While shopping for an MGB GT, I came across an ad for a BRG 1967 model in Seattle, listed as excellent condition. The price was right based on the photos provided, and I considered buying it on the spot. Then I had an idea… wouldn’t it be fun to fly up there and drive the car home? It would also be a cheap insurance policy against getting scammed. I arranged to meet the seller near his office in downtown Seattle and bought a one-way airline ticket. Accompanied only by a duffle bag containing a couple changes of clothes and a bunch of hand tools (you could carry these onboard airplanes back then), I departed Southern California on my way north. Arriving in Seattle, I took a taxi downtown, found some lunch and at the arranged time called the seller.

Just so we understand what to expect, here are the features listed about this car in the advertisement, as well as answers to various questions I asked before deciding to buy:

– New paint.
– Engine completely rebuilt by well-known builder on east coast.
– Excellent mechanical condition.
– Overdrive transmission.
– Body in great shape with two new front fenders.
– No oil leaks of any kind.
– New carpet and headliner.
– Needs only a few things to get the interior just right.
– Many new parts throughout the car.
– Could a person hop in and drive to So Cal? Absolutely!

The MGB GT was located in a large parking lot nearby. As I entered the lot I spotted the car easily, its BRG paint and chrome shining in the noon-day sun. As I approached, I started to notice the paint was unusually oxidized for being new. Then I saw how he had the good sense to protect the smaller chrome bits on the car by painting over them. This car had green door locks, windscreen washer jets and all the other small bits that the painter wasn’t willing to remove for the low-priced paint job he applied.

Something else looked strange but it didn’t register at first because I had specifically asked about this area of the car. Looking down, I noticed it was indeed missing one small thing… a driver’s side sill. By missing I mean the front half was completely gone. Surrounding the gaping hole where it used to reside were rusty jagged bits of metal. This was disheartening but perhaps not the end of the world. After all, metal can be repaired, right?

Moving directly to the engine bay, the first thing I noticed was the weight of the hood. Obviously the original aluminum bonnet had been replaced with a steel one, and at that time someone didn’t bother to replace the bent hinge. Once opened up I was greeted with dirty black paint everywhere that BRG should have been. So they didn’t paint the engine bay, huh? Ok, I’ll use that as a negotiation tool. Upon further inspection I noticed the 1970 engine (also painted black) and all the filth on it So much for no leaks of any kind! This was getting really disappointing but I moved onward in desperation.

The wheels had brand new silver paint on them, but unfortunately so did the brake calipers, drums, hoses and parts of the tires, which by the way were slightly cracking from old age. The tires should be safe though, because according to the non-functional speedometer the car only travels at zero miles per hour. That’s probably a good thing since moving forward on so many loose spokes could prove dangerous.

Ok, time for a more detailed inspection of the body and chassis. Pushing a finger into the remaining half of the outer sill produced just that – my finger going right through the sill. At least both sides were equally unsolid so the car wouldn’t flex more on one side than the other. I asked the seller why he told me the sills were in perfect shape. His reply was hard to believe – “Oh, I thought you said SEALS”. I wondered how he could think someone would ask about rusty seals.

Underneath the car I inspected the sills further. I then realized the seller had been honest about the sills. There was indeed no rust in them, because there weren’t any sills at all! I could easily reach my arm up inside the chassis and service the door hinges from behind – a practical modification perhaps? Looking around, I saw that the battery boxes were completely rotted away, the rear axle was covered in a thick coat of slimy wet greasy stuff, and there was plenty of bondo evident in the left rear fender. I almost missed the very poor driver’s door fit as my eyes winced at the loud squeak emanating from the door hinges. I didn’t bother to check the passenger door.

Sitting in the car (on the ultra-plush sheepskin seat covers) I noticed that the interior panels did need replacing as the seller had mentioned on the phone. However what he failed to mention was that this was due to the bottoms being rotted out from water damage. To my surprise, the carpet was actually nice as he promised, and along with the wood steering wheel these were probably the two nicest things on the car. At least the car fired right up and sounded good despite the home-made rusty exhaust pipe. On the bright side, literally, the Lucas rally lights were pretty neat and as a safety feature they have no off switch. When the parking lights are on, so are the rally lights.

He said the overdrive worked but I didn’t really care at that point. I declined a test drive for fear of being killed. The car was literally unsafe to drive and I wondered if he would make it home without the unibody breaking in two. I somewhat politely declined to purchase this fine automobile and parted company with the seller. With clothes and tools in hand, I then found a taxi, returned to the airport and bought another one-way ticket, this time heading south.

How this guy represented the car as a solid chassis, excellent mechanical condition and well on its way to being a perfect car, in good conscience, eludes me. Needless to say I was out two $220 plane tickets and two $30 cab rides as well as a day off work. I would have given him a piece of my mind but I think he was honestly that clueless about the car. He didn’t know what a sill was when I told him his were rotted out. Despite my best efforts to triple check the condition of the car (including sills) over the phone, I think he just didn’t really understand and just told me what he “thought”. I should have insisted on more photos. Oh well, life lesson #8426 learned.

Photos of the car