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The MG in the Barn

MG in the Barn

We should all be grateful to the mothers in our lives. They put up with our endless babel about automobiles and some even love us enough to come along for a ride. Obviously, mothers do much more than this everyday. So, show some gratitude whether it is your own mom, the mother of your children, or someone that has helped you along the way. Today we want to honor one special woman who loves her family and her cars. So, enjoy this quick read from Tom Cotter and then get back to the women in your life:

In 1957, Nancy Moore of Lake Grove, New York, purchased a slightly modified 1948 MG TC. The previous owner had removed the front wings (fenders) and replaced them with a unique pair of cycle fenders that turned with the front wheels.

Early in her ownership of the MG, she met another car enthusiast, Dennis Sullivan, who loved the MG and also loved Ford Model Ts, of which he owned several. In 1959, Nancy and Dennis married, and the MG became their family car. They drove the MG on their honeymoon, first to Cape Cod, and then all the way up to the Canadian border.

Back on Long Island, the MG was used for commuting and shopping trips. And the Sullivans were caught up in the sports car movement of the day, so the couple thought nothing of driving the little green MG to Lime Rock and Watkins Glen to watch the road races. They often participated in pre-race parade laps.

When the Sullivan children started to arrive, the MG still remained the family’s favorite mode of transport. Once they packed their two small children into homemade baby seats in the small package shelf behind the seats and went to visit relatives in Potsdam, New York.

I first remember seeing the MG, in addition to the Model Ts, in the Sullivans’ driveway in the mid-1960s. I was about ten years old, and I was bike riding with my friend Charles “Buzzy” Brischler in the neighborhood streets near his house. I remember a garage and driveway filled with interesting cars, which we looked at for a few moments before continuing on our ride.

Not long after we spotted those cars, the Sullivans put the MG up for sale. “When we had three children, the MG was not very useful anymore, so we put it up for sale in 1966,” Nancy says. “It was purchased by a man from (nearby) Smithtown.”

Nearly ten years passed, and in May 1975, Dennis died. A few months later, Nancy saw her old MG for sale in the newspaper and in a nostalgic moment, decided to buy it back. “The guy who owned it made some changes I wasn’t very happy about,” she says. “He stripped leather off the seats and replaced it with vinyl, and he changed the dashboard.” Nonetheless, she repurchased the MG, had the exhaust system replaced, and rarely used it.


In the early 1990s, when my wife, Pat, and I were visiting my in-laws in Lake Grove, I decided to pack my young son into the car and take a ride. When I passed the house on Hawkins Avenue, I suddenly remembered the cars I had seen there as a child. So I pulled my rental car up to the curb and peeked into the garage window. “Sonof-a-gun,” I said to myself—the MG and the old Fords were still in there! So with Brian in my arms, we knocked on the door of the house, and when Nancy answered the door, I told her of my bicycle ride past her house more than thirty years earlier, and wondered if I could see the MG.We walked out to see the car I hadn’t seen since I was probably ten or twelve years old. Interestingly, the car started and ran nicely, since it had just been tuned up by Sullivan’s son-in-law.

I had to ask, “Is the MG for sale?”

Well, yes, but we couldn’t come to terms on a price, so I said goodbye, gave her my phone number in North Carolina, and left. Nearly every Thanksgiving from that point forward, I would visit her with my son, who was now growing into a young man. She looked forward to my annual visits, as we’d continue our never-ending conversations on the car’s value. You see, as time went on, I actually became less interested in the car. I had an MG TD at home, along with a growing car collection. However, I continued to visit and call her from time to time.

As of October 2004, the MG and the Model Ts were still sitting obediently in the Lake Grove garage. Nancy says she’d like to sell them, but I believe that deep down inside, she’d like to keep the memories alive of the good times that she and Dennis shared.




This story originally appeared in Tom Cotter’s The Cobra in the Barn.

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  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    The stories that go along with the cars are as interesting to me as the cars themselves. I’ve got the complete history on three of my six old vehicles (and one tractor) and am making some progress researching out the remaining three. I enjoy anything I can find (old pictures, ads, I’ve even come across a cancelled check written for a new car back in 1953) when putting an article together. The history of the vehicles is significant.

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  3. David

    Great story. It reminded me of some of my experiences in years past. Good memories.

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  4. stuart

    I love these stories=the time spans are amazing…

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  5. edward,

    Hi Tom.
    Im a car nut from wayy back too.
    I like the brass, and classic’s and older race car’s too,
    Ive seen alot of greedy people with exotics like Italian GT’s and older aston’s,
    Im not falling for the supply and demand trap ,
    what a car is worth is the sum of its part’s and no more, not a serial numbr or who owned it junk.
    I like older MG’s like this one but Im not gttting caught up in the hype of values,
    if its not fair, than forget it.

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  6. paul

    Great story thank you Tom.
    I am currently working on a 50 year old Corvair Spyder & while removing a rear quarter trim panel I came across a for sale sign that had fallen down in to the quarter panel it had a phone # so I called it & sure enough the guy was the third owner he then told me the name of the second owner. The car spent much of it’s life in the South Bend Indiana area, a dry cool climate that is the reason for the interior’s very good condition & the exterior’s very minimal rust despite it’s age.

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  7. scot

    ~ as Tom and Barn Finds planned i look forward to Sunday mornings and reading another episode of these great stories. thanks, guys!

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  8. George Holt

    It,s great when you find an old classic with a story to tell, whilst holidaying in Lake Havasu, I found a Devin for sale on a piece of land and had always wanted one,this was 200 miles from where I was staying, but off I went, the car turned out to be a one owner car factory built car, built by Bill Devin, in 61/62 for the chaps father, who raced her in California and used her as every day transport ,it was depicted a C, which stood for Corvair engined, whilst the car was very tatty, it was complete and the chassis was perfect, engine was frozen but only had 15,000-mls on it. I bought the car from the deceased owners son and another old car is soon to breath the light of day! keep em coming!

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  9. Dolphin Member

    It’s interesting how cars like Nancy’s MG TC, which have lots of memories and family history bundled together with all that metal, glass, and leather, are often valued higher by their owner than by the market when it comes time to sell. It makes perfect sense, and I’ve done it myself: You can’t look at the car and NOT remember all the fun times, trips, make-do fixes by the roadside, and other memorable times you’ve had with it. Trouble is, prospective buyers aren’t aware of any of that, and wouldn’t care even if they knew.

    The result is the owner either keeps the car, as Nancy did with her MG TC, or discounts the price to get a sale despite all the wonderful memories attached to it.

    Read one issue of Sports Car Market and it will immediately show the extent to which collector cars have become a commodity, to be bought and sold based on price curves that quantify appreciation potential, the price of money, the health of the stock market and the central banks of European debtor nations, and the going price of shop time at the best restoration facilities in Southern California.

    It’s funny, but I don’t regret not buying the perfect 275 GTB/6 with the alloy body that was offered to me at $11K years ago, and which would now sell for $3 million at one of RM’s car commodity auctions, nearly as much as I regret not being able to buy back the used-up sports cars I owned when I was young. The alloy 275 GTB is now a commodity; my used-up sports cars are full of rich memories.

    Maybe what Nancy did was to price her MG just above ‘market’, to make sure it wouldn’t sell, so she never had to experience the regret of letting all those memories go. What else would you expect a loving mother to do?

    Good for her. To me, she’s the winner in this story.

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    • scot

      ~ well put. i also had that inkling on Nancy’s asking price. as you have pointed out, when we value our cars by the experiences we have with them the dollars and cents become less significant.

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    • jim

      yes sir, you hit the nail on the head. still looking for the first sports car i owned. if i find it i would buy it back, but if the current owner will not sell that’s ok. i would i love to drive it one more time, but if the current owner is not interested that’s ok. if i could just set in it for a while that would do… going to ” imports at carlisle ” next weekend looking for it as always.

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  10. FRED


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  11. john flood

    I love to read and hear stories like this. hemi and cobra in the barn are great books love to read more, I like to check out old cars in junk yard and over banks and thing and always wonder what there story of how they came to be there

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  12. Chris A.

    Like Jim, I have special memories of a family car. I’m still looking for our family 1950 Riley 2.5 liter “Big Four” dark green sedan. I lost track of it in Rochester NY and often wonder what became of it. Partially restored, I’d recognize it as soon as the bonnet is opened as Dad had a specially machined aluminum block mounted on the firewall to hold 4 clean spark plugs. I still have the key fob. Beautiful car with lots of memories. It was my Mom’s all time favorite.

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  13. rancho bella

    Guess I missed the ask $ on the car……………..
    If the ask is too much, then she doesn’t want to sell it……..just talk about it.
    I dig old MG’s………like the mostest.

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  14. Ben Dobrie (Dobreuenaski)

    Hi Tom, I remember you and I dropping a 1947 Ford coupe at Walthers auto wrecking in the 1970’s. At the time I remember you were into Ford wagons. We did hang around Jim Mooneys house in Ronkonkoma.

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  15. John Edwards

    Tom, buy the car(s) let her keep them until she passes. Would be a win-win situation.

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  16. conservativesdefeated

    There is nothing more important to real car folks than those memories associated with particular cars. Even today, forty plus years on, I see a pix of my first car.or any of the subsequest seventy cars, and instantaneously I can call up a situation associated with each car.

    No rational person could ever blame Nancy for her approach to selling this car

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    • John Edwards

      I agree with you on first and favorite cars grwoing up. I acttually (like many of us) fell in love with cars long before I every drove. I’m not of a Chevy guy but my brother sure was. So even here there is a family connection. He liked the 56 and 57 models; my favorite American car is the 55, 2 dr. convertable, 2 tone paint scheme and the 58’s with the bullet bumper stops. My favorites are european cars, MB’s, MG’s, and Porsche’s.

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  17. Chris B.

    Howdy Tom,

    Nice article, and a fine bit of history to follow that family and the cars associated with them. I’m pleased there is a follow-up with Nancy, that you keep with her and allow the connection with her and the old rig to continue, probably important for everyone involved. I don’t need another, still have and enjoy my TB, but were it to become available and space were needed, I could store it for someone in So Wisconsin. Thanks for yet another fine article, Chris B

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