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

07 Aug 20 ENGINE START!

I don’t really approve of ‘shouty’ capitals, but I think this entry justifies their use, albeit in the title only. Today, on my 50th birthday, we achieved the Engine Start Milestone. Let me qualify that a bit. When I say ‘we’ I mean, my Dad, mainly. When I say the engine started, I mean just that – we got it to start, but not run. This was principally because to fuel it, we were not using the main tank, but a borrowed fuel bottle hung from the bonnet catch. But it did fire up, several times and briefly make a loud ‘vroom!’ before ceasing when the fuel we had poured down the throat of the carburettor was consumed. The important point is – it starts!

So today being my 50th birthday, we had invited some close family over within the COVID regulations – so a much smaller group than usual and with the requisite social distancing. My darling wife Helen had, as usual, put on a lovely spread and guests arrived and were dining al fresco in the relaxed garden setting under the Gazebo. After waiting for what seemed to be a polite period of time, Dad said to me ‘what about the MG then’ and we discretely retired to the garage to scratch our respective heads on the non-starting issue.

Dad focussed on getting the electrical side of things sorted and this involved correctly wiring the distributor and setting the timing. This took longer than it should have done, which isn’t very interesting to record here, however after muc removal and refitting of the distributor cap and HT leads we had a spark occuring at the right time but no starting of the engine. We turned out attention to the fuel bottle and suspicious that fuel was not actually getting into the carbs, we poured (I should say, carefully measured a precise quantity of fuel) fuel into the throat of the carbs and turned the engine over. With a vroom and a puff of smoke out the exhaust the engine fired for the first time in over two years. Yes! So I am grateful to Dad (and Matt my Daughter’s boyfriend) for this birthday treat! It was all very exciting. We fired it a couple more times to see see if we could maintain the running before concluding that actually some fresh fuel in the tank and connecting the fuel pump was probably the way to go. Sadly we had run out of time, so this job was deferred for next time.

So this is a great encouragement – I’ve had a lovely birthday, which really started on Wednesday with a visit from my oldest (he not old, but I have been friends with him for the longest time) friend Phil, then a surprise gift and cake from my work colleagues on Thursday, leading to today’s event. Tomorrow we have friends over to continue the celebrations, again reined in by the regulations to a very small group. I heard someone say that birthdays should be a three day event – I’m on four days and going strong!

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.

21 July 20 £2 Parking Entertainment

Near Padstow, there is Hawker’s Bay, a beautiful spot overlooking the Camel Estuary. After a pleasant morning in Padstow we were looking for a place to eat our freshly baked pasties. There is a field car park overlooking the beach and we identified this as an ideal location.

The car park was managed by an old Cornish gentleman with tanned skin like old leather. I enquired ‘what’s the damage?’ and he replied ‘£2’. Thinking that sounded reasonable, I handed over two pound coins and thanked him for arranging the lovely weather. ‘In’t it bootiful’ he agreed.

Being unable to access the beach as Mum (in her seventies) was unable to walk down the long and uneven path, we instead set up camp at the top of the car park and waited for the car park entertainment to begin.

Every type of vehicle and driver was represented and we witnessed different parking styles, some with more success than others. For context, the field had been cut up during wet weather and there were some fairly deep ruts now dried as hard as concrete to negotiate. Experienced drivers in ordinary hatchbacks kept their speed low, planned their approach and executed precision parking manoeuvres with aplomb. However a Range Rover sport came hammering down the hill, raising a dust cloud which blew across our picnic. ‘Sorry about that’ he grinned. Pratt. Another newer model Range Rover Sport, easily £70k of off road finesse, was also driven poorly. The driver reversed over the ruts perpendicularly and at just the wrong speed to really bounce it up and down. I’m sure his passengers appreciated that.

A transit driver which I had thought would know better started well with the right speed and approach, but then gave it too much welly and thumped his front bumper.

Naturally I parked the CRV with panache without removing the bumper, sump or exhaust and we exited without any drama.

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.