Clyde Beal: An unusual British sport car collection | Features/Entertainment

If there were a magazine titled “Award-Winning Garage Layouts,” Charles P. Hypes’ garage would be on the front cover. His warehouse-size of a garage in Proctorville, Ohio, displays a large outdoor sign that reads: MG British Motorworks.

The sign doesn’t begin to tell the story that accompanies the museum-like atmosphere inside.

Walking into Hypes’ garage, the usual aroma of oil and grease is nonexistent — even the floors are spotless.

British sport cars are lined up in different stages of construction. Neat rows of shelves contain everything from different lubricants to spare parts. Restored parts are labeled and tagged, hanging in neat rows waiting to be reinstalled. Tools are mounted along walls in straight rows according to size.

There are more than a hundred glass containers lined along one wall containing miscellaneous small hardware items for restoring his collection. Even the work benches are spotless and uncluttered.

Hypes calls himself a semi-retired sign maker at 66; he’s still enjoys making signs on request and restoring his MG collection.

“I’ve always been interested in anything mechanical,” Hypes said. “When I was 5, my grandmother gave me a wind-up clock, and I took it completely apart just to see how it worked.

Then I put it back together, and it still worked. But then I knew why. Any mechanical toy I had was eventually taken apart to see how it worked.”

Hypes was about 6 when his Uncle Lonnie came home on military leave driving an Austin-Healey Sprite. After being taken for a ride, his thoughts about having a British Sport car soared.

“Any magazine with an article about British cars, I had to read it,” he said. “When I was in the seventh grade, I wrote a book report titled ‘The Little Red Car’ that was about an MG TD Roadster. I don’t even remember the grade I got on it, but I loved the book.”

When Hypes turned 14, he passed his driver’s exam for motor bikes only. Ohio permitted these licenses with three exceptions: you were not allowed on an interstate, you could have no riders, and you couldn’t drive after dark. That’s when he bought a 1947 Cushman motor scooter.

“As a kid growing up in school, I’d do most anything to earn spending money,” he said.

“I had a newspaper route with over 150 customers that I delivered before school. I mowed about a dozen yards in summer, even sold the Grit newspaper and sold flower seeds door to door. Those activities provided me the pleasure of owning those Cushman Scooters.

After I had the 1947 Cushman for a while, I found a Cushman Eagle with a bigger engine that I drove everywhere, including Jackson, Ohio. I would even drive it to Riverside once a week.”

Riverside raceway was once a combination drag strip and oval race track in Proctorville. On Friday nights during the racing season, Hypes would sneak through a secret entrance to watch the races on the oval track. On Sunday mornings, he would ride his Cushman over to the drag strip and drive around areas where the hot rods had been parked, finding tools and miscellaneous car parts left behind.

“Before graduating from Fairland High School in 1973, I became known as the neighborhood repairman,” Hypes said. “Anything from lawnmowers and weed eaters — if it ran on gasoline, it ended up here for repair, and I enjoyed it.”

Hypes went through a few cars before the MG obsession grew to its present size. The beautiful MG picture accompanying this story was the result of several years of fabrication, reconstruction, paint, wiring, upholstery and replaced running gear that includes a rebuilt engine. And it began with the discovery of two sad-looking MG bodies falling apart in a Scottown, Ohio, barn. The build required parts from both bodies to make that 1957 MGA the prize winner it is today.

“I’m presently rebuilding a 1978 Triumph Spitfire,” Hypes said. “It takes hours to remove every part — that’s when the rust shows, when everything is removed. Each piece gets sandblasted and painted before putting it away until the car goes back together.”

There’s another Triumph awaiting this guy’s touch, and still there are a couple of MG roadsters from the early 1950s hanging around. One looks like the heartbeat has long vanished, the other is more pleasing to the eye.

Behind the scenes of all this mechanical wizardry is Teresa. They will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this September. When Charles was asked how he knew Teresa was the right one for him, he replied: “Because she told me she was.”

Clyde Beal seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email [email protected]