x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The head turner

A 1971 imported MG sports car rarely fails to impress on the streets of Dubai.

John Grover bought his piece of pure British heritage from an airline captain a couple of years ago, after chancing upon an advertisement for the car in Dubai, where he lives.
John Grover bought his piece of pure British heritage from an airline captain a couple of years ago, after chancing upon an advertisement for the car in Dubai, where he lives.

"The three things I love most about my car? It has to be the look, the sound of the engine and the reaction it causes in other people." To demonstrate, John Grover, a 41-year-old British regional business development manager for an oilfield service company, opens the door of his classic convertible MGB Roadster and turns the ignition.

The engine roars to life with that unmistakably guttural purr of a beautifully tuned and maintained 1970s sports car. It's loud, it's proud and undeniably attractive. And for John, who bought it for a song (Dh25,000) after discovering it two years ago, it's the perfect weekend car. "It turns heads," he says simply, of the 1971 MG flame red (original colour) two-seater, which was imported to the UAE from the US in 1996. The MGB, which has a neat, 1789cc four-cylinder B series engine, and is unusual because it's a British car built to US specifications. It's a left-hand drive, has three windscreen wipers and all maintenance papers dating back to 1977. The black padded leather dashboard with its mechanical dials and original plate from the dealer, is another charming curiosity.

"I bought it from an Emirates flight captain who'd owned it for 10 years," Grover says. Prior to that, the MGB lived in Georgia, USA, a factor he points out, that has undoubtedly contributed to the models' near-showroom condition. "It's a good climate for old, rust-prone cars," he explains, "And I actually had no intention of buying a third car. But when I saw the advert for an MGB, I had to go and see it for myself because something like that doesn't turn up very often in Dubai."

Grover admits it was love at first sight. "It's a great little car and such a rarity here that I knew if I walked away and waited for another one to show up, I'd be waiting a very long time." He grins slightly sheepishly at the fact that the old owner gave him a carrier bag full of jumbled up paperwork, which now sits proudly in a painstakingly ordered file. "I have details on every service and every new part the car's had replaced over a 31-year period. I even have the original handbook," he says.

A find indeed, considering one often has problems acquiring the service history of much newer second-hand cars in Dubai. But Grover says maintenance is not a huge problem. "It's a simple car. The only electricals on it are the lights. Everything else is mechanical - so in that way, there's very little to go wrong." He explains: "A lot of the car mechanics here are from India, and they're used to working on older engines, so they have no problems with the MGB.

"The only difficulties I've faced are the sourcing of new parts, which all have to be bought from the internet. Admittedly, it's also difficult to get it [the car] through the emissions test when I re-register it." But these are small factors compared to the thrill of driving such an iconic car, which still hits 160 kilometres an hour on a good day, despite its advanced age. "The speedometer's in miles per hour, and the engine registers 62,000 miles on the clock, although it's on its second time round. But that's still great for a car that's almost 40 years old," says Grover.

And people love it, he adds, remarking on the attention the MGB regularly elicits from fellow admirers all over the UAE. "People are always stopping me at petrol stations to ask me about the car. And if I'm in traffic, windows will be wound down and I'll get hoots of appreciation and thumbs up. "It's amazing how many drivers will tell you that they used to own an MG, and how much they loved theirs. The roads here aren't particularly friendly, but somehow, this car brings out the best in people." motoring@thenational.ae