Brit Bits 2

Following yesterday’s post about the exquisite Triumph TR4, I need to explain where I got the title of the two posts.  But first, a little exposition.

As much as I love and adore old cars, I have no interest — none —  in restoring one.  Indeed, even if I were tempted to buy one, I would never be one of Those Guys who spend hours over weekends trying to coax life into an old Weber carburetor or rewiring the dashboard switches.  I believe that all that stuff is best left to people who enjoy doing this stuff:  I’m a user, not a fixer or tinkerer, and think that if I were intended to venture into this dark world of vintage car ownership, God would not have invented auto mechanics or, for that matter, AAA.

However, when I do happen upon a temple dedicated to these endeavors, I’m happy to pass on the news in case there is the occasional Reader who might need to visit such an establishment.  So during my recent trip to New England, I happened to come upon Brit Bits, a marvelously-named place located in Rye, New Hampshire.  Here’s what I saw:

(I should point out that in her yoof, New Wife used to drive an MGB GT like the mustard-colored one — the color is Full Late-1960s — only hers was aubergine:  “purple”, to you and me.  If I’d had the money — and the nerve —  I would have bought her the white one and driven it back the Texas.)

But be still, my beating heart:  Morris Minors!

And don’t get me started about the Austin Healey Mk III:

The only problem with owning one of these, as any fule kno, is that one would need to move to Rye and form a very close relationship with the mechanics at Brit Bits (maybe even adoption should be considered), unless one were of the aforementioned fixers and tinkerers.

However, if I were to be presented with a “resto-mod” of the Healey, MGB or even that Morris Minor Traveller station wagon, I’d sell a firstborn or two.

And you have to love a place that features this July 4-themed pic on their website:


  1. The larger problem with driving it back to Texas is that by then it would have needed to be restored again and you both would have realized that an MG is NOT a long distance GT Car. …… England doesn’t have long distance drives …….. and Texas is nothing but.

    Better to have it shipped.

    ….. and the problem with a Resto-Mod Healy 100-4 is what do you use as the modern base? For the Morris you could use a new Mini — then you would have a nice Traveller that cost you $ 150 K and was worth $ 35K on a good day.

  2. I used to be – and guess that I still am – one of Those Guys who turns wrenches for fun and excitement. Your photos got me thinking about the old top down New England fall days. Then I got into my second cup of coffee and like GT3Ted I thought about what I’d do with an old British sports car in Oklahoma or Texas. The roads are pretty much flat and straight and the distances are very long.

    The deal killer for me would be the lack of air conditioning. When I was in my 20s my body was still used to working in a boiler room so a 60 mile per hour breeze at 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity actually felt pretty good. Forty years later I’ve gone soft and I understand that driving around on a hundred degree day with the top up or down and no a.c. can be a life threatening experience. So I’d be stuck with a car that I could enjoy maybe four or five months out of the year. I think that if I wanted a project car I’d rather spend my money and time on something that had an air conditioning system.

  3. Have you heard about the the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life? The day he buys his boat, and the day he sells it. I think this applies to British car owners as well.

  4. Yep, I will make my asshole statement about Brit cars I have owned, a Bug Eye, TR3 and E-Jag,, Like my first wife, real pretty, sassy, fun to be around when conditions are right, until one day they want to kill you.

    Went out to my garage one morning and smelled gasoline, looked under my TR3 and saw gasoline dripping out of the turn off valve on the full line from the gas tank to the carbs, there was cork in the valve that had given way. Made me nervous because hot water heater was in a small room off the garage.

    Driving the E-Jag one real hot summer day when I pulled up to a red light and as I waited for it to turn suddenly what appeared to be steam was coming out of the engine compartment. When the light changed I went on through the intersection and pulled over, opened the hood expecting to see a leaking radiator hose but was surprised to see the natural rubber fuel line had a crack that was spewing gasoline over the exhaust manifold which is not a good thing.

    There are a whole lot of stories about those fun Brit cars leaving folks standing on the side of the road looking at their nifty car wondering why it does not want to go including Lucas stuff. I would love to have anyone of those cars or any in the picture above just to drive around on warm summer evenings with the top down.

    As for the ex-wife, naw, married a lovely reasonable woman 27 years ago and life is good.

    1. Depending on when that E-Jag fuel leak occurred it might not have been Jag’s fault. Oxygenated gas. MTBF. Other EPA mandated fuel additives, along with the presence of alcohol, was well known to cause degradation of rubber components, seals, hoses, accelerator pumps, etc. Save a few tenths of a percent in emissions, cause some cars to leak and burn and (possibly) people to die. Fair trade off to EPA….

  5. I had an MG back in the 1980s. It was a 1975 model. I essentially rebuilt the wiring harness using new (non-British) switches shortly after I bought it. I worked on it all the time, thinking I would get ahead of it. It continuously failed. I finally threw in the towel.

    If you had bought it, there would be two choices. The first would have been to put it on a trailer right there at the dealer. The second would have driven it off the lot and then put it on a trailer later in the day when it broke down.

    I really loved that little car, though. Nothing like it on a windy road on a crisp fall day with the top down.

    1. A guy I worked with back in the early 90s had a really nice little MGB that he had constant electrical issues with, and I would often give him a ride home when he had to make the 40 mile trek to Sport’s Car Haven to drop it off for repairs. It was a specialty shop that worked mainly on vintage foreign sports cars and the guy was pretty cool. I did happen to mention how often it had electrical issues and he simply asked, “You do know who designed the electrical system for the MG, right?”

      When indicated that I didn’t know he gave me his deadpan answer, “Satan.”

      I think he was serious too.

      1. I was told something similar, with the additional info that the Secret to a fully functional wiring harness was to self-flagellate yourself bloody with it. Putting the pain and blood into it beforehand saved much more later on.

  6. “Brit Bits” reminds me fondly of a wonderful summer I spent working as a salesman at a British Sports Car Dealer located in the foothills above Los Angeles at the foot of Angeles Crest Highway. Doing test drives with customers in new B’s, Healey Big-Bangers, Spridgets, the 1275 Cooper-S, and various Loti (the new Elan, and the occasional Elite – carefully).
    It passed all to quickly.

  7. In the Marine Corps I was an electronics tech, back when we fixed our own gear. One of the guys in our unit reenlisted for the $10K bonus paid to our MOS, which was big money in the 70’s. He already had the MG he would buy picked out, and it broke down on the way back to base. He totaled it a week later, said the brakes failed, but he still had his enlistment to serve.

    Another guy rode a Triumph, and those of us who didn’t (I rode a Kawasaki) enjoyed going in from the motorcycle parking area and telling him what was leaking out of his bike.

    The Brits make some good beers, though.

  8. I never had a TR4, my best friend had a TR7 that I borrowed a few times. It drove OK, was reliable, was quick enough and as ugly as an ugly thing.
    I DID have 7 MGB’s (1 GT), a Morgan +8, 2 E types, and Austin Healey 100-4, a Spitfire (the shame), only one MG Midget 1275, a Lotus Elan S1 and a Jag 3.8 saloon.
    The Morgan was hideous to keep going but Oh! when it went, it really went!
    The Spitfire was slow and handled terribly.
    You have to crawl in and out of E types, (which makes you rush round to open the passenger door for pretty girls – the complaints were horrendous).
    The 100-4 had problematic electrics, they all came together to make a cable 1.5″ diameter that fed through a hole 0.75″ diameter.
    The Elan was stuck to the road like glue, the Ford engine gave quite a few problems.
    Not one of the MG’s ever let me down, ever, (not true of my younger brother’s MGB, that conked out a lot)
    If I was young, I’d do it again, which just goes to show how stupid I am to keep doing the same thing over and over.

  9. I occasionally see an Austin Healey at the stopsign. Judging by the rumble/snarl of the exhaust, it probably has a smallblock Chevy or Ford shoehorned into it. A Brit 4 banger can’t make the tires squeak like this does just going ’round the corner. Not the first one I’ve seen with this mod. Can’t recall which engine is used. Think it depends on which end of the oil pan has the deep sump, for crossmember clearance.

    One of the pervasive problems in England after ww2 (I don’t know when it actually started) was to forbid the use of any designs or components that were not made in England. I think this finally went away when they joined the EU. I worked at a couple European bike shops in the 70’s, and the Norton engines always leaked oil. That problem was solved by using Yamaha case sealer (Yamabond?) when we took them apart.

    The apparent war between the labor unions and management ruined the motorcycle and automobile industries in England. Truly stupid people. The unions were willing to cut their own throat at the drop of a hat, and management was stealing the businesses blind, so they never had the funds needed to replace worn out equipment.

    The government combined all the surviving bike makers into one group, and then decided that they could only afford to build one brand. Norton always made a profit, and Triumph didn’t, so of course they kept Triumph and tossed Norton on the trash heap. Triumph shortly went bust. Typically brilliant British management thinking on display.

  10. Morris Minors. Morris Minors. Now I don’t feel so bad when you express disdain for American cars, if those tickle your fancy 🙂

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