When Marisa Butler returned to the Kansas City area after living in Brooklyn for eight years, she was reunited with a car she helped to purchase at the age of 12 and then spent nearly six years restoring with her dad, Ron Butler.
Butler loved New York. She traveled around on a bicycle to many places, but she missed driving a car.
Butler’s 1960 MGA, the car she bought in 1996, stayed at her dad’s garage or auto body shop during her New York City days.
“Every time I came home I tried to drive it,” said Marisa, who currently lives in Kansas City, Kan.
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“Now that I have it in my garage, during nice weather I drive it to work. I drive it at night, taking it on little spins on Ward Parkway. It is really fun to get out in it. During the autumn, we were getting it out every other night, just to drive and taking a cruise with my husband.”
Simply put, the 1960 MGA is a keeper. The MGA is a British sports car that was made from 1955-62.
“My dad and I put it together,” Marisa said. “I hope I never have to sell it. I would have to be in serious trouble to sell it.”
Her attachment is understandable. Ron Butler wanted a car restoration project for his daughter when she was just 12.
Ron is associated with two auto body shops, Butler C&D and Burdolski Auto Werks, and has restored cars in the past. In the mid-1990s, he thought his daughter was ready to learn.
“He always talked about doing this project,” Marisa said. “He used to import a lot of British cars when I was a little girl. I wanted an MGA. He asked, ‘What car would you like to restore together,’ and I said an MGA.
“I always thought the MG looked a little like the Austin-Healey for about a third of the price. It is very classic.”
Twelve-year-old Marisa started scanning the classified ads in The Kansas City Star. She found three MGAs and made calls to the owners.
“I asked what was wrong with each car,” she said. “This one seemed like the best fit. We went and bought it.”
The one she bought had some body damage and needed engine work. But Marisa liked it. Marisa even helped to negotiate the price with the owner.
“I would tell him (her dad) what was wrong, and he (said), “You should ask them if it has this and you should get this price,’” Marisa said. “He did come down on the price a little bit.”
“Dad had me count out the money. It was $2,500. I got a pretty good deal on it.”
After buying the MGA, it sat for a couple of years. The bulk of the work Marisa and her dad did on the car occurred from the time she was 14 to 18, or basically her high school years, 1998-2002 at Notre Dame de Sion.
“It was a lot of fun once he got me down to the shop,” Marisa said. “Getting me to come down was tough. I complained. But we had a lot of fun.”
Marisa painted the hood, the fenders and the driver’s side door. She also installed the spark plugs and the starter.
“It turned out the motor was bad,” Ron said. “We found out the motor was locked up. I was telling her how you can free it up. She put oil in the cylinders and it didn’t free up so we had a professional mechanic totally rebuild the engine.
“It took a long time, but she did a good job. This was the first car she painted.”
During her high school days, Marisa learned how to fix things with cars. She looked at her dad and laughed about a couple of accidents she had in a BMW M3.
“She knocked the suspension out from underneath it and she put it back in herself,” Ron said.
Before Marisa graduated from high school, her 1960 MGA was finished and ready to drive.
“I drove it on my 18th birthday,” Marisa said. “Ever since it has been done, it is like “Wow, I can’t believe this is my car.’ I would drive it around a little bit in high school. People were like, ‘That’s your car?’”
During high school, Marisa lived in Parkville, so she didn’t drive the 1960 MGA to school for class. That’s a long drive in a British sports car. Notre Dame de Sion is at 10631 Wornall Road, which is in the south part of Kansas City.
“I like driving it on smaller roads,” Marisa said.
As Marisa talked about how much she enjoyed driving the MGA, Ron chimed in and summed up the things that make it fun.
“What I like about them is you are going half as fast as a modern car, and it handles half as well, but they are twice as much fun,” Ron said.
“That’s true,” Marisa added.
“There is something about this vintage of sports car. They just don’t make them like they used to. They are so stylish, so beautiful.”
Do you have a car, truck or motorcycle or other vehicle you would like to see featured in Make It Yours? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com