make computers?

They couldn't figure out how to make them leak oil.

The first car I owned was a 1967 Triumph Spitfire. I couldn't keep the rear tail light lenses on the car, everytime someone would walk around the back, they would naturally grab ahold of the tail light lens and it would break off.

In 1970 the lens cost $11.00 and was a special order item in Springfield MO

No Chance.

He would be way over a hundred if he was still alive.

I lived in Southern California, from 1956 to 1959, near Pasadena in a little town called Duarte. For a young lad (11 Yrs Old),who migrated there from the big blue sky's of Texas, it was not a nice place to grow up. The smog was so bad (I lived in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains), you were lucky to see them on a Sunday. I was definetily glad to leave.

Meanwhile

The middle class British family car was this an Austin A35

Dad...

My dad had at various times in the early 60's, an Austin Healey, a Triumph TR3, and something I think he called a 'Bug-Eyed Sprite'. He loved those cars but they were headaches for him as well. I remember he told me that one time a wheel actually fell off the Healey while he was driving down the road. My wife's uncle had an infatuation with TR7's and possessed 5 or 6 of them at the time of his death.

Lend-Lease: the Sequel

British sports cars were definitely popular in the USA, especially in the 1950s and '60s. When I was in college in the latter decade, I drove a 1956 Austin-Healey 100-4, a corporate sibling of the MGA featured here, which it resembled in basic profile. My Healey had been well-used long before I got it, and often enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with my father, an experienced auto mechanic, but ran well enough most of the time that there was nothing like it -- having my bum tooling along a few inches off the road made the exhaust coming out of the tailpipe right behind me sound that much sweeter. And of course my Healey was a "bird-puller" -- I had that in mind from the first moment I spied it on the used-car lot, and I must say it worked, too. Thanks for these top-down memories.

On the popularity of British sports cars

Having owned/put up with a few British sports cars back in the late 1950s to mid 1960s, I can say that we bought them not to troll for la femme but to drive the darn things. This is not to deny the attention they gathered from la femme, especially the E-Type Jaguar. Here's my Jag (in Altoona, Pa.) plus one of my Healey 3000s (Wildwood, N.J.) and the TR-3 Triumph I raced (Thompson Raceway, Connecticut). I had other sporty cars but only a total of four Brit cars (replaced one Healey with another one). Yes, we had The Fun, we really did. (Cue Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle".) Sigh.

Running great 55 years later.

I still own the used 1957 MGA my parents bought my sister back in 1962. It was later abandoned by her, and left in the bushes gathering dust and mice. I always asked my parents not to sell the car, I was interested in getting it running myself. So, at 14 years old, I read the Chilton's manual and went to work. Lo and behold, late one night my mother hears the sound of the engine running once more. Even at that age,I was allowed to drive it around the back roads of the county as my reward, and have owned it ever since. I rebuilt the engine myself at 18, and can say that if you tune them correctly, they are as reliable as any vehicle of that vintage.
At 19, I rebuilt the engine and painted the car. A few years later, she was put into the parents garage with the promise to drive her every couple of weeks or so. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. After sitting well over twenty years, I promised I would get her running again before the end of the millennium, which I did. The sound and smells that car produced as she warmed her heart after all those years brought the memories streaming back. Much like this photo did as well. Thanks Shorpy.

Jos. Lucas

Since we started Lucas jokes:

Did you hear that Joseph Lucas got "Honors" from the Queen?

He is now know as the Lord of Darkness!

Why do the British drink warm beer?

Lucas makes the refrigerators as well!

MGA, MGB, Triumph, Morgan etc.

Were/are British "sports" cars popular in the USA - they never struck me as ideal transport - your bum's too near the road! Perhaps more of a bird-puller?

Ground view today

In 1958 I was living with my folks about a mile northwest of this block, and, strange to say, as I write this, I'm in the process of slowly moving back in again to that same house. With that classy MG, you grandfather looks like he was probably a customer at my folks' steak and seafood house, one of only three or four "nice" places in town back then. In 1958 Chula Vista was at the top of its boom years, with the Navy and huge Cold War aerospace payrolls keeping everything pretty prosperous, expanding rapidly and definitely optimistic (Rohr Aircraft Corporation's 28,000 workers on three shifts, producing fuselages and missile parts). But CV's economic Big Chill set in pretty early, although it took decades for it to really show. By 1963, three-fourths of the Rohr payroll had moved permanently to Marietta, Georgia, never to be successfully replaced. That being said, Madrona Street doesn't really look all that bad today, although fewer residents are as "yard-proud" as they once were. And, Chula Vista has annexed so much formerly unincorporated land to the south and east that it's now the second largest city in San Diego County, with 56 square miles of mostly newer neighborhoods.

Really?

I could be a grandpa by now, but that grandpa looks nowhere near 50. Mid 40s at best.

The Lucas motto: "Get home before dark."

The reason for the joyous countenance is because he expects to be home before dark. The Lucas headlamps had three settings: dim, flicker and off. Had a 69 Triumph TR6 motorcycle with Lucas electrics. We had a serious love hate relationship, but when she was running right it sounded like the Boston Symphony.

The MGs were all a joy to drive, and notwithstanding the remark above, gramps bears witness to that proposition. Regrettably, I never owned one. The spoke wheels are quite handsome.

Looks like he left the 54 Plymouth and 1951 98 for the youngsters.

Man About Town

Grandpa looks to be quite the bon vivant!

That MG is one of those real MODERN ones.

Here I am fussin' with an MG-TD that same year. Then came the TF and then the ultra swoopy high-powered (72 horsepower!) model sported above by David Wilkie's Grandpa. When Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood" was made into the film with Robert Blake, I always thought the guy helping me put the top up - or was it going down - looked like Blake. Or the other way around.

Gramps' well-used MGA

Shows signs of daily-driverness. As opposed to garage-queenliness, with that crease down the side and the overflow of grease from the front wheel bearings. The MGA was a decent car, actually outran some contemporary Porsches in Sports Car Club of America races at Palm Springs, as documented in the magazines of the time. I have attached a photo of one racing at Willow Springs "vintage" races in 2004. My brother had one which he crashed into a boulder at the side of a highway near Big Bear Lake, California.

I worked in Chula Vista for quite a few years. I probably jogged or walked down that street at lunch breaks in the 1970s and 1980s, although I don't recognize the houses.

MGs

"MGs.. Turning drivers into mechanics for half a century!" I had a college friend who drove a yellow one, his dad had a black one. I'd bet that the two cars were both up and running at the same time maybe three months in the years I knew them. They were cool cars when they were fixed though.

The Usual Cadet

Cadets at the military academies seem to always buy sports cars. Someone put a nice gash in his front fender. At least he is having fun.

Street view today..

Appears Grandpa Fred lived at 231 Madrona. Street is not as nice today as back in '58.

View Larger Map

Impressive!

That is quite a vehicle. I read up a little on it and was surprised to find out that it was actually raced in Nascar in the early sixties.

Gotta love Gramps!

I bet he must have been 50 or so. Got his jaunty little sports car. For sure,not an old guy on the porch in his rocking chair. Just from the picture,I bet he was a fun loving guy who enjoyed life. Is there any cahnce he is still alive?

 
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