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The Langswager MG-TD Restoration Story by George Haynes
About a month ago, Vince Capaccio asked if I would write a Behind The Garage Door article about the restoration Gil Langswager is doing on his MG-TD this winter. It was easy to say yes because I live near the Langswager's and have been helping Gil with his project occasionally - I would just drop in for an hour or so and ask the necessary questions about the restoration. However, as I got into the story it became quite a bit more interesting. Here's what I mean:
We all know Gil and Betty Langswager: They're Charter Members of our Centre of the MG Car Club, Brudno Award recipients and an enthusiastic MG couple who participate in just about all the events on our calendar as well as many others out of town.
Gil has an entire room filled with books, trophies, dash plaques, photos, and models of MG's and other sports cars. He has a 1/32 scale, 60-foot slot car track in the basement, which he built from scratch. Betty has lovely MG pins and earrings. They often show up in matching MG shirts or sweaters. If there ever were two people who personify what the MG Marque and our events are all about, it has to be Gil and Betty.
We also know them as the owners of two red MG's, a 1969 MGC-GT and a 1953 MG-TD. The TD was to be the subject of most of this article. Before getting into the nuts and bolts of Langswager's TD restoration, we need to turn back the pages of time to put everything into perspective.
Gil and Betty grew up in Hilton, NY and have known each other since second grade. They were married in 1952. Their son Gary was born in 1955. I don't know exactly how they became interested in MG's but their first one, a 1953 TD, was purchased in 1956. This car was already pretty tired and when a better 1953 TD became available in 1957, (Gil knew the original owner and it's brief history of 38,000 miles) the first one was replaced.
Also in 1957, Langswager's second son Jeffrey was born. In the next forty years Gary and Jeff grew to adulthood, left home, married and had families of their own. The adopted kid - the 1953 MG-TD - never left. Looking back at 40 years of ownership and well over 100,000 miles of classic MG driving was a nostalgic experience which Gil and Betty shared with me.
Members of the New England MG-T register also, Gil and Betty have attended most of the twice-a-year Gatherings Of the Faithful (or GOF's) since they became members. They estimate there have been about 80 GOF's and they have attended 50 or 60 of them! The little TD was driven to Tuscaloosa, Alabama when the Langswager's moved there, then all over the South to other MG events. (A little sidebar here: on the initial trip to Alabama, Gil drove the TD and Betty the MGC. Somewhere in the middle of the trip the MGC's fuel pump quit and Betty had to coast across other lanes of traffic to get to the shoulder. Fortunately they were near an off ramp. Now picture Gil in the TD pulling Betty in the MGC off the highway to a nearby gas station!)
They drove the TD on two of George and Nancy Herschell's New England Mountain Adventures. The car has been to the University Motors Summer Party in Grand Rapids, Michigan twice. (Author's note: imagine blasting along Michigan Route 96 behind the Langswager TD at 70 MPH - this car is DRIVEN!) In the early days of the Western NY Centre, the club used to drive to Lake Placid each year. Gil and Betty figure the TD made that trip nine times. There were trials on the grass and in the snow at Chuck Heindl's farm. There were several trips to Canadian events. There were several entries trips in the Elmira 500 Rallye (that's a 500-mile rallye in an MG-TD, folks, and they even won it once!). Failures on the pumps, only twice, and Betty and a girlfriend had to push the car to a gas station one of those times!
In fact, in forty years of ownership, the plates had never been off this car until now (actually, they're just removed, as the car is still licensed and insured. . .), and it has never missed a Summer of driving! Several winters too, in the early days and in Alabama. Before her knees began giving her trouble, Betty was as likely to be behind the wheel as Gil. Also in the early days, there was a trailer hitch on the TD so Gil and Betty could pull a small fold-out trailer for this family of four to go camping. Here was a couple in a car who could honestly say, We've been there and done that , years ago. And they continue to go and do!
After the TD is reassembled this Spring, there will be many more long trips for Gil and Betty: Two more GOF's (one in Wisconsin) another New England Mountain Adventure and the British Invasion to Stowe, VT in September. These are the planned trips for 1007, you can count on seeing the Langswager's in their TD at other events for many more years.
But I have digressed from the original intent of this article. I knew the TD was going through its first body-off restoration but I didn't know what else had been done to it previously.
Not long after Langswager's bought this TD, there was a broken rod during a rallye in Dunkirk, NY. Included in that engine repair, Gil added a hotter camshaft and larger SU carbs. A Derrington manifold was installed later. The engine ran well in this configuration for many years and miles until a valve lifter wore away, necessitating another rebuild in 1991. This time a set of 4.3 differential gears was installed and, with the engine modifications, this TD is now able to chirp it's tyres in first and second gears AND make those long fast trips at 70 MPH.
There has been some cosmetic attention, too. The original red paint was resprayed in 1968. Seat coverings and the top were replaced. These are still in good enough condition to reuse this time around, but Gil is looking for a replacement white vinyl top.
For 1997, the TD engine will have another set of lifters and a new timing chain. Some of the car's chrome will be new but other chrome pieces will be reused until a further upgrade at a later time. The main renovation has been to the frame (significant welding to patch rotted areas), certain areas of the body and front fenders, and the new red paint job. Gill's next-door neighbour Bob Wells has done the welding, metal work and painting, in Acrylic Enamel.
A tribute to a car which has been used continuously for so long, the wooden body structure is still in very solid condition and no repairs were deemed necessary. The Michelin X radial tyres, are not worn out and are only slightly checked; they will continue to see service. Similarly, the shocks and front suspension needed only cleaning and painting. The original wiring harness is finally being replaced. Except for the shiny new paint on the body and wheels, most folks would not realize all the work that's going into Langswager's TD; it will look much the same as it has for years.
Asked where he has purchased most of the parts for this restoration, Gil replied that many were from Abingdon Spares, taking advantage of a 30% off sale celebrating the company's 30th anniversary a couple years ago. Now that's planning ahead! Other parts have been purchased over the past several years, anticipating the restoration which is now taking place.
Starting in August, 1996, with a completion date of June 1, 1997 - the Victor Show - Gill's project is now well along. All the metal parts are painted except the hood (probably the final part to install on a TD, anyway).
The suspension is all bolted on and the car is on its wheels. The body tub is attached. Firewall components are secured and the wiring harness is in place. The drive line and radiator are also installed. At my most recent visit, the dashboard was about to be reinstalled and more sheet metal pieces attached. There should be no reason this restoration won't be completed on time except that Gil and Betty are moving to Pittsford in mid-April!
Despite this major potential setback, expect to see Langswager's red MG-TD at the Victor show in June, pretty much complete. After forty years, they are committed to this adopted child which has yet to leave home for good and probably never will.
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