Ken Doris
Class of 1963

 

After graduated from HHS in 1963 I attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), rooming freshman year with Paul Tava (also HHS ’63). We both graduated with degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1967. Paul was in the North tower on 911, just a couple of floors below where the plane struck. He got out, but his health, already weakened by cancer a few years earlier, got progressively worse from inhaling all the dust. His cancer came back, and he passed away in April of 2002. Here is a picture of the two of us from 1999.

I also remain good friends with Ray Strassburger from our 1963 HHS class. Here is a picture of us from a get-together in 2004.

Before graduating from RPU, while on a summer internship in NYC, I met my future wife, Mary Ellen (aka Melon- born and raised in Brooklyn !). We’ve now been married 41 years, and live in Setauket , NY . We have a son, Kyle, 30, and a daughter, Karen, 33.  I’m still working full time at Applied Visions (www.avi.com ) in Northport , NY , with no retirement yet in sight. Melon is an Architect, with her own company (www.waterviewgroup.com) she runs from home.

Melon and I are both car people, and here is a story to illustrate our passion as “motor heads”. Just before we got married in 1969, we searched for a sports car for her and found a 1962 MGA.

She drove it for 5 years. It was then we put the MG in the garage and got her a “real” car.
During those five years, from 1968 to 1972, the MGA was the car of choice for all our summer trips…we drove it all over the Northeast. Naturally, some roadside repairs were necessary along the way. This is a picture taken on a road trip in New England .

The original Lucas fuel pump stopped working. We drove for a while with the battery cover off and me hitting it regularly with a wrench. Whenever a gear change was necessary, I stepped on the clutch, called out the gear and Melon shifted with her left hand from the passenger seat!  Ah, finally we reach a town. It was time to pull the pump and attempt a repair.
I said to Melon, “let's coast into that nice big empty parking lot over there!”
J
ust as I got the pump undone, a State Trooper arrived. As Melon takes the above picture, the troopers telling me to move the car because a bomb threat was called in for the adjacent factory building! So that's why the parking lot was empty!!!!
If you look carefully at the picture on the right in the below frames, you may be able to see the "washer" I fabricated from a copper paper clip. That encounter fixed the fuel pump problem and there were no more incidents for the balance of our trip!

 

In January of 2004, we pulled it out of the garage (yes…31 years later) and began restoring it. Well, it was Melon's first car. We decided that it was finally time to get it back on the road, so we unstacked all the garden tools, toys, etc and found this underneath it all…

In February of 2004 the car was transported to Sports Car Haven in St. James , NY for mechanical work - suspension and engine rebuild. After disassembly, the body/frame was sent to Performance Auto Body in Smithtown , NY for a full frame-up restoration. Soon things got stalled and I had to become part of the restoration team, working at both Performance and Sports Car Haven every night and weekends through the summer of 2004.

 

 

 

The body is finished in the original Old English White - perfectly matched by the ICI paint computer at Performance Auto Body. Robert J. Hamilton did all of the bodywork and it came out incredibly well. He and I worked together for many nights in 2004 to complete the bumpers, headlights, grille, etc. 

 

We expected the renovation to be completed and to be on the road by the time the "Tour deMarque" at Watkins Glen in was held in September. That was not to be. In spite of that, we had a great time at the Glen meeting many wonderful other MG owners that we hoped would become long-time MGA friends.
In May of 2005, with 55 miles on the engine "rebuild", we bent a valve. Upon pulling the head, we found that the rebuild, supposedly done by Sports Car Haven was only partially done! The head looked like the valve guides were inserted with a hammer, and all the exhaust valves were original, but had been turned on a wheel! The head was then rebuilt by Tyrolean Autosport in Northport, using stellite valves and seats. The rest of the engine was apparently never touched, although we paid for new pistons, etc.!! Well, Tyrolean's rework of the head, by master mechanic Rich Mooers, was excellent, and we put about 2,500 miles on it as of November of 2005.


In December of 2005 I removed the SU carburetors (again supposedly rebuilt by Sports Car Haven but poorly) and took them to Joe Curto (Mr. SU) for a rebuild. They are now back and are running fine, with trips to Key West , Gatlinburg, and Watkins Glen all completed during 2006. Now (December 2010) we've now put over 20,000 miles on the car since the head rebuild in 2005.

In April of 2006 we traveled to Key West to join over 20 other MGAs in the second annual Key West Regional. NAMGAR's George Merryweather organizes the Regional held each year and schedules it during the "Conch Republic Festival", which is Key West 's version of Mardi gras.

We drove the A to DC in a driving rainstorm and stayed overnight with friends Deb and Al Gray. On Monday we boarded the AMTRAK Auto Train in Lorton VA and arrived the next day in Sanford, FL, about 30 miles north of Orlando and 400 miles from Key West .

After staying over in Key Largo , we hooked up with the other MGAs in Marathon Key and formed a caravan over the old railroad bridge to Pigeon Key. This bridge has been closed to traffic for decades, but we were given special permission to use it. Many thanks to local resident (and owner of the legendary 100,000th MGA) Fred Skomp for arranging that!

 

 

 

Thursday night was the big parade down Duval Street , and we were the guests of honor - tossing beads and getting cheers from the crowd.  After a car show and banquet on Saturday we all headed home, sun burnt but loaded with great memories. If you ever get the chance, this is one MGAdventure you just can't miss!

In late September of 2005 we participated in a rally in Southampton , NY (yes, THAT Hampton , with all the "bling bling") for a charity rally. After the rally we ended up in our own wine country on the North Fork of Long Island for an awards ceremony (free wine and food at http://www.pindar.net).

 Well, we came in next to last out of 80 cars in the rally - seems that stopping twice to clear dirt out of the float needles is not a way to win a 2-hour rally. Especially when some of the Mercedes and BMW owners were cheating and using their built-in GPS systems!

 BUT, they had a "People's Choice Award" for the most popular car and we tied for first place with a gorgeous '69 Shelby Mustang! We won a bottle of Pindar wine - nothing to hang on the wall, but better than the taste of gasoline in my mouth from blowing out the needle valves (I now have an in-line filter I'll install this weekend). I've attached a picture of us with our "trophy".

In July of 2010 we took the car to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia – 2400 miles in 8 days. We’ll save that story for another day!