A Life in the Day of 'Bee' and 'Vee'

   The Naming of 'Bee' and 'Vee'    Bee's Story    Vee's Story    Comparisons    What's Next?
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The Naming of 'Bee'

Having named our first MG (a late 1600 Maestro) 'Maggie' and lost her after all too short a time due to a stupid low-speed accident, we were in no hurry to attach a name to our latest family member. However the name 'Bee' developed quite quickly from the ubiquitous abbreviation commonly applied to an MGB. While restoring 'Bee' I decided I wanted a suitable emblem to adorn the dash, but what? At the next Classic Car show at the Birmingham (UK) NEC I spotted exactly the thing - a small enamel badge that would fit neatly on to a rocker-switch blank on the dash. While making my purchase the stall-holder said "Do you like these, then?" referring to the object depicted on the badge, to which I replied "Yes, I have one". "One?" he said, "What do you mean, 'one'?" as he handed over an enamel badge depicting a honey bee.

When we bought the V8 it just seemed natural to call her 'Vee'. Now my wife's Mother is named Vera, known as 'Vee' to friends and family. The first thing my wife said after naming 'Vee' (the V8) was "You needn't think you are having a picture of my Mother on the dashboard!"


Bee's Story

I had lusted after a 'B' ever since they first hit the streets but couldn't afford one when I was younger or when we first married. When we could have afforded one after a few years we had two kids and then couldn't afford a family car plus a 'B'. We did have a number of 'interesting' family cars - including two Rover SD1 2600's, a Princess 2200, a Reliant Scimitar (3 Litre V6) and an MG Maestro 1600 ("Maggie Maestro"). Eventually I rose to the dizzy heights of having the use of a company car in 1990 and could finally sell our own family car and look for a 'B'.

I copied out the pages from Lyndsay Porters "MGB: Guide to Purchase and DIY Restoration" (a "must have" BEFORE you buy a car) that describe all the things to check when buying a 'B' and started scouring ads, both near and far. The first car I looked at was a disaster - full of filler, quick paint job, doors rubbing on the sills, interior completely trashed and an engine compartment full of rust. Expensive, too, at around UKP5000. The place was more interesting than the car - a large barn approached by driving across a field in which were at least twenty Bristols and a couple of Spitfires (cars, not planes, I hasten to add), all in various stages of decay.

The second was a dozen miles away in Warwickshire (where the car had been registered originally) and owned by a chap in his twenties. The car was his daily driver, lived outside, and was used regularly to visit his girlfriend on the South Coast (a round trip of some 300 miles) proving that "You Can Do It An MG" (use it as a daily driver and for long distances, I mean, what else?). With the "Porter pages" I crawled over, under (took my ramps with me), round and in the car. Twice. It's amazing how much you miss the first time that you spot straight away the next. The car seemed exactly what I wanted - something to drive immediately that summer, then strip and restore over the winter, and be ready to use again the next summer. And so, in June 1990, it proved to be.

As well as and one-day and 'long weekend' organised road-runs (see my 'trophy' room), Bee has been used for a couple of longer trips, notably (a 2500 miles in five days trip round Britain featured in the MGOC "Enjoying MG") in 1996 and two weeks in France in 1997.  

Vee's Story

Bee had been bought as a 'fun' car while I had a company car as a daily driver. When I opted for a career change I gave up the company car, which meant we had to look for a daily driver. Being completely uninspired by virtually every new car available at the time, and as our children had variously left home and got their own cars, I tentatively suggested a factory V8. My ever indulgent wife agreed, so the hunt began. The first offering was just round the corner. Mechanically immaculate, but with the 'restored a while ago' paint-work beginning to lift, blister, crack and rust on the edges of every panel on the car. I didn't want to embark on another body restoration so soon, it was supposed to be our daily driver after all. The next car was completely the opposite - bodily perfect in fit and finish but with the mechanicals a bit mucky all round. I opted for possible mechanical rebuilds in the not too distant future, and so we had our factory V8 in January 1995.

'Vee' has proved (so far - touching wood!) to be reliable (that's not to say I haven't had to do quite a bit of work on her from time to time), fast and great fun to drive, surprising more than a few of those people in their modern Euro-box who refuse to be overtaken by 'one of those old cars'. My daily journeys to work and back can be up to 130 miles, so it is fortunate that quite a lot of the time I have been able to find work in my home town, walking to work. Even so, she has covered 45k in three and a half years. The biggest problem has been the exhaust system. Vee has tubular manifolds and the down pipes are just a sliding fit with a clamp - nothing to positively locate them. The result is that with the twisting and flexing of the engine the down pipes work their way off the manifolds. I've been lucky and always managed to catch it before they actually drop off (the PO said that happened to him once), but about twice a year I have to drop and refit the whole system. The other problem is that the manifolds have cracked a couple of times, the RHS more often, and that means removing the steering rack to get the manifold out - a real pain.



The cars are quite different to drive, and not just because of the difference in power. Everything about driving Bee seems effortless - clutch, gears, steering - it's as if I only have to think about taking a corner and round she goes.

By contrast everything in Vee is a bit heavier and requires more conscious effort. The clutch probably because of the higher engine output. The gearbox should be the same as Bee but isn't, possibly because it uses gear oil instead of engine oil. The steering is heavier because the PO fitted a smaller wheel.

On the handling front Vee gave me a bit of a surprise the first time I took her on a local roundabout in the wet. I went into it at my normal speed - and the back swung out. A touch of opposite lock corrected the situation, but the back definitely breaks away sooner than Bee. The PO also fitted a Ron Hopkinson handling kit and telescopics at the rear, and it is the resulting stiffer rear end that seems to be the cause of the problem, Vee does ride and corner much flatter than Bee, though.

However after replacing the front and rear springs on Bee (CB) with RB spec items to stop the outer edge of the tyres rubbing on the arches when cornering - an effect introduced by the fitting of wire wheels to a Rostyle axle, Bee was breaking away sooner than Vee. I also tried the red poly bushes at the rear - didn't detect any improvement in handling but on some surfaces the ride was really choppy and unpleasant when fully loaded. As Bee's axle was clonking and grinding more and more I decided to replace it with a rebuilt W/W type and refit the original springs, the rears of which were nearly new, in September 1999.


What's next?

What I really (really) want is a Maestro Turbo but in BRG. Only 505 ever made, and only 149 in BRG (plus 215 red, 92 white and 49 black), but it's a real barnstormer albeit a bit intractable and tricky to handle. I was actively searching for one when 'Vee' who lives under a carport on our drive was broken into twice in five days.
So now we are looking for a house with two bedrooms (being empty nesters) and (at least!) four garages. Why four? Well, I want a VW Corrado VR6 as well, for my long-suffering wife to be able to enjoy quiet, leather and air-conditioned comfort some of the time. Then I test-drove one and was disappointed - very bland with a definite lack of low down torque. Still a great looker though. April 2022: Fast-forward more than 20 years and a Corrado pops up on Car SOS and at one point they drive a VR6. Fuzz liked it, but Tim declared it 'unexciting' and in the end they put a Golf 20v turbo in the 'customer' car.
Then MG Rover (good for them!) go and produce the 'Z cars'. Very much enjoyed the test drive. Decisions, decisions.
But in the meantime my son has gone and bought a BMW Z3 M Coupe (kids of today - what can you do with them?) so I have taken on his 1989 Toyota Celica. If we can make enough use of the extra seats taking our granddaughter out maybe I'll be able to convince my wife about the ZS.
Finally, in July 2007, a really good face-lift (late 2004) 4-door model in blue came to the attention of a relative in the trade and with the Navigator's blessing (but a tear shed for the Celica) I took the plunge. This one really does have my name on it, the three letters of the registration are my initials, albeit in reverse.
No real plans to replace the ZS yet, but I've had her nearly four years now, and she isn't going to last for ever. Spares are never going to be as plentiful as for MGBs, and I'm mindful of the trouble I started having getting parts for the Celica, and they sold millions! I've always said I'd never have a BMW based on their reputation and that of many of the people that seem to choose them, but they have become so good at playing the emissions game getting astonishing performance from miniscule emissions. UK Road tax has become so dependant on that I'm beginning to get tempted, anything that sticks two fingers up to the Treasury is fine by me. However seeing as how RWD cars became virtually immobile in the December 2010 snows (they couldn't get out of my road even though it only has a slight incline either end) I thought maybe I'd have to think again. But my son has to use his on a daily basis in the Cambridgeshire countryside, and luckily in early December invested in a set of 2nd-hand wheels and new winter tyres. In several inches of snow, lying compacted for several days, he had to really provoke it to get any twitching, wheel spin or ABS, overtaking slower vehicles (and no doubt adding to the reputation of BMW drivers ...). Previously he had found the back stepping out a couple of times just on wet roads. So maybe a BMW is back on the agenda again.

In 2020 the ZS is getting more difficult to keep on the road from the point of view of spares availability which is not good for a car which is supposed to be the 'every-day' car for when road conditions are not suitable for the MGBs, so it has to go - a sad day as I loved driving it. I can only contemplate a Golf despite it's rather bland styling, or possibly a Mercedes A-class which in recent years have become more interesting styling-wise at least. Get to drive Golf Mk7 1.4 TSI first and whilst it's not in the least bit 'exciting' I have two other cars for that and it's extremely competent, so we buy it there and then. We don't intend to keep it long-term, so will try an A-class in a couple of years and see how it compares. Looking ahead to 2030 sales of new petrol cars will cease (at the moment ... 2023 sees that put back to 2035 ...). If I'm still this side of the grass I'll be thinking in terms of getting something to see me out, so a late 2020s petrol something as at the moment electric range and charger availability is still pitiful - have you seen motorway service areas in summer? Imagine when 75% of those need a charge!

August 2022 sees a Mercedes A-Class come my way at 3 years old - 7200 miles and immaculate inside and out. More visually appealing than the Golf, drives OK but noticeably not as well put together as the Golf and several irritations.