MGA Mid-Atlantic Chapter

Gallery of Past Club Events

Union Bridge Side Curtain Fling

November 6, 2010

Submitted by Bill Marshall

Our tradition of an annual Side Curtain Fling to end our Chapter driving season was envisioned by then-Chairman Amy Rothberg as an opportunity to show the MGA was not just a nice summer date but also an enjoyable driving machine during periods of early morning frost with a nippy chill in the air. That first Side Curtain Fling event – to Sperryville VA in 2005 – didn’t work out so well to test Amy’s theory as temperatures hovered in the mid-70s and we enjoyed tops-down-in-T-shirts motoring. Each succeeding Fling has blessed us with similar weather to the point where we’ve become a bit casual towards November driving.

This year, however, Amy’s vision was realized as it was COLD as we departed for our meeting point in Leesburg with the thermometer seemingly stuck on 32 degrees. It is my rule the top does not go up on our A unless it is raining, but it is Karen’s rule the top goes up when she says it so. So we left Manassas with the top up but the side curtains out. Once arriving in Leesburg we were promptly chastised by Bill Wemhoff that we had apparently “not gotten the memo” this was a side curtain fling and we duly installed a single side curtain on Karen’s side – which made the rest of the drive quite pleasant, actually.

We departed Leesburg five MGAs strong, with Bill & Kathy Wemhoff (side curtains installed, of course) Keith & Kathy Kallapos, Liz Ten Eyck and guest Elspeth, Charlie & Alana Adams and Karen & I ready to go forth and do battle with the chill. We were joined by Brice & Judy Henderson whose MGA remained at home in its persistent project state. We are hoping the visit to John’s shop will spark a renewed priority and commitment to getting their A back on the road before global warming moves our Fling into January. Ken & Joyce Lawrence assumed their role of rear gunner in American Iron, protecting our caravan from over-eager attacks from cell-phone yakking SUV drivers approaching from the rear.

Our destination was John Tokar’s Vintage Restorations Limited located in historic Union Bridge, Md. Liz planned our route to cross the Potomac River at Point of Rocks and on up Route 15 to Union Bridge nearing the Pennsylvania line. Liz became enamored by the new ‘roundabouts’ starting to pepper our rural highways, and decided to create a roundabout flavor at each turn for the remainder of our trip. This often meant a trip through a McDonald’s parking lot or local gas station, but we got the flavor of English motorways all the same. At one of these Lizabouts, we gathered up Jack & Shelia Stern in their MGA joining us from nearby Walkersville, Md.

We arrived without incident and were met by an early-arriving Mike & Pat Caltrider who had traveled south from their home in the Gettysburg area. While waiting for the caravan to arrive, Mike and John discovered their first cars were both 1959 Hillman Minx convertibles! Also joining us at the shop were Larry & Diana Newman making the drive from Silver Spring. We were surprised by Ken with a treat of Dunkin' Donuts which went well with the coffee provided by John to take a bit of the chill off our bones.

Vintage Restorations is a full-service classic car restoration shop that specializes in British cars. John relocated his business to Union Bridge a number of years ago and we had not made a visit to the new facilities as a Chapter since his move. John was kind enough to open on Saturday and bring in technician Matt Hegler to walk us through the various work areas, explain the steps of car restoration using the in-progress projects as examples and showed us the level of detail that goes into each project. Vintage Restoration has produced a number of award-winning MG projects and a number of our members are proud to drive Vintage Restorations-restored MGs. This was evident when John brought out a number of past awards from Original British Car Day won by Larry that he somehow never collected at the show. As we headed for lunch, Larry had to be reminded once again to not leave them behind!

John also explained that Vintage Restorations offers other services regarding British cars beyond full restoration services. One key service is their 150- point bumper-to-bumper evaluation for the prepurchase of a vintage British car or before returning a car to service after a long rest under boxes in the garage. I took advantage of this service when I first purchased my MGA, and John’s staff found a number of items that needed addressed for reliability as well as a few items that were potentially dangerous if not corrected before extended driving.

Vintage Restorations is also performing outdoor model railroad service, including sheet metal fabrication and welding on rolling stock, engines and component/body restoration with a specialty in refinishing large-scale trains that can pull cars and carry passengers on 7-gauge track. This allowed us to segue nicely to our next stop at the Western Maryland Railway Museum located a few blocks up the street from John’s shop.

The Western Maryland Railway Museum is located in the 1902-era buildings that were once part of the train station and office complex in Union Bridge. The museum houses an extensive collection of Western Maryland Railway artifacts including an office area which retains its period-correct setting with manual typewriters, telegraph machines and file cabinets – as if the office staff will return Monday morning for work. Other artifacts include crew assignment boards, personal items such as tools, uniforms and logbooks as well as memorabilia such as glasses, commemorative plates and ashtrays using on their limited passenger service lines and some real big train bells we got to ring real loud!

The Railway began operations in 1852 as an independent railroad specializing in freight and coal transport, was merged into the Chessie System in 1973 which was later absorbed by the CSX Transportation Line in 1987 – at which time the Western Maryland network ceased to exist. The museum also houses an N-gauge model railroad which depicts many of the routes and towns which the line passed through. It was an interesting tour and included staff that had been employed by the railway, as had their parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

John had made group reservations at a local restaurant, The Buttersburg Inn, so we continued our sightseeing of Union Bridge as we made our way to the inn. After a truly enjoyable lunch, we were able to visit a few shops while returning to the museum to collect our cars. With a desire to return home before dark, we reformed our caravan of MGAs and headed back towards Virginia.

All went well on our return trip, with Keith testing his theory that gasoline will weather the long winter season better if as much of the old gas as possible has been used before filling the tank with fresh fuel before putting the cars away until spring. Keith, of course, filled his low tank while still in Maryland while I unwittingly decided to join him in this experiment and ran out of gas as we approached Leesburg. We now know the answer to the question of how many couples does it take to add gasoline to an MGA DOA on the side of the road? The answer is four. Keith verified an empty tank was the culprit and went to explain the situation to Bill and Kathy, who returned to the station to inquire about borrowing a gas can. Charlie followed them and filled the can while Alana gave up her seat – literally taking her seat cushion out to make room for the can. Charlie returned with the fuel and I dumped the 5 gallons into the tank, then Charlie, Karen and I returned to the station to return the can and finish filling the tank with that fresh gasoline. Assuming Keith’s theory is correct, I am certain I had less “old” gas in my tank than Keith upon filling up and therefore, should have “fresher” gasoline in my tank come spring.

We would like to thank John for his hospitality in allowing us to tour his shop and for using his influence in Union Bridge to have the Western Maryland Railway Museum staff open for us on Saturday to welcome our group – and for making our lunch reservations at the Buttersburg Inn. We’ll also give a shout-out to Amy for initiating these Side Curtain Flings as we ponder why this year she chose to “have other plans” for that day. But all-in-all, the MGAs proved to be fine cold-weather machines and hopefully next year we’ll head out with that refreshing nip in the air again.

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