Al Hager’s pale yellow 1952 MG TD is as much a part of his character as the jaunty wool cap and mile-wide grin he wore when he drove it for the last time on March 7.
Hager fell in love with MGs while attending the University of Edinburgh in the early 1950s. He became the senior pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village in 1955, and a couple of years later parishioner Bob Grimes found this MG for Hager.
For nearly four decades, this saucy little two seater has been a part of the family. Hager, his wife, Dot, and sons Jim and Steve came of age with this car. “All of us would pile into the MG: Steve and Dixie the boxer dog behind the front seat, Jim on a pillow atop the emergency brake while Dot and I occupied the seats,” Hager said. Dot said she often loaded up the boys and took them to the art gallery.
The four of them cruising through a budding Prairie Village in their MG typified the innocence and optimism of the late 1950s. The neighborhood around 75th Street and Nall Avenue was bustling with young people, and Hager’s church blossomed. He was the pastor there for 26 years. Since 1957, this perky little two-seater has been intertwined with his family’s history almost like a person.
Hager’s sons grew up loving MGs. They helped their dad work on the MG, and the whole family belonged to the MG T-Series Club. When Steve went to Baker University, Hager promised him an MG TD if he kept his grades “top notch.” Steve came home in April 1971. Eager to see his car, he looked into the garage and found a frame, an engine, four wheels and more than 40 boxes of parts.
“We went to work,” Steve said, and three years later, he had a restored 1953 MG TD. “Steve spent his money on the car instead of pop and girls,” Hager said.
Jim Hager bought his 1954 MG TF when he was a student at Baker University. He and his grandfather pulled it home from California behind a 1955 Ford Thunderbird. Jim’s interest in old cars is not limited to the MG. He also has a 1955 Austin-Healey and a 1953 Porsche.
After all these years, the Hagers are selling their beloved MG to a buyer from Vienna, Austria, because they are planning to move into a retirement community.
On a recent Sunday, the family gathered to photograph their cars together for the last time. Steve’s 30-year-old restoration wouldn’t start so it was rolled out of the garage by hand.
For nearly two hours, the Hagers grinned and laughed and nudged one another. Tops were folded, chrome wiped off and hats put on. Cameras snapped constantly as family members recorded the occasion.
As the afternoon shadows lengthened, the stories were told and retold. After the group dispersed, Hager drove his little yellow MG across town and handed the keys to the person who is shipping it overseas. “It came from overseas,” he said, “and now it’s going back.”
For the Hagers, parting with their car is almost like losing a loved one. The memories it has given them will always be larger than life. The body may be gone, but its spirit lives on forever.