Couple ready to watch road rush under their wheels 0
COLLINGWOOD - Bob and Lynn Mills have a long road ahead of them, and they're looking forward to every kilometre.
The couple - who moved to Collingwood from Port Credit in 2002 - will be getting in the seats of their 58-year-old MG nicknamed Snoopy on Thursday, and travelling to the Pacific coast as part of a mass rally of the British automotive icon.
Bob Mills bought the car while he was going to high school - in 1956.
"I worked all summer in construction to buy it," he said. "I paid $850 (a 1953 MG was $1,995, new), and it was every cent I earned - and my father thought I'd gone crazy because British cars never started in the rain or cold."
When Mills bought the car, it had about 30,000 miles; its odometer now shows a number nearly eightfold.
"I've got about 300,000 kilometres on it," he said.
The couple, said Mills, have done just about everything in the car - "we were engaged in the car," he remarked - and he even raced it in the Vintage American Race Cars circuit during the 1980s. One side of the couple's garage is festooned with photos and plaques from Mills' racing days. On the wall on the other side of the garage is a schematic diagram of an MG.
The Mills haven't added much to the car. There's a GPS, and some of the parts of the motor have been modernized - though it's still the same engine block. Bob also built a luggage rack for the back.
And there's 'Snoopy'.
In the mid-1960s, the beloved Peanuts character was added as a hood ornament; Snoopy is actually an Avon soap bottle, and the moniker has stuck.
Snoopy has an added bonus: a mercury temperature gauge used to indicate whether the vehicle is overheating goes up into the bottle, "So if the mercury goes up Snoopy's backside, I know that's time to pull over," joked Mills.
Incredibly, the vehicle has undergone very little in the way of restoration in the 55 years the Mills have owned it. Bob took it to a shop for some body restoration and new paint in the mid-1960s, but otherwise it's been untouched. It did go back to the same shop a few years ago - only because the retiring owner offered to paint it, as the car had been his first job when he started work as an apprentice.
And another coincidence: Mills made a presentation to one of the local Probus clubs a few years ago about his MG. In the audience, a man was fascinated by the story, and chatted to Mills about it afterward.
As it turned out, the man, who had also moved to Collingwood to retire, was Snoopy's original owner. And, he still had the license plate - which Mills has since tacked to the garage wall beside his racing memorabilia.
The trip out west is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - a bit of a 'bucket list' item, if you will.
"This has been a year in planning," he said. "It's always been something on the list, to take the car cross-country."
"We wouldn't normally take it that far."
They won't be alone on the road. About 800-to-1,000 MGs of all model years will be leaving Ocean City, Maryland, on Saturday to take part in the 'Rallye to Reno'. The Mills will be catching up to the group in St. Louis, before following Route 50 out west. It's the same route taken by the early pioneers as they struck out across America.
"We wouldn't do it on our own because Snoopy is getting old," said Lynn.
They should arrive in Reno in a week-and-a-half for the North American Council of MG Registers meet, which is held every five years.
After four days in Reno and at Lake Tahoe, the fleet of MGs will proceed to San Francisco - some intending to 'dip' their tires in San Francisco Bay to signify they'd been coast-to-coast.
From there, the couple will visit friends in California, head over to Yosemite, then up the coastal road to Vancouver Island. They'll be back to Collingwood in a couple of months, travelling through the northern United States.
"The challenge will be going through the mountains," said Lynn. "I might have to get out and push."