Chicagoland MG Club
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A Chat With Russ Mehaffey
By Bob Simon
Welcome to a new feature of the Driveline. Each month I will relate an interview (via email) with a different club member or even celebrity! Here's the very first issue, and appropriately it is with our brand new co-chairman, Russ Mehaffey!
#1 What is your favorite MG? AND #2 Why is this car your favorite?
Although I have an MGA, I do like the looks of the TD. I think this goes back to my childhood and the animated movie " 101 Dalmatians". I recall thinking that the car driven by the character Cruella De Vil was so cool. The lines certainly follow that of the MGTD. But, hey - I OWN this MGA and it's MINE - so this is my favorite car!
#2 How long have you been a member and what caused you to join the club?
My first car that I bought was an MGA. I should remember the model year…but I think it was a 1958. I was a junior in college and got hooked on MGA's from a friend of mine - his was a 1961. I bought that first one 31 years ago, sold it 30 years ago and had wanted one ever since. Without any "connections" in the classic car area and really not in the market for one, we were lucky enough that another friend found one available and we bought our current car two years ago. I really can't recall how I learned about CMGC, probably through a Google-search shortly after acquiring the car. I figured we needed all the information and support we could find. We definitely jumped into the MG culture with both feet! For $20 a year how can you go wrong, right?
#3 What was your best moment in an MG, and what was your most embarrassing moment in an MG?
I love driving this car and the comments received about it. By no means is this close to concours quality (yet?!) but it's not often seen and draws attention because of that. It's a rare occasion that I'm in the car and don't get a compliment while stopped in a parking lot. Although, one time a truck driver asked for directions at a stop light and finished with…"Hey, nice car". Thanks, I know! Those times are fun. But the best experience was on the entire trip that John Schroeder composed, the "Wine, Cheese and Beer Tour", last fall. The car (and everyone else's) ran beautifully with the weather and roads just perfect. It was great to be on the inaugural tour of hopefully many to come.
I have told some club members my embarrassing moment was while participating in an ISOA ("Triumph Club") outing last fall. A simple little tour though the country with a "required" stop at Triumph, Illinois (spare me, please!). Yet after departing and revving up "a little" - I popped a fan blade that punctured the radiator. Of course the Triumph guys chided me and the car for breaking down. But I have to give them credit for assisting in getting me limping back on the way home. Actually they probably were glad to have such a great car away from their group! Not so embarrassing, but mentionable, is the very first CMGC event we participated in - the 2004 Spring Chicken Rally. We bought our car without a rag top (not attached at least). It was a beautiful day until the end, when the heavens didn't rain so much as it threw slush balls at us. My wife recalls Don Anderson offering to help put up the top when we stopped at the restaurant. "You don't understand, Don, we have no top". We're the last picture shown on that page at the bottom right: www.chicagolandmgclub.com/photos/sprally04. Gotta drive 'em with the tops down, right?
#4 How would you change or modify your MG?
My ultimate plan is to do a body off restoration. That's pretty ambitious, but at least I want to remove the fenders and body tub for painting. The frame seems in very good shape as is the body, but a previous owner cut corners by painting it without removing the fenders. The sills and pillars need replaced as well. If I really get into it, I'd switch to a 5-speed gear box. It's extremely noisy driving at 3800 RPM, thinking I'm going 65 MPH (calibration check?) and wondering what catastrophe could happen on a 48 year old car. It doesn't wake me up at night but the thought does exhaust me - allowing for a good night's sleep!
#5 What is your favorite CMGC event and why? What event would you like to see that isn't provided?
As I've said, the Wine, Cheese and Beer Tour was fabulous. John planned the route over great MG roads and the weather was perfect. The only thing that could improve it would be more "S" turns! I don't have an idea of an event that isn't provided now, but I'd like to see more participation in club events already provided.
#6 Besides an MG, what other car is your ultimate dream car and why?
I would love to own an Austin Healey 3000. With all due respect to MG my comparison is that if MG's are Chevy's, Austin Healey's are Cadillac's. Basically same lines as MGA's, but a V-6? Cool.
#7 What is the farthest you've driven your MG? Did anything eventful happen?
The furthest trip was during the Wine, Cheese and Beer Tour (about 700 miles round trip from my house) - and nothing happened.
I heard that statistically, the shortest trips from home prove to be "eventful". The first time I felt the car was road-worthy (about 2 months after getting it) I drove it 28 miles to work. Too bad my office was 30 miles away! Turns out the ignition coil failed and thankfully Barney Gaylord rescued me. Put in perspective, the previous owner told me he owned it two years and drove only 25 miles total. So I was asking the car to do extra overtime and it told me "No". The broken fan blade incident occurred about 45 miles from home. Does that mean I need to trailer it outside a 50 mile radius from home?
#8 Do you own multiple British cars? If so, what are they?
#9 If you could trade your car with anyone else's in the club, who and what would that be?
Don't want to trade; we're having too much fun with this right now. Besides, this is the MG club - no Healey's in here!
#10 If you could drive your MG in any other country in the world, what country would and be and why?
Ireland - I'd take a trip back to my grandparent's origins and the car would have a chance to connect with its heritage!
#11 Given that the MG is no longer manufactured and has not been sold in this country since the 80s. Do you see this affecting the Club's future and if so, how?
I don't think the lack of new production MG's has any affect on this club's future. The concern should be a lack of eccentric people, such as us, that want to own these leaky, quirky, temperamental, collectable, classic beauties. I don't think there is any cause for concern in that regard at all.