Remember the MG? Worse yet, did
you ever own one? Then cower in fear. The Chinese bought the MG
brand name and are about to open a plant to build the malfunctioning
suckers in Oklahoma.
The Nanjing Automobile Group,
which acquired bankrupt MG Rover Group last year, plans to be the
first Chinese automaker to open a factory in the US. The product
will be called the MG TF Coupe and will be out in 2008.
Let's hope they do a better job
with the racy brand than the Brits did.
I never did own an MG, but I
owned another British car, a venerable Jaguar, that I had repaired
at a place that specialized in servicing MGs.
Here is my story, with one
caveat. I understand now that Ford bought the Jag brand, it works
My old Jaguar XJ 6 sedan was a
beauty, prettiest car on the road. Only trouble is the mechanical
aspects brought home the idea of a hornet's nest. There were always
at least five things going wrong at the same time.
To save money on the upkeep, I
used to take it to place that worked on MGs instead of to the Jag
dealer. I asked the guy who ran the shop, a wily Irishman, why the
cars always had problems.
"Well, you know the limeys," he
replied with a ornery glint in his eyes. "A bunch of socialists. So
they're on the assembly line, and they see an engine with a loose
screw. So Frank looks at Harry and says, "Harry, would you look at
that? A loose screw."
And Harry says, "Why, yes, I
believe you've got that right. It is a loose screw. "
But do either one of them bend
over and tighten it. No. The engine just keeps moving along the
Then there was the day I was
parked outside the shop, waiting for a space inside the busy place,
so I could pull my car in for repairs, when suddenly I saw something
out of the corner of my eye. Then there was a huge thump on the side
of the car near the sidewalk. I turned and an otherwise
normal-looking businessman in a suit had a furious look on his face
and was actually kicking my car.
I rolled down the window and, in
keeping with the British spirit of the car, I asked calmly, "Excuse
me, sir, but why are you kicking my car?"
"I used to own one of these damn
things," he shouted, "and every time I see one I think how many
problems I had with it and I get upset." Then he quieted down, as if
the confession let the hottest steam out. "I'm sorry," he went on,
"but I couldn't help myelf."
"That's OK," I said, "I might
decide to kick it myself."
Then there were the two worst
problems I had with it. The drain in the dashboard for the air
conditioner used to get plugged. Apparently, it was too small.
Anyway, the condensation would build up, and pretty soon I could
hear water sloshing in the dashboard. The real problem was, when I
turned a corner, the water would rush to one side and pour out of
the vent onto my lap or, worse yet, onto the lap of the person who
was unfortunate enough to be on the passenger side.
The other rather inconvenient
problem was, when I'd be driving down the highway at night and a car
would come my way, and I'd push on the button on the floor to dim
the headlights, they'd go out completely. That's right. I'd be
hurtling down the highway in pitch darkness, except for the scant
illumination provided by the distant oncoming lights. So I'd quickly
start slamming at the button, and, after three or four desperate
shots, back on would come the headlights.
When I brought the problem to
the attention of my world-weary mechanic, he referred to the name of
the manufacturer of the electrical setup, as he informed me, "You
now what they call the Lucas electrical system, don't you? The
prince of darkness."
To add insult to injury, I went
to the automobile show at the old New York Collesum one year. When I
saw the Jag on display, I went up to the dealer in attendance and
asked, "Why can't they make a Jaguar that works right?"
He smiled slyly and gestured
toward the sleek, gleaming grey sedan, and just said, "But look at
Yep, if you liked the design,
you were expected to put up with the malfunctions.
Last, when the time came that I
could no longer stand the wreck, primarily because the radiator
wouldn't stop leaking, I looked in the yellow pages for the places
that buy used cars. I saw an ad that said "2000 Cars Wanted."
I called. The guy who answered
was very receptive till he asked, "What kind of car do you have?"
"A Jaguar," I confessed.
"Oh," he said, his voice growing
recessive, "that's the only car we don't take."
So I loaded the radiator of the
embarrassingly rejected beast up with fresh water and drove it to
the nearest dealer in American cars, swearing I'd never buy another
import. Fortunately, I arrived before the thing started to smoke and
managed to make a halfway decent deal.
I drove out in a new American
car. While it didn't turn out to be a flawless mechancial
achievement, either, it was at least a hundred times better than the
Obviously, this article strayed
from MGs, but the car was cut from the same carelesss cloth as the
Jag. Both brands help account for why, in these sleekly robotic
times of exact Japanese assembly, English cars now own even less of
the road than Detroit's.
About the Author
Tom Attea, humorist and creator
of NewsLaugh.com, has had six shows produced Off-Broadway and has
written comedy for TV. Critics have called his writing
""delightfully funny" and "witty" with "good, genuine laughs."