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The History of TF1414

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My name is Frank Cronin and I am the owner of TF1414. The little Birch grey British sports car with bright red interior was purchased by my grandfather Walter Sandholm in 1957. One morning, my grandpa said to my grandmother that he’s going to Rhode Island to look at a car he saw in an ad and he is taking his daughter Agnes with him. My mom was sixteen at the time who just got her license. Not only did he drive there to view the car, he ended up purchasing it. After some Dad to daughter careful instructions and cautions to not to go too fast or follow too close, he drove the MG back to the family farm to Brooklyn, CT and she drove the family sedan following him home. I guess that was his plan all along that day.

My grandfather loved to collect classic cars. He collected all types of marques – foreign and domestic. He would buy, sell, and trade for something he really liked. I would have to say he had a liking to Old British Iron. The pinnacle of all his British cars was the ’27 Rolls Royce Phantom I Town Car, 1949 Jaguar Mark IV, and the 1953 MG TF. The Rolls was used to go on parades, weddings, and to car shows. Growing up visiting my grandparents, he would always be in the barn working on the cars doing maintenance and doing restorations. I was a “tool monkey” grabbing what he needed working alongside of him watching him assemble a Ford Model T that he got in boxes and then build into a complete car. He could paint and do upholstery too. I do recall him saying to me that the MG was his favorite car of all the others because it was so fun to drive. You could drive it with the convertible hood and windshield down with the wind in your face. It was a “slow car” but driving in it made you feel you were going really fast!

In 1971 my grandfather gifted the car to my mom. I was four years old at the time. The memory I still have when we went to pick it up is I crawled in from the passenger side door. Typical of any four year old boy, I started touching all the knobs, grasping the chrome passenger grab handle, and playing with the Motorola AM radio my grandfather installed into the passenger glovebox. My grandpa gave a quick refresher for my mom how to shift a standard in the grassy field. Confident we were safe to drive, he gave the key to my mom and my mom drove the TF back to Massachusetts.

The really neat thing about having a longtime family car is the memories. It is also a story grit and passion. When the car was first brought to Massachusetts it was used quite a bit. I do recall going to the Chelmsford Drive-in with my mom, my neighborhood friend Jeff, and myself. We were both four years old and we sat in the boot where the side screens are stowed. Looking at the car today and seeing this really small compartment, I am flabbergasted how we could even fit in this thing. With the hood up makes it even smaller! Somehow we all managed to all fit in and enjoy a movie. As years went by, the TF was parked parallel along the back of the two car garage to save space so two other family cars could fit in. Later my parents got divorced and the MG sat dormant for quite some time until my teenage years. I encouraged my mom to get the MG back on the road again. There was a shop locally that worked on British cars and they worked on the brakes, installed fresh tires, and other maintenance to get the car road worthy.

When I finally got my license I drove the TF as much could. The key was kept in a dresser draw so I could sneak in a ride around town. I usually did this after class in high school while my unsuspecting mom was working so she wouldn’t know! She was really protective of the car because it meant so much to her since it was a gift from her father. In 1987 when I was a sophomore in college, my friend Jerry and I took the TF out for a ride. It was a hot August evening, top down, waving to girls, buzzing up and down Merrimack Street Downtown Lowell. MA. Two college age hometown friends acting like total idiots having fun in a cool British two seater roadster. Lowell is a historic Mill town with some cobblestone streets that are still there today. Unknowingly while we were driving and bumping around on the cobblestones, there was some rust sediment from the fuel tank that got agitated and clogged up the inline fuel filter that was installed to the car. The car sputtered and died on the side of the road. Now we are in the “not so great section” of Lowell. Street walkers, dealers, and other suspicious people walking up to us admiring the car. “Hey…. Nice car!” My friend is now horrified and cried to me to please to get the TF going again. I cleaned out the fuel filter and I finally got it started. Limped it back to Chelmsford into the garage and there it sat for 25 years.

Vintage family cars that you usually see tucked away in barns or people’s garages, there’s a reason why they are still there. In most cases it was something minor like a faulty fuel pump, a worn clutch master cylinder, or bad brakes. Probably not a huge expense either but you usually have a daily driver so it gets ignored. While it was discussed and we had good intentions to “someday” get the car going again however life gets busy. My mom was a single mom raising two boys and I was a broke recent college graduate with no funds to spare to get the car going again.

In 2011 my life changed. Robyn passed away from a courageous battle with cancer. I am a widow and now alone. A week later, I came by to see my mom and she let me know that she wanted me to have the TF. I was so excited and very fortunate. The TF has sat dormant for so long and we had to drag the car out due to frozen brake pads on to the drum. The TF has finally has seen sunlight after a long 25 year hibernation in the garage. My friend Pat came by with a flatbed trailer and we started the following spring to tear down the car.

I was working full time and I used all of my five weeks of vacation time each year dedicated to work on the TF in Pat’s shop. I did this for the first four years of the restoration. I did not mind at all as this was a long time personal quest to get the car back on the road my grandfather bought 55 years before. I did a photo journal of - every – single – part - that was taken off and stowed away in marked Ziploc bags for later use. My mindset doing the restoration of TF1414 was to bring it back to its original factory condition. Car restoration refers to the act of repairing, painting and replacing certain parts of an old car in order to bring it back to a pre-sale condition. While TF1414 was a very original one family car, my grandfather did do a respray in the early to mid-Sixties. Time over the years did take its toll on some of the paint in other areas of the car, the hardware plating finishes badly worn or rusted, and parts did get replaced due to wear and tear like electrical items, hoses, clamps, and hood and carpet in the interior.

In 2013 the New England MG T Register hosted the GOF “Survivor Series”. I spoke with Dave Sander who is the Chairman who knew my approach to my restoration suggested strongly that I should attend. There were several original TF’s there that I could study and take photos of so I could use this data for the restoration of TF1414. Researching original TF’s has now become my passion. As a result, I became a hardcore and purist car restorer who went to great lengths to restore TF1414 according to its original specifications. While modern parts can be used to replace old and failing parts, there was extreme effort to be made to acquire original parts if possible. Pursuing for these parts on ebay and swap meets became a constant search. I had an extremely fortunate and rare opportunity to view actual vintage black and white TF marketing photos from the factory taken in Abington which was valuable in the restoration shared to me from a good friend in the Mid-West. I also became very active in my regional MG T Party club, logging online on the MG BBS T series TD -TF asking questions, reading up on the archives expanding my research, and dedicated to helping others sharing all my photos of what I have discovered from TF1414 that can benefit other people who are restoring their TFs and to be done correctly.

I was informed about two original TF’s TF9052 and TF8541. Photos of both these cars can be found on this website in the gallery section. TF9052 and TF8541 has been exceptionally helpful in my restoration in particular the paint finishes, the interior, wiring harness routing, and basically everything under the bonnet. I have also discovered two more survivor TF’s nearby that I plan on going to see and will share what I find on this website. So stay tuned!

In 2018 TF1414 finally gets painted in single stage grey paint and now I can start assembling the TF and working on the interior. Getting the car painted in a car restoration is reaching the “top of the mountain” and now the slope down in the remainder of the car restoration is now a slow and tedious process. Attention to detail is paramount. The long drives to GOF in Upstate NY, western CT/NY border to see TF9052 and TF8541, hundreds photos from my journal of my car, researching on the internet, and forums is all now paying off. During this time, the car is now in a barn that was formerly a chicken coop. It is big and spacious and everything I need to get the job done. I spent a lot of long days and nights in that barn. However, depending on the season it is either really hot or really cold in these barns. Lot of sweat and cold joints and flesh laying on cold concrete floors. There were some obstacles and road bumps along the way though. I filled up the swear jar a few times and threw a couple spanners in frustration across the room doing so.

In 2020 the last staple and tack to the canvas hood is installed and I am finally finished with this long yet extremely rewarding journey. When the car was completed, my mom’s brother Uncle Albert came up from Connecticut to see the car. Albert has a few antique car and farm tractor restorations under his belt so his view and judgement on how the car came out would be meaningful. He loved the car and the detail that was put into it. The most rewarding and satisfying thing he said to me was that Grandpa would definitely be proud of me. That’s all I needed to hear and I was grateful to be able to be that “tool monkey” once again working on the same car Grandpa purchased, drove, touched, got his hands dirty, and scraping some skin off the knuckles working on TF1414 sixty plus years before.

If you have a similar story you would like to share or if I can be of any assistance, please let me know.

Frank Cronin

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