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.

17 Feb 19 Sunday : Taking it easy

Treated myself to some easy time in the garage today. I had a grub through a few boxes and made a pile of parts which are not going back on – water pump, distributor, oil cooler and hoses. I haven’t decided whether to hoard these in the long term or just toss them. I think once I have rebuilt the MG I will cart them off to the recycling centre. It helped to thin out the piles a bit. I also sorted a few of the boxes a bit better – all the heater components in one place, that sort of thing because it didn’t all come off at the same time. I can then concentrate on one system at a time when I rebuild, that’s the idea.

I did take a couple of steps forward though. I trial fitted the starter motor which goes back in place very easily and I fitted the new water pump in its place, together with its new gasket. I realised in doing this, that I needed to get the pulley off the old water pump (I presume it comes off). The pulley appeared to be held in place with four bolts, which I did manage to get off, but they were extremely tight. As it was a 7/8 fitting, I was using my mini-socket set, which is great but it doesn’t get much leverage. I did manage to get them all off without rounding them off or snapping them, so maybe I am learning something here. However, this effort was not rewarded with the pulley separating from the water pump, so I will need to investigate further or consider buying new.

Attempting to remove the pulley from the old water pump
The new water pump in position
The Starter motor bolted back onto the engine

I also trial fitted the rev counter, speedometer and choke knob to the dashboard just for fun. First I dug out the dashboard cowl (a plastic item on this MGB) which needed a good clean and then treatment with an Autoglym trim product which feeds the plastic and makes it all black and shiny. I fixed the cowl back in place with the original screws which I HAD CAREFULLY stored when I removed it. It amused me that the cowl had been such a pig to remove when I had done this in the summer with the dash in place, so needing me to feed my hands through behind the dash. What a muppet I was attempting that, anyway, lesson learned and that all part of the fun. The grazes to the back of my hands have healed up anyway so no harm done!

Trial fitting the gauges

So that’s it, barely an hour’s work in total, but it was nice to just take my time and the rebuild is all about putting back new, or at least cleaned up stuff, rather than the strip down which was about penetrating years of grime. Working for the rest of the week, so no progress on the MG although I’ve got some researching to do and purchases to ensure the paintshop can continue to progress.

15 Feb 19 Challenges at the paint shop

I popped over to Gavin’s paintshop to deliver the front grille which he wanted so he could do a trial fit. Things are never simple, I found the grille brackets but as I had needed to cut bolts off, they weren’t in good shape so I had to order them new, along with door rubbers (I was going to buy new anyway) and the little rubber pads which go on top of the wings to support the bonnet. All these parts are needed so that the guys can check for panel fit before they commit to paint. I ordered the parts from a supplier new to me, who seemed okay, but they were unwilling to deliver straight to the paintshop (unlike Moss), so I will have to make another delivery drop next week. Nuisance.

Anyway, that was just the start of the worries since Gavin wanted to discuss a few challenges he was facing with the MG at the moment. Lets break them down into topics:

  1. Valance fit
  2. Passenger door fit
  3. Rear lamp fit

Valance – I had ordered a fibreglass ‘Sebring style’ valance from Moss and this has proven to be a difficult fit. See the pictures below which show that when offered up to the MG its short on one side by about 1 inch.

Close up of the valance

I agreed to ring Moss and to give them their due they have offered to refund the part (subject to Management confirmation) on return. This however has left me in a dilemma – do I buy another Sebring style valance from another Supplier (they are available)? Do I buy the posh product from Frontline which you would hope would fit, or do we modify the Moss one to fit? On the FB group there was a suggestion that you can chop it in half, make each end fit, and then fill any gap with fibreglass. Or do I even just put the bumpers on with a standard valance? (but I did always want the bumperless look…)

Passenger Door Fit. Now that the doors and wings have been on and off, Gavin was finding that the passenger door gaps were tight even with everything at maximum adjustment. On measuring the gap between the A and B post he found there was a 5mm difference from n/s to the o/s. After some speculation about BL build quality (but surely they were right from the factory), we guessed that perhaps the body wasn’t perfectly straight when the new floors were welded in prior to my ownership. Anyway, Gavin is going to try to work with what he has got and make it as good as possible.

Rear Lamp Fit. This is an annoying one. The back of the rear wing curves nicely around the rear lamp on the MGB. Its a nice detail on what is a elegant car. Unfortunately, on my MGB, there is a lip on the o/s and the lamp is flush on the n/s. Another poor repair. I’ve agreed with Gavin that it needs to be right and the rectification isn’t too difficult, just some cutting folding and re-welding.

The value of trial fitting – the lip around the rear light shouldn’t be there and wouldn’t have been known without checks

So this is not as straightforward as I thought, but then who ever said a car restoration was easy. I think the end result from Reef Paintshop is going to be superb, so a great basis for the remainder of the build.

10 Feb 19 Shopping time!

I sometimes wish I was one of those people who could document everything meticulously. You know the type – everything filed away, tasks scheduled, expenses catalogued and all that. Well I’m not that person, so I’m just going to roughly list what I bought at the fine MG & Triumph Spares Day at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry. I bought the following:-

  1. Radiator and hoses
  2. Water pump
  3. Clutch Master Cylinder
  4. Electronic ignition, spark plugs, HT leads & Coil
  5. Oil Cooler and hoses
  6. Heater Control Knobs
  7. Heater clips
  8. Pair of Door Cards in Autumn leaf (second hand)
  9. Gearbox switches
  10. A bag of high tensile bolts
  11. A magnetic tray

I also put a deposit down on a pair of leather seats and a set of carpets in Autumn Leaf. I was a little bit organised in that I had a list but I was basically just doing a couple of laps of the stands and then buying what looked like good deals.

My partner in crime for the day was my old mate Phil who has a useful amount of knowledge of MGs accrued through owning three MGBs and a bunch of interesting classics. We’ve known each other since we were about five, so a little while and its always great to catch up, and very reassuring as I gulped about some of the larger purchases.

My take home message from the show was that its worth shopping around as the prices for parts varies quite a bit and although you have to be careful to check the quality of what you are buying, there are savings to be made.

9 Feb 19 Small steps towards the rebuild

While the MG is away being resprayed, I am preparing what I can ready for re-installation. For example, the exhaust manifold was sand-blasted so needed painting, so I got some shiny silver VHT (Very High Temperature) Paint and gave it a blast over. Its rated to over 800 degrees so should be okay on the exhaust. It will look great in the engine bay!

The manifold didn’t look like this when I first got the car!

Rummaging through the boxes of parts I came across the chrome strip that goes across the fascia, so I cleaned it up and refitted it, along with the lock which I found in another box. Pleased with how this looks and I will be gradually adding other bits to the dash over the coming weeks. While I was sorting through the parts, I also dug out the face-level vents which were quite dirty, so I washed them up and put them on the kitchen drainer. Later Helen enquired as to why there were car parts in the kitchen leaving grubby marks on the drainer and pointing out to me that we had a sink in the utility room for such purposes. Point taken.

The glove box looks great with its chrome strip back

Final bit of progress today was a thorough clean up of the starter motor. I applied a de-greaser and then rubbed off the grime with cloths and a bit of poking with a blunt screwdriver. I then attempted to fit it back on the engine, but unfortunately I couldn’t locate the correct bolts. I did find some likely looking bolts which were very rusty, so maybe it would be best to buy new in this case.

The cleaned up starter motor, ready to refit

So some small steps today, but it all represents forward progress. I heard from Gavin at Reef that they hadn’t made much progress this week due to other work, but I’m not bothered as I’ve got plenty to be getting on with and with the Cappuccino back outside under its cover, I have the whole garage in which to work. Tomorrow I am going to the MG and Triumph Spares day with a long list of things to look out for (if not actually buy), so I am looking forward to a fun day, and Phil is coming too.

3 Feb 19 Pedalling

Having resprayed the master cylinder assembly recently, I decided today to reinstall the pedals. This was fairly simple after I had worked out what went where. Fitting the return springs was a bit of a faff but once I had fitted one, the other was a bit easier.

Also gathered all the air filter bits into one place and loosely fitted them together so that I am not hunting around for missing bits when I put them back on. The factory air filters are restrictive, but they have character, so I am going to keep them, at least in the short term.

I am thinking about how to build the engine back up and working out what I need to have ready. Carburettor and exhaust gaskets are on my shopping list as essential as is painting the newly blasted exhaust manifold which needs high temperature paint.

I am off to the MG and Triumph Spares day next weekend, so will be purchasing essentials and meeting suppliers – should be fun.

2 Feb 19 Mind the (panel) gap

MG in the paint shop

A trip over to Reef Paintshop this morning to give Gavin the boot and bonnet catches he had requested, and a chance to review progress. My main observation was that there was a lot of work going on to prepare the car. As much as the engine bay and interior are basically finished, the panels were marked up with the many minor imperfections which Gavin is going to rectify. He has filled the bonnet which was looking really smooth and is working systematically around the shell.

Inspecting Gavin’s work [Photo Credit Helen Trigg]

Gavin pointed out the first significant hurdle he has identified which is the panel gap on the o/s wing. The pictures below show the difference in gaps on either side.

Good panel gap
Bad panel gap

There are a number of ways of tackling this, but only one proper way which is to unpick the panel and re-fix it to the correct alignment, which is going to cost a couple of day’s labour. Other rectification would be a bodge and leaving it as is is going to spoil the job, so we decided to have it done properly. Fortunately Helen was with me, so not only was she able to see the car, but also to join the discussion on the repair and see the problem for herself.

Helen looks typically enthralled

On a positive note, Gavin explained that he has a supplier who can refinish bare metal for around £40 per bucket. This is for items such as the door catches and other sundry non-chrome items that could do with a freshen up. This seems too good an opportunity not to take up and is an economical way of getting these visible items into a presentable condition. I’ll be routing through my box of carts for suitable material.

I collected the air filter housings while at Reef, which Gavin had kindly resprayed for me as a little extra. They look great and will join the other parts he has refinished which will go towards an excellent under-bonnet look.

Black and shiny air filter housings
The Kennet & Avon Canal, iced over [Photo Credit Helen Trigg]

As an aside, over the last couple of days, Southern England has been hit with snow fall and on the drive over to Reef, we took the opportunity to stop by the canal and take some pictures.

25 Jan 19 First paint!

The main shell in the paint shop

First image today of the main shell with paint. The outside is still finished in epoxy primer, whereas the inside has received its coat of Glacier White and looks great.

Gavin messaged me earlier requesting that I drop over the following parts for trial fitting – head lights, tail lights and chrome strips. I found the lights easily enough, but I had dumped the chrome strips during the strip down. A quick call to Moss sorted that out and I had the parts delivered by mid afternoon. He also highlighted an issue with the valance as he wasn’t sure how it was supposed to fit. I researched fitting of it on the internet and sent him some notes to clarify that I want a bolted on look, not all smoothed over as I think this looks more authentic to the original 1967 Sebring MGB-GT (see photo below).

The original 1967 Sebring MGB-GTs, the inspiration for my build

My GT is not going to look quite like this, especially as being on standard springs, it will sit higher, but the photo indicates how good they look without bumpers.

21 Jan 19 Rebuild commences

So a grand name for a blog of little practical significance, but bear with me. Today I collected some loose parts of the MG from Gavin of Reef Paintshop. This includes newly finished dash, radiator shroud, heater box and master cylinder cover. Significantly, I had removed the glove-box lid for it to be refinished and hence when at lunchtime, I re-fixed the lid to the dashboard, then, tah dah! the rebuild has commenced, albeit in a somewhat minor way.

As to progress of the respray, the blasting has revealed a couple of areas needing some attention, previously unknown. The n/s rear window surround has a small area of perforation where is has rusted out, probably due to it being a water trap. To do a full metal repair here would involve substantial work, so I have agreed for it to be cleaned up, glass-fibred and then filled smooth. Another area by the o/s door shut has some perforation so Gavin proposes plug welding this as the perforations are small. Of more significance is the front wing headlight mountings. These were scabby before and after blasting look worse. Gavin asked me to research what panels are available and I quickly identified that Moss do these as a replacement part, so have ordered two to go to his shop tomorrow. Other than that, there are no surprises and after he has completed a BMW M3 that was in the shop, he will be cracking on with the MG. All work to date is of a great quality and I am happy with how it is progressing.

The MG under dust covers at Reef Paint Shop

20 Jan 19 Perseverance

Ah, the sweet satisfaction that comes from solving a problem. This afternoon I turned to the engine block to continue the tidying up I have been doing, mainly consisting of wire-brushing and spraying with black engine paint. Having today completed spraying all surfaces and therefore beginning to concentrate on the details I focused on the distributor which has to date steadfastly refused all attempts at removal. I consulted the manual, which suggested you ‘simply remove’ and poked around it with a torch looking for some fixing or other that remained in place. Having found no clues there, I decided on some gentle shock therapy, so I used the wooden handle end of one hammer and some gentle blows with another hammer to knock it first anticlockwise, then clockwise, trying to get some movement out of it. After a half rotation each way, the distributor was certainly beginning to free up. With a gentle pull, it came smoothly free of the engine block at last.

The engine is beginning to look a bit neater

My intention is to replace the distributor with an Electronic Ignition system, so it needed to be removed. Some such systems re-use the original body of the distributor so I will strip it down on the bench and figure out which bits to retain and so on.

While in the garage I put some more paint on the master cylinder housing and on the other end of the brake and clutch pedals. These are now hanging up to dry in the garage.

14 Jan 19 At the paint shop

First photo of the blasted shell courtesy of Gavin

So the MG is in the paint shop and its good to see the green has finally gone. The components below have also been blasted and are ready for a coat of shiny black paint.

Blasted components ready for paint

The gearbox and manifold have also been blasted and are ready for collection so I’ll pop over soon to pick these up. I have to buy a new clutch and then I can mate the gearbox and engine together again and start to build up the engine with its components.

The gearbox looks a lot different with all the muck removed!

13 Jan 19 Rebuild preparation

There’s plenty to be getting on with while the MG is being resprayed. This afternoon I turned the engine around and de-greased the dirty side. As a reminder I had previously painted one side of the engine and as the results of this are okay, I decided to prepare to paint the other side. I am using a cycling de-greaser, sprayed water and a brush to remove the muck. I used plenty of water and could see the muck coming off the engine onto the garage floor. That face of the engine now needs to dry thoroughly allowing me to give it a dusting of black engine paint (I am using motorcycle engine paint).

While in the garage I pulled out some components which will need a bit of love before they are refitted. First out of the box were the clutch and brake pedal. Interestingly, one of these (I am not sure which is which at this stage) had a seized bearing, which cannot have made for a particularly smooth pedal action, probably the clutch since that is the one that had failed. Anyway I used a chisel and hammer to gently coax it out and then rubbed it down with sand paper so I would fit back in and turn nicely. I was pleased to spot this as it was an easy job today, which might have been a pain if found after I had fitted all the pedals back in place. I gave the pedals a rub with some sandpaper and a dusting of primer, then engine paint. I am not fussy about the finish on these sorts of components, just aiming to freshen them up a bit before they are refitted.

I did a similar job with the bracket which houses the brake and clutch master cylinders, removing both cylinders, rubbing down he bracket and giving it a coat of paint.

The painted bracket resting on the spare wheel

Finally, an update on the respray. The MG has been blasted and transported to Reef Paint Shop. Roger (the blaster) text me to say it had all gone okay, no hiccups or nasty surprises. So now its over to Gavin for him to work his magic.