6 Jul 19 An encouraging word

I was outside, early evening washing Helen’s car. Matt and Ellie were helping and I remembered how much easier it is to clean a car with helpers.

Anyway, the garage door was open and a passer by commented on the MG, saying ‘hadn’t I done well, it was progressing’ he added ‘I like to see it out’.

Here’s to those people blessed with the gift of encouragement – we all need it!

Couple of photos below, NOT of my MGB to be clear, but a nice looking earlier model which Ellie had spied in West Hampstead, where she lives with Matt. Nice of her to take some reference photos for me and more encouragement. Thanks Ellie!

25 Jun 19 Carbs are good

Received notification from Coln Engineering in Gloucester that they have finished the refurbishment of the carburetters. The price has gone up slightly because the throttle spindles were knackered and they had to replace some missing linkage parts. So overall I think a good choice to get them done, as they should now see out the life of the car without further work. The carbs will be shipped over the next couple of days, checked in by the Goods Inwards Department (me), stacked in the parts bins by the Warehouse Supervisor (me) and their fitment scheduled by the Chief Planner (me). The Chief Planner (me) needs to have words with the Chief Mechanic (also me) about progress on the MG which has slipped recently due to ‘prior engagements’, including a planned 140 mile walk for the charity Open Doors in July. I am assured that the Chief Mechanic will focus on the backlog of jobs on the MG once he has completed his walk, had his 25th Wedding Anniversary Party in August and his holiday to Crete shortly afterwards.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, yesterday lunchtime, looking for 20 mins relief from work, I trial fitted the old number plate onto the back of the car. I am interested to see how it will look without the bumpers and I have yet to consider how to light the back plate (in accordance with the law) without the bumper where the number plate lights are usually mounted. I expect someone like Car Builder Solutions will have a universal lamp I can use. Anyway, here in all its glory is the numberplate in situ. I quite like the idea of using some old parts on the car, but not sure I am going to keep this as its a bit ratty. Anyway, one less item on the shelf and back on the car which I count as progress!

And finally, today en-route to Cambridge for work, I dropped the old seats at Mirror Trim in Toddington. I had placed the order for the seats at the MG & Triumph Spares Day earlier in the year and arranged for them to done through the summer. They should be ready around September and will either go into storage, or straight into the car depending on progress. Mirror Trim are also making up a set of carpets, so that will be a substantial part of the interior sorted, although the headlining remains a maze of choices from which I have not yet found the exit. Mirror Trim are one of those lovely cottage industries working literally out of an old oak framed barn from where they churn out high quality product. What a great way to make a living I’m sure. Here is a last look at the seats before their transformation.

8 Jun 19 Learning points

Had time to tackle a couple of jobs today, and I had requested some help from a friend John who is very mechanically adept. Having pushed the MG put into the sunshine, John arrived and I described the task. This was the somewhat intimidating job of drilling into the bonnet and rain channels to fix the brackets for the gas struts. I wasn’t confident about this so invited John to do the drilling. John taught me that drilling into metal requires a slow drill – how did I not know this at age 48? Because my school did Latin, not metalwork that’s why. A slow drills keeps the temperature low and allows room for the swarf to move out of the way. John insisted on lots of protection to the bodywork and we covered and masked the relevant areas and he drilled expertly. We couldn’t finish the job completely as we had touched up the holes with paint and it needed to dry. But a great job done and more learning for me. Thanks John.

I was flying solo in the afternoon so focussed on completing the brake lines installation which required me to fit the remaining rear pipe and front to rear pipe. I decided to also fit the new fuel line from front to back while I had the car jacked up as this runs alongside the brake pipe. Broadly it went well although I ran out of time with a couple of brackets to go I tied the pipes up loosely with cable ties. I figured it was better to leave it until I had time to do it well than rush to an artificial deadline. Spending time under the MG is always a bit challenging. Today it was removing the fuel pump which was in the way of the pipe installation and needed to come out so I can fit the new hoses in due course. During the removal of the pump I was showered with dust and crud left over from when it was blasted, sort of a MG facial treatment which was probably quite exfoliating if you like that sort of thing. In the images below I have the jack still in place. The car was of course on axle stands, but I left the jack in place with a little pressure as additional safety. So there.

2 Jun 19 Front lamp install

Had a couple of hours to spend on the MG, but the weather wasn’t playing ball with steady rain. I limited myself to an inside job, although I did push the MG halfway out of the garage so I could move around a little bit easier. Decided to install a front headlight as I had all the parts having recently purchased nice new rubber seals from Moss. The rubber seal is quite a robust piece which sits on the headlight plate (remember that the headlight plates are new, having been installed as part of the respray to address the serious front wing corrosion in this area). When I got the car, the lamp bowls were held in place with big screws, but I didn’t think that British Leyland intended it to be this way so I had previously bought some stubby bolts which I figured could be manouvred to fit. I had already found out on another occasion that longer bolts could not be fitted, so shorter ones had to be obtained.

A gorgeous front end, but the bevel doesnt want to go on

First task was to make holes in the rubber seal for the bolts since as bought they just have markings where the bolts go. Tricky job, but the dremmel made a reasonable job and then a craft knife, carefully wielded to avoid a nasty cut eased them open. With the seal held in place with two lugs, I held the lamp bowl up to the seal and worked the bolts through the holes and then with the other hand reached around under the wheel arch to fit the tiny nut on the end of the little bolt. If anything, the bolts were a bit on the short side, but once tightened up, there was plenty of thread on which to bite as the rubber does compress a bit. A fiddly job. Final task to install the lamp is the clip the chrome bevel onto the bowl and push it home. This didn’t go well unfortunately as the bevel declined all requests to hold tight. I wonder if I have installed something wrong? I am going to have a look at the other lamp and see if I can better understand how the bevel clips on. A quick search on YouTube had some smug restorer clipping it in place with a short tap. Mmm, not how it turned out for me. Anyway, something to overcome along the way, and progress of a sort (maybe too tightly fitted?). Another challenge identified was in the fixing of the combined indicator / side lamp. The fixing for the new unit from Moss has different mounting points to the existing unit so while one side fits nicely, the other fixing misses the aperature and to all intends and purposes needs to be fixed to fresh air. Currently reviewing options on that one, but I am sure I can figure something out and learn some more. All comments welcome!

25 May 19 Put it on the ramp

‘Two hours to do a 15min job’ is how my Dad summarised this Saturday afternoon’s effort. My Dad was a mechanic in his younger days and so when he visited with my Step-Mum Pauline on Saturday it was an opportunity to ask for his help with the MG. His first quip among many was ‘put it on a ramp, Ad’ recongnising that a lot of what I do is made harder by not having a fully equipped garage in which to operate. I remember when as a little boy I would ‘help’ my Dad at the garage where he worked, a British Leyland Dealership with full workshop facilities. When I got into car ownership, Dad would do jobs on my cars and when neccessary we could utilise the ramps to get the car to the right height to work on, not to mention access to air tools and welding equipment. We would also use the PDI bay to polish cars, often bringing tired old paint to life with a bit of elbow grease and cutting paste. Happy days.

A look around my ‘Parts Department’

Back to Saturday and we jacked up the rear of the MG, took both wheels off and had a look at the brake pipes. We replaced the flexible hose (on the o/s) and the short copper brake pipe from the three way union to the o/s drum. The copper pipe needed to be bent to shape and we were able to use the old one as a template.

Shout out to Dad for his YouTube channel here 257 subscribers and 39,000 views and counting, take a look. What an absolute legend. Thanks for your help Dad – love you.

18 May 19 Brake pipes – actual progress

A positive post because today I managed to install the front brakes lines. I have been dreading this job, but actually it went okay. There were a couple of challenges, but that’s all part of the learning curve. Anyway, never mind that, look at the shiny braided hoses – phwoar!

Lovely braided hoses

Okay so it didn’t go all that smoothly, but as always, staying calm and thinking saves the day. First challenge was working from the flexible hoses fixed to the caliper. Removing the hoses was a bit tough and I had to wire brush all the suspension which was still filthy with paint-booth muck so that took a while. Once I have built the car, I will go back and refurbish the suspension, including refreshing the paint, but I want to be up and rolling by that stage. When putting it back I forgot the nut so got in a bit of a pickle – one of the those situations where it didn’t feel right, so it couldn’t be right . After I stepped back to think, I discovered the forgotten nut and then it went back nicely. I fitted the flexible hoses and the new copper pipes and then worked my way into the engine bay, even getting some help from Helen who had to hold a pipe under the bonnet while I accessed the master cylinder from the inside of the car (through the firewall). Feeling smug, I finished up under the bonnet with the remaining brakes and stepped back to admire my work. At this point I realised that having mis-installed one pipe I effectively had created the world’s first MGB with only front brakes. Cue much concerned consultation of the manual and internet searching before I realised my mistake. I had missed the second servo brake pipe, but it was a relatively easy fix to re-pipe what I had done and correct my mistake.

So it was all sorted out in the end. I still have to install the pipes under the car to the rear, but I am now much more confident about this work.

As I still had some time left in the day, I decided to take on a simple job, but one which would remove some more clutter from my shelves. Installing the rear quarter windows was relatively simple but first I cleaned them up using some kitchen spray and a ball of kitchen cooking (aluminium) foil which I had been told (by Rob) was good for refurbishing chrome and it did prove to effective. They went back in nice and simply with all the fixing intact and available. There are a lot of trims to go these windows as well as new rubbers, so they may have to come on and off, but it just felt like a useful thing to do and the car seemed to appreciate it (as mad as that sounds)

So a positive day and I was pleased with progress. It was an inspired decision to work from the calipers into the engine bay, but I am not sure who to thank – either God, or some long passed-away relative was looking down and saying ‘do it this way’. In either case, thanks!

12 May 19 Brake lines install commence

A lovely sunny day and some free time provided the perfect opportunity to start on the brake lines install. But it wasn’t going to be that simple, eh? I had previously checked that the kit from Autotec was complete so today was just a case of choosing what to do first. Chickening out of tackling the master cylinders first, which will require some intricate bending (of the pipes, and perhaps me) I decided to start with the pipe from the servo to the four way union on the flitch plate. This required me to mount the servo which has been sat in a box since I removed it sometime last year. First I gave the servo a bit of a clean up using degreaser and some 1200 grade wet and dry sandpaper. Having made it look half respectable, I then turned it every up to work out how it mounted and once I had worked that out, spent a while trying to find a pair of nuts to fit the mounting bolts. With a bit of fiddling, the servo was reinstalled.

Now to the pipe which needed two 90 degree bends added for it to drop from the servo to run across the face of the heater. I formed the bends using my new bending pliers and I was reasonably pleased with how it turned out, this being my first attempt at bending. The copper is very malleable – I found this out as I had first to straighten the pipe from the coil in which they formed in the box.

At this point I decided to sort out the heater mounting since it would be behind the pipe and should be secure. I won’t detail all the frustrations but suffice to say that a legacy of the strip down was that I left some ruined mountings unresolved and so tried to sort these today involving a drill, a dremel and no real success. I then also mistakenly mis-installed the heater so having just finished it, had to take it out again. Fortunately, it was one of those days that was too nice to get annoyed, so I just put it down to experience.

I took care all day to protect the bodywork, including when I had to hop into the engine bay frequently to take care of the heater. I also harvested the bango fittings from the old brake pipes which I had completely forgotten about. I mounted them on the master cylinders at a 45 degree angle to make fitting the pipes easier. Hope that works out when I get to them. I had found the four way junction which fits on the flitch plate earlier, given that a clean up and checked for fit.

So a bit of a learning day, but progress overall, so that’s positive. It took a while to pack down the tools today, I must have got everything out at some point, but that’s what happens when you encounter old car problems.

27 Apr 19 MG Yoga

So today I fitted the brake and clutch master cylinders into their assembly and then fitted that to the car, including the pedals. Sounds easy doesn’t it, but it took a while believe me. First I had rashly mounted the pedals to the assembly and then when I took it to the car realised that the pedals wouldn’t fit down the hole. So I took it apart again and mounted the assembly sans pedals. This went quite well although at one point I had to lie upside down in the footwell to do up the nuts and that involved some interesting contortions, hence the MG yoga title above.

With the master cylinders in place I can now imagine the first job involved in replacing the brake lines which is to fit the first two lines which come from the master cylinder. This involves them coming out of the cylinder and then performing a 180 degree turn so that is going to test my pipe bending skills. Might get some help for that bit! I did have Mark on hand today to help me fit the bonnet gas struts but with it being a windy day (Storm Hannah), we thought better of doing a delicate drilling job in a gale and instead had a good look at the brake kit which seems quite organised.

17 Apr 19 Cold Start Enrichment

After a pleasant meal out with colleagues I returned to my chalet (I’m working away at present) and got the carbs out on the table to do some more work on the cold start enrichment mechanism on the rear carb, which I will call the choke from now onwards. Despite some earlier efforts to clean this up, the mechanism was still so stiff that the return spring couldn’t well, return it.

So I stripped it down again and sanded the surfaces with some 1200 grade sand-paper. On reassembling it still wasn’t very free, so I took it apart and used some 800 grade sand-paper and concentrated on what appeared to be some corrosion within the body of the carb which I think was causing the friction. The frustration is that when loosely inserted it moves freely and only tightens up when fully assembled. Sigh. End result, moving better, but still not enough, so another strip down and sand is due, but not tonight because I don’t want to be doing this all night!

On the plus side, I am cleaning more bits as I strip them and I am getting to know how it all fits together, which can only be a good thing for the future.

Best wishes all.

15 Apr 19 Goods Inward

Collected a big order from Moss today with critical path components for the rebuild, including brake lines, master cylinders and so on. Good service from Moss, they also agreed a full refund for the faulty valance I had bought previously. Fair play.

Anyway with all the boxes of parts, I was reminded that when my Dad worked for a BMC/British Leyland / Rover dealership, running the parts department, they had a Goods Inwards bay and I always found the phrase puzzling as a young whipper-snapper. In tribute I created a sign for our garage door.This evening I fitted a couple of the easy bits; pulley, exhaust gasket, thermostat, heater matrix and read up on the gas struts which I have bought to lift the bonnet. Looking forward to the weekend when hopefully will get the chance to fit a few more bits!

6 Apr 19 Saturday morning tinkering

First opportunity this morning, since the respray, to push the MG out of the garage and look to see what jobs could be done. Noting that I haven’t got the harness yet or the brake pipes I can’t get started on the critical path items, however I am able to put components back on the car which need to be done sometime and which don’t affect anything else.

So I bolted the quarter lights back on to the doors, easy enough as I could remember how they came off. It was a bit awkward feeding the leg through the narrow slot at the top of the door without scratching the new paint, so I wrapped the end in a cloth bag and eased it through the gap at the middle of the door where I could make a bit more room. After this I was reacquainted with the very long threads on the bolts and the restricted access to them.

Just to be make room in the garage I also put the spare wheel into its recess, laid the cover over it, put the battery into its cradle and put the loose rear seat base in place. Well why not.

I also put the heater into its place to try to reacquaint myself with this unit which is an early fit item as the brake lines run past it under the bonnet. Nothing screwed down, just getting a feel for it really.

One annoyance was when I went to bolt in the engine mounts to find that at the MG spares day I had bought two o/s mounts instead of a pair of each. What a dummy.Still, not an expensive item, just need to buy the right one now.

Had some passing interest as I was working on the MG including a dog walker who came up to say hello and tell me about that he had built a Westfield 21 years ago. We had a nice chat and as I’ve said before, this project is about the experience and the people I meet as much as the end product. A nice morning’s work.

4 Apr 19 Causing a stink

Decisions have consequences. I was at home yesterday in the evening, a change for me as I normally work away from home. With Helen marking homework (a teacher’s lot in life) I decided to wash the dishes and then, drawn like a magnet, pop into the garage and take a look at the carbs which need a bit of love before they get bolted back in. I had recently bought some carb cleaner so I thought I would give them a bit of a squirt and see what good that did. I was looking to improve two issues: first, some aluminium corrosion in the float chambers which I thought would benefit from a good dosage of carb cleaner and; secondly a sticky cold start enrichment mechanism which I had previously stripped but was still not moving freely. Working in the utility room (not the kitchen – I am not that stupid), I lost myself for a good 45 mins, absorbed in what a good job I was doing. After a while, and sensing it might be a good idea to re-enter family life, I packed up, cleaned down and went into the lounge.

‘What’s that smell?’ Helen asked. ‘What smell?’ I replied, knowing full well what smell. In my solvent addled state, I had failed to realise that most of house was now permeated with a strong and pungent solvent aroma which, it was made clear, would not be tolerated. So I did that thing where you close interior doors, fling open exterior doors, put extract fans on full, use room spray and generally hope that the stink will shift.

Having thought I had done a pretty good job and congratulating myself on having recovered the situation, I was dismayed that when retiring to bed some time later, the volatile solvents had risen (as they do) and stunk out the upstairs.

At this point I had to admit to having royally messed up and that yes I was stupid, no it’s wasn’t funny and no I would not use the carb cleaner inside the house again but in a well ventilated space as per the instructions.

Lesson learned and no need to dig out the sleeping bag to bed down in the garage for the night.

Sadly, despite the dosing, the cold start mechanism was still sticky, better, but not moving freely enough so it will need stripping and lubricating / more cleaning. It will be the most pampered cold start mechanism in SU carb history soon…