|Elva Cars Members
|Elva Courier 400/9/L
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|Author:||stansub [ Fri Feb 13, 2015 6:44 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Elva Courier 400/9/L|
I purchased the Elva Courier Mk. 2 (serial number 400/9/L) from my neighbor in (I believe) 1967. He had purchased the car from the original owner, a US serviceman who had been based in Germany when he bought the car in 1962 in Bremen. My neighbor purchased the car for his wife, who immediately hated the car and its lack of roll-up windows, door handles, functional heater, etc. At the time my neighbor decided to sell I was a penniless grad student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a wife and two children to support. I loved the way the car looked and a drive convinced me that I had to have it. I announced to my wife that “I’m going to the bank, and if they’re dumb enough to lend me the money, I’m dumb enough to buy the car.” They were and I did.
The original owner had added power to the 1622-cc MG-A engine by installing an HRG cross-flow aluminum head and replacing the stock 1-1/2” SU carburetors with 1-3/4”. I thought it was great until a couple of glitches popped up. First, the oil pressure never exceeded 20 pounds and, sure enough, the bearings were seriously worn (the car had, I believe, around 20-25,000 miles at that time). Second, the cross-flow head configuration obstructed one coolant hose to the extent that only a very thin rubber hose could be made to make a very tight right-angle turn. A few hundred miles after purchasing the car, the hose wore through, the engine instantly overheated, and the head warped. I vowed to find a more durable hose that would fit but could not, then vowed to keep one eye on the temperature gauge at all times and did not. After a second milling of the head (goodness only knows what the compression ratio was by then) I chanced to see an ad for an affordable rebuilt 1622. It became even more affordable when the rebuilder, who raced MGs in SCCA events, agreed to an even swap to get the crossflow head.
I credit the Elva for teaching me how to drive (I was going to add “well” here, but my wife edited it out). It was so much fun that we turned it into a weekend “family” car. Our six-year-old daughter would sit on the transmission tunnel while our younger son sat between his mom’s legs as we drove the country roads around Blacksburg. The only rally that I’ve ever won was with the family in the car; it was a gimmick rally that required spotting and answering questions about objects along the road. The kids were great spotters and would eagerly run to the objects and answer the questions. Calculations were impossible so I simply guessed at a proper speed on each leg and somehow we ended up with a not-too-terrible time and with all the correct answers. Early on, I autocrossed the car regularly; however, I will skip over this since I wouldn’t want to mention that my daughter loved being in the passenger seat during the events.
The car became a member of the family as we grew up and moved some 13 times over the years, trekking from Virginia to Chicago to Pennsylvania and many points in between. I drove the car to its new homes in the early moves, then later on turned the job over to the moving company.
I was determined to drive the car from Richmond to the Elva 50th reunion at Mid-Ohio in 1995. The Elva balked, breaking down before I gotten out of our neighborhood. In retrospect, it did me a big favor. My wife and I did manage to get to the event in our family car, and are grateful to have had the chance to meet Frank Nichols who told me that I owned “One of the proper (Hastings) cars. One that was made to drive to the track, race, and drive home.” It was also great to finally meet Roger Dunbar as well.
The Courier had the body worked on in 1982, getting rid of the stress cracks that had developed and re-spraying the color from 1962 Elva red to 1977 Corvette red. The top was replaced in 1968 and the upholstery redone in 1972. Currently, the engine bay is in need of spiffing up and the seats are showing their age. It now has an electronic ignition and a slightly doctored fuel tank from an MG Midget. The car has around 36,000 miles on it and is missing two original dashboard knobs – the choke and the heater control. If I can ever figure out how to do it, I would attach a couple of photos to this.
Our Elva has not been a show car (I hate to use the word “shabby”) and it has had the unfortunate fate of belonging to someone who treated it like a member of the family – being the victim of good intentions and “some day…” plans. These days, except for the winter months, it does get driven regularly on weekends for mostly short (3-4 mile) jaunts. The engine still fires up on the first try. My wife can no longer get in and out of the car, but the two “kids”, now in their 50s, will never let me sell it and it is likely fated to end up in a custody fight between them. The truth is that we all have too many memories of great times riding in our “family” car to ever part with it.
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