1 Aug 20 a step forwards

I’ve had a problem with oil leaking from the oil filters area for a while and this has prevented me progressing the engine start because cranking the engine resulted in a pool of engine oil under the car. Having had several goes at refitting the oil filter to oil cooler union, today I used my brain and had Helen in the car cranking the engine over and me looking to see where the leak was coming from. Turns out the leak was from the oil filter ONTO the connection so I was looking in the wrong place. So my focus turned to sorting this connection out and following a phone call to Dad I removed and refitted it. No leak on cranking! Problem solved. I couldn’t resist cranking the engine over to fire (which it didn’t) but I did check and I was getting no spark so at least I know one of the problems to sort out.

This lovely engine bay will sound nice too one day
Oil everywhere but where from!

Back to earlier in the day and ongoing (and off going) saga of the doors and their glass. I had previously fitted the quarter lights but on inspection the runners were perished so I recently ordered some new one from Moss and had stripped them down. So while British Grand Prix Practice and Qualifying ran on I sat in the lounge working the new rubbers into place using a blunt ended tea spoon. Apart from where it dug into my palm painfully it wasn’t too bad and I followed the general approach that Andy from Wiltshire Windscreens showed me when he fitted the front and rear screens. So with these done I loosely fitted the back in. I will tighten them when I get the glass as I think you need them loose to get the whole mechanism in and then you tighten it all up.

Also in preparation for the glass (which I need to order) I removed the lower bracket from the rear glass stay. I have ordered new ones of these with nice new felt lining but they don’t come with the bracket. Rather than put the old brackets on as they were. I decided they would be better painted. I used a Hammerite black straight to rust paint, brush applied. It doesn’t need to look good but it should be protected against corrosion hence this approach. I was a bit delayed in fitting the stays as the paint is still drying so I will need to fit those when I next get the MG out.

Waiting for these to dry before fitting

So that’s about it. Keith the TV aerial guy was passing with his mate and said Hi. A couple of other people nodded their appreciation (or sympathy or contempt it’s hard to tell) so it was an encouraging day on the MG. Last thing to say is that to save my back I towed it out the garage this morning with my CRV which worked reasonably well although I did need a willing assistant which was of course the ever patient Helen.

A closing thought about gratitude…

1 August 20 Farewell Cappuccino

So farewell to our Cappuccino, collected today from Bethany from Plymouth and her petrol head Dad.

We decided to put the Cappuccino up for sale as not being garaged was leading to its deterioration and because two classics is quite hard work. We did receive offers of a winter garage from kind friends and family but with values on the rise it kinda felt right to quit while we were ahead and see if a buyer came along. To cut a long story short, I agreed terms last week and now it’s goodbye!

I’ll always treasure my memories of this car, my first classic and a shared anniversary present for Helen and I. We’ve had some great times together in the Cappuccino and I will miss those golden times when on a warm summer evening we’d put the roof down and potter along the lanes with the exhaust burbling and the summer scents in the air.

It’s a car that gets a nice reaction and I’ve enjoyed having something that turns heads but in a fun way and is not show-offy. Once you get past the toy cars looks however this is a serious little sports car with fabulous nimble handling, that manic little engine revving to 9000 rpm and the snickety-snick gear change. Even the ride is pretty supple, although large bumps will of course bounce you, it’s actually very good at keeping its tyres planted on the road and this combined with the light and communicative steering means it makes the most of its grip and is easy to feel what it’s doing. Over about 60 it gets a bit floaty but that really missing the point of this little fella.

Certain memories stand out – driving the A4 towards Calne, an open road as the sun went down and shone off the bonnet, our day out at Bowood Classic Car show, taking Lou to her prom, meeting ten other Cappuccinos in Cambridge and terrorising the town centre, going to see my sister on a lovely sunny day, then putting the roof on and burbling home in our cosy coupe, a day out driving with Dad, to Prescott Hill Climb with Phil, taking young Abraham to Castle Combe Race Circuit and his Dad Chris giving up his seat home so his son could ride in it again – ah, good times.

And now I’ve got to stop because I’ve got a lump in my throat!

30 Jul 20 Putting my back into it

I was motivated to get outside after work today and do something useful on the MG. I have for a long time bemoaned how I routed the rear loom which turned out to foul the internal trim panels due to a temporary cognitive failure on my part. So I decided to reverse this and find a better route. Reversing the install turned out to be much simpler than I thought.

I then had to work out a better route and curiously it is remarkably unclear what this should be. After a bit of trial and error I have found a route which allows the loom to reach all the right places and also looks like a reasonable location to be clipped in place out of the way and logically. At least I hope so.

It was good to make some progress after having had a lot of (admittedly not entirely unpleasant) distractions. The only down side was a twinge in my back as the MG is getting heavier the more parts I bolt on, and my back is getting no stronger. I may revert to towing it up the drive until she’s a runner.

5 July 2020 Lockdown delays

I remind myself that this blog is primarily intended (solely intended?) to record the restoration of my MGB GT. As such I should stop worrying about lack of progress, and instead record what I have been doing lately and focus on that. This is what I have been up to.

Despite some clear instructions from the old man regarding setting the timing with the second hand distributor, I havent yet got any life out of the engine. To be honest, on my last attempt I wasnt sure I had the timing quite right and it was a bit of a half-hearted attempt. Also, the oil leaked from the oil cooler to oil filter union again despite me adding the washer so something is not right there. The old man things there should be two washers at this union but that’s not what the book says, so not sure. All I do know is that when turn the engine over, it leaks at this union so something is not right. With lockdown beginning to ease, I might get my mate Mark to take a look as he lives just down the road.

On a recent half day on the MG I got fiddling with the doors and the vexed issue of the door glass. I have been struggling to get this to align and to get the regulator to operate correctly. I can get the window in the door and to go up and down but not fully down or up. On my last go at this, I loosened the rear window channel and found that as this had simply been sprayed over in the pain shop, that when removed, there was rusty metal underneath. I removed the rear channels on both doors and used hammerite ‘straight to rust’ paint to seal over the messy metal. I then ordered two new channels from ebay, which have subsequently arrived and need to be fitted. They have new linings, are not rusty and I hope will assist with fixing the glass.

I also removed the quarterlights as I wasn’t happy with how these were fitted. I obtained a quote of around £400 to refurbish them both, which I thought was a bit steep, so I will order new rubbers seals and fit these myself. This will leave one rubber seal in not great condition (on the actual glass), but that will have to be an item for the running repairs/restoration list. I stripped the quarter light and removed the main rubber seals which were very cracked and in poor condition. A clean up and new rubbers will see these go back in better condition. Its also been interesting to strip these to understand how these go together.

I made an enquiry to a local trimming firm who couldn’t help with the roof lining, but recommended two other people, one who had already failed to respond to an enquiry and one who I have yet to contact. Something to progress as I want the roof lining done by a professional.

I also recently purchased new seat rails as the ones I had were incomplete. I am holding off fitting the carpets and hence the seats until I have got the headlining done and sorted more of the electrics so that it is all tucked away.

So I have not been idle, but just not that productive on the MG during this lockdown period. To my future self I say this: the 2020 lockdown was a weird period. Following initial concerns about my employment, work settled into a work from home routine, and actually in the last two months my team and I have exceeded previous business outputs to achieve some remarkable achievements, not without some personal impact in terms of stress and workload. We have however, maintained security of employment, something I am very grateful about. Furthermore, I have prioritised time with Helen and we made good use of the fine weather while it lasted. I have taken on the role of chair of our Church PCC and DCC, joined a house group which meets weekly for Bible study via Zoom, participated in Helen’s work quiz each Wednesday and caught up with people either in person via social distancing or online. We have cleared our loft, filling an 8 yard skip and selling around twenty items on Facebook and Ebay, raising about £300. We have moved our eldest daughter into a new flat in London. We have socially distance-visited our family. I have managed the Trigg fleet of cars with multiple trips to garages for the Cappuccino, loaning of my CRV to Helen’s sister Kate and cleaned and polished Helen’s Jazz. The first few weeks of lockdown were all about uncertaintly and the novelty. The latter period has been more of a test of resilience, and now we are working through the loosening restrictions and working out what that means.

So when I wonder why progress on the MGB has slowed, I will remind myself that I’ve been a bit busy.

16 May 20 Going dizzy

I ordered a second hand distributor in an attempt to resolve the non-starting engine. Suspecting a timing issue, my Dad and I have gambled with the idea of getting it started with a good old-fashioned mechanical distributor in lieu of the Accuspark unit. The electronic distributer is great I’m sure, but you can’t see what is working or not, so anyway, today I bolted the new used mechanical distributer into the MG and tightened up the clamp. The distributer clamp is one of those awkward jobs on the MG where the spanner (7/8th) has about 30 degrees of movement and needs to be turned around to get at the next turn. So doing the bolts up to the clamp is a long job and you have to get into a zen like state and push through it. Or you can have a really good podcast playing in the background, such as Adam Buxton’s ramblechat with Louis Theroux.

Before tightening up the distributor clamp (I had actually popped the unit in a couple of weekends ago, including the long job of removing the clamp bolts) I had to see to the troublesome oil cooler pipe connection to the oil filter base. Having thought I had sorted this out previously, I had attempted to start the MG recently and not realising this was not done up correctly, had managed to create a large puddle of oil on the driveway. This is my second offence and although Helen was very understanding I was really annoyed at myself for this careless error. I now actually have a shortage or oil, so will be ordering some more soon and will need to remember to stick some cardboard under the car just in case. The error was to have the crush washer in the wrong place, something easily diagnosed when I checked in the catelogue.

I’ve sorted another issue through a second-hand purchase. The inlet manifold of the MGB has a bolted in connector onto which the vacuum pipe fits. On my inlet manifold, the connector was missing, and I don’t remember removing it. Having scoured the online MG catelogues I identified the part number but it was notified as being on back order, so not available any time soon. So I took the plunge and ordered a second hand inlet manifold from eBay that looked like it had the right fitting. It arrived as described and had the fitting. So problem solved and a paper-weight to boot (the surplus manifold). Now fitted on the MG, if only I could find the plastic end piece which I carefully stored away…

I was pleased with my ebay purchase which I showed to my colleagues via MS Teams

More ordering with SC Parts has resulted in two large boxes arriving at Relentless Duck Restorations Goods Inwards containing shiny new seat rail kits. The seat rails have mystified me for a while. The car only came with three out of the required four, and I have been baffled as to how the rails work. Now with the new rail kits from SC Parts, I can see that there was a lot more missing, so I am now reassured that the fit will be relatively straightforward. Not that I’ll be fitting the seats just yet, as I have the roof lining to fit before I work down to the carpets and seats.

I received a fun classic car related present from fellow enthusiast ‘Puddleduck’. Its the Haynes classis cutaways colouring book. Apparantly colouring in is good for mindfulness, being in the moment and all that. Puddleduck also has the book and he admitted that he sometimes goes onto classic care trader websites to check up on paints schemese and details such as indicator / side light configuration so he can shade in accurately. Crikey, that’s a level of dedication I can only dream of. Anyway, thanks Puddleduck.

28 Apr 20 Daft cat

Just a quick entry to record this picture of our daft cat. My daughter popped into the garage to access the freezer and as often happens, the cat dived in to poke around the garage in search of a mouse (although she is a useless hunter and there are no mice in the garage, unless you count the 2 x frozen mice we have kept for the in-laws pet snake for when lockdown is over). Anyway, standard procedure is to close the door and leave her in there for ten minutes. She’s usually ready to come out. But tonight she decided to stay in the MG and Lou managed to capture this shot – daft cat. Pity she can’t sort out the timing!

Stay safe folks – God Bless

12 April 2020 What a nut

A couple of hours on the MG this beautiful sunny and warm Easter Sunday and I was focussed entirely on one task and one task only. This was to get a nut onto the threaded trim connector which was poking through the front o/s wing right on a seam which prevented me getting the nut onto the thread. I jacked up the front, placed an axle stand under the car and removed the front wheel to get better access to the thread. I then spent about an hour using including a hammer and dremmel cutting wheel to slowly but surely make space for the nut to fit on. It sounds easy now as I write it, but it was blooming difficult. Ideally, I would have turned the whole car upside down and sideways as this would have made the whole job easier, or at least ‘put it on a ramp’ as my Dad sometimes says (that fully equipped workshop being someway down our family list of priorities). One of the issues was that surprisingly the deep recesses of the front wing are a little dark and so I had to improvise a lighting solution. See pictures below for reference. I finally got the nut to bite on the thread (Halleluiah!) and from then on it was simply a case of tightening up the nut until the trim sat snuggly on the front wing. I had read in my restoration book that it was possible to snap these threads so I was very cautious in tightening it up and decided against jumping up and down on an extension bar which I am not sure is ever a good idea. A satisfying time overcoming a problem while I listened on Radio 4 to a profile of the new Labour leader Keir Starmer and some other analysis of the Coronavirus pandemic.

6 Apr 2020 External trim

I am writing this a week later that it was done, so apologies for my tardiness. I spent a lot of time on this long weekend (Monday off) working on the MG, mainly fixing the external trims. The MGB is blessed with a striking stainless steel trim which runs down both sides, made up on three pieces, front wing, door and rear wing. Each trim snap fits onto a number of round fittings which are pop rivetted into the bodywork plus one screw plate per panel. The pop riveting went reasonably well, except that a couple of holes were too big for the pop rivet to take and so I had to miss these out. The o/s rear had a mislaigned hole so I had to miss that one out too. The front wing screw fittings needed to be drilled and I had a mixed experience with this. The n/s wing drilling went reasonably well – aligned well on the horizontal plane, I didn’t really get it far enough forward to completely pull the trim in. So learning this lesson on the o/s wing, I drilled further forward and although perfectly aligned for the trim, the thread came through next to a seam on the inner wing so I couldn’t fit the washed and nut. Annoyingly I had to leave the job partly done. Worth mentioning that the trims snap on nicely if you smack them sharply with the heel of your palm. Okay for the first couple of trims, but a bit painful by the end of the day.

As an aside, I had planned a load of jobs for this weekend, but was frustrated by lack of parts, particularly the seats which are frustrating me with a lack of clear information on how they are fitted and not having all the parts I need [sigh]. I did manage to fit the crush washer to the Oil Cooler pipes. This joint had been leaking oil and then I found the washer in a parts bag. Not doing much good there was it! Now its fitted I no longer have the oil leak, just the stain on the driveway to remind me of my error. Onwards and upwards

My list of jobs – I didn’t get too far!

5 April 2020 Door glass

A fine spring day (Sunday) as the COVID-19 lockdown continues. With the engine start programme on pause, I decided to continue refitting some of the extensive exterior trim on the MG. Having recently taught myself to pop-rivet, and finding out that is the most fun thing ever, I continued to fit the chrome drip rails and today managed to complete both sides. Just one clip missing which will either turn up or I’ll have to buy from Moss. I then turned to the door glass which I have been wanting to fit for a while. Unfortunately, the door glass is very badly scratched (I don’t know how) so I will need to replace them, however, I decided that there was merit in having a go at fitting them anyway as a sort of trial run for when I get the new / second hand ones. Tricky to justify buying new glass at the moment as I can’t collect from Moss (shop closed) and the cost of shipping glass is blooming expensive. Also, I would have to pry off the metal rails which looks tricky, so maybe I’ll source some second hand units via Ebay for as long as that remains. Anyway, back to today’s efforts which went alright actually. I had to remove the quarter lights and then reaquaint myself with the lifting mechanism which is a bit fiddly. I just looked at it and fiddled it around a bit until it fitted – it took a couple of attempts, I then dropped the windows in and they seemed to slide up and down quite convincingly After checking on YouTube I find that I haven’t hitched the glass properly, so something to sort out tomorrow on my day off.

Lots of people say hello as I’m working out the front on the drive, but one visitor today didn’t really understand the whole social distancing thing. I kept backing away as he enthusiastically looked over the MG. He apparently has a couple of Lotus’s he is intending to restore although when he mentioned making one of them into a four door, and commented on how thick the fibreglass was, I began to question his sanity. It was about 7mins and 30 seconds into the conversation before he mentioned ‘Wheeler Dealers’ which is where my interest tends to tail off. Anyway, I think he was probably a bit lonely and confused by the whole Coronavirus thing. It goes to show how it is impacting people in different ways. I wished him well and off he went with his shopping trolley.

Final job today was to scrub the interior trims that I have. I just used some kitchen cleaner to clean the vinyl so I will fit what I have got tomorrow. There are definately some bits missing, so I’ll have to decide how to replace these and draft up an order to one of the many suppliers. I am keen to attempt a repair to the headlining, so there is not much stopping me cracking on with this now.

21 & 22 Mar 20 Significant progress

I am writing up progress over two days today, Saturday and Sunday of this first weekend in which we are living through the most extraordinary changes in our lives due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m not going to focus on that, instead I’m going to talk about progress on the MG.

On Saturday I managed to get the MG to crank over – this was a big step forward. I didn’t get it to fire up, but we’ll get to that. The main thing preventing me from starting the engine had been the wiring of the ignition switch. I had been baffled by the switch terminals which I just couldn’t relate to the wiring diagram. Added to that, having got it wrong and frightened myself with the battery terminal sparking, my confidence was low. However, after conversations with my Dad and some on-line help from Nick Dring (thanks guys), I sat in the MG on the driveway on a sunny Saturday and just ran through some wiring scenarios. Using my Dad’s fooproof lamp test to keeps things safe, it took eight attempts to finally get it right. I had the engine cranking over in every ignition switch position including 0, I and II. Position III remained elusive, but it was a great feeling when I finally stumbled on the right combination and it cranked over on position III. Of course I could have avoided all this by taking a photo of the switch before I stripped it down, but its a bit late for that now!

The rest of the day was spent in attempting to get the engine started, ultimately unsuccessfully. I did connect up the choke (not very well), tightened the throttle cable and resolved a couple of areas which were leaking oil due to not being tightened up properly – namely, the rocker cover and the oil filter oil cooler pipe union. For fuel I used a bottle (borrowed from my friend john) connected to the carbs and hung from the bonnet catch. Out of interest, I recorded key parts of the day on my iPhone and made them into a YouTube video, linked below. Be warned, its 14 minutes….

Video of me not starting the MG

Onto Sunday and I diverted from the engine (for which I need some brainy help) to focus on some items of trim which I have deliberately ignored for a good while now. It made for a change to be focussing on something different. Plan for today was to fit the chrome trims to the rear quarter lights. I had previously fitted these just to get them off the garage shelves but they had to come off for me to fit the trims. This meant that I needed to learn how to use a pop rivet gun which I have never used before. A quick YouTube video later and I was a pop-rivetting hero. As any one will tell you, its really easy. The trims are original and despite a clean up using autosol they are a bit ratty, but from what I remember, buying all new is extremely expensive and in these dire times I can’t justify any frivelous expenditure. I can always buy new trims later down the line. I got the o/s all sorted nicely, but the n/s side wasn’t as easy, the trims being a bit buckled and hence more difficult to fit and the rubber seal had gone missing (it’s somewhere in the garage). Anyway, some useful time wokring outdoors on the MG – I halted during the middle of fixing a trim to the A-post on the n/s due to being asked if I would like to go for a walk with Helen and Lou – priorities being what they are, I pushed the MG into the garage and that was the day’s work done.

14 Mar 2020 Electrical Issue

So today was looking good to get the MG started. I borrowed a fuel bottle from my friend John and made a list of what I had to do. First job was to connect up the oil gauge pipe. This was relatively easy although now I look back at it, I have routed it through the same hole as the temperature gauge pipe so that will need re-routing – doh! Second was to disconnect the fuel pump because I was going to use a fuel bottle to feed the carbs, not the fuel tank (not wanting to leave fuel in the car for a long period). I also placed a bolt in the inlet manifold in lieu of not being able to connect the vaccum advance hose. I haven’t been able to work out how this works to date, but I figured the MG could start without the pipe in place. So far so good. I then attempted to connect up the ignition switch which proved to be more difficult than I had imagined because the terminal were not clearly marked so I had to guess which was which. I connected the switch in what I assumed was the correct way and proceeded to connect the battery. This is where things began to unpick somewhat. Dad has given me a foolproof way of testing the loom before proceeding to connect the battery. This involved using a test lamp and the idea was that if the light came on, the loom was not correctly connected in some way and had a ‘dead short’. Anyway I performed the test and the light came on, but I proceeded to connect the battery. On connecting the positive terminal, the cable and terminal sparked violently and started to weld themselves together. Okay so something not right here. So I abandoned the MG for the day, posted a query on Facebook and made a mental note to call Dad later.

I moved on to the Suzuki Cappuccino, my other ‘toy’ on which I needed to replace a corroded metal cooling pipe. I had bought a new pipe from Suzuki recently, for the princely sum of £50 (!) and thought I would get on with the job today as it was dry and I had come to a dead halt on the MG. There were five hose connections to this pipe and each of course had to be undone. Due to the angles, this proved challenging. The clips were those springy ones that you have to either have fingers of steel (I have soft office hands) to open or manouvre a pair of pliers to release them. It was a tedious process to get them all undone and even then the hoses were a swine to get off. I used my trusty heat gun to soften up the rubber and this worked really well. I managed to catch a lot of the antifreeze which poured out into my waste oil container. I then fitted the hoses to the new pipe using new jubilee clips and secured it to the bracket with two nuts. I took the opportunity to wash the overflow bottle and hoses while I was there and then filled the radiator with fresh ready-mixed antifreeze. I then took the Cappuccino for a road test during which I definately didn’t taunt a sleeping Mini Cooper, nor did I exploit the perfect 50:50 balance to zap around a couple of local roundabouts. That definately didn’t happen. All was well and after the Cappuccino had cooled, I topped up the radiator a little. I’ll keep an eye on the levels for the next few drives, but it was good to get this job done.

29 Feb 20 Working the problem

Confession time. I was banging on last week about having to lengthen the distributor wire, and why couldn’t it just be the right length and so on. Well I took a closer look today and actually I don’t need to lengthen any cables, I just need to connect it all up properly. That was a relief. I only had a very short time on the MG today, but I did spend some of it in finishing off connecting the front and rear loom. The rear loom connects to the main loom on a branch under the o/s near the master cylinders. I had previously connected some of the wires, but was having difficulty in getting others connected. Dad had suggested that I purchase a pair of bullet connector pliers and I used these for the first time in anger and they worked pretty well actually, although I had to salvage a couple of connectors from the old loom where the new one was missing some. So just one yellow wire left unconnected….any clues? no me neither.

So there you have it. The list of things to do before engine start is now quite short. Fit the vacuum pipes and oil gauge pipe, fit the battery, rig up a fuel bottle and that’s about it, apart from checking everything. As always, I have a busy couple of weeks coming up including a weekend helping at the in-laws farm, but soon enough I will be spinning the engine over. Exciting stuff.

In other news, I bought a cooling pipe for my Suzuki Cappuccino (pictured below). The existing pipe is very corroded and I didn’t feel safe doing any distance in it in case it let go. Anyway, a phone call to Suzuki Islington of Trowbridge resulted in a £50 card transaction and a few days later the pipe was in for collection. The Suzuki dealer was also a MG franchise and it was interesting to see all the new SUV MGs in stock, not that I am looking for a new car. On the way back I bought new antifreeze from Halfords and I checked out refilling the system on the internet. Looks relatively straighforward. I’ll fit the new pipe to the Suzuki when the weather improves.