Jim Snider’s outstanding Austin-Healey 3000 started a dialogue that twenty years later yielded him an entombed MG. “I owned a bolt and screw business,” said Snider, of Louisville, Kentucky. “One day a customer of mine came into my office to compliment me on my 3000 that I had parked in my warehouse.”
“As I showed him the car up close, he told me of an elderly gentleman out in the country who also owned an old Healey.” Snider always enjoyed meeting fellow Healey owners, so he eventually contacted the gentleman, a gesture that led to a lasting friendship.
The gentleman, Hugh Grundy, and his wife, Frankie, were a fascinating couple. Initially, Snider was intrigued in learning about the Healey 100. The Grundy's bought the car new and had modified it with an altimeter and other equipment with the intention of competing in the Mille Miglia sometime in the 1950s. But Snider was equally intrigued to hear about the career that led the Grundy's to live for decades in places like Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Hugh Grundy had worked for Air America, a covert airlines operated by the CIA. Air America hauled supplies, but mainly fought the Communist threat in the 1940s and 1950s. (Interestingly, Grundy’s wife Frankie never knew he worked for the CIA.)
Before the Healey 100, there was an MG TC. This was a yellow 1947 model that the young couple used while living in Hong Kong. They traded the yellow MG for a new 1949 black MG. They drove their new sports car around China for a couple of years before having it shipped to the family farm in Kentucky. The farm had been in the Grundy family since the 1700s.
“It was shipped to the farm because Hugh and Frankie thought they were going to stay in Kentucky,” Snider said. “Frankie drove it about five hundred miles around Kentucky before the couple moved back overseas in 1964.” But before Frankie left, her dad helped her construct a box—a car-sized coffin—just big enough for the MG. She rubbed Vaseline over all the chrome to protect it for what would be a lengthy storage. But nobody knew just how lengthy it would be.
After Grundy retired to Kentucky, he and Frankie continued their sports car activities, but now in the United States. The Austin-Healeys brought the Sniders and the Grundy's together as friends who would occasionally participate in sports car tours. “My wife Sharon and I went to dinner three or four times a year with the Grundy's, and we became great friends,” Snider said.
“I had known Hugh for about ten years before I asked him one day while we were out in his barn, ‘Hey Hugh, what’s in the box?’ He told me it was Frankie’s old MG, and that someday he’d show it to me.”
“It was another five or six years before he actually opened the box and let me look inside.”
What Snider saw in that box was a time capsule: an original MG TC right down to its paint. The car was in needy condition: The paint was old, the tires were flat, and the interior had seen better days. Despite this, the car had been well-preserved for more than four decades, and the Vaseline-covered chrome was still like new.
“I expressed my interest in the MG, but it was Hugh’s intention to restore the car,” Snider said. “Then, one day, Hugh called me and said, ‘You know, I’m ninety years old. I don’t think I’ll have time to restore it. Frankie and I would like you and Sharon to own the car.’”
Snider was excited, and after promising not to sell the car while the Grundy's were alive, he took ownership of the 1949 TC in 2004. Snider decided that the car was going to be his wife Sharon’s, since she was born the year the car was manufactured.
Sharon’s MG is completely restored now, and it takes a place proudly next to Jim’s Austin-Healey. As a tribute to the Grundys—Hugh is now ninety-three and Frankie is eighty-seven—the Sniders kept the original Hong Kong license plate on the car.
Image #1: The 1949 MG TC in the coffin-like storage container that was built to keep it secure. It was entombed from 1964 until the container was opened in about 2004. With Vaseline rubbed on the chrome pieces, the car was in surprisingly sound condition.
Image #2: Original owner Frankie Grundy (left) and new owner Sharon Snider pose for a picture with the MG before transferring ownership. Sharon’s husband Jim decided it should be her car because she was born the year the car was built, 1949.
Image #3: Hugh and Frankie Grundy, the original owners of the MG, say goodbye to their longtime (four-wheeled) friend as Jim and Sharon Snider prepare to trailer the car to its new home. Jim Snider