By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Region- Like many young men, James Nifong of Sudbury loves cars. In his case, it is the two-door British sports car MGBs. In fact, by carefully saving his money, he was able to purchase his first one two years ago when he was only 15.
The car was a real “fixer-upper.” Realizing he needed help in how to fix the car as well as actual hands on assistance he reached out to authorities on this car – the Boston Area MG Club (BAMG) – for advice. The car enthusiasts were delighted to help the young man.
The club members first inspected James’ car and determined it had “good bones”. It was then moved to a garage in Hopkinton where he would have room to work on it. A lot of work was accomplished over the next two years.
But on Oct. 29 tragedy struck when a fire broke out at the garage, destroying everything in it including James’ car.
After the fire, the club’s founder, Mike Crawford, who also owns British Motorworks, along with member Ken Lemoine, put together a plan to replace James’ car.
Crawford’s father, Dick, located a 1976 red car in Lawrence, which Crawford and Lemoine then purchased.
Over the next month, numerous individuals and businesses stepped up, working tirelessly on the car so it could be presented to James as a special Christmas present.
Charles Gould, “the Micro Car Guru,” trailered the car to All Car Care in Southborough for the first stage of the renovation.
There, the staff, who have extensive experience in restoring cars, set to work. Under the direction of owner Rick Meisenheimer and “body man,” John Breen, the team of Ken, Mike, Rick, John, and Howie, cut out floor panels and hammered new metal into shape, with welders then securing them into place. Metal brushes ground the rust away, and the car was buffed to bring out the color. New carpeting and re-upholstered seats by Howard Priest of Howard’s Custom Upholstery, in Marlborough, were installed, breathing new life into the car. Rick and Mike swapped out the engine in record time.
After a few days the car was off to British Motorworks, where Crawford put his extensive mechanical knowledge to good use dialing in the motor which had survived the fire, overhauling the suspension, rebuilding the brake system, and repairing all the electrical elements.
The club used the guise of a Christmas party to get James to a restaurant for the big unveil. The morning of Dec.17 was the first significant storm of the season leaving the area covered in snow. In spite of the storm, the club decided to go ahead with the presentation. Crawford drove the MGB in the storm to the restaurant so that James could indeed have a Christmas he would never forget.
“He was so overwhelmed,” Crawford said of the young man’s reaction. “He just couldn’t believe that so many people had gone to so much trouble for him. He was so humble – he kept saying, ‘why do I deserve this?’”
“In only four weeks an abandoned old sports car was given a new life and made ready for a future with a young man that will never forget what a bunch of old MG car-oholics and caring technicians did to rock his world,” Lemoine said.
“There are way too many times when bad news dominates our life. This is one time when the positive karma was so strong that no one wanted to stop working on the car and everyone was obsessed with meeting the goal,” he added. “You cannot truly appreciate the feeling you get when presenting a little red car that changes someone’s life until you actually do it. This is a day we will never forget!”
James’ parents, Bruce Nifong and Megan Chambers both said the family was overwhelmed by the kindness of all of those who had helped their son from the very beginning..
“There is such a strong brotherhood in this club,” Nifong said. “They all had taken such an interest in James’ and his interest in cars. So they really wanted to turn this tragedy into something right.”
“This club completely adopted him as one of their own and gave so much of their time and knowledge to him. And the true gift, even more important than the donation itself, was the coming together of this community, both the club and the different businesses,” Chambers said. “I know this whole experience will stay with James forever.”
“It’s so important to recognize that behind these businesses are so many kind and considerate human beings,” she added. “They have that real connection to their community.”
Others donating to the project included Boston Area MG Club members, VSCCA members, BDR Automotive, Holliston; New England Mini Owners Club, the Hrach Fund, Covercraft, Moss Motors, and other car enthusiasts far and wide that heard about and were touched by the story. All Car Care’s office manager Denise Sullivan and Crawford’s wife Elizabeth Barry, owner of Bits & Bridles Photography, documented the different stages of the project.