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Life on the road: The MGA Guru makes pit stop in Clarenville

Barney ‘the MGA Guru’ Gaylord and his son Elliot, with their 1958 MGA, were in Clarenville
Barney ‘the MGA Guru’ Gaylord and his son Elliot, with their 1958 MGA, were in Clarenville - Mark Squibb

Father and son duo hit the road in 2014 and never looked back

Gaylord’s 1958 MGA, with the mobile workshop in tow.
Gaylord’s 1958 MGA, with the mobile workshop in tow.

CLARENVILLE, N.L.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

CANADA

Barney Gaylord, known far and wide in sports car circles as the ‘MGA Guru,’ is on a mission of sorts alongside his son Elliot.

“We’re like the Blues Brothers; we’re on a mission from God. There’s a purpose for all of this. The mission is over when all MGA’s are back on the road,” explained Barney with a grin.

“We want to go around and teach people how to fix ‘em. If we teach people how to fix em, eventually they get back on the road. That’s the objective to all of this.”

The pair hope to visit every MGA car club and shop listed in North America, offering their expertise when needed and verifying the existence of car clubs.

They arrived in Newfoundland Aug. 20 to investigate a St. John’s based British car club, which turned out to be defunct, and have since been exploring the province and meeting with other sports car enthusiasts.

The Packet met the Guru, who was happy to share his story, in Clarenville by happenstance on Monday, Aug. 27.

Barney Gaylord told The Packet that their mission began in earnest about four years, when he officially retired, sold the five-bedroom Illinois home he and his late wife Debora had shared since the 1970s, and, armed with over 50 years of MGA knowledge and experience, hit the road along with his son in his 1958 MGA.

“I said, ‘We need a road trip. We need a little longer of a road trip,’” Barney explained.

And with that, Barney and Elliot hit the road, and they’ve never looked back since.

“It was an interesting exercise because we had lived in the house for 35 years,” he told The Packet.

“I turned my back on the place, walked away, and haven’t looked back yet.”

Since then, the pair have kept an online travelogue of their adventures across North America, making note of the interesting people they meet, car shows they attend, clubs they meet with, attractions they see, car problems they experience, and, even, which coffee shops have the best Wi-Fi.

“We’re just a couple of hobos in a car wandering around the road,” he jokes, noting that most nights the pair sleep in the MGA using blankets and pillows that are thrown in, almost as an afterthought, amongst the tools and car parts both rare and common that fill the small trailer the sports car hauls behind it.

He describes it as a ‘chosen lifestyle’, noting that he has no regrets and no plans of slowing down.

“We’re always home every day. Wherever we are, is home,” said Barney Gaylord, formerly of Naperville, Illinois, but who now lists his address as World at Large.

A compact history

A 19-year-old Barney Gaylord bought his very first car— an MGA of course— in 1968

“I just needed a car. And I blundered into one of these. I had never seen one before the day I bought it,” he told The Packet.

He went through three of the cars over the next year — losing each one to accident or unfortunate event.

It wasn’t until 1977 that he purchased his next— and current— MGA, a 1958 model, for $800 from a neighbor.

“It was 20 years old. Used up and clapped out. I took it all apart and restored it, finally put it back on the road in 1986. And I’ve been driving it for 32 years since then,” he told The Packet.

Gaylord says the car had 150,000 miles on it when he bought it, and that It now has about 560,000 miles on it.

“We’ve put 160,000 miles on it in the last four years, running around all over North America,” he admits with a smile.

Gaylord got wrapped up in the Sports Car Club America around 1991, and spent the 1990s racing the MGA in autocross events.

In the mid-90s, he ended up on MGA’s email list and British cars email lists, and began answering tech questions that would pop up in the email chains.

In 1997, Barney took the MGA on an eight-week trip to Alaska.

Afterwards, other car fanatics wanted to see photos from his trip. So, in January of 1998 he created a website to post pictures of the Alaskan trip and other adventures. This website also proved to be a more convenient place for Gaylord to post answers to frequently asked questions (rather than answering the same question over and over again in an email thread.)

“People kept asking questions, and I kept answering them, and then posting them on the website,” he explained, noting that over the years he has gathered about 4,000 pages of technical data for the website (which found its permanent URL home in 2002).

“It’s a totally free website, there’s not even any advertising on it. It’s open to the public, it’s a big information centre. It’s kind of like my gift to the MGA community,” explained Gaylord, who is also the webmaster for Chicagoland MG club.

From Newfoundland (which Gaylord noted had some beautiful scenery) the pair hope to travel along the Trans Labrador Highway into Quebec and from there revisit the Maritime provinces (which they drove through on their way to Newfoundland, but would like to see again.)

They hope to head back to America shortly thereafter, and search out some of the MGA service shops that have had yet to visit.

But wherever they go, this father-son duo, with their tiny car, are sure to attract some smiles.

You can visit the website at https://www.mgaguru.com/.

mark.squibb@thepacket.ca

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