I was a bit worried the copyright police would hunt me down if I just copied
and pasted the article here, so I chose to have the website email me the
article - now I am forwarding it to you, as received by me. Sounds legal
----- Original Message -----
From <stevenm at optonline.net>
Sent: Friday, June 07, 2002 1:42 PM
Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Blood, Sweat, Tears and a Lot of Oil Leaks
> This article from NYTimes.com
> has been sent to you by email@example.com.
> Blood, Sweat, Tears and a Lot of Oil Leaks
> June 7, 2002
> By JIM MOTAVALLI
> KATHY MANGAN, a freelance writer in Hagerstown, Md., has
> owned her British-made 1980 Triumph TR8 for 18 years, so
> there really was no excuse for her thinking she could drive
> it without incident to Boston last December. After being
> stranded regularly by the car throughout her ownership, Ms.
> Mangan should have known what to expect.
> Here's what happened: The car refused to start without
> jumper cables, a familiar experience for Triumph owners.
> One block out, the passenger door suddenly flew open and
> refused to close again. Ms. Mangan's mechanic wasn't
> surprised to see the car limp into the service bay.
> When she set out again, the TR8 made it at least several
> miles before starting to lose power. Opinions differed as
> to whether the fuel line or distributor was to blame, but
> everyone agreed the car was not going to make it to Boston
> without a tow.
> Ms. Mangan's story is a familiar one among British-car
> owners. In the 1950's and 60's - before the Japanese had a
> foothold in America - Triumphs, MG's, Austin-Healeys,
> Lotuses and Jaguars ruled the import lots. In the mid-60's,
> MG and Triumph alone were selling 60,000 cars a year in the
> United States, 85 percent of their global volume.
> The cars were rakish, and fun to drive compared with the
> bloated American land barges of the time, but nobody ever
> called them reliable. The tiny four-cylinder engines with
> their adventurous Skinner Union carburetors ran on an
> idiosyncratic schedule, and quality was so poor that parts
> flew off regularly. The roofs often leaked water, which
> puddled with the oil dripping from the engine block.
> But there is a saving grace about British sports cars. Even
> while their owners are becoming stranded, they love them.
> "There's something wonderful about not knowing how your
> trip will turn out," Ms. Mangan said. There are thousands
> still on American roads, even though the last of the true
> British sports cars were imported in the early 80's.
> What most British-car owners share (other than repair
> bills) is a stoic's sense of gallows humor. A common joke
> like, "Why do Triumph TR7's have fog lights? To light up
> the tow rope," makes a small point about British
> technology, but says boatloads about British character.
> Before wisely buying a Mazda Miata, Tod Bryant, a Norwalk,
> Conn., photographer, was a serial British car owner. He
> took delivery of his first, a brand-new Triumph-engine
> Morgan, in Europe in 1967. To his chagrin, he discovered
> that the car had no outside door handles and he couldn't
> reach in because it didn't have optional sliding window
> "side curtains." He had also expected the car to come with
> a working clutch, but within weeks he was forced to set off
> in pouring rain to return it to the dealer.
> "You had to secure about 20 of those ridiculous lift-dot
> fasteners around the windshield to get the top up, and it
> still leaked like a sieve," Mr. Bryant recalled grimly.
> "Water was blowing through the side curtains and around the
> windshield. The heater was useless, of course." The latter
> is an absolute given in countless British cars. One Jaguar
> owner marvels at the engineering feat that allowed the
> car's engine to overheat in winter while maintaining Arctic
> temperatures in the cabin.
> When Mr. Bryant returned to the United States in 1968, he
> replaced the Morgan with a 1959 Austin-Healey "Bug-Eye"
> Sprite that, he said, "just died on me." Next was a Triumph
> TR3B that in only a few months of ownership went through
> one front suspension, two coils, two voltage regulators, a
> clutch, a rebuilt head and a brake master cylinder. "I
> finally sold it for $100," he said.
> The last straw was another Triumph, a 1967 TR4A. "It popped
> out of second gear, and you could put your finger through
> the frame in several places," he said. The rear suspension,
> featuring the diabolical lever arm shock - an outmoded
> British shock absorber that survived in some models through
> the 1980's - was regularly shaken to bits by potholes.
> "Every weekend I'd be underneath it, rebuilding the
> suspension while a crowd of street people gave me
> unsolicited advice," he said.
> Is Mr. Bryant cured? Not at all. "If I had a garage, I'd
> buy a British car tomorrow, probably another TR3," he said.
> In the purgatory of British cars, much of the blame is
> heaped on the famous manufacturer Joseph Lucas, also known
> as "the Prince of Darkness" and "the Father of the
> Intermittent Windshield Wiper."
> But in trying to set right the many problems in a British
> car, the hapless American owner happens upon the fact that
> the British have their own names for everything, many of
> which sound like they first appeared in "Winnie-the-Pooh."
> Does the repair call for a wrench? It's a spanner to them.
> Trouble under the hood? It's the bonnet. Trying to find the
> trunk release? Sorry, that's the boot. A few other choice
> translations: fender equals wing, the rear window is a
> backlight, the glove box is a cubby, an electrical ground
> is earth, gas is petrol, a turn signal is an indicator, and
> a muffler is a silencer. When some drivers hear that the
> word for "ball joint" is "trunnion" and a generator is a
> dynamo, they must feel like giving up.
> Not everyone agrees with the poor reputation of British
> cars. "There are no bad cars, only bad owners," said Jeff
> Burns, whose garage, Motorhead LTD, in Fairfax, Va.,
> specializes in them. "If you restore a British sports car
> to a proper standard, it will be an excellent daily
> driver." The stories of failing carburetors and fading
> electrical systems, he said, are a form of folklore
> fostered by dodgy, unrestored cars and by poorly performing
> Asian replacement parts.
> "If they sit for a long time, things start to corrode and
> Lucas gets the blame," said Mr. Burns, somewhat
> Ian Young, who once ran Triumph and Austin dealerships in
> Niagara Falls, Ontario, agrees that British cars have been
> unfairly slagged. "It's like the Corvair," he said,
> referring to the much-maligned 1960's Chevy. "Once it was
> tarred and feathered, nobody would acknowledge its
> Pierre Kanter, a Frenchman who now lives in New York, sees
> few virtues in British cars. For that reason, he takes a
> perverse pleasure in buying them in the United States and
> sending them back where they came from. Mr. Kanter sells
> the cars to collectors in Britain, as well as on the
> Continent. He was particularly glad to see the last of a
> 1967 Series 1 Jaguar E-Type he owned for seven months. "It
> was orgasmic to look at, but it only ran for one of the
> seven months," Mr. Kanter said. "I've never had so much
> trouble with a car. Just try keeping three carburetors in
> tune. It leaked oil, the gauges never worked, and the Lucas
> electrical system was a nightmare." The E-Type shipped off
> to Belgium and is now said to be making some European's
> life miserable.
> Underneath it all, however, Mr. Kanter admits to being just
> another helpless addict. "If I had a choice between a Miata
> and an MG," he said, "I would take the MG."
> Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company