Catastrophe At Barn Finds HQ!

UPDATE – We have listed the car on eBay. Click here to read more about it!

We have some bad news. We have been helping a local family sell their late father’s car collection and the last car on the list was this huge 1961 Imperial. I was leery about taking this one because of its poor condition and sheer size. We moved it over to our shop anyway and got the engine running. The big 413 had no problem starting so we put it into gear to test out the transmission. It rolled forward a few feet and we shut it down. We couldn’t push it back into its resting spot because of a flat tire so we put it into reserve and slowly applied the gas…

And that’s when it happened! The throttle return spring must have been installed backwards because the engine suddenly accelerated. I pushed the neutral button and applied the brake, but it was too late. Five thousand pounds of steel slammed into our poor MGA’s nearly finished body! I just sat inside the car for a moment, not able to comprehend what had just happened. Josh slowly walked over to survey the damage. I didn’t want to look. All I could picture was a cube of crushed metal where our once beautiful British sports car had been.

Eventually, I did join Josh. The front of the MGA was pushed under a table and one of its legs was jammed between the body and a fender. The rear had a huge dent where it was impacted by the Imperial’s bumper. Some choice words were spoken, but suffice it to say that we were totally devastated. We wanted to push that Imperial out into the street and light it one fire. We had both spent countless hours on this project. Josh had painstakingly hand sanded every curve of that body and I had been going through the suspension and brakes. All our efforts were lost in a split second.

Talk about a bad day! Enough time has passed that I can now write about what happened. Josh and I have thought about our options and have both decided that it would be better to move on than to try to repair the damage. It could be fixed, but it may be beyond our skill level and a professional body shop was never in the budget. We had big plans for this car and feel terrible about what happened. Someone must be watching out for us though because we just found a new project that should take away some of the pain. We will announce that later in the week, but first we need to get a few cars sold…


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  1. Dave Mikulec

    Don’t kill it! Sell it to me. I dig those finned Imps.

  2. jaymes

    so sorry

  3. Thayer

    Rough day for sure. Everyone has one now and again – unknown nut down a spark plug hole, hood slams down on a wrench, etc.

    Why not look into someone who can just do the metal work back to where you were? Might not be impossibly expensive…

    • Andy

      Yeah, maybe a local body shop will do the work for free, in exchange for a BIG write in barn finds!!!

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

        That would be awesome, but highly unlikely.

  4. Karguy James

    An employee just did the same thing at my shop slamming a finished custom 1968 Mustang into the rear of a Porsche 911 and then driving the Porsche through the workbench and into the bathroom. $28k in damage in all. I feel your pain.

    • Michael


    • Andrew

      Ex employee?

    • Steve Anthony

      This reminds me when I was a teenager working one of my very first jobs as a professional mechanic and I made the mistake of trying to test a fuel pump by sticking a siphon hose in a fully restored 66 VW Beetle and ended up catching the Volkswagen on fire. What a disaster that was and needless to say I lost my job the next day. But it was a tremendous learning experience to say the least.

      • Harvey Peever

        That reminds me of my first job as a gas jockey at a small shell service station. One of the other guys that worked there was told to bring an older car into the service bay. He backed it up and drove into the wall next to the open overhead door. Well he starts trying to explain to the boss that there wasn’t any brakes.
        The boss was a crusty old guy. He yelled back,”that’s what it’s
        here for!”

      • Jeff

        There’s no education like adversity.

    • Barzini

      Many years ago, I did not put a customer’s car fully in gear before getting out of it and walking away. It rolled foward and hit a freshly painted Gran Torino. Luckily, no one was hurt. The owner of the car and my manager were remarkably gracious and understanding of my mistake. But every time I read a story like this, the memories come rushing back.

  5. Fitz61

    Is the 61 Imperial going to be listed for sale? I am looking for one.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Yep, look for it later today. The family has asked us to auction it off with no reserve.

      • Steve Cota

        What I see in the photo’s doesn’t look that bad, give me a call, we’ll talk 802.457.4657 I’m in Vermont. might even consider trading the work on the MG for the Imperial ?

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

        That’s very nice of you Steve, but the Imperial is not ours to trade. Thanks though!

  6. DerekF

    Just a little bit of Christine in that one, sorry to hear.

    Interesting to see a trunk-mounted hood ornament like that- designed in optimistic times!

    • Three Pedal Steve

      All MoPars have a bit of Christine built into their DNA. Mine is a ’65.

      • Douglas Potts

        I’ll second that. My 2000 Concorde (Connie) has a mind of her own. 327,000 and hasn’t left me stranded but I can’t count the number of birds and raccoons that car has killed.

  7. angliagt

    Sorry to hear that.I got off work yesterday,& noticed a note
    under the wiper of my “new” ’96 F150.
    Seems a 16 boy had hacked into it.I’m very upset,as we’ll be
    moving within the next two weeks.I did commend him on taking re-
    sponsibility for his actions.
    Can you sue the driver?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Sue myself?

      • angliagt

        Forgot that you’re not in California.

      • angliagt

        Forgot that you’re not in California.
        That was purely “Tongue – in – Cheek”.

    • lawyer George

      yep. if you are talking about the kid. File an accident report. Keep the note.Call you’re agent.He should take care of the problem.Kids parents probably responsible. Uninsured motorist coverage etc. parents may have him on policy etc.
      Jesse will have to eat his unless he has liberal comprehensive.

  8. Jeff

    As you and Josh both know I recently saw this carnage (get it? CAR nage). It is a real sad story all around. I am hoping that maybe you guys can find a way to straighten out the MGA and maybe it’s not as bad as you thought although I get how discouraging something like that can be.
    I am also hoping you can find a good home for the Imperial. It is an impressive machine and it could be even more impressive in the right hands. It is so old school cool.
    Whatever you guys decide to do with these two cars, I wish you good luck.

  9. mtshootist1

    that’s about like taking my 69 sportster that I just finished to the Harley shop to have it professionally wired, they did a nice job, then the jerk mechanic took it for a test drive and used the shifter lever for the rear brake, (the rear brake is on the opposite left side instead of the normal right side,) anyway he wound up breaking a tooth off the first gear and jamming it into the rest of the transmission. I may have to sue the bastards. because I hear they cracked the right side engine case. if I do, it will be for half a million

    • Sam Sharp

      My ’67 fresly restored Sporty suffered the same fate. The left brake pedal was on the left ( correct) side. That’s ok. He got the shifter on the right as well. And the shift forks, and the mag, and the bars, …

      I had taken the bike in for appraisal. No one was authorized to ride it.

      • Joe Howell

        That left/right stuff keeps you on your toes when riding different bikes, it even gets experienced riders in trouble. Watched riding buddies switch bikes one day way back when. The Sportster owner reminded the other about the reversed foot controls on the Sportster.On down the road a little ways the Sportster guy proceeds to grab a handful of front brake and instinctively stepped on the left pedal, the shifter, and crashes the other guy’s Yamaha 650. He got a trip to the emergency room for road rash and a few stiches.

    • LAB3

      Let’s hope they make that right. If they don’t, news like that around the HD community could cause them a ton of grief. May the spirit of Bronson be with you!

      • Sam Sharp

        Michael Parks would be honored.

        The Harlie Doofus-son shop offered me a new 883. I said ok, the 883 and my 67. He said ‘no deal.’

        A large car dealer owns this store, and he was just as moronic to deal with. He told me my 67 wasn’t worth much. I bought it with 600 miles on it in 1969. He offered a junk AMF Sporty that was seized.

        I told him that I’d take the FX boat tail Super and we’ll call it good.

        Anyway, I got some NOS cases, trans internals, two jugs and heads. And a little cash.

        That precluded the VROD on their dyno launching itself through the dyno room window at WFO throttle position.

    • lawyer George

      You might want a half a million but all you can get is actual damages–which could wildly vary depending on facts, plus attorney fees where applicable.

      • mtshootist1

        lawyer George, twenty years of work into that Sportster, and thousands of dollars, then they lied to me about what happened. six months of sleepless nights, yeah, it all adds up. ever hear of punitive damages?

  10. Sam Sharp

    Can’t sue yourself. Your insurance company will do that.

    Case in point. The pilot of an Mu-2 was doing a high powered runup when the brakes failed. The pilot tried to get the beast into reverse before it hit a freshly restored Meyers OTW. The ‘Moo 2’ shredded the Meyers on the way in and as it backed out. Aluminum foil and shredded fabric .

    The point is? The pilot of the Mushybushy Moo 2 and the owner of the Meyers was, you guessed it, the one and the same.

    That’s,ok. The Meyers had just been sold a few minutes earlier.

    I know it won’t make you feel any better Jesse. Sorry for your blood, sweat, and now tears project loss.

    Been there.

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Sorry about your scooter Sam and the B. F. loss. The VROD launch at wfo would have been entertaining though. As an owner of a 1971 FX, I am curios if that boatail is still available? To me that 67 is way more precious than the 883. And I kind of like the 883. Best of luck in the future! Mike.

      • Sam Sharp

        Hi Mike. The FX is still there and is on an elevated level above the show room. Not for sale. Many have tried.

        The grandkids have a herd of 1200s and a 1200 converted 883. I re-restored my 67. However, after a furlough from my airline, the 67 was sold for a chemo treatment for my wife. After much work, I was able to get the ‘insurance’ to cover her treatment.

        To this day, I will not get anywhere near a ‘dyno run’ at the “more money-than-brains fest’ that Twinkie owners love.

  11. jdjonesdr

    Pull it out, take your time and look carefully. It’s not going to be as bad as you thought.

    Just a bump in the road, big guy..

  12. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    So sorry to hear of your drama guys as I know exactly how you feel. I leaned through the window of a BMW 635 CSI, turned the starter and, of course, it started first time which was very unusual, however that was only the beginning as it was also in first gear! It took off straight into the rear of an Alfa Spider and pushed it straight through a plate glass window into an Isuzu 1 ton pickup fitted with a big nudge bar. With the wheels still spinning it ricocheted left into the right hand side of an MG A roadster before slamming it into a brick wall before I managed to get to the ignition and switch it off. My insurance only covered accidents coming from outside the showroom as the excess was exorbitant to insure vehicles that were parked inside as the agent assured me that the only damage likely to happen would be the occasional ding in a door or fender. Yeah, right! All of the cars were on consignment but not one of the owners ever got to know about the damage until i had sold them all. I had to take out a bank overdraft and only managed to pay it off 7 years later by selling my 1951 Buick Super. Hang in there guys, it could have been a lot worse.

    • glen

      That’s both awful and hilarious! Any video of that?

      • Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

        I wish! You are quite correct about the hilarity as about an hour later, at close of business, we were all laughing about the event but unfortunately it was all directed at me, Doofus! I forgot to mention, and I’m not blaming the car, but a prospective buyer come tyre kicker, had messed up the carpet that interfered with the accelerator pedal so that it was stuck at full throttle. The amount of damage visible through the cloud of tyre smoke and dust was unbelievable. One BIG learning curve.

  13. sunbeamdon

    My tale of woe for my POR 15 – 65 Tiger was deciding to take six inch strip out of the mid-line of the front fender (I have the bottom replacement panel). The inner panel was unexpectedly rusty, I tapped on it and pieces fell out only to reveal carpet and paper fragments. I cut in a 6 X 8 inspection port only to find the channel was plugged for two feet with an unexpected mouse nest! Panel was rusted through – my heart sunk! It’s easier to do tax returns than bodywork – but I love the hobby, but???

  14. Sam

    Rough day…it is/near full moon. I remember a famous quote by Al Czervik…hey you scratched my anchor!

  15. Joe Howell

    That stinks but be glad no one was hurt. Hind sight is always 20-20 :(

  16. Tim Lewis

    Losing “sweat equity” is gut wrenching, but the silver lining of the “car collection and restoration sickness” is that anything can be fixed…given enough time, money & talent, of course! Hang in there – that beautiful MGA deserves additional health care!

  17. mtshootist1

    I have another tale of woe, I was in a friend’s body shop, the guy was an artist with paint, He had just finished up a Ford F250 4WD pickup, this was in the mid 1980’s, He had just fired it up, in the shop, I was between it and a brick wall, all of a sudden, the damn thing went into reverse at a high idle, I tried to get the door open but it went by me so fast that it was fortunate I wasn’t crushed between it and the brick wall. It went outside the roll up door, missing the sides of the opening, slammed into a 60’s vintage Mustang, which in turn was pushed into the side of a brand new Chevy pickup with dualies, with the big fenders, The culprit was one of those ford automatic transmissions that would slip into reverse even if it said it was in park. The only good part of the story, I had not parked my Harley Shovelhead chopper in the driveway, but out on the sidewalk past the gate, so the whole Keystone Kops affair missed my bike.

  18. Madmatt

    As bad as my day was, at work today –and it really did suck!
    it was still miles better than the day– that happened to you guys!
    I am sure that all of that work,was just good practice!LOL..
    sorry about your misfortune, nothing can beat an imperial
    for destructive power–even at 10mph–in reverse!

  19. Patrick D.

    What are you guys going to do with that MGA? Where are you located?

    • Josh Mortensen Staff

      We are going to auction it and all the parts we have for it off. We are in Boise, Idaho. Initially, we talked about fixing it, but to do it right requires tools we don’t have and can’t justify buying.

      • Patrick D.

        I’ll look for it then! Idaho will require a Cannonball-esque drive, but for an MGA Coupe, it might just be worth it!

  20. Daved

    Is the Imperial ok???

  21. tberd62

    Lets us know when that Imperial is up for sale, I am interested.

  22. 68 custom

    sucky day for sure! sorry that happened

  23. the one

    Be happy no one was injured, after all it’s only a piece of metal.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Yes, we are very grateful that no one was hurt.

  24. Paul

    Seems like plenty of us have “been there and done that” – mine was a freshly restored (uninsured) Porsche 930 that ended up knocking down my neighbours tree – won’t bore you with details. Over a year later and I still havent got the car back in shape. Could have been worse, no one hurt,I have been told – life’s about how many times you get up again and not how often you fall.

  25. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    We have put the Imperial up for auction. Here’s the link:

  26. john

    Enjoyed… not the greatest descriptive word here tonight,… all the yarns of automotive experiences; mine is about the family 2006 BMW325ci, convertible, royal blue,.. you get the idea.. I bought it after both my brothers owned it. I got ready to take it on it’s first trip and the sun was in both my eyes and the truckers eyes as we brushed one another- his trailer had a down low steel bar at the back and that bar tore into, caught and drug me for a ways before I could break away. An apprehensive few minutes, (probably only seconds) and then I pulled over to assess the damages…and from the passenger front light, back to just beyond the passenger door, it is enough to cry. I nursed it home,…It’s still in my garage… On a lighter note, I think someone will bring an idea forward for your crunched MGA, so best for you all on that. Peace

  27. stillrunners lawrence Member

    Yep…sending y’all some blocks….4×4 and maybe bigger….when yer messing with old cars….they should be standard garage (or yard/pasture) equipment !

  28. JP in WI

    Let’s see if my comment is deleted again..
    Quit crying–go back and fix it.. The Imperial didn’t crush the MG– you did.. Learn some skills and fix the MG–or just cry it out and give up..

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      We didn’t manually delete your comment. You used profanity so the system automatically moved it to the trash. Clean up your mouth and quit being so rude and you won’t have any problems. Thanks.

  29. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    Sorry, guys. My tale of woe: I had just painted a car for the first time–my sister in laws Triumph Spitfire. Was admiring my work as the paint dried when the push mower that I had hung up on the wall fell off and took out the right rear fender.

    I cried.

    Then I bought more paint, pounded out and filled the fender and started again. Good luck with the Imperial and whatever you end up doing with the MGA!

  30. norm

    Does not look impossible to straighten from here ….

  31. Bruce Joslen

    brother [leaning over fender] was trying to ascertain cause of throttle sticking on ’58 Edsel wagon. Lever dropped into drive and the car hurtled across the yard into a concrete garage wall. Large cracks in the wall, and 400 hours by my bro to repair the hood and fenders of the Edsel.

  32. jimbosidecar

    Reminds me of the day I took my freshly restored MGB out for it’s initial shakedown drive. Everything seemed good and I drove it into my back yard. It was October and plenty of fallen leaves on the ground. Went inside for a bit, and came out to a burning car. The hot exhaust had set fire to the leaves and in an instant the car was engulfed in flames. I did another restoration on it, and then it was stolen. That car was cursed.

  33. James

    Remember 3 things about hot rodding, TIME, TALENT & MONEY. Any one can replace the other 2.

  34. dgrass

    I am sorry for the loss, I hope this doesn’t put a damper on your love for fine autos…RIP MGA.

  35. Sam Sharp

    As for me, I’m gonna go to the airport to see if I can snag a pair of chocks that the airlines don’t need for a large Boeing airliners anymore.

  36. jdjonesdr

    How about some pictures of the MGA damage guys….

  37. newfieldscarnut

    Christine’s big brother .

  38. joeinthousandoaks

    Don’t give up on that MG Jesse. It is totally repairable.

  39. carl french

    I agree with Joe. Can you post pictures of the MGA damage?

  40. ROAR

    Gotta Harbor freight there?? Brit cars were designed to be worked on by the owners, a porta power will push/pull it back into shape along with lots of hammer and dolly work.

  41. Van Vandenbosch

    So what are you Going to do with the molar 904-505-9013
    I might be interested I’ve always wanted one of these land yachts

  42. whippeteer

    @Jesse, The MGA has been “pre-disastered!” No problem! — Garp

  43. Pete

    Awe man that just sucks. I was wondering how it was going with the MG Coupe. Obviously you know better the extent of the damage than we do. I sure wish you would reconsider repairing it as you have so much time invested in it. Sometimes you just have to let something alone for a spell and divine inspiration will occur and a method to fix it will present it’s self.

    One day as I was working at Ft Cambell on the CH-47 RESET program I was tasked with moving a chinook inside the hanger. Our civilian tug was not available so I had to use one of the military tugs that I had not driven before. Even though it was essentially just like ours. So I hook up to the bird and pushed it into the hanger with no problem. I disconnected it from the tow bar and was pulling around to the left side where I had room to make a U-turn to get back out of the hanger. Well as I put it back into drive the throttle stuck and went wide open and I went flying in towards the back of the hanger. I was heading for a work table with all the computers and was able to turn the wheel to keep from hitting all that. However I clipped a fellow mechanics tool box sent it flying across the floor and made it to the door of the hanger before I could hit the key to turn it off. That took about 2 seconds. The company wouldn’t pay for the guys tool box being damaged. So being a stand up guy I paid for it out of pocket. They wanted to reprimand me for the incident. I explained what happened and invited them to drive the tug to see if they could do any better. They got on and ended up flying outside the hanger and narrowly avoided hitting a chinook. They dropped the reprimand and dead lined the tug. I was pretty shook up afterwards but was so grateful noone got hurt and I didn’t hit a chinook with the dang thing.

  44. GEORGE

    buy an air compressor .

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      We have one. The tire won’t hold air, so I’m not sure why that would have made a difference.

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