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…

29 Mar 19 Homecoming

This update is nearly a week late, but its been a busy time so this is the first chance I have had and maybe it benefits from a bit of reflection before posting anyway.

The MG is back home! The respray/body restoration is finally over and the car is back in my possession with its beautiful new coat of paint. I am really pleased with how its turned out and the way that the whole process with Gavin from Reef Paint shop went. Gavin was completely straight with me throughout the process and so its just as I expected, including the final bill. The car threw up a few challenges at the paint shop with misaligned panels and various parts not being willing to fit without a fight. its certainly made me realise that when buying a part restored car, you have to be sceptical about all the work previously carried out, because you just cannot tell from looking whether its been done right. In fairness, despite the challenges, the price I paid for the car still stacks up, so no regrets.

Here are some photos of the finished job, first at the paint shop

Next photos taken at home, I like how the sun bounces off the bodywork

So there we are. Strip down complete, bodywork complete, the rebuild phase now commences. I’ve got some parts on order already (wiring harness, clutch) but I need to order some more to get really started including brake pipes, exhaust and cables to name but a few.

I rang Gavin earlier to discuss care of the paint. He advised that the paint will harden over the next few weeks so it just needs to be left rather than treated. Then, as its been machine polished, it can just be hand washed for some time without the need for any product.

Looking forward to the build phase!

23 Mar 19 Rocker cover

Lovely spring day in Chippenham, so I opened up the garage door and pulled on my overalls. I have now got a firm date for the MG returning from its body restoration, so not long now before the rebuild commences. I have a couple of parts which need to be freshened up including the gearbox cross-member and the rocker cover. I cleaned both items up with a bit of sand paper and had time to put a coat of etch primer on the rocker cover and then some satin black. For the minimal work involved, it came out quite nicely. Certainly it looks tidy enough to go back on car for now.

The gearbox cross-member needs a bit more preparation, then I might use up some of the wrinkle finish paint I had left over from the dash. The cross-member is quite exposed under the car, so a tougher paint finish probably a good idea.

Still debating what to do about the carburettors. Just give them a clean and stick them back on, or send them off for refurbishment. There are some nice little businesses which will turn them around for about £300, but that’s a big old chunk of money so I am a little reticent if its something I can put off – any thoughts?

16 Mar 19 Concorde Alpha Foxtrot

Visit to Aerospace Bristol which is the home of the last Concorde to fly, British Airways G-BOAF, commonly known as Alpha Foxtrot, or foxy lady to her friends. I last saw Alpha Foxtrot when she flew over Clifton Downs in 2003 on her final flight. It was good to catch up.

Accompanying me on the visit were family members Helen, Ellie and Matt.

Its pleasing to see this aircraft (not ‘plane’) housed properly in her own custom built hanger as she was stored outside for about fifteen years following her last flight. There are several Concorde aircraft which have been housed poorly since their retirement, the most public being Alpha Bravo owned by British Airways and to this day parked outdoors at Heathrow Airport with no obvious plan as to its conservation. This seems a pity, although without knowing the financial burden of owning such an asset (and I don’t) it is perhaps wrong to judge those responsible. Already I find myself leaning towards an emotional connection with Concorde, and my overriding impressions from yesterday are not just fascination with the staggering technological achievement it represented, but of the emotions is stirs up, including pride (in our engineering), admiration of its beauty (which seems universally acknowledged), nostalgia (for times gone by) and thankfulness (that it exists). The Concorde hanger allows visitors to walk underneath the entire fuselage and then via a first floor to enter the fuselage, view the cockpit and walk along the forward cabin, guided by charming staff, some of whom who worked at Filton when Concorde was operational.

I can recommend a visit to anyone remotely interested in aircraft to Aerospace Bristol. Alongside Alpha Foxtrot is a separate gallery focusing on the achievement of the Bristol company and their heritage beginning with trams and moving on to design and manufacture aircraft, buses and cars. Top exhibits include a prototype helicopter (pictured below), Sea Harrier and various British made missiles.

Bristol Helicopter Prototype – like a bus, but with vertical take off!

I like to find quirky exhibits at museums, and Aerospace Bristol provided me with a fine example. Pictured below are some keys which were used to arm nuclear weapons. The information states that they were similar to those used on slot machines of the time.

It is amazing to reflect on what these keys represented to the V-bombers of the cold war as they would have unlocked the destructive power of the atomic weapons carried on board those aircraft once they had been scrambled, heading for the iron curtain. We should be grateful that they were never needed.

Returning to Alpha Foxtrot, some further images below of a remarkable aircraft and a few final thoughts. She flew at 1350 miles per hour, a mile every three seconds, faster than a rifle bullet at 55,000 ft above the earth’s surface, far above the jet stream and all other commercial aircraft, the edge of space, the outside temperature, -50 deg C, but with a surface temperature around 100 deg C which you could feel through the windows of the cabin. All this while the occupants sipped on chilled Champagne. When Concorde retired in 2003, our shrinking world got a little bit larger.

16 Mar 19 Body restoration nearing completion

I have started to refer to the work being done on the MG by Reef Paint Shop as a body restoration as ‘respray’ doesn’t really do justice to what they have done. Although the new body panels had already been fitted before I bought the car, and I had got the main areas of welding done before it went to Reef, they have put enormous effort into getting it all to fit and look right before applying the paint. Gavin put some update photographs up on FB yesterday (see below) and advised that next Friday is looking good for a completion date.

So that’s exciting news, getting the MG back will trigger the next phase of the restoration which is the build phase, itself split into numerous sub-phases as I work out how to install the various systems that go to make up a working car. I’ve have spent considerable time thinking about sequence and I reckon I have got a reasonable idea how to do it.

In readiness for the build phase, with some help from Rob, I have developed a shopping list of parts and I recently placed an order with David Manners Group for a new wiring harness, new clutch and various other bits and pieces which are crucial for the initial build stages. I am not able to make one order for all the parts, as I haven’t got the room to store it all and frankly, I think it would be a bit overwhelming to have everything arrive at once and then try to keep it all sorted for the months the build is going to take.

Having reflected on the build phase, it occurred to me that although there is a sequence for certain components (e.g. wiring harness in first), there are other jobs that can be slotted in pretty much as I fancy it, for example, the door handles can go on anytime as well as the side chrome strips, boot latch and so on. I am determined to enjoy this build phase and not to rush to get it on the road. As much as I am keen to drive the MG, I only really get once opportunity to do this build, so I might as well enjoy it.

Other recent purchases include a torque wrench (haven’t even taken it out the box yet) and carburettor cleaner (haven’t used it yet). Work, family and social life pretty busy at the moment, so the restoration of the bits of the car I still have a home has been a little slow.

24 Feb 19 Carbs reunited

Unseasonably warm February day, Helen was working so I did a little tinkering in the garage. With the garage door open, the sun was streaming in and it was a nice place to be. I decided to have a look at the carbs which I had spent some time cleaning up early in the strip down but hadn’t looked at for a while. I mounted them on the inlet manifold and heat shield just to see how they go back together and to try to work out how to make them operate. The whole set up needs new gaskets so it was a trial fit really but useful all the same.

Carbs reunited

The carb on the right has had more cleaning work than the one on the left so some more detailing to do there in due course. I had a look at the float chambers while I was there and they were in a shocking state – full of white powder which I took to be aluminium corrosion. Yuck. These will need a serious sort out.

Grotty float chambers

I wasn’t sure how to remove the float itself, but shortly after discussing it with my Dad he rang back to tell me there was a retaining screw in the body of the chamber and that released the float. He had looked it up in an old manual – honestly, he’s quicker than Google, and more accurate – thanks Dad.

23 Feb 19 Little steps forward

Earlier this week, working away in Cambridge, I invited Rob (friend and colleague) over to my place for dinner. I was clear about my motives, saying to Rob that I had homework for him to do. After a satisfactory curry, we sat down with the MGOC, Moss and David Manners catalogues and my list of parts required for the initial build of the MG and worked our way down the list comparing prices and working out which parts to order from whom and also what were the peripheral parts required. Helpfully Rob has extensive mechanical experience having raced TR6s for years as well as his back-catalogue of interesting cars. At 10pm we called a halt and were about 3/4 down the list, but it was a really useful session. Thanks Rob. I now have a schedule against which I can place orders, although I need to be sure I’ve got space for it all as it arrives.

I nipped over to see Gavin and Dean at the paintshop when I got back from Cambridge, to deliver door rubbers and to collect the faulty front valance. I also took over some donuts which went down well. I had ordered a new valance from Smith & Deakin, a specialist fibreglass company who do Motorsport parts. Hopefully this will fit better than the other item which I hope to return to Moss in due course for a refund. On Friday, Gavin posted updates photos on FB and it was good to see the progress that had been made.

I am really pleased with the work being done, the inner wings look especially tidy compared to how they looked previously. The identified problems are gradually being worked through and we are moving ahead.

This afternoon (Saturday) I spent a couple of hours in the garage sorting parts, adding to the junk pile and just generally getting my head around what’s ahead. For example, I plonked the gearbox onto the cross-member with the old mounts just to see how it goes together. I also removed the thrust bearing as I am going to replace the standard carbon item with a roller bearing version. That has to be the easiest part I have ever removed, two circlips to rotate and it couldn’t wait to come off. Nice to have an easy job for a change. I also trial fitted two more gauges into the dash just for fun. They have all cleaned up okay, but the acid test will be whether they work when they are all reconnected and I have my doubts about some so am prepared to replace what doesn’t work.