Road trips

How the Happiest Little Blue Car Nearly Broke the Will of a Professional Adventurer

by Brendan McAleer
29 January 2024 5 min read
How the Happiest Little Blue Car Nearly Broke the Will of a Professional Adventurer
(Photo: Courtesy Dave Hord)

A sunny autumn day in Victoria, British Columbia, provides the ideal backdrop for open-topped motoring, British style. Crisp leaves crunch under skinny tyres and swirl in the wake of this little blue 1967 MG Midget as everyone smiles at its cheery, cheeky face. It seems impossible that anyone could hate this car, with its drawn-by-Richard-Scarry looks and fizzy four-pot engine.

But Dave Hord did. In fact, this pint-sized classic nearly broke his spirit of adventure.

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Hord is Hagerty’s Director of Events for Canada and a route master for a large number of driving events. He racks up around 40,000 miles of driving each year, much of that in one of his own modified vintage VW Beetles. He is well used to roadside repairs, scrounging parts, and all the other setbacks a classic car can throw at you on a roadtrip. Even so, the Midget nearly killed him.

1967 MG Midget front

Our story begins on Facebook, font of many a bad idea. In October 2022, Andrew Comrie-Picard, a stunt driver, rally racer, adventurer, and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles, posted a photo of his Midget and Model T, asking if anyone with an enclosed trailer might be available to ship the former from Los Angeles up to the Seattle area. The Midget had been sold to an old friend in Victoria and it needed to be moved.

“I’ll drive it up,” posted Hord, adding later: “Will probably need to borrow a toque.”

Some of you are doing the math on this, and those of you who own old British machinery are possibly scratching your heads at the audacity of such a plan. October is lovely in southern California, but this is a car with no roof, 65-ish horsepower, and a four-speed gearbox. It’s a solid 1500 miles from Los Angeles to Vancouver Island, and have we mentioned that the car is more than half a century old?

1967 MG Midget wheel

Murphy’s Law, that old adage proclaiming “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” certainly applies to a lot of vintage British cars. Battling such mishaps is part of the charm, however, knowing how to keep them soldiering along, mend-and-make-do. Every British-car tinkerer relishes the hard work that goes into making sure your old Lotus, MG, or Jaguar doesn’t stumble when out for a weekend canter.

Not so charming, however, the Midget’s front suspension collapsing in the first 30 miles. On a run to pickup motocross goggles to ward off hundreds of miles of no-roof blustery driving, Hord found himself calling for a flat-deck tow, without even having started his odyssey properly. Turns out, the Midget’s previous owner had bodged some suspension and it had come apart beneath Hord.

1967 MG Midget wheel tire

Foreshadowing of future travails. And there were even more hints before that. Andrew Comrie-Picard – whose friends often just call him ACP – and Hord have been friends for 20 years. However, Hord came from an appreciation of Volkswagens, and ACP from a love of Jags and the like. German vintage car enthusiasm and British vintage car enthusiasm do have a brotherly Venn diagram overlap, but each is its own discipline. Hord’s Beetles aren’t always bulletproof, but they are usually meticulously prepared before a journey. He is, after all, a professional route planner. ACP, on the other hand, has more of a rally driver’s approach, a patch-things-together-and-send-it kind of mentality.

Thus, the Midget was fine for driving around town, but it needed quite a bit of work before setting off. Having optimistically flown in on a Thursday, Hord didn’t end up hitting the road until late Saturday – and ended up camping on the side of the road that night.

1967 MG Midget rear three quarter
(Photo: Courtesy Dave Hord)

Next morning, he was up early with plans to hit cars and coffee in Santa Cruz. But wait, what’s that noise? Just 45 minutes into the drive, it was time to spend several hours fiddling with the SU carburetors, which stubbornly resisted proper tuning. Having finally sorted them out, Hord was back on the road and … wait, now what’s that noise?

Oh, no. The generator.

1967 MG Midget compressor
(Photo: Courtesy Dave Hord)

Still, never say die. Hord coasted into San Francisco on his last few electrons, pulled the generator in a parking space, and dropped it off at a repair shop on Monday, 31 October. Shout out to Rite-Way Electric on Sixth Street, which had the generator rebuilt and ready to go in just two hours.

Here we must pause to consider some looming deadlines. As a working man, Hord did have a job to get back to. He happened to be in the LA area doing early recce for the Hagerty California Mille, and the expectation was that he would be at his desk on Monday, ready for presentations and meetings on the entire plan for 2023. Which would be stressful enough on its own, let alone when you’re still trying to get an MG bolted back together some 1200 miles from home.

The other, unexpected deadline was the weather. October had been unseasonably warm, perfect for those last fall drives. The change came like a lightswitch, however, with monsoon-level wind and rain and bone-chilling cold. Up ahead, in Washington and in B.C., meteorologists were buzzing about a phenomenon they called an “atmospheric river.” This is not a fun term to learn when you are driving a car that has no roof.

1967 MG Midget suited up
(Photo: Courtesy Dave Hord)

Wrapped up in layers of wool and Gore-Tex, with a garbage bag around his waist for extra protection, Hord bravely soldiered out into the – oh, come on, what’s that noise now?

This time it was a mechanical show-stopper: a stuck valve in the head. With the little MG ostensibly stricken beyond mere roadside repair, Hord rented a U-Haul, hooked the Midget up behind, and kept heading north. Looking back, he said, “I had failed in my mission – but I was thinking, how can I turn that failure into opportunity?”

The U-Haul made time, and the rains eased up. Hord pulled into a parking lot, and there, as though accompanied by a chorus of angels, was the sign that is balm to the soul of many a broken-down vintage motorist: Harbor Freight. Hord bought the tools he needed to pull off the head, he fixed the stuck valve, returned the U-Haul, and then hit the road again. This time, the Midget was purring like a dream.

Hord spent the next day in online meetings in a hotel room, catching up on work while some last-minute importation paperwork came through. The final leg of the journey was tantalisingly close, but his phone kept lighting up with less than ideal weather updates. Rainfall Warning. Flood Watch.

1967 MG Midget windscreen

Once more into the breach, Hord faced a three-hour delay at the U.S.-Canada border, then a soaking wet drive all the way to the ferry terminal, where, thanks to a series of mechanical and storm-related delays, he had to endure multiple missed sailings before getting on the last boat out, at 10 p.m. The crossing was incredibly choppy, with crashes and bangs below deck. Hord responded by posting the movie poster for Master and Commander on Facebook.

And at last, home. Hord tucked the Midget beside one of his Beetles and gratefully slunk off to bed. The MG relaxed by vomiting copious amounts of oil all over the shop floor.

But the adventure was not quite at an end. ACP and a couple of friends flew in at the tail end of November for a work party. They pulled the engine, sorted out the leaks, did the clutch, and got the Midget ready for its next driver. It was, of course, raining again, so Hord dug out some garbage bag skirts for the new owners to wear on the wet drive down to Victoria.

The Midget is now owned by Leigh Large, a longtime friend of ACP. In reality, it’s his daughter Ylva’s car; the pair fell in love with it on a trip to LA, when they borrowed the MG to drive around town. You can see why. In fact, this little car is so appealing, somebody stole it while the Larges were visiting Griffith Park. It was later recovered after being abandoned … due to fuel issues. Vintage cars often provide their own anti-theft systems.

Large says that his daughter drives the Midget all the time. Ylva’s still in high-school, and on her learner’s licence, and the pair plan to do one of Hord’s local driving events together, maybe next year. One wonders if the sight of the little blue car might give Hord flashbacks.

“Honestly,” he says, weighing his thoughts carefully, “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t even blink.”

A spirit of adventure. Occasionally bent to the limit, but unbroken.

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