Always envious of those driving their exotics in the Copperstate 1000, I decided to enter my everyman’s MG in the BEAT (British-Euro Auto Tour, see I managed the entire tour, drove some fabulous AZ roads, met many enthusiastic people and clocked 402 miles, though not without a few adventures along the way.

Since I was looking at the BEAT as the high point of the Spring activities, the first thing the MG had to do to raise my blood pressure was start leaking coolant out the head gasket. Until this point, I was concerned about my transmission, which rattled and sizzled furiously above 2000 rpm. The solution to that was to drive at 4000 rpm, where the engine noise drowned out the transmission noise. But the head gasket had to be fixed and there was only 10 days to go. I ordered all the gaskets and paid for express shipping. With my strong son-in-law at my side, I supervised and he did the lifting and resetting of that cast iron (heavy) head. Everything went together well until I tried to start the car. It started, but ran terribly. It seemed like it was running on only 2 cylinders. I checked everything, twice. I assured myself I had the correct firing order 1-3-4-2 and that I had the plug wires in anti-clockwise rotation. With 2 days left, I gave up and sought professional help. I towed the car 60 miles to Bawb Branton of CARS of Phoenix, a really pleasant Brit car mechanic. Within 20 seconds, Bawb fixed the car by reversing 2 plug wires. No matter how many times I had checked for 1-3-4-2, I had somehow connected the plugs in 1-3-2-4 and could never see it. My feeling of stupidity was only matched by my joy of being able to make the BEAT.

I met up with the BEAT group right in Wickenburg, their first restroom and donuts break. Altogether there were 106 cars of all sorts! I was surprised there was no cutoff in age. There was a Maclaren right next to a TR6 and an Audi R8 right behind me. But nearly all the cars were wonderful in their own ways (an Audi A4? Come on!) and all the drivers were eager to continue. There was even a blue & silver Rolls with Mom and 2 kids in tow.

We took off on rte 93, with me leading the Audi. This mini race lasted until the first passing zone where the V10 wailed as it passed me in about 1.5 seconds, probably in 2nd gear. Oh well, at least I could eke my way up to 60 and stay within the speed limits. The route continued onto 97, the Bagdad-Hillside road. I had forgotten what a great road that was. From Kirkland we took Iron Springs to Prescott; after lunch, 89A to Flagstaff and spent the night at Little America. The return route included Lake Mary Road and then 87 onto Payson and the Valley, though I broke off at 260 to cut back thru Prescott.

Stopping for gas in Camp Verde before the section of I-17 to 169 & Prescott, I inspected the engine – still no leaks from the head gasket or those damn engine side covers – great!

Got back in the car and turned the key to …. Nothing. Not a click, not a sound. I thought, maybe I need to rap the solenoid Fonzi-like with a hammer because of the heat. I look down into the area of the starter from the top to see what sort of room there is for a hammer swing. And there is the battery cable and the heavy brown wires that feed the entire electrical system all attached to the solenoid bolt, swinging free and clear from the solenoid. I would have no starter but all the ignition necessary, so I look around for help for a push-start. At the next pump there were 5 guys with their Harleys, one bigger than the next (both the bikes & the guys). I was quickly on my way home. Needless to say, I drove straight thru to home. It was hot enough that everything I drank went out in sweat and I never needed a bathroom break.

Yesterday, I inspected the damage from underneath and found all the wires and the solenoid bolt burnt. Why my harness did not go up in smoke or why the car did not catch fire, I don’t know. But then I also don’t know how I could look at 1-3-2-4 at least 3 times and always see something different. I guess the car must like its new home enough to engage in mischief but not evil. This story is more MG than BEAT, but this is the Morris Gazette, not the BEAT website. I enjoyed my car, I enjoyed the ride, but I really enjoyed all the people I met. It was great fun and I will definitely do it again!

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