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.

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.