1 Jan 21 Don’t go braking my heart

I hope that I finish the brakes before I run out of song / TV titles I can use for a play on words. Following a seven mile walk this morning with the lovely Mrs T, this afternoon was dedicated to completing the brake job started a couple of days ago. My set up was a little different as I was keen to keep the garage door firmly shut against the very cold weather. Not that it was much warmer in the garage when I first entered the space, although wearing my overalls and with my hands around a warming cup of coffee, things were bearable. A couple of pieces of dark chocolate may have also helped…

So today’s job was to fit the new calipers, pads, clips and split pins. A relatively simple job you would have thought, but it did take a while. The calipers are of course incredibly heavy and holding these up while you slide the two bolts through is hard work for a pen-pusher like me. However, the pads, clips and split pins went in very nicely and the disc rotated well with no binding. The hardest part of the job today, was getting the flexible hose free from where it mates to the copper cable. For some reason, my Christmas-addled brain just couldn’t work out how to dissemble the simple connecting piece. I did eventually work it out, and came up with a technique (involving winding the caliper) to tighten up the flexible connection without twisting it. All a bit awkward, but I was pleased with how it all came together in the end. Sometimes you just have to think hard – coffee always helps. With the car in the garage, there wasn’t the usual rush to get the wheel back on and the car pushed back inside. So instead I did a job I’ve been pestered by my Dad about since I’ve had the car. I gave the wheel a quick rub down and then brush painted it in Hammerite satin black. I’ve no idea how this is going to turn out, but this is very much a quick smarten up pending selection of final wheels for the car, which is someway off. If I get a reasonable result, I’ll do the other wheels as I do the brakes so that I’ll have them all smartened up over time.

I enjoyed listening to Radio 4 as always, especially Gardeners Question Time, which is a favourite, although I have absolutely no interest in Gardening. Happy New Year to you all. Here’s to a better 2021.

26 Dec 2020 Moving under its own power

First of all, a very Happy Christmas to everyone – I hope you’ve all had, or are continuing to have a great time. Progress on the MG took a leap forwards (actually backwards, but we will get to that) recently following a visit from Phil James, who is a specialist classic car electrician. We had been messaging back and forth for a few weeks after my initial web enquiry and finally settled on a date that worked for us both in early December. Phil came for the day and after a brief chat he just got on with labelling, tidying up, connecting and sorting out the loom with all its connections. I got on with my day job, but checked in on him from time to time, keeping the tea topped up. He made rapid progress and by the end of the day, he had got a lot more connected than I could have hoped for or achieved in the same period! I would recommend him highly.

Phil’s website is here

This photo doesn’t really do justice to how much more complete the electrical loom is based on the work done by Phil

So that was a good day’s work and I’ll have Phil back soon to fit some more components which I have needed to buy. Part of the idea of getting him involved was to help me work out what was needed and we certainly achieved that and I’ve been busy since on the internet ordering the missing bits. Watch this space for further updates as various components get fitted.

So it was with refreshed enthusiasm that I crawled into the MG through the hatch the following day (which was a Saturday) and decided that I would attempt to drive out of the garage, rather than the usual back-breaking push. I should explain, that there wasn’t room to open the door due to how it was last pushed in. Feeding myself into the driving position (the seat had been lifted out to make room for Phil), I cranked the MG over and was pleased for it to burst into life on the second turn of the key. It would have fired up first time, but I am still getting used to ‘catching it’ as it turns-over. It was a bit intimidating to select reverse for the first time, with the engine running, but I gave it a go and was greeted by a grinding noise. Ah. I gave the clutch a couple of pumps and tried again. This time, the gear selected smoothly and I was able to feel for the bite point on the clutch, raise the revs a little and ease the MG out of the garage. This was the first time the MG had moved under its own power in my ownership, and from a time perspective in approximately 8 years. Woohoo, what a moment! Before I got carried away, and remembering that I have NO BRAKES, just a handbrake, I gingerly allowed the MG to come to rest on the lip of the garage entrance and shut it off.

As I reflected on this progress, both electrical and mechanical I was enthused to order new brakes (Calipers and disks) for the MG and I’ve put sorting the brakes onto my priority list for the new year, so it can be moved around with confidence, and of course, when appropriately complete, to be driven for real.

On a festive note, a couple of photos below of a nice pre-war Riley that I spied at a recent event new to me, which was Carols on Track, a drive-in Carol Concert organised by the local Churches after Castle Combe Racing Circuit generously made their paddock area available for the event. As a response to the pandemic restrictions, Churches all over have been thinking about ways to celebrate the Christmas season. Our own Church has been hosting restricted services, as well as online content, but we had no way to hold our traditional Carol Service. So we were delighted and intrigued to attend Castle Combe. The basic idea was to get parked up and then either stay in your car, or stand socially distanced outside, as the Carols and Lessons were played out over a professional PA system. I have to hand it to the organisers, who had arranged for hot drinks and hog roast stall to be available for the punters. The service was a combination of deeply emotional carols such as Silent Night to the all out riot of the 12 days of Christmas with horn blowing and lights flashing. Great fun, and it may become a permanent fixture, COVID or no COVID. Turnout was about 100 cars as a conservative estimate.

So, I’m feeling positive about 2021, with more work due on the MG, perhaps that elusive first drive, and us all getting on top of COVID. Best wishes to you all and God Bless

29 Dec 20 Braking Bad

Having received a large and heavy parcel from MGB hive containing new brake discs and callipers I decided today to see if I could have a go at fitting them. First I needed to have the MG in the right place, so I fired it up and moved it halfway out of the garage. Having started it I thought I may as well check the condition of the spark plugs because the engine is not running quite right at the moment and I thought it might give me an indication as to the whether the mixutre is too rich or something. The spark plugs looked a bit black and although this could be due to a lot of the running of the engine being on choke, it pointed towards the mixture being too rich. As I have a spare set of plugs, I changed them anyway, fired up the engine and wound the mixture back to lean it off a bit. The tuning guide suggests that you enrichen the mixture until the revs pick up, then back half a turn and I could feel this point on both carbs, but I’m not convinced. As my Dad is 30 miles away and sheltering in Tier 3, I have ordered a Gunson colortune kit which is supposed to give a definative indication of mixture. Further updates on this when the kit arrives. I also noticed some steam rising up from around the bottom hose joint, so I think the jubilee clip needs to be tightened (when it cools!).

This plug looks dirty to me

Moving back to to the brakes, with the MG halfway out of the garage, I had a good working space on the garage carpet (an old rug). I jacked up the car on the cross member and stuck an axle stand under the front suspension. I removed the o/s wheel and put it to one side. I then removed the split pins and clips which keep the brake pads in place, and rattled them free. The pads turned out to be brand new items, so that was a rare bonus on this project. Next job to tackle was removal of the caliper. The caliper on this side is ‘new’ although that makes it around 8 years old by my reckoning, so for safety I had bought new calipers. I am a brake novice, so this was all new ground for me. I undid some likely looking bolts, which were very tight, but came off with a bit of penetrating fluid and leverage. This was a job for the big boy’s socket set with all the nut sizes at the larger end of the scale. The caliper came off easily enough, and I laid all the components out on a clean sheet of cardboard. The flexible pipe hose was a bit of a faff – I ended up removing the caliper and winding it round to unthread the hose – that can’t be right. Things were now getting serious as I now had to remove the wheel hub, something I have not done before – I took my time and removed one piece at a time, photographing the order and orientation of them with my iPhone as I went. Fortunately, the wheel bearings seemed in good shape rather than greasy shrapnel, so that was a positive. The assembly came apart relatively smoothly and I was able to ease the disc and hub off as a single unit. Lifting this heavy bit of kit off the spline then left me the job of undoing the four bolts that mate them together and this proved to be a bit fiddly, but do-able. As time was getting on, I simply bolted the new disc onto the hub, reassembled the bearing, popped the wheel back on and lowered the MG to the ground. At the next opportunity, I’ll fit the new caliper, and the old/new pads and that will be one side complete!

So more work to do here – I really need to remove the new disc and give the area behind a good clean. If I can find the motivation and time, I’ll do that. In the meantime, hope you are all okay and staying safe.

21 Nov 20 Wiper Motor and other bits and bobs

In early December I have a classic car auto electrician coming to look at the loom on the MGB and to help with its installation. He’ll carry out an assessment first, and then recommend what he is able to do. In readiness for this, I rolled the MG out onto the drive on this sunny November afternoon. Before I got on with the neccessary work, I couldn’t resist firing up the MG. She started on the second go, so the battery had held out, which is encouraging in terms of the alternator actually working. I had a bit of a fiddle with the idle speed and mixture and managed to get it idling relatively smoothly with the choke fully in engine warmed up. I am not kidding myself that the carbs are set up, but at least its running better than when initially started a few weeks ago. I am a bit addicted to the noise and couldn’t resist a couple of revs. My neighbour’s grown up son came to see what the noise was and he liked what he heard!

The preparation on the loom today consisted of me undoing the jerry-rigged set up I had created to get the car started. The loom was basically resting in the foot well which is clearly not right. I disconnected the ignition switch (having taken numerous photos) and various other connections including several temporary earths. I then took a good look at the loom and carefully unravelled it to lay behind the dashboard in roughly the right configuration. I then looked at where the loom enters the interior and identified the correct location of the first earth connection. Having learned that stainless steel does not have as good connectivity as mild steel, I didn’t use a fresh shiny bolt but dug out an old one from the bolt box. That led me to contemplate the wiper motor which is just under the dash on the off side (UK). The wiper motor was dangling awkwardly from the drive cable so needed to be fitted properly in its mount. First I tightened up the drive cable connection to the motor as this was only half on. I then offered the motor up to its mount, noting that the angles didn’t really work, but it was possible to persuade it in. The motor is mounted by a steel hoop, but to keep it in snug there are two rubber elements – a pad which goes against the bulkhead and a lining to the hoop. Getting these to align and stay in place as I tightened up the two bolts was tricky to say the least, but I managed it after a couple of attempts. So with the wiper motor in place I was able to fit the earth connection I had spotted earlier. Due to the exact positioning of this, effectively under the scuttle, and the bar runs below the dash, this wasn’t that easy – I had to sit on the floor with my back to the car and feed my hand through the various obstacles and then get the right angle. Hopefully, that can stay there now for the duration!

I also greased the speedo cable in anticipation of connecting this up in the near future. All the while I was listening to a radio adaption of Ian Flemming’s James Bond in Moonraker. A great afternoon.

15 Nov 20 Replacing the alternator

A surprisingly sunny November morning appeared from what I had thought was a write-off rainy weekend, so it was out with the MG to swop out the old alternator with a new one from MGB Hive. When I first got the MG, the alternator was covered in white aluminium corrosion crystals. I scraped off the worst and when I fired the car up (this was 3 years ago) for the first time, there was a flurry of white as the loose crud spun out. Suffice to say I thought the alternator had seen better days and so having recently restarted the engine I decided to replace it. Also prompting me to this job was that whenever I have run the car recently, it has flattened the battery. This was either because the old alternator was not working properly, or because something wasn’t wired properly. As I was going to replace the alternator anyway, I tried this first.

The alternator is held in place with two bolts at the top, which mount onto lugs on the engine block and with a single bolt at the bottom which secures a curved slotted plate. The slotted plate allows the alternator to pivot so that the fan belt can be fitted over the pulleys and then tensioned correctly. The slotted plate then fixes to a lower lug fixed to the engine block. The lower lug is fixed with a specifically shaped bolt which I had replaced much earlier in the rebuilt when it had sheared off spitefully on removal. Before I took the old alternator off, I started the engine and measured the voltage at the battery – 12.3v.

Fitting the new alternator was pretty simple although it’s a heavy old bit of kit. I did a visual comparison before I removed the old one just in case it was to join my list of wrongly ordered parts, but it measured up alright so I committed to the job. I laid a decent blanket over the wing for protection and knelt on a tool box with a blanket on it for comfort. I used a combination of tools to remove the bolts which were 0/5″ and 9/16. This included my trusty Halfords Professional mini socket set, the Elora large socket set gifted to me by my friend John, the socket spanner set gifted to me by my brother Tris and a plain open jawed spanner. Each tool works well in its own way and I was grateful for the choice.

With the new alternator fitted and the fan belt at roughly the right tension, I fired up the car again. It fired second time and settled into a lumpy idle (carbs still not set up right – where are you Dad? ha ha). I tested the voltage at the battery and got…the same 12.3v. I was hoping for between 13-14v but I could be wrong. So maybe the issue is not solved. I should have had someone hold the revs higher and measured it again, but Helen was working in her study, so I didn’t disturb her. So we will see if the battery is flat when I try again. Hopefully next weekend we will get another weather window for further investigation. Before sitting down to do this update, I sent a web enquiry to a mobile auto electrician just to gauge their interest in giving the electrics a once over and validating what I’ve done. I think it might be worth getting a professional involved in this one…

7&8 Nov 20 Starting progress

One advantage, perhaps the only advantage of lockdown is that we are forced to stay at home and not go ‘gadding about’ as we are normally inclined to do. So it was that after a most pleasant stoll in nearby Cirencester Park, Gloucestershire, as part of our permitted exercise, I found myself with a sunny late autumn afternoon to dedicate to the MG.

I decided to sort out the choke spindle on the carburetters (carbs for short) which I had managed to fit the wrong way around. What I haven’t recorded here is that I had previously corrected the throttle spindle which I had also fitted the wrong way around. Such is the lot of first time amateur car restorers such as myself, progress is riddled with little mistakes, however, with each mistake, I try to learn something. So to the choke spindle, which is an assembly comprising a spindle which sits within a cup on each carb (the MG has two). The choke mechanism operates when the choke handle is pulled on the dash. This causes the cable to tighten which, being attached to a lug on the spindle causes it to rotate. This rotation causes the choke mechanisms on both carbs to be operated because the ends of the spindles have lugs which fit onto the cams which themselves are on the end of the choke mechanism. The choke mechanism moves the needle inside each carb to richen the mixture, but also opens the throttle because the cams connect with a screw on the throttle spindle.

The fun begins when you realise that the spindles are not held in place in any way other than sitting in the cups on the carbs so when fitting the carbs you have to align the spindle ends (4 in total, 2 for the throttles, 2 for the chokes) with the cups, and have them aligned to the lugs (again 4 in total) while you are trying to to wriggle the carbs onto the mounting studs (4 in total). I make that around 12 points of contact which you are having to manage and it was certainly easier when I was able to phone a friend. To reverse the wrongly installed spindles, I loosened the carbs, but wanted to avoid taking them off as then you have to do the full accordian player impression as the two carbs writhe in your hands. The carb mounting studs are worth a mention, being located cruelly in the most awkward position and in perilous proximity to the razor sharp edges of the heat shield. It would be good to have three elbows on your arm at this point rather than the inadequate one we have to deal with. I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account, but suffice to say I got it all done in two attempts and only one skinned knuckle. I then fitted the air filters and went for a start up.

I connected the battery (ignition switch solution still pending), heard the familiar ticking of the fuel pump and turned the key. One click and then nothing. Mmm. I tried my spare battery, and it cranked over willingly but wouldn’t fire. Then I remembered to reconnect the coil wire I had disconnected. This time the engine started straight away, with full choke of course, and settled at a fast idle. After it had run for a minute or two I pushed the choke in and tweaked the idle speed to get it to idle correctly. I recorded the sound of the engine in the YouTube clip below. To get the authentic bass – use headphones. For an MGB is does sound rather tasty. Its obviously not set up right just yet, but it’ll do for the moment.

So that was a reasonable afternoon’s accomplishment. Today (Sunday) was a more gloomy day both weather and progress wise. A dull autumn day dawned and after finishing off the chores and watching Church online (another COVID consequence) I pushed the MG onto the drive intending to fit the engine fan I had bought recently. To get access to the pulley I determined it would be neccesssary to loosen the radiator and pull it away from the area. This is relatively simple on the MGB, being six 0.5″ bolts (what else) to remove. Having pulled the radiator back I realised that the fan I had bought was the wrong one – annoying as I thought I had searched it correctly. More catalogue searching required and another item for my MGB parts shop which I will be opening at some stage to sell on all the surplus parts I have amassed over three years. So I had to pointlessly put the radiator back again. It was then I remember that fitting the radiator is more difficult than removing it. The radiator is mounted by the aforementioned six bolts to a steel shroud which is fixed with eight bolts to the inner wings. The challenge is to get this all to align. The shroud in my MGB, despite being resplendant in shiny black from the paint shop, is I believe a bit warped. The off side is particularly difficult and I had to loosen all the bolts on the radiator and shroud on that side to get each bolt to bite on its thread. Having had this difficulty before, I was up to the challenge this time, and a bit of thinking and remembering got the job done in the end. All helped along by my Radio 4 soundtrack in the background, latterly a re run of ‘Just a minute’ with the late Nicholas Parsons.

Thanks for reading – God Bless and Stay Safe.

17 Oct 20 Jaguar Mk2 Driving Experience

Something a bit different! Following up on my recent driving day experience in three modern supercars, today I travelled with Helen to Upton Warren in Worcestershire to drive a Jaguar Mk 2. This was a present for my 50th Birthday from our dear friends Sarah, Lewis, Martha, Freya and Joe and much appreciated – thanks guys. We had an unhurried drive up from our home in Wiltshire and the weather stayed clement, a good start. We arrived at ‘Great Driving Days’ which was situated on an agricultural yard next to a field of Highland cattle. We spotted ‘our’ car on the yard and eagle-eyed Helen spotted that one front corner was pushed in. The guy explained that the car had been ‘bent’ when out on loan earlier in the week, ending up in a ditch. Oh dear. We were offered a swop, but my heart was set on the Mk2. We had a quick overview of the controls and pressed the starter button. Amazingly, it fired instantly, which was impressive. Later my Dad would relate that a friend of his had a Mk2, back when he was a young man, and they always reckoned that his car started before your finger reached the button! I gingerly blipped the heavy throttle, selected first and eased out the clutch. With a whine from the gearbox, the old Jag pulled smoothly away. We rumbled along the track to the main road and with Helen in charge of navigation, turned left onto the main road.

First impressions: Pick up was lively, but I was having some trouble initially with negotiating the gear change from 2nd to 3 via quite a wide gate while smoothly feeding in the throttle. Compared to my daily diesel SUV, the throttle response was really crisp so blipping the throttle when changing down was a real pleasure. The other first impression was of the slow steering, which although it had been converted to power steering had a slow initial turn in with it needing a good quarter turn on even the slighest bend. I was having to recallibrate against modern cars – the slow steering, crisp throttle response, the long throw and wide gate of the gearbox. So I was concentrating quite hard at this point, but appreciating the sound effects of the straight six up front.

After a few minutes I was starting to get to grips with the controls and starting to just enjoy the experience – the view down that lovely bonnet with the leaping Jaguar. Feeling more confident, as the first straight bit of road appeared, I tentatively pushed the throttle all the way in third and allowed it to build revs. This was fantastic, over a certain RPM, the engine note changes and becomes a deep-throated roar accompanied by a decent shove in the back. I looked down at the speedo and we were only doing about 45mph! The beautiful large rev counter was unfortunately not working, so I changed gear ‘by ear’ and I was respectful of the age of the vehicle. All the gauges were reading well – temperature was steady (it had a later electric fan), oil pressure held up, although it dropped at idle and the voltmeter stayed put. The dash is all wood, with great big old gauges with retro script and a row of toggle switches, it really is iconic.

The route we were following had a really good mix of roads, from quiet country lanes to open B-roads and a little bit of A-roads. During the drive, I was starting to discover a dual character to this old Jag. Its first character is all about burbling around in the big squishy seats, enjoying the view and using the torque of the engine to pull you along with minimal changing gear. As we pottered through a narrow country late, I pulled over to let some cyclists come through – the lead cyclist mouthed ‘nice car’ and waved. I agreed! The other character of the car is when you have room to give it some welly in second, snick it up into third, give it some more welly, attain a pretty good turn of speed and then fling it into forth. For an old car, the acceleration is brilliant and the gearchange is really slick once you’ve got the feel of it. In this mode, the Jag is a racing machine, apparently lapping up this kind of treatment. It has to said, with open throttles, at higher revs, it was very noisy, with induction roar, exhaust blare, gear whine and wind noise all contributing to a glorious din. In addition, heat was wafting up the gearlever gaiter from the gearbox – a multi sensory experience!

With my amateur mechanic hat on, I would say that the Jag was idling at too high revs – I wondered if they had set it this way to help people to avoid stalling. Also, the particular car had a few defects which it would have been to rectify, like loose door capping and a stiff throttle pedal which could have done with being eased to make it drive smoother, but I’m being a bit picky.

We stopped for the obligitary photo shoot with Helen taking her usual high standard of still photos and video on her iPhone, including her jumping out of the car and energetically running up the road to film the Jag driving through a ford.

All too soon it was time to return the Jaguar to its home and we arrived back safely to the farm with Jag in one piece. A really enjoyable experience – now to the pictures!

Two hands on the wheel please Mr Trigg – look at that iconic dashboard
Nice artistic detail shot from Mrs Trigg
Mrs Trigg looks adoringly across as her husband manfully tames the big cat
Iconic photo of classic car driving through Ford

So thanks to the Boddy family, Helen and to ‘Great Driving Days’ a small business based in Upton Warren. I would highly recommend them based on this experience. For anyone else doing one of these, you need to set your expectations. These cars are in working order – don’t expect concours condition – and being classics, they are noisy, smelly and antiquainted. That’s the appeal and it was an unforgettable, and repeatable experience!

4 Oct 20 Milestone #2 Engine Start – Achieved

So the title of today’s entry gives away the punchline, but suffice to say I am very pleased to have managed to start the engine today. Woohoo! As a quick recap, I had to send the carbs away as they had been incorrectly re-assembled when they were refurbished. I’ve had an explanation from the company boss that they were installed as they came in. Err, that will be me then. However, all I had done was to take the carbs apart, decide they were in a shocking state and send them away to be rebuilt. Anyway, its all good now and that’s the main thing.

As always with this project, there were some hurdles and hiccups along the way, mostly my fault as we will see. Firstly I removed the carbs from their wrapping. They had been thoroughly wrapped but of course as they were not on the heat shield, but separated so I had to do that thing where you put the linkages together and then hold it all together as a loose assembly as you carry it over to the car and mount it on the studs. In my enthusiasm to get it started, I fitted the throttle linkage upside down, only discovering this after I had awkwardly installed all four nuts and tightened them up. The nuts are extremely awkward to fit – to get the nuts onto the studs the carbs need to be slid up to near the tio to clear the carb body. The two under the carb are even more awkward. Still at least I have now had plenty of practice. Still impatient to attempt a start, I interupped Helen from her work educating the youth of today (yes, secondary school teachers work on the weekend) and asked her to crank the engine over while I manipulated the choke and throttles. On the second turn of the key, the engine fired, but didn’t catch. This was a promising sign, so Helen cranked again and this time I caught it on the throttle and we had a spluttering rev, and a bit of popping. A third attempt resulted in steady fast running with choke and throttle applied. A little exhaust smoke was rising into the engine bay and it was a it of a smoky affair all round. Having relieved Helen of her responsibility as chief cranker I set to to correct the linkage mis-assembly.

I was determined that to turn the linkage around to its correct orientation I wasn’t going to remove both carbs. Instead I removed the front carb, and loosened the nuts on the rear carb. This gave me enough fiddle room, just, to swap the linkage around and then to enjoy the fun game of ‘put the the nut on the stud under the carb bonnet’. It really is a dexterity test and took a bit of trying, but I got there in the end without breaking down in tears. With the linkage in the right way, I could connect up the throttle and choke cables and start the engine in the usual way from inside the car. When I say, the usual way, the ignition switch is on the floor of the car, so not exactly usual, but I didn’t say it was perfect. The car started on the second attempt and I was able to walk around to the front while it ran and see if there was anything amiss. The engine was running fine with full choke but started to splutter as soon as I reduced the amount of choke, so not sure if it was still a bit cold, needs setting up or a bit of both. Anyway, this was a test and I didn’t want to push my luck, so with a quick look around the engine bay I knocked the choke off and let it stall.

So issues identified to investigate today included:-

  1. Loose alternator bolt – tightened
  2. Noted broken cores in the Earth cable to the battery – need to order a new one
  3. Coolant level dropped – top up and check

So we have achieved ‘Engine Start Milestone’ which I set quite a long time ago. Next Milestone I am setting myself is ‘Dashboard Complete.’ This is a complicated one which is going to involve fitting all the gauges, the windscreen wiper system and the Heating and Ventilation System. However, it’s the next logical step and certaintly needs doing before any other interior work is undertaken. Thanks to all of you have journeyed with me towards this milestone. Your support and practical help have been invaluable. God Bless.

02 Oct 2020 Preswold Driving Centre

For my 50th birthday I received lots of lovely presents. Today was the fulfilment of one of those as I travelled up to Preswold Driving Centre for a day driving three classic cars [Sound of stylus scratching across a record]. Err, except all three classic cars were unavailable. The Jaguar E-type had given up before I event got there, the AC Cobra wouldn’t start or run (familiar, anyone?) and the GT40 was inaccessible for anyone over 5’6″ and as I am 6’1″ at least, that was a no go. So, disappointing, but the replacements were hardly shabby.

The day began with a rough drive up to Loughborough through stormy weather, which thankfully brightened up as I headed North. After registration and a driver briefing, we had a demo lap with an instructer in a Kia Ceed no less. From this it was onto Car #1.

Car #1 Ferrari 458

I have complained on here earlier about all modern Ferraris being basically a big plastic Fiat, but given the opportunity to give the F458 a go, I wasn’t going to say no. I was introduced to John and took my place, instantly discovering the offset pedals and wondering why I had worn chunky shoes. It fired up with a flashy rev and we trundled up the pit lane and accelerated onto the circuit. Given this was my first turn behind the wheel the first lap was a difficult ‘sighting lap’ really and I was a bit disoritentated. On the next couple of laps I was learning the lines and having the confidence to really open it up on the straights. Wow what a noise! The F458 really howls and the gearchange is lightening quick. All very well, but it was a bit wiggly on the brakes and it’s a very sharp handling car which I didn’t really feel I was getting to grips with. I felt like it was calling the shots rather than me! Into the pits and marked 32 out of 40 points from John.

Car #2 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Convertible

Next up was the 911. It was a bit of a wait for this one. I politely enquired whether I had time for a coffee and she said ‘oh yes I forgot about you.’ Easily forgotten, me. Anyway, I hopped in with Lochlan (spelling?) the instructor. I told him that the Ferrari had scared me to death and he assured me that the Porsche was a different kettle of fish although he warned me to be easy on the throttle as it ‘had a kick’. As this was the second time out for me, I was feeling a bit more comfortable and the easy-going Porsche was just lovely. I’ve read so many times about the feelsome steering, and here it was in all its glory. I can certaintly vouch for that legendary ‘alive-ness’ of the whole car, you really do feel exactly whats going on. I did mess up my turn in once so I wasn’t lined up properly when I fed the power in and it was a bit squirmy, but not a big issue. It had a good turn of speed, and that legendary flat 6 howl but was much more refined and controlled than the bucking bronko Ferrari. Score from the instructor was 34 out of 40, an improvement.

Car #3 McLaren 570C

Last car of the day was the exceptional McLaren 570C. As I opened the scissor door, I had a feeling this was going to be completely different. My instructor, Sarah, was a lovely women, slightly older than myself and straight talking. ‘its got over 500bhp, its rear wheel drive and its a bit snappy at the rear’. Okay then. I needn’t have worried as the McLaren is very user friendly with lovely precise steering, extremely effective brakes, linear acceleration (how much do you want, its seems to say?) and an overall stability that built my confidence. That’s not to say it wasn’t exciting. We had a busy few laps with a lot of traffic to clear, but with Sarah giving clear instructions and lots of encouragement we blitzed most other cars out there. Two notable moments. The first requires some explanation. Overtaking at this event was ‘with consent’ with the instructors looking out for a positive sign (indicators, or a hand wave), to indicate consent. Having passed two cars already, I assumed that we had consent to pass the 911 ahead but as I whistled past Sarah pointed out we hadn’t actually had confirmation. Whoops. Second notable point was the fast corner which was an open left kink which if the instructor thought you were up for it, you could take with just a lift and no brakes. I had done this with throttle on in the Porsche earlier and it was exciting, if a little daunting to just ease it in and power through. In the McLaren I think we going a bit faster so I followed advice and lifted on the approach, but then powered through and opened up the throttle on the exit. It was really exciting. Sarah was complementary about my driving and claimed to have enjoyed it. We both agreed that the traffic had added extra spice and complication to the laps, which actually added to, rather taking away from the experience. Score 36 out of 40, so a continuous improvement over the day with which I was very happy.

After a hot lap in an M3 driven by an instructor (which was alright), it was time to grab the photos and head for home. So what did we learn and could it apply to the road? Well I think I did learn a few things and I think these events actually make you a better driver. Firstly, you get all the speed out of your system on the track. Secondly it teaches you these things:- 1) Smoothness in acceleration, 2) Firm braking in a straight line and off the brakes before you turn, 3) Looking up the road for hazards. I really enjoyed the drive home in my humble Honda CRV. I felt that I was anticipating hazards better, which allows you to brake earlier and smoother. I was more careful around other traffic and I was just generally more relaxed and in control.

All in all a great day.

In other news the Carbs for the MG have arrived back from the engineering firm all fixed up and ready to go. Watch this space.

16 Aug 20 My new Landrover Defender

I completed the build of my Lego Defender, a Christmas present from Helen which I have enjoyed building over the last few months. A few years ago I received a present of the McLaren F1 car (in the Vodafone days) from my brother – this Landrover build was another step up in term of complexity. It’s very clever how they create the Landrover in Lego and its quite relaxing to sit down and just lose some time putting one bit on at a time. It doesn’t have the challenge of the MG, of course, but for anyone who doesn’t have space for a classic car in their garage, this is a fun alternative. When I’ve finished the MG, I would consider another Lego model – I’ve heard there is a Mustang…?

Just to be clear, this is a static model, so it can’t really scale the rockery, sorry to shatter any one’s illusions.

12 Aug 20 Releasing the carbs

Having established at the weekend, with Matt’s help, that the carburettors were blocked, and having consulted the ‘MG helpline’, A.K.A. my Dad, I found time this evening, with the help of my friend John, to investigate the problem. The UK was in the middle of a heat wave, one in which the temperature and humidity peaked between 5pm and 6pm arond 30 degrees, which was when we started to look at the MG. So the only right thing to do, while we wheeled the MG out, was to crack open a couple of cold beers and take a leasurely look at the problem. With John on board, this was going to be a logical approach to problem solving. Having already proven fuel would flow up to the carbs, we now knew the challenge was with the carb itself.

Step 1: Use a footpump to attempt to blow air into the carb. Result: No air passing through. Conclusion: Float/Needle valve stuck

Step 2: Remove carbs. Removing the carbs in theory is easy, its just four nuts. In practice, its fiddly, because the nuts won’t come off without waggling them to the end of the studs and then getting the angle just right. Having two people on hand is a definate advantage here, unless you are an octopus. Next challenge was to keep the carbs together with the linkages intact. To do this, we had the idea to use the plate that holds the air filters as a sort of jig. That took a bit of work to get right, but without (much) swearing, the carbs rattled free of their studs and were on the work bench.

Step 3: Remove float chamber lids. These come off easily enough, although the ‘O’ ring on the front carb hopped out of its slot and showed little enthusiasm to pop back in. Using the footpump and with the float valve open we used the foot pump again to add pressure and with a nice ‘pop!’ the needle valve on the rear carb freed itself. Surely the front carb would do the same, but it wasn’t shifting, so John tickled it with a pair of fine tweezers and before long both carbs were wheezing along in harmony at each press of the pump. How satisfying.

Step 4: Reassemble and refit the carbs. Hmm. That float chamber ‘O’ ring did not want to play ball and needs to be replaced, however, we think we teased it back in place and made a seal on both float chamber lids. We then man handled and wiggled the carbs back onto their studs, tightened them up and connected the breather pipe, fuel line, throttle and choke linkages.

Step 5: Test start the engine. ‘Hang on a minute,’ said John ‘didn’t you say that the fuel pump and coil are always on when you connect the battery?’ A discussion ensued in which John advised me against firing the engine when we are not confident of how the wiring was configured. So we disconnected the ignition switch and using a multimeter, identified what the various terminals were and then attempted to connect the correct wires. As we were nearing a conclusion on this, the rain came in heavy so we abandoned the task for the day having made some actual progress, but with some work to go to achieve sustained running.

9 Aug 20 Fuelling around

So having demonstrated that the MG would start, it was time to connect up the fuel pipe and provide a reliable supply to the carbs to sustain running. I had a reliable assistant in the form of Matt (Ellie’s boyfriend). First we bought some fresh fuel and charged the tank with 5 litres. Next we connected the fuel pump wiring, connected the battery and heard a reassuring tick from the pump (err, surely after you turned on the ignition…). After a short while we were concerned that no fuel was flowing through and sure enough, on checking I found the pump was plumbed the wrong way around. I wonder who did that?

After a bit of replumbing and we were back in business although still there was no fuel feeding through to the filter let alone the carbs. Vaguely remembering something about air locks we released the pipe at the carbs end and with a hiss we started to see fuel travelling through the filter and turn up to the carbs. Progress!

But this wouldn’t be the Relentless Duck blog without some ‘issues’ and without detailing all the challenges, we did have a leak out of the fuel sender unit. Not being sure why this was leaking we set up a fuel can to catch the drips until the level was low enough for it to stop. The following day, on a break from work, a YouTube video showed how this should have been tightened up. Another day, another thing learned.

With fuel to the carbs, surely the MG would now fire up and continue running? Sadly not, the carbs refused to take the fuel and the removal of the lid from the float chamber revealed it to be dry. Oh dear. Further investigation needed, the outcome of which will be covered in a future post