Tomorrow is a Wish Not a Promise; Live It Now; Some Final Thoughts   

Bene is a bit of an anomaly for me. I’ve owned many Morgans since buying my first in 1972 and restored countless others. In my mind Morgans were always cut-away doors and folded windshields. Never would I have considered a DHC (so boring!). But then, sometime in 2008, Dennis Glavis called. Apparently I have earned a reputation for being a soft touch for a Morgan in distress. He described a DHC he acquired from Linda Carlson that supposedly had extensive restoration work completed by Steve Miller but arrived at Morgan West disassembled with many parts missing. So OK, I bought it liking the challenge and thinking I would restore and sell it.  Gordon Craig found some of the missing parts for me and Derek Willburn duct taped it all together for the transcontinental trip home to Hull, Massachusetts.

That was the beginning. Dropheads are not easy and there were other more pressing projects so it sat in the back of the shop for a while. I finally finished the new body and got the car rolling. In 2014 I sent it back to Barbara Willburn for a new hood. Kathi and I attended Mog West and did some touring in California that year.

Hmmm. Nice car to cover distances with. It was the obvious choice for our planned ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ European tour in 2015.

That trip was supposed to be four weeks beginning at Melvyn Rutter’s in the UK, going as far as Italy and returning.

We met so many wonderful people and were welcomed so many places we decided on the spot to leave Bene with Borge Automotive, the Milan Morgan dealer (since retired), and return a few months later for the trip back to the UK

Over the next several years we repeated the pattern of shipping-leaving-returning. Several times Bene stayed between tours in Sicily. In one of life’s bizarre happenstances Bene was in a friend’s private residence in Tuscany when we left Rome early January 2020, just weeks before Covid closed the world. It stayed there long enough to apply for Italian citizenship. Eventually it was trucked by a friend of a friend to Rotterdam for a container trip home.

I mentioned earlier that Bene had an odd evolution. I made a few modifications for that first tour and continued to make changes in the ten years since. After each tour I tear it down and refresh the engine, do kingpins and bushings and other routine items. We have had mishaps (leaving lights on…that sort of thing) and breakdowns. In hindsight, every one of the breakdowns was because of some “improvement” I made.

High in the mountains between Milan and La Spezia the head gasket blew. Steam everywhere! A Caribinieri car stopped but with hand signals I communicated that all was OK (liar!). I added Kathi’s drinking water, plus washer fluid and the remains of the overflow tank to the radiator and started off in a cloud of white exhaust. We drove 40mph for durations of 20 minutes, refilled the radiator and continued. Several hours later, in my Italian friend Alessando’s driveway Bene finally quit. The culprit was the new ‘improved’ composition head gasket.

Despite the stress every breakdown has been a positive and memorable experience. In this case Kathi stayed in Alessandro’s farmhouse in the mountains. Melvyn shipped me a new copper head gasket and I commuted daily down the mountain in a borrowed MGB to install it. The surgery took place in an Italian parking lot with locals standing around commiserating. I borrowed a torque wrench from a local mechanic and bought supplies at the auto parts shop. Great experience.

On one tour we rented a farmhouse at Spannocchia, an agriturismo (working/teaching farm) near Siena. It seems like everywhere we stop in Italy is on a mountain top. Returning at night, up winding unpaved roads bracketed by tall trees was not fun. For the next trip I installed driving lights and an alternator to handle the extra load.

The first time the alternator crapped out we were in England and I was following my friend Geoff as he was leading me to the Channel Tunnel.  We were on a highway, the alternator was not charging and I had no way to signal Geoff to stop. Solely by chance he decided to pull in at Brands Hatch Morgan which was on the way.

Bene stopped dead in their parking lot. The dealership was obviously busy but the parts manager dropped what he was doing, confirmed that the alternator was dead, ordered a new one and replaced it all while Geoff, Kathi, and I had lunch.

Many weeks later we were approaching Trapani on the western coast of Sicily. I could hardly see out the windshield. The wipers flapped but made little headway against the torrent of wind and rain. Oops… instrument shows no charge. The hotel was in the historic part of the city and had no parking lot. I found an open space in a piazza nearby. At the hotel I said to the concierge: ”Mia macchina non funzione, la batteria e’ morto!”. To which she replied: “I have a friend that may be able to help.” So much for learning Italian.

We waited at Bene, in the rain, hanging onto the umbrella like a parachute and help arrived. Two fellows jumped Bene and we followed them to their garage. There they determined the alternator was the problem but they did not do electrics. Another jump and another shop. The owner, with one helper stopped his regular work, removed the alternator, took it apart and REPAIRED IT (can you imagine that happening in the US?) and had us back on the road in 2 hours. He wanted 50€! Against his protestations I gave him 100€ and trying my Italian again said: “mi hai salvato la vacanza. grazie mille.” Or something close enough that he got the point.

The final breakdown, again the alternator, happened at the entry booth for the channel tunnel on a return from France to England.  I was handing the agent our passports and Bene died. Turn the key….. nothing. “Are you OK?”, the fellow asked. Sure, I said as I started pushing Bene to the side. The next car through the checkpoint pulled in next to us and offered a jump. Excellent! We drove directly onto the Chunnel train.

Being almost first in line going in meant we would be almost the first to exit with everyone else behind and unable to pass. Oh well, we couldn’t be the first to be stuck here. The train stopped, the doors opened, I signaled one of the yellow vest guys, four men were suddenly pushing us and a service truck instantly jumped us and; away. At home I finally discovered that the connector to the alternator had a short terminal and was making intermittent contact thus causing the alternator failures. My bad.

Bene has taken us on ten different tours around Europe, covered thousands of miles, endured high altitudes and unpaved mud paths, kept us comfortable in extremes of weather, and endured lengthy stays in strange places. Through it all he suffered only four breakdowns (all of which I’m sorta responsible for).  Not too shabby. I can live without the cutaway doors and folding windshields. Now back to Spain in October?