30 Nov 19 hard jobs

There are glory jobs – like fitting the refurbished carbs – minimal effort, maximum impact, and there are hard jobs, maximum effort, minimum impact. Today was all about hard jobs. First job today was to have a tidy up in the garage – I have accumulated lots of boxes and packaging so I recycled what I could and bagged the rest for the landfill bin. I also paid a visit to Halfords to collect a Gunson Eazibleed kit. They had previously given me the wrong kit, so I sorted that out and they were okay about it. I then tackled two awkward jobs, fitting the speedo cable to the gearbox and fitting the fuel pump and its related fuel lines.

Fitting the speedo cable would have been so much easier when the gearbox was out the car. I could have done it so easily, but I wasn’t thinking far enough ahead at the time, so instead I had to crawl under the car and fit it that way. I jacked the MG up on one side to give me a bit more room, but it was fairly cramped under there and without going into all the boring detail, it was an awkward job to say the least.

Next on the list was to tackle the fuel pump. I wasn’t looking forward to this because its all a bit cramped up under the rear arch and I remember it being difficult to remove, let alone fit. Anyway, using parts from the Aeroquip kit, I fitted the pump onto its bracket and laid out the fuel line from the tank to the pump. This pipe turned out to be too long (I checked the part number twice and its correct) so in creating the bends I had to invent a horizontal loop into the void above the rear axle just to ‘lose’ some length. I also had to for bends to make it line up to the pump and to be honest, I’m not really satisfied as to how its turned out. I am going to enquire with Aeroquip to get a pipe made up to a shorter (correct) length and fit this as a replacement. Also, despite having tightened the pump bracket, it managed to wriggle free as I fitted the pipes so that fit wasn’t good either! As time was pressing on, I decided to leave the job as was. I will return to this another day with a fresh mind and figure it all out. This will include fitting the rubber pipe which connects the pump to the copper pipe running to the engine bay. So I’m not disappointed, because I moved a long way forward today with my understanding of how this part of the car is going to go together.

Following draining of the oil on a previous evening and a fight to get the old fuel filter off, I today finished topping up the engine with fresh lovely oil from Classic Oils in Bicester. While working on the car, a familiar face appeared through the winter gloom. John (of engine fitting fame) was out for a walk with his lovely wife Jackie and another couple. They stopped by for a chat and its always nice when other people show an interest in the project, although I am never sure how to answer the inevitable when will it be finished question! While in the garage I fitted the dual temp / Oil pressure gauge. Doing this made me realise that I am missing a graied hose to fit the oil pressure pipe to the engine, so I will need to order that. I am going to re0use the original gauge pipe which seems to be in fine condition. I cleaned up the fittings with a bit of fine grade sandpaper and fittted it to the back of the gauge. Finally, I took a couple of photos of the MG before I pushed it away – such a great looking car and its a pleasure to see it slowly coming together.

Final note – I bought an organiser tray from Wilkinsons for a fiver and sorted all my bolts into it – sometimes its the little things…

Better than a jiffy bag? I think so

24 Nov 19 A visit from the Master!

A good afternoon of tinkering the MG with my Dad (the Master!) Dad was a mechanic earlier in his career and although now retired, he has forgotten more about fixing cars than I will ever know. This makes time spent with Dad on the MG very valuable. Of course, it’s nice just being together for a bit of boys time, even if I have to put up with him frequently asking me why I didn’t bag and tag everything when I stripped the car. Next time, Dad, next time.

The jobs tackled today included:-

Radiator shroud fitted with lovely new shiny bolts (me). Door shuts adjusted (Dad). Old speedo cable removed (Dad and me) and the new one put in place but not connected up to the gearbox yet. A breakthrough moment here was Dad finding the bracket and bolt which holds the gear into the gearbox – what a genius.

Dad also gave me guidance on realigning the bonnet which got pulled out of alignment when fitting the gas struts. He has given me a methodology to follow so I will have a go at this one evening this week. We also worked out where the vacuum pipe for the servo goes onto the manifold which was useful.

Negative progress today in the removal of the front pulley which I cannot work out how to fit. Dad thinks it may be the wrong pulley so I will research on the internet if there are different types. As I am putting an electric fan onto the car, I don’t need the engine fan, so the assembly is not as per factory, but even considering this, the pulley doesn’t sit right . Second bit of negative progress was diagnosing that the four way brake union fitted some time ago is wrongly oriented by 45 degrees. As I’ve got it fitted, there is a pipe which fouls where the coil bracket is mounted. So I have to disconnect the pipes, carefully rebend them and connect it all up again. Better to have found this before I have filled the brake system with fluid that’s for sure.

So that was about it, a pleasant afternoon of diagnosing issues and nudging things along – thanks for your help Dad!

17 Nov 19 Two years today!

It’s two years today since I took delivery of the MGB and commenced the restoration! Its been an interesting journey…at the time I did not know how long it would take, but probably didn’t expect it to take this long. However, as I look at the car today, I can see my way through to the finish line, not that I think these projects are ever really finished…

I have learned a lot and spent a lot! I have enjoyed the help of lots of friends and I have had great service from lots of suppliers.

Enough celebrating, I still have lots to do. As a treat today, I did what I thought would be a nice easy ‘glory’ job – fitting the exhaust manifold, inlet manifold and carburettors. In the event it turned out to be a knuckle-scraping pain in the ass because of the unique way the MG is designed. The heat shield, which the carbs are mounted to is dual function – first to shield the carbs from heat, secondly to cut and scrape the hands of innocent mechanics with its sharp edges. ‘Wear gloves’ I hear you say, but unfortunately its all a bit intricate so gloves dont really work. Anyway, got it all done and doesn’t it look great!

16 Nov 19 A bleeding success

I’ll get straight to the point. The clutch is proven to work! A friend from Church, Andrew, came over to bleed the clutch. Andrew is an experienced mechanic, but the MG threw up a few challenges! First of all, a problem with Halfords pre-order. I wont go into details, but basically I ended up with a very basic bleeding kit. Secondly, the master cylinder cap was cracked weirdly (its new). Fortunately I have a spare master cylinder from an earlier ordering mistake so I swapped that one on. Thirdly, I had read what turned out to be a crackpot bleeding method an MG forum involving cable ties which didn’t work. Overcoming these challenges, Andrew led the way in bleeding the brakes the old fashioned way. I sat in the car, operating the clutch while Andrew lay underneath the car operating the bleed screw. The method was, put light pressure on the clutch, release the bleed screw, clutch pedal to the floor, tighten the bleed screw, clutch back up the the tops of it’s travel. This method worked, we topped up the fluid in the master-cylinder and before long we had a nice firm pedal. We tested the clutch by putting the car in gear, which (just about) held it on the drive, then disengage the clutch (i.e. press the clutch down) and observed the car racing off down the driveway. Success – thanks Andrew. It was good to have enrolled another person onto the team and Andrew offered to help with other jobs.

Andrew enjoying a cup of tea after sorting the clutch

Before Andrew arrived, I had time to do a few other jobs. The first was to finish off fitting the nearside lock which I had partly fitted last week. As I got to the end of the thread, the nut was failing to make much purchase and I have concluded that the thread must be compromised. The locks are not expensive to buy – there are enhanced versions which have improved security, so I will purchase some. Seems silly to skimp on security. I was able to examine the chip in the paint which is not as bad as I had thought. I will do a repair on this soon to avoid any rust as I have some left over paint and it only needs a dab.

A job which is critical to the dash going is fitting of the wiper system. I got the parts out today to inspect. The wiper motor was fine, and I managed to fit this – awkward, but do-able, but the wiper mounts were truly knackered. Unfortunately, the threads (it was a day for awkward threads) were worn, and even with copper grease, the nuts would not do up nicely. Unfortunately this means buying new parts, but maybe it was asking too much for 40 year old wipers to be re-usuable.

Here is the wiper motor installed. The electrical connection on the new loom literally presented itself, asking to be plugged in so that was easy enough!

Earlier in the morning, I had finished fitting all the bolts to the engine mounts, something I hadn’t done since we installed the engine a couple of weeks ago. This was easy enough to begin with, however, there was one nut which had to go on the n/s and the bolt was up tight to the engine, preventing me from getting the nut on. Baffled at to how this could be the case, I then hit on the idea of gently jacking the engine on this side (with the nuts on the other side loosened). This created just enough room, and I popped the nut on. The nuts are all new as I bought a set of imperial nuts and bolts from MGB Hive to improve aesthetics over old nuts and bolts. This is called ‘showroom appeal!’.

This shows the nut when I had managed to get it started by jacking the engine

Another job critical to fitting the dash is fitting the heater ducts and controls. I inspected all the parts today and unfortunately identified that one of them had a broken end (see picture below) so I will need to buy new. As per the wipers, I need to get on with purchasing this so I can proceed with the build sequence.

The broken end of the heater control – Darn!

Final point for today’s blog is to report arrival of the dual gauge (Oil and Temp) which I had ordered from a company which produced instruments. Rapid turnaround and I now have the gauge and capilliary tube to be inserted into the head. The tube can look a bit randomly placed under the bonnet, however I have seen it coiled into a spring-like shape which looks quite neat, so maybe I will do this. Here is a photo of it straight out the box.

Lovely shiny new dual gauge

10 Nov 19 Pumped up

A sunny November day was too good to waste, so after returning from Church I rolled the MG out for some more work. Pushing the MG out has got heavier since the engine went in so I enrolled Helen to help. Later I checked the tyres pressures and finding them at 10psi, I did the sensible thing and pumped them all up. The car rolled easier after that!

I found the missing gearlever retainer ring and bolts (they were in a marked envelope!) and fitted them, using a dab of copper grease. The gearbox has a really nice action and I can’t wait for the day when I am changing gears for real. I then jacked up the car and connected the prop shaft to the back of the gearbox. This was a fiddly, but not difficult job which just needed a bit of persistence. After doing up two of the bolts, I needed to rotate the prop shaft, so I enlisted Helen’s support once again, getting her to hold one rear wheel still, while I rotated the other one, watching to see the shaft go through a half rotation. The other nuts went on easily enough if you ignore the rain of debris, dropped nuts and generally cramped position I had to lie in. That was all I managed to do although I did sort a few more parts into order and I took a good look at the wiper mechanism and (famous last words) its looks relatively simple to fit. I will probably have to replace the mountings as the chrome is pitted. These units require access under the dash to install so something to sort now, not later. More shopping on line needed.

9 Nov 19 Stormy weather

Another rainy Saturday? …it must be November. Before the rain became truly relentless I managed to do a couple of jobs on the MG. Today was an inventory day, something I have made up to describe when you spend time going through the boxes of parts trying to figure out an order to everything. Today, I decided to put all parts which are surplus into a single box. Surplus means that I have bought a new replacement, so hence don’t need them anymore. Parts that are decent, I’ll flog at an autojumble one day, parts that were u/s I threw into my garage bin. No point keeping them. While going through the boxes, I found a couple of items that could just be fitted right now, meaning that I wouldn’t have to store them any longer. It also gave me a view as to whether they were actually any good or not. This included the following:-

  1. Gearlever and original gearknob: This highlighted that I did not have the gearlever retaining ring readily to hand. Quick search on the internet suggests these are no longer available, so I will look out for the original one buried in a box somewhere
  2. Door locks: The door locks are in okay condition, however the second one I fitted didn’t want to go through the aperature in the door and when I tapped it, I chipped the paint. Darn! I wasn’t really able to see whether it was a bad chip as this was the last thing I fitted before rain stopped play. Hey ho, this was bound to happen at some point. The thread on this lock needs tightening, but as mentioned the rain was getting heavy so I abandoned this job. The thread is really long and the space in the door is tight. All I can weild is a large 1″ spanner to do the nut up, so that will take ages. Something of a penance for my earlier impetiousness. The lock action isn’t right yet and will need some fettling.
  3. Door Handles: These fitted nicely, but has highlighted that I really need to replace them as the chrome is pitted. What a shame, it would be nice to keep the originals. Still, they can stay on for the time being.
  4. Door Pulls: Have I gone mad? Door pulls on before the door cards or even windows are fitted. Maybe not so crazy, because in fitting them (trial fit really), I discovered that one of the fixings on the n/s was missing. There is a threaded clip that was missing on the door. It would have been annoying to disover this problem having put the doors cards on, so glad I found it. I will need to think of how to rig up something here probably involving giant washers.
  5. Rear view mirror: Again, have I gone mad. Well it was sat in a box so I thought I would fit just to see how it goes on and this confirmed that really it needs replacing. The mirror backing has come away so the edges are all ragged. S
  6. Thermostat and housing: A long time ago I had bought a new thermostat and housing, but couldn’t fit it because the old temperature sensor probe was stuck in the head. As I removed this earlier in the week with some freezer spray and some light prying*, these parts could now go on and the old ones get tossed in the surplus bin

Today’s jobs generated a list of required parts. There is an Autojumble coming up in Malvern so I may take a trip out there to buy the parts.

Not really a memorable day on the MG, but forward progress was made and to get anything out of today is somewhat of a bonus given the weather. I am waiting for better weather to do the jobs that are critical to getting the car moving under own steam, something I couldn’t really contemplate today.

* The temperature sensor, which fits on the end of a capillary tube, has been one of the most troublesome components to date. I tried undoing it when I first stripped the car down and have been trying ever since. I’ve tried special gripping sockets, heat from a blowtorch, crowbar, loads of WD40 and all sorts all to no avail. It took my mate Mark to remove the nut (which should have taken the sensor with it) and he usually works on industrial mechanical plant! As I am now in the rebuild, this could have become an issue requiring the head to be removed and machined. Fortunately, a friend from Church suggested the freeze spray and this was to prove the decisive factor in me finally releasing the little blighter. In the end, once it had budged, it just pulled out, the corrosive bond having been broken. Phew! …and a sense of achievement.

2 Nov 19 Sitting it out

A gloomy Saturday in SW England, rain is lashing down and England just lost the Rugby World Cup to South Africa. But there are reasons to be cheerful!

This week I collected the refurbished seats and new carpets from Mirror Trim near Bedford and they look great.

I’m really pleased with how the seats have turned out, they look absolutely fantastic and along with the new carpets, the interior should look really smart. For now, the carpet box is standing upright in the study and the seats are in Lou’s bedroom (sorry Lou…).

Second reason to be cheerful was the successful fitting of the slave cylinder to the side of the gearbox earlier today. With the weather outside miserable, I worked on the car in the garage and it was surprising okay. Not needing access down the side of the car, I just jacked up the front, propped it on axle stands and wriggled underneath from the front. With more space in the garage since I fitted the engine and handed back the crane, this was much more feasible. The slave cylinder and the fittings all went together easily enough. There wasnt much room to swing spanners, but on the whole I was happy with the job. While under the car, I took a moment to improve the routing of the o/s brakepipe and was happier with it as a result.

So the next job will be to charge the clutch hydraulics with fluid, bleed the system and then test the clutch is functioning correctly, before adding any engine ancilliaries and connecting up the exhaust and so on. This is following the advice of Papa Trigg who knows about these things. I have a friend at Church with a bleed kit who has offered to help with bleeding the system, so his availability will drive this next task.

Happy Saturday everyone – God Bless.

MG looking snug in the garage

28 Oct 19 Windscreen and headlights

Andy from Wiltshire Windscreens came over to fit the Windscreen following some issues over the last fortnight around the weather and a rubber seal from a supplier which did not fit. This time however, the weather was good and all the kit fitted (with a bit of grunting, and a minor modification) and the windscreen is now in and looking fantastic. I have to hand it to Andy, he did a fine job, was great company and charged a very reasonable fee.

Paul had also come up to help me for the day. I wanted him to look at the o/s headlamp since I could not fit the bevel and it was causing me annoyance. We played around with the other unit (the one not fitted) and sort of worked out how it went on. We concluded that the unit was too tight to the seal to allow the bevel to hook up to the securing lip, so reluctantly removed it for a refit. I had used very short bolts because I didnt want the bolts protruding into the wheel arch, but on relfection I had gone too short and now the assembly didn’t work. While inspecting the lamps, Paul was recalling his days working on his Triumph 2500 that he had in his youth. Helpfully, he could still remember how the lamps went together and he did a good job dismantling and cleaning the unit which then looked much more presentable. After a quick visit to Halfords to buy some bolts, we assembled the lamp units in situ and to my delight, the bevels fitted. We weren’t completely sure that the lamps are as securely fitted as they need to be, but this was a step forward and like a lot of things on the car, once something is on, it can be endlessly fettled, and probably will be.

Next job was to refit the grille which had to be removed to maximise the reach of the crane for the engine install. Refitting the grille was relatively easy, although its a tight fit and it was better to do this now, than leave it in the kitchen to annoy Helen.

On a roll from our success, I asked Paul to work with me on sorting the bonnet release which wasn’t operating. I wasn’t happy with the cable routing, so we altered it by hanging a clip off the last wing bolt which held the cable more securely. Having Paul’s input, as well as extra pair of hands to hold the cable while I tightened the securing nut was invaluable and on testing, the bonnet release worked as it should.

So a really successful day and some more milestones achieved. To quote the Beatles, I get by with a little help from my friends.

27 Oct 19 Engine installation

A big milestone achieved today with the engine and gearbox installed. It was just getting dark as we finished, and we didn’t manage to properly fit the geatbox mountings (a well known MGB challenge), but as my friend noted ‘It looks in’.

This is how it unfolded. The original plan was to install the engine yesterday, but unfortunately in this part of the UK we had a severe rain storm and it just wasnt feasible. Moving the job to today, meant I lost one of my two helpers, who had a work commitment up North. So it was just me and a friend from Church, John, who knows a thing or two about mechanics and is a practical and clever guy who I was confident would get the job done. Question was, would I be enough of an assistant?

First job was to see how to sling the engine. John got on with this while I torqued up the gearbox bolts. We then lifted the engine just to see how it would hang.

Having got the engine rigged up to the crane we had to rotate the engine and car through 180 degrees. The engine crane takes some manouvering. We used spare wooden floor boards as runways for the castors to make it as easy as possible, but even this was tricky, with having to move them around and the crane occasionally falling off the runway. To turn the MG, we had to push it up the drive and onto the road to do a three point turn. An old gentleman was walking his dog and looked curiously at us. He asked ‘What’s wrong with it?’. John replied ‘It hasnt got an engine’. He seemed satisfied with the answer and continued on his slow walk up the road.

As further preparation I jacked up the rear of the car and removed the grille to give us some more room to get the crane as close as possible for maximum reach. We also laid throws around the engine bay and wrapped the gearbox with a sheet and a feed bag as protection against any accidental knocks.

Received wisdom recommends jacking up the rear to help the angles

So having done all the preparation, it was time to see if we could do the job.

Here John articulates our well planned operation ‘lets give it a go!’

First attempt at lifting the engine ended in failure. We found that with a single sling we weren’t able to tilt the engine enough by force alone to get anywhere close to the angle we needed to fit into the car. So we rigged up the balance bar which I had been loaned by Corsham Tyre Services. The balance bar has two lifting points connected by a threaded bar which allows you to tilt the load. Cool piece of kit which as it turned out was critical to the job getting done.

With the whole unit tilted, we were on our way

Our next set of challenges were around maximising the reach of the crane which was at its absolute limit. We had to release the bonnet struts and lash the bonnet up as high as it would go (see picture above). With the crane at maximum reach, at maximum tilt and very close to the bonnet, it looked as if we would be short of where we would need to be. However, with a bit of shoving and pushing, some very careful manipulation of the crane height and angles, and some light prying, we got the engine close enough to the mounting brackets to get a bolt on each side. Seems easy when I write it now, but it was fairly stressful as the space is really quite tight, especially with the starter motor on, not one of my best ideas. So we had the engine in place, and our focus now turned to the gearbox and the dreaded cross-member.

The cross-member is an awkward piece of design by MG which is well-known for being very difficult to fit. And so it turned out to be. We managed to get one gearbox mounting fitted, but the other side refused to play ball despite our best efforts. Regretfully, we had to bolt up the cross-member with only one mounting properly installed because we were losing the light at this point. A sensible decision, as there was quite a lot of kit to put away, and although it was disappointing to be beaten, we at least had got the main job done and left things in a safe state for future completion.

So thanks John for leading the job today – in the evening, I was invited over to his place, where John’s wife had cooked a delicious spag bol (my wife Helen was away on a school trip to China).

Secondly, thanks to Corsham Tyre Services for lending the lifting kit without which we really would have struggled.

Thirdly, thanks to Austin for his generous loan of the engine crane.

7 Oct 19 Rear screen installation

I arranged for Andy from Wiltshire Windscreens to come over to install the rear screen of the MG. I was working from home, but managed to keep an eye on progress between Skype calls. Andy battled with a slightly too long rubber seal, glass that wasn’t quite the right shape and trims that were recalcetrant. However, he had a cunning collection of tools and slippery products to work the screen in. I was pleased with how the job turned out and Andy is booked in for the following Monday to fit the Windscreen.

29 Sep 19 Not entirely successful

I wasn’t counting on doing any work to the MG today, but finding myself with an hour free towards the end of the day I rolled it out and thought I would install the reversing lights. This should be a simple job, but turned out to be annoyingly difficult and ultimately resulting in a ‘fail’. I had bought shiny new reversing units from Moss recently as the old ones were yellow and cracked with age. I had previously trial fitted one of the old ones just to see how easily it went together.

This old reversing unit just wouldn’t look right on the fresh MGB

I started with removing the old unit, and thinking I would need to remove the bulb for later use, eased a screwdriver against the bulb holder (yes I know, a screwdriver…) and it promptly exploded on my hand. Hey, ho, its just a bulb, I can get another. Moving to the new unit, I removed the lens only to discover that it comes fitted with a bulb already. I shrugged to myself and started lining up the new unit to fit on the o/s. It attaches by two little bolts which go through the lens and body and into a captive thread. After a couple of attempts, I realised that neither bolt was biting on the thread, so I applied a bit more pressure, to squash the gasket that I thought might be pushing it back. Still no biting. Around this time I noticed red marks appearing on the bodywork and on the tools and of course, I had cut myself on the glass and was bleeding. Quick visit to the first aid cupboard for a plaster. I had another couple of goes at getting the bolt into the captive thread and concluding that it wasnt going to work, decided to drill the threads out and just rely on the bolts to hold it in place (I know, I know). This was the usual messy affair with the drill bit variously seizing in the hole and just generally being a rough and ready approach to solving a problem. Utimately I achieved installing the first reversing light on the o/s but not a very satisfactory process. Managed to fit the connector from the loom so in theory good to go.

The troublesome o/s reversing light – should have been so easy

Moving to the other side, the same problems encountered. This time I decided to think about the problem first. Didn’t the bolts on the new units look a little bigger than the bolts on the original unit? Hang on a minute. So I tried threading the old bolts onto the old unit and hey presto!, they fitted easily. Grrrr. So obvious when you look. I gave the bolts a final tweak and the new plastic lens cracked. At this point I decided to pack it in for the day.

From here you can’t see the cracked lens
– a Concours Judge would see it!

15 Sep 19 Goodwood Revival

A grand day at the Goodwood Revival. Having dropped our youngest daughter at University on the Satursday, I headed to my friend Paul’s house in the Suzuki Cappuccino in readiness for race day at Goodwood. Paul was the previous keeper of the Suzuki so it was a bit of a Pilgrimage really.

The Cappuccino at its old home

An early start saw us get into the Goodwood circuit for around 8:30. The journey was the usual Goodwood delight with lots of interesting vehicles on the surrounding roads. A friendly honk to a pair of MG convertibles was rewarded with enthusiastic waves.

Here’s Paul and I in our Goodwood gear enjoying the view at Madgewick corner

I can’t really do the event justice with the photo’s below, but I did snap a few beauties in the paddock as the day drew to a close. They are all priceless in their own way, and its fantastic to see them in their element being raced in the glorious Goodwood setting.

A special event for this year was a feature race for pre-war Bentleys. The sight as thirty or so of these beasts came down the hill towards our Grandstand at Lavant Corner was unforgetable, as well as a bit slow, hilariously.

So a stunning day all round. As the sun set in the sky, I removed the roof from the Cappuccino, and Paul and I headed back to his house, arriving to freshly cooked Pizzas prepared by Claire, his dear wife. Replacing the roof, I headed off for a brisk cross-country dash to get home at around 11:15pm. A good day.