8 Sep 19 Busy day

Cup of coffee and 1/2″ spanner, what else do you need?

Haven’t slept well for a couple of nights. My eldest is job-hunting in London after graduating this summer, and my youngest is off to University next week. At work, I’ve got some challenges and alongside that, we’ve been thinking about whether to move house. Meanwhile, I wasn’t progressing the MG. Hence, busy mind, and disturbed sleep. A day in the garage / on the drive was what I needed and that’s what I did. Awake early, I had the MG pushed out onto the driveway by 7:30am. A busy day followed in which I did the following:-

  1. Painted the gearbox cross-member – this is an overdue job needed before I put the engine and gearbox back in. I sprayed it with crackle finish because I thought it would be durable and because the can was within reach! Hung to dry on the washing line with the other washing.
  2. Fitted the fuel tank incuding the sender unit. This was a bit awkward, doing it on my own, so I used a box and the jack to help me hold it up to the bolts. I cleaned the filler neck and it looked quite presentable afterwards
  3. Fitted the gearbox to the engine. Again, a bit awkward on your own, but I propped the engine on some magazines and used the jack and a bit of man-handling to mate the gearbox. It was a bit fiddly, but overall not too difficult. Bolts need checking and torquing up before installing back in the car
  4. Installed the rear hatch gas struts – this involved me drilling into my freshly painted car for the first time. Helen helped me to measure where to drill the holes. The drilling and fit went okay, although I did have the hatch ball joints on the wrong way around first time and we nearly had a disaster, but I managed to recover it without any damage. The hatch doesn’t sit right when closed now, but I am not going to make any changes until the glass is installed. At the moment it doesn’t have the correct load on it, so worth waiting and then doing it once properly.
  5. Fitted the bonnet pull – not working yet as it needs some adjustment, but its in – needs tightening I think
  6. Replaced the accelerator cable – Can only fit one end as I am missing the engine at present. One less thing to do and all part of having a smart engine bay
  7. Took the rear lights off and installed the foam seal which I had forgotten about, but found in a box this morning. Helen helped with this as she was bringing me out a cup of coffee, so got roped into the job.
  8. Began fitting the rear wiring loom – first electricals on the rebuild. Thought I would start with something simple and so it was – relatively. I have the old loom, which is labelled, so used that to guide me. I actually connected up the new loom to the rear lights – we are making progress!
  9. Fitted the near side indicator unit. Just wanted to see how it will fit – the answer is, not bad, not great. There is a hole just visible unfortunately from when someone cobbledit to fit prior to my ownership. A detail to sort one day. In the meantime, one less thing to do.

This was a sociable day on the MG. People love to stop and see how it’s all progressing and they nearly always have an encouraging word. There was the usual ‘Hello’s’ from dog walkers who stream past our house on the way to the local fields. Helen and I chatted for a while to a couple who are near neighbours and the husband was admiring the MG and interested to hear about what I was doing. Nearly everyone mentions the TV show Car SOS or Mike Brewers’ Wheeler Dealers. I dont have the heart to tell them I find those shows difficult to watch because its all editted down into 30 minutes, they have a huge fully equipped workshop and the talented mechanics make it look so easy. Had a useful chat to Russell (another dog walker), who has stopped to speak before. He has restored many cars, including MGBs so is always a useful person with whom to discuss things. Today he gave me the number of a person who may be able to transport the MG for a reasonable price when I come to get the windscreen and rear screen fittted.

I’ve occasionally worried about whether when I get to finally restart the MG, I somehow forget to say, fill the gearbox with oil or some such idiosy. I spoke to my mate Rob, who races classic cars and is always taking gearboxes and so on out of his cars. He said that when he removes fluids, he puts a big sign in masking tape over the steering wheel to this effect. Hence…

What a day it will be when I remove this bit of tape…

As I worked on the car, I listened to Louis Theroux on Desert Island Disks, a bit of radio 4 and then to the Monza Grand Prix which was won by Charles LeClerc in his Ferrari. What a day for the young man and for Italy.

24 Aug 19 Sunny Saturday

It’s a sunny Saturday! After a morning stroll with Helen, I spent a useful hour on the MG fitting the copper pipe from the Clutch master cylinder. The pipe runs down from the master cylinder to a bracket on the fletch plate where it becomes braided stainless steel. All went in okay with a bit of creative beding here and there. The pipe routing needs a bit of finessing, but they are broadly in the right place. Straighforward installation, although I needed Helen to hold the pipe in place while I tightened it from the interior.

Couple of things from last week which I didn’t record. I fitted the final brake pipe to the four-way union on the inner wing. This is the pipe that comes up from under the car to the rear. It fitted alright although as mentioned earlier the routing needs a tweak and they all need fixing in place.

The four way brake junction – hopefully it wont leak brake fluid everywhere!

I also puzzled over the fuel pump – I have a new fuel piping kit and have fitted the main front to rear pipe. However, the pipe routing around the pump and the tank isn’t that clear and I haven’t got a good understanding of how it works. I am going to have to bite the bullet, fit the tank and then work it out from there.

The fuel pump which to me is baffling

I have been putting off fitting the tank as its a two-person job, but when done, this will have completed much of the mechanics at the rear, and is critical to the ‘engine in and started’ milestone. Something to prioritise.

Last week, Austin (the welder who kindly lent me the engine crane) was in touch to say that a friend of his, Adam, wanted to borrow the engine crane. No problem I thought and he duly came around and we got it out from the corner of the garage and loaded it into his car. We got talking about the MG and he admitted that he had fitted an engine and gearbox into an MGC a while ago, so I seized the opportunity and asked if he would be prepared to help me with the reinstall when he returns the crane. He was willing, although as he is getting married soon, he was being careful not to over-commit. I commented that once he wanted to pay for his wedding and honeymoon, I would happily pay him to re-fit the engine. Not convinced he is up for this, but he has to bring the crane back, so I will take my chance then to firm up arrangements.

Finally, just for fun, my neighbour, who is a bit of a joker, was clearing out his garage. ‘Here Ad’, he said, ‘I’ve got something for you’ and hands me an oversize spanner.

‘King-Dick’ is the legend on the spanner. Thanks Graham!

16 Aug 19 Dash top

Back from very hot holiday in Crete to a rainy August day in the UK. I had intended to spend a while today on the MG, progressing a few jobs, but after an hour, the rain was cleary set in for the day, so I packed up and retreated inside (in mitigation, I only got back at 2:00am last night and with the time difference, our bodies really thought it was 4:00am). I did manage to get one job done today however. I had recently resprayed the demister vents which sit on the dash top, so I decided to fit them today. The vents themselves hold down the vinyl dash top, so fitting this starts the whole dash re-fitting sequence. The vents fitted back easily enough on the original (to my knowledge) vinyl and I then bolted on the crash rail, which is what MG offered as it’s interior safety feature in 1973. Compare that to contemporary cars with their air bags, air curtains and interior padding, its quite a contrast.

The resprayed vents in place on the dash-top
The crash rail in place, looks okay doesn’t it? The yellow colour is a reflection of my Hi-Viz jacket if you are wondering

27 Jul 19 Thinking ahead

A few things to report. Firstly, not much progress. I was a little distracted with preparing for and then undertaking a sponsored walk for the charity Open Doors, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide. Christians get beaten up and worse for their faith and that can’t be right. So a friend of mine, Chris and I walked 140 miles over 7 days, attracting donations of £3,600 and raising awareness of Open Doors.

Back to the MG, I had recently managed to obtain a part on the bonnet gas strut that I had mullered on installation, so that’s now working and here is a photo showing the bonnet proudly erect on its struts. All very nice, but during fitting, the hinges took a bit of stick with one gas strut agressively pushing up one side and so now the bonnet needs a press at the top edge when lowered so that is something to be sorted one day…(not a priority!)

The gas struts raise the bonnet to a much higher angle than the saggy original single strut

I didn’t have long on Saturday to work on the MG so I had to be selective about what I tackled. As usual, a quick garage tidy is always a good start and I managed to reorganise things to give a bit more room. Then I focussed on what parts I would need to have organised to tackle the engine and gearbox installation. Chief among these is the cross-member and its associated mountings. As I did not take the engine and gearbox out, this involved a bit of guess work in sorting through the bag of nuts and bolts I was given after it was taken out. It actually didn’t take too long to figure it all out, althought it is quite a complex arrangement and I think will be very fiddly to install. See photo below of the mocked up cross-member. Its still in primer as I haven’t finished refurbishing it yet.

The dreaded cross member – how easy will it be to fit this to the gearbox?

Latest theory from having taken some advice, it to install the gearbox first, then the engine, having trial mated them together first. This is because the combined unit is very long and its challenging to get all the angles to work to fit it in. So I am now focussed on getting this installation done (with a little help from my friends of course) as soon as I can. This won’t be that soon as my 25th Wedding Anniversary is coming up and a holiday to Crete, but after that I am going to focus on this and push on with the job. Wish me well, this next bit could be a challenge!

25 Jun 19 Carbs are good

Received notification from Coln Engineering in Gloucester that they have finished the refurbishment of the carburetters. The price has gone up slightly because the throttle spindles were knackered and they had to replace some missing linkage parts. So overall I think a good choice to get them done, as they should now see out the life of the car without further work. The carbs will be shipped over the next couple of days, checked in by the Goods Inwards Department (me), stacked in the parts bins by the Warehouse Supervisor (me) and their fitment scheduled by the Chief Planner (me). The Chief Planner (me) needs to have words with the Chief Mechanic (also me) about progress on the MG which has slipped recently due to ‘prior engagements’, including a planned 140 mile walk for the charity Open Doors in July. I am assured that the Chief Mechanic will focus on the backlog of jobs on the MG once he has completed his walk, had his 25th Wedding Anniversary Party in August and his holiday to Crete shortly afterwards.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, yesterday lunchtime, looking for 20 mins relief from work, I trial fitted the old number plate onto the back of the car. I am interested to see how it will look without the bumpers and I have yet to consider how to light the back plate (in accordance with the law) without the bumper where the number plate lights are usually mounted. I expect someone like Car Builder Solutions will have a universal lamp I can use. Anyway, here in all its glory is the numberplate in situ. I quite like the idea of using some old parts on the car, but not sure I am going to keep this as its a bit ratty. Anyway, one less item on the shelf and back on the car which I count as progress!

And finally, today en-route to Cambridge for work, I dropped the old seats at Mirror Trim in Toddington. I had placed the order for the seats at the MG & Triumph Spares Day earlier in the year and arranged for them to done through the summer. They should be ready around September and will either go into storage, or straight into the car depending on progress. Mirror Trim are also making up a set of carpets, so that will be a substantial part of the interior sorted, although the headlining remains a maze of choices from which I have not yet found the exit. Mirror Trim are one of those lovely cottage industries working literally out of an old oak framed barn from where they churn out high quality product. What a great way to make a living I’m sure. Here is a last look at the seats before their transformation.

2 Jun 19 Front lamp install

Had a couple of hours to spend on the MG, but the weather wasn’t playing ball with steady rain. I limited myself to an inside job, although I did push the MG halfway out of the garage so I could move around a little bit easier. Decided to install a front headlight as I had all the parts having recently purchased nice new rubber seals from Moss. The rubber seal is quite a robust piece which sits on the headlight plate (remember that the headlight plates are new, having been installed as part of the respray to address the serious front wing corrosion in this area). When I got the car, the lamp bowls were held in place with big screws, but I didn’t think that British Leyland intended it to be this way so I had previously bought some stubby bolts which I figured could be manouvred to fit. I had already found out on another occasion that longer bolts could not be fitted, so shorter ones had to be obtained.

A gorgeous front end, but the bevel doesnt want to go on

First task was to make holes in the rubber seal for the bolts since as bought they just have markings where the bolts go. Tricky job, but the dremmel made a reasonable job and then a craft knife, carefully wielded to avoid a nasty cut eased them open. With the seal held in place with two lugs, I held the lamp bowl up to the seal and worked the bolts through the holes and then with the other hand reached around under the wheel arch to fit the tiny nut on the end of the little bolt. If anything, the bolts were a bit on the short side, but once tightened up, there was plenty of thread on which to bite as the rubber does compress a bit. A fiddly job. Final task to install the lamp is the clip the chrome bevel onto the bowl and push it home. This didn’t go well unfortunately as the bevel declined all requests to hold tight. I wonder if I have installed something wrong? I am going to have a look at the other lamp and see if I can better understand how the bevel clips on. A quick search on YouTube had some smug restorer clipping it in place with a short tap. Mmm, not how it turned out for me. Anyway, something to overcome along the way, and progress of a sort (maybe too tightly fitted?). Another challenge identified was in the fixing of the combined indicator / side lamp. The fixing for the new unit from Moss has different mounting points to the existing unit so while one side fits nicely, the other fixing misses the aperature and to all intends and purposes needs to be fixed to fresh air. Currently reviewing options on that one, but I am sure I can figure something out and learn some more. All comments welcome!

25 May 19 Put it on the ramp

‘Two hours to do a 15min job’ is how my Dad summarised this Saturday afternoon’s effort. My Dad was a mechanic in his younger days and so when he visited with my Step-Mum Pauline on Saturday it was an opportunity to ask for his help with the MG. His first quip among many was ‘put it on a ramp, Ad’ recongnising that a lot of what I do is made harder by not having a fully equipped garage in which to operate. I remember when as a little boy I would ‘help’ my Dad at the garage where he worked, a British Leyland Dealership with full workshop facilities. When I got into car ownership, Dad would do jobs on my cars and when neccessary we could utilise the ramps to get the car to the right height to work on, not to mention access to air tools and welding equipment. We would also use the PDI bay to polish cars, often bringing tired old paint to life with a bit of elbow grease and cutting paste. Happy days.

A look around my ‘Parts Department’

Back to Saturday and we jacked up the rear of the MG, took both wheels off and had a look at the brake pipes. We replaced the flexible hose (on the o/s) and the short copper brake pipe from the three way union to the o/s drum. The copper pipe needed to be bent to shape and we were able to use the old one as a template.

Shout out to Dad for his YouTube channel here 257 subscribers and 39,000 views and counting, take a look. What an absolute legend. Thanks for your help Dad – love you.

18 May 19 Brake pipes – actual progress

A positive post because today I managed to install the front brakes lines. I have been dreading this job, but actually it went okay. There were a couple of challenges, but that’s all part of the learning curve. Anyway, never mind that, look at the shiny braided hoses – phwoar!

Lovely braided hoses

Okay so it didn’t go all that smoothly, but as always, staying calm and thinking saves the day. First challenge was working from the flexible hoses fixed to the caliper. Removing the hoses was a bit tough and I had to wire brush all the suspension which was still filthy with paint-booth muck so that took a while. Once I have built the car, I will go back and refurbish the suspension, including refreshing the paint, but I want to be up and rolling by that stage. When putting it back I forgot the nut so got in a bit of a pickle – one of the those situations where it didn’t feel right, so it couldn’t be right . After I stepped back to think, I discovered the forgotten nut and then it went back nicely. I fitted the flexible hoses and the new copper pipes and then worked my way into the engine bay, even getting some help from Helen who had to hold a pipe under the bonnet while I accessed the master cylinder from the inside of the car (through the firewall). Feeling smug, I finished up under the bonnet with the remaining brakes and stepped back to admire my work. At this point I realised that having mis-installed one pipe I effectively had created the world’s first MGB with only front brakes. Cue much concerned consultation of the manual and internet searching before I realised my mistake. I had missed the second servo brake pipe, but it was a relatively easy fix to re-pipe what I had done and correct my mistake.

So it was all sorted out in the end. I still have to install the pipes under the car to the rear, but I am now much more confident about this work.

As I still had some time left in the day, I decided to take on a simple job, but one which would remove some more clutter from my shelves. Installing the rear quarter windows was relatively simple but first I cleaned them up using some kitchen spray and a ball of kitchen cooking (aluminium) foil which I had been told (by Rob) was good for refurbishing chrome and it did prove to effective. They went back in nice and simply with all the fixing intact and available. There are a lot of trims to go these windows as well as new rubbers, so they may have to come on and off, but it just felt like a useful thing to do and the car seemed to appreciate it (as mad as that sounds)

So a positive day and I was pleased with progress. It was an inspired decision to work from the calipers into the engine bay, but I am not sure who to thank – either God, or some long passed-away relative was looking down and saying ‘do it this way’. In either case, thanks!

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.

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.