28 Feb 21 Milestone Day – we have a brake pedal

Actually it was yesterday. Another sunny February day and it was time to fill up the brake system for the first time since I had replaced all the brake lines and the entire front brake assembly, disks, pads and callipers. I had a Gunson kit to help and my friend John was on hand to direct me from a suitable distance on the driveway. The Gunson kit uses pressure from the spare tyre via a rubber tube which goes into a bottle filled with brake fluid with an outlet which fits to the master cylinder. Had to inflate the spare first, which was flat obviously. We also jacked up the rear, removed the rear wheels and verified that the bleed nipples were okay. With the kit connected up, the fluid started to go down as the brake pipes were filled. I was watching at the back of the car, and the level was going down but no fluid. Then we spotted the rapidly growing pool under the engine bay. We had a leak at the four-way junction with one of the joints leaking fairly well. There followed some rapid reaction work with me in charge of sluicing the spilt fluid before the nice new paint melted while John disconnected the four way junction for inspection. I should mention that we did first just try nipping it up but to no avail.

The four way junction nor the line had no catastrophic issues, but John’s keen eye had spotted a little gunk in the fitting and on the threads. So we conducted a clean with some WD40 and a rag, blowing it out with an aerosol air canister. After some careful reassembly and re-tightening of the four lines to the junction, we recommenced filling operations. No leaks this time. For each brake in turn, we connected a length of plastic tubing to the bleed nipple and opened it up. I watched the flow and when the bubbles had cleared, I nipped up the bleed nipple. So far so good.

Moving to the front of the car, we again jacked it up and removed the wheels. The n/s side went smoothly enough, all new components, so it was a dream really. On the o/s, a little fluid was weeping from the connector between flexible and hard pipes but this was nipped up promptly enough. A prod of the brakes confirmed we did indeed have a brake pedal. As it was now getting on in the day, we decided to call a halt there. Further testing has identified that it is soft on the first push, then firm, which I think means there is still some air in the system. A quick browse around the internet suggests that the pipes into and out of the servo need to be bled and possibly also the junction connection at the rear which splits the fluid to left and right. This will be sorted out soon. However, all in all, excellent progress and a milestone reached. The car now starts and stops!

So to today, Sunday, and I was on my own, so a little pottering was in order. First job was to investigate the misfire which has been plaguing the MG lately when running it up. The carbs are not in tune, I have a plan in mind for the that, but it has definitely been running worse and worse. Taking a look around the engine bay, I discovered that the vacuum advance pipe was looking very sad. Being rather on the long side, it had drooped onto the exhaust manifold and basically melted. So I snipped off the mangled bit and fortunately there was plenty of length to make a nice route to the inlet manifold. Next I investigated the distributer, and as a non-expert, the one job I could do myself was to swap the distributer cap which on inspection was a bit rough looking with the contacts worn. So I popped in the new one which came with the electronic distributer and this saw an immediate improvement. I was tempted to just pop the new distributer in but as this is quite is quite fiddly, I put it off for when I have a longer go and have taken some advice. Instead, I did a couple more jobs on the dash. First, I fitted the rev counter properly. I had lost one of the knurled wheels that fit to the studs and hold the two brackets. Miraculously, I found it on the driveway yesterday! That saved a £5 order to a specialist (apologies to the parts market, I need plenty more bits honest!). Then I moved to the n/s to fix the dash properly. Having done the o/s earlier in the week, I knew how this went and it was straightforward to fit this. With the centre nut also fastened up tight, the dash is now looking right, albeit I still have a few switches and the vents to install. As I had to lie on my back in the footwell to do this, and with a mind to future required jobs, I got out the new carpet set and lobbed the footwell carpets in and the boot carpet while I was at it. I am not quite ready to commit to carpeting the MG, but it was good to see the set and acquaint myself with the different parts.

25 Feb 21 A whole day of stuff

I took back a day that work owed me today and had a whole day on the MG outside in the warm February sunshine (yes, really!). Here is a quick synopsis of the jobs I completed.

  1. Fitted new bolts to the n/s brake caliper replacing the ones that got mangled when removing the old calipers. Fitted the tab washer while I was there
  2. Fitted interior light to the centre console ready for wiring up.
  3. Scavenged the heated rear window warning light from the old loom and old centre console
  4. Connected up the speedometer cable to the back of the gauge. To do this I dropped the dash off its single bolt to get access to the back of the gauges
  5. Fixed the ignition switch to the steering column. No more fishing around in the footwell for the ignition switch.
  6. Fixed the o/s corner of the dash which enabled me to hoist the dash up to its correct alignment and therefore to be able to slip a temporary bolt across to mount the steering column to the dash for the first time is a couple of years! To do this I lay on my back with my head in the footwell and my feet sticking up into the boot. The things we do!
  7. Fixed the o/s door light switch and discovered that the n/s looks a bit mangled (hence why Phil had not wired this before)
  8. Removed the rear wheels, rubbed them down, sprayed them with primer then a top coat of satin black. They turned our better than the brushed hammerite on the front wheels! This now completes the set of wheels, which are now a lot tidier than they were, understanding that this is temporary cosmetic fix-up pending a more permanent selection of wheels for the project. And because Dad kept pestering about their shabby appearance
  9. Cleared out the interior of rubbish, tools, nuts, washers and grit!
  10. Fitted grommits to the footwell aperatures
  11. Found the rear bumper brackets, but sadly discovered they are very rusty and one had a seized and sheared off bolt. I had considered fitting the rear bumper and had given it a once over and reckoned it would do as a temporary solution. I think now I have discovered this, I will keep it bumper free at the back as originally planned. Need to figure out how to light up the rear number plate without having the over-riders on the bumper to mount them on (I might just not bother…)
  12. Tidied up the garage and sorted through the spares.

Being a lovely sunny day I had quite a lot of interaction with passers by with most people saying something encouraging. One older lady remarked that an old boyfriend of hers had one in the 1970s – cute! Another family walked past when I had the engine running to put the car away. As we know the engine is not in a good state of tune at the moment and I had cranked up the slow running to be too fast and was on choke, so it was revving at about 2750 rpm and popping and banging. As I glanced behind, the lady had her hands over her ears. Sorry about the sports exhaust

21 Feb 21 Electric Fan Installation

Bouyed up by the recent breakthrough on the brakes, I today installed the electric fan from Revotec. I am expecting a visit from Phil James (Classic Auto Electrician) this week, and he is going to wire this up for me, so I needed to get a move on with sticking it on the car. I took delivery of the shiny box of bits some time ago and had mounted the fan on its brackets in the sub-assembly area (Dining Room Table). So all I had left to do today was to install it in place at the front of the radiator. This is a blower type fan which mounts on the front of the radiator as opposed to the engine fan, which sits behind the radiator and sucks. The instructions which came with the fan suggested the radiator was drained down, but as I was just replacing the top hose with new units incorporating the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) I couldnt see why this was neccessary.

First job was to remove the top and bottom bolts which mount the radiator to the shroud, leaving the centre two bolts holding the radiator in place. The bolts, which are new ones I had fitted, came out nicely enough. I then had the fun job of fitting the new bolts which were about 6″ long (long enough to secure the new fan assembly). Threading these onto the shroud was easy, but it was tedious because they had to go round and round many times. Like many times. I used a combination of hand winding and a ratchet spanner depending on how easily they were spinning. Next was to slip on spacers top and bottom and wriggle the brackets with the fan attached onto the bolts. All that was left was to pop a couple of washers on and four lock nuts and that was the fan installed.

Moving to the top hose, I removed this and caught the coolant in a bowl under the car and then mopped up the spillage. The kit from Revotec comes with two hoses to replace the single top hose and in the middle goes the ECU which is mounted on a short length of steel tube. The kit also included four good quality Jubilee clips and I actually remembered to put those on before I fitted the hoses. I orientated the ECU in what I guessed to the right position and this is how I have left it for Phil to complete the wiring. Pleased with the outcome of this little job today.

20 Feb 21 N/S brake progress

More positive progress to report today. Following the breakthrough yesterday of removing the caliper bolts, today I was unable to remove the old caliper, and install the new disk, caliper and pads. The most challenging aspect of todays job was actually getting the split pin out on the nut which secures the wheel bearing assembly mounted on the stub. This turned out to be very awkwark, but was really just a matter of patiently working the little fella out with persuasion from the pliers and a hammer. There wasn’t much of the head of the pin to grip on and course its all covered in slippery grease. Anyway with a bit of tapping from below and a bit of tugging at the top I managed to wriggle it out. Removing the wheel bearing, parting the disk from the hub and all that went fairly smoothly, albeit a messy job due to the grease. I have admiration for the speed at which the boys at Kwik Fit do this sort of work, although I guess they have air guns, ramps, loads of space and a supervisor on their back to speed them along. I was taking ages, but I was listening to an F1 Podcast at the same time and just taking my time. Fitting the new disk, caliper was easy enough. I re-used the old bolts, but have ordered new from Moss as they were a bit mangled on removal yesterday. So when they arrive, I’ll swop them out and that will be a job well done. I decided to also replace the split pins but not having any in the Parts Department, I had to walk into town to Halfords. Helen joined me and we had a pleasant walk incuding a takeaway Cafe Nero Cappuccino on the home straight. Back home, I fitted the split pins and the grease cover and that was that. Before packing away, I quickly gave the wheel a coat of Hammerite Satin Black. I had previously rubbed this wheel down so it just needed brushing on. As per the o/s I decided after much nagging from Dad to do a quick tidy up of the wheel as it was off anyway, as a temporary measure pending a decision on wheel choice for the final build. I might have to save up for the Minilite wheels I really want, but for the moment, these old Rostyles will do to move the car around. So I am now clear through to filling up the new brakes pipes with brake fluid, bleeding the system and having working brakes!

19 Feb 21 A tale of two bolts

It’s a story with a happy ending today as I have just witnessed big Mark releasing the two calliper bolts which were preventing me from replacing the front n/s brakes. A few weeks ago I had done the o/s front brakes and it had all gone alright. However, when I came to do the n/s the brake caliper bolts (there are two) I could not remove them. The n/s calliper looks original, so what we have here is something that has been in place for over forty years and did not want to budge. My attempts to undo the bolt had involved using some freeze spray and a socket and bar. The problem I was having was that the bar was just springy and I only have a light domestic hammer so all I was doing was bouncing the steel around. So I called Mark…

To be clear, Mark entered our garage via the front, while I stood well away, so we were Covid secure throughout. On his first visit (yes there were two visits) he tried a spanner and lump hammer to try to get the bolt to budge. All that happened was the spanner (one of mine, and not of best quality), just turned around the bolt. Next he used a chisel to try to rotate the bolt with a couple of thwacks on the edge of one of the flats. Sadly this did not work, so he agreed to come back with some more serious kit.

Visit two, a couple of days later, and Mark arrived with a professional socket set and a G-clamp. He found a good fit with a 15mm socket and fitted the bar. Then he used the G-clamp to hold the socket onto the bolt end as additional security. He gave it a couple of exploratory thwacks, but wasn’t happy with the bar still flexing excessively. So he used a large ring spanner fitted over the end of the bar and put it under tension to reduce the bounce. A couple of more meaningful blows from the hammer and we started to see actual movement and the first indication of progress. And that as they say, was that. The second, lower bolt came off in much the same manner and I am now clear to complete the replacement of the front n/s brakes over the weekend. Thanks to Mark, a local friend who didn’t mind squeezing down the side of our garage to undo the bolts on a rainy February 2021 while I looked on in awe. We all need a friend like Mark.

7 Feb 2021 MG Restoration recap

February already, and for those who were saying that 2021 had to be a better year than 2020, its wasn’t looking that way for the first few weeks with a guge increase in the rate of infections, hospitalisations and deaths. Having said that, across the family we are gradually having our vaccinations and what a giant leap forward that is. I had my vaccination through a curious querk of my job. I work as a Programme Manager for a company owned by Guys & St Thomas’ Hospital (GSTT for short) in London. Once GSTT had vaccinated all the clinical staff, they rolled out the jab to non-clinical, and after that to affiliated companies. I hesitated initially to go forward, as I didn’t want to be seen to be jumping the queue (being only 50 years old), but conversations with colleagues persuaded me otherwise. Their view was twofold – firstly, that the Trust had surplus batches and were not permitted to send them back or give them to anyone else, secondly, that if offered, you should accept the vaccination as part of ‘doing your bit’ towards everyone being vaccinated. One less jab for our local GP surgery to do. Anyway, a brief round trip to St Thomas’ Hospital saw me heading home with a slightly sore arm, but feeling really grateful. London roads were deserted which was a bit odd, but of course completely logical.

On the MG front, I was being barracked by a couple of friends on a Teams call on Friday who were asking why I hadn’t finished the MG yet. I replied that it hadn’t really been the weather for it. One of my friends asked “Is it snowing in your garage then?” Thanks Rob. The truth is that busy-old life just keeps getting in the way, what with the 9-5 itself, walks in the countryside, ironing, picking up the shopping, keeping on top of Church stuff like PCC meetings via Zoom, cooking and so on. However, I have made some progress with the MG, as reported here.

Gearbox loom – a leftover from fitting the loom was the part which runs to the gearbox to operate the overdrive and reversing switches. I decided on a recent dry day to jack up the MG, crawl underneath and feed the loom through. I tied a piece of string to the end of the loom so I could pull it through all the right places. Weirdly, it was quite hard to work out which switch was which and yes, you guessed it, I got them the wrong way around first time. this is where the loom is always worth listening to (stay with me) as it usually wants to ‘sit’ in the right place. If you are having to drag it around against its will, chances are you have it in the wrong place. My spacial awareness isn’t great so you can imagine that with a gearbox having a front and a back and a car having a left and a right that when I was under the car I was getting confused about what was left, what was right and which way was up! Add to that my hat kept falling off and my gloves were on and off (where did I leave them this time?) and it all took a lot longer than it would had it been a pleasant spring day with a friend at hand to help. Anyway, its in, just needs testing now.

I also purchased a revotec electric fan, a conversion I’ve been planning and that required assembly inside the house before I can attempt to install it. I have Phil the electrician in mind to connect it all up, once I have the hardware installed. I am stalling on installing this just now since I need to commit to draining the coolant and I want a good day to do that outside and have to buy the new coolant ready.

I did have a second go at the n/s front brakes today. Having pushed the MG into a position in our single garage where I could get the n/s wheel off, not the usual way it is parked, I jacked it up and placed axle stands. With the wheel off, I gave the caliper nuts a good 20 second blast with freeze spray to try and budge them (I had previously failed). Unfortunately, today I was still no longer able to get them to budge. I can get a good grip with a 5/8″ socket and bar but there is just no movement back or forth with the nut and I can feel the bar flexing rather then the nut yielding. So that was a bit disappointing, but perhaps this needs an overnight dosing (I’ll give it another spray) and another attempt tomorrow (after work!). Alternatives would be to apply some heat, but I’m not sure whether that would be effective (hasn’t worked for me in the past) and there is always big Mark, although that would have to wait until after lockdown. So a bit frustrating as sorting the brakes is key to the next few stages of the rebuild, so its holding things up. I have left the car jacked up to make other attempts so at least the job is ready to be tackled.

A snug space for working on the brakes

26 Dec 2020 Moving under its own power

First of all, a very Happy Christmas to everyone – I hope you’ve all had, or are continuing to have a great time. Progress on the MG took a leap forwards (actually backwards, but we will get to that) recently following a visit from Phil James, who is a specialist classic car electrician. We had been messaging back and forth for a few weeks after my initial web enquiry and finally settled on a date that worked for us both in early December. Phil came for the day and after a brief chat he just got on with labelling, tidying up, connecting and sorting out the loom with all its connections. I got on with my day job, but checked in on him from time to time, keeping the tea topped up. He made rapid progress and by the end of the day, he had got a lot more connected than I could have hoped for or achieved in the same period! I would recommend him highly.

Phil’s website is here

This photo doesn’t really do justice to how much more complete the electrical loom is based on the work done by Phil

So that was a good day’s work and I’ll have Phil back soon to fit some more components which I have needed to buy. Part of the idea of getting him involved was to help me work out what was needed and we certainly achieved that and I’ve been busy since on the internet ordering the missing bits. Watch this space for further updates as various components get fitted.

So it was with refreshed enthusiasm that I crawled into the MG through the hatch the following day (which was a Saturday) and decided that I would attempt to drive out of the garage, rather than the usual back-breaking push. I should explain, that there wasn’t room to open the door due to how it was last pushed in. Feeding myself into the driving position (the seat had been lifted out to make room for Phil), I cranked the MG over and was pleased for it to burst into life on the second turn of the key. It would have fired up first time, but I am still getting used to ‘catching it’ as it turns-over. It was a bit intimidating to select reverse for the first time, with the engine running, but I gave it a go and was greeted by a grinding noise. Ah. I gave the clutch a couple of pumps and tried again. This time, the gear selected smoothly and I was able to feel for the bite point on the clutch, raise the revs a little and ease the MG out of the garage. This was the first time the MG had moved under its own power in my ownership, and from a time perspective in approximately 8 years. Woohoo, what a moment! Before I got carried away, and remembering that I have NO BRAKES, just a handbrake, I gingerly allowed the MG to come to rest on the lip of the garage entrance and shut it off.

As I reflected on this progress, both electrical and mechanical I was enthused to order new brakes (Calipers and disks) for the MG and I’ve put sorting the brakes onto my priority list for the new year, so it can be moved around with confidence, and of course, when appropriately complete, to be driven for real.

On a festive note, a couple of photos below of a nice pre-war Riley that I spied at a recent event new to me, which was Carols on Track, a drive-in Carol Concert organised by the local Churches after Castle Combe Racing Circuit generously made their paddock area available for the event. As a response to the pandemic restrictions, Churches all over have been thinking about ways to celebrate the Christmas season. Our own Church has been hosting restricted services, as well as online content, but we had no way to hold our traditional Carol Service. So we were delighted and intrigued to attend Castle Combe. The basic idea was to get parked up and then either stay in your car, or stand socially distanced outside, as the Carols and Lessons were played out over a professional PA system. I have to hand it to the organisers, who had arranged for hot drinks and hog roast stall to be available for the punters. The service was a combination of deeply emotional carols such as Silent Night to the all out riot of the 12 days of Christmas with horn blowing and lights flashing. Great fun, and it may become a permanent fixture, COVID or no COVID. Turnout was about 100 cars as a conservative estimate.

So, I’m feeling positive about 2021, with more work due on the MG, perhaps that elusive first drive, and us all getting on top of COVID. Best wishes to you all and God Bless

29 Dec 20 Braking Bad

Having received a large and heavy parcel from MGB hive containing new brake discs and callipers I decided today to see if I could have a go at fitting them. First I needed to have the MG in the right place, so I fired it up and moved it halfway out of the garage. Having started it I thought I may as well check the condition of the spark plugs because the engine is not running quite right at the moment and I thought it might give me an indication as to the whether the mixutre is too rich or something. The spark plugs looked a bit black and although this could be due to a lot of the running of the engine being on choke, it pointed towards the mixture being too rich. As I have a spare set of plugs, I changed them anyway, fired up the engine and wound the mixture back to lean it off a bit. The tuning guide suggests that you enrichen the mixture until the revs pick up, then back half a turn and I could feel this point on both carbs, but I’m not convinced. As my Dad is 30 miles away and sheltering in Tier 3, I have ordered a Gunson colortune kit which is supposed to give a definative indication of mixture. Further updates on this when the kit arrives. I also noticed some steam rising up from around the bottom hose joint, so I think the jubilee clip needs to be tightened (when it cools!).

This plug looks dirty to me

Moving back to to the brakes, with the MG halfway out of the garage, I had a good working space on the garage carpet (an old rug). I jacked up the car on the cross member and stuck an axle stand under the front suspension. I removed the o/s wheel and put it to one side. I then removed the split pins and clips which keep the brake pads in place, and rattled them free. The pads turned out to be brand new items, so that was a rare bonus on this project. Next job to tackle was removal of the caliper. The caliper on this side is ‘new’ although that makes it around 8 years old by my reckoning, so for safety I had bought new calipers. I am a brake novice, so this was all new ground for me. I undid some likely looking bolts, which were very tight, but came off with a bit of penetrating fluid and leverage. This was a job for the big boy’s socket set with all the nut sizes at the larger end of the scale. The caliper came off easily enough, and I laid all the components out on a clean sheet of cardboard. The flexible pipe hose was a bit of a faff – I ended up removing the caliper and winding it round to unthread the hose – that can’t be right. Things were now getting serious as I now had to remove the wheel hub, something I have not done before – I took my time and removed one piece at a time, photographing the order and orientation of them with my iPhone as I went. Fortunately, the wheel bearings seemed in good shape rather than greasy shrapnel, so that was a positive. The assembly came apart relatively smoothly and I was able to ease the disc and hub off as a single unit. Lifting this heavy bit of kit off the spline then left me the job of undoing the four bolts that mate them together and this proved to be a bit fiddly, but do-able. As time was getting on, I simply bolted the new disc onto the hub, reassembled the bearing, popped the wheel back on and lowered the MG to the ground. At the next opportunity, I’ll fit the new caliper, and the old/new pads and that will be one side complete!

So more work to do here – I really need to remove the new disc and give the area behind a good clean. If I can find the motivation and time, I’ll do that. In the meantime, hope you are all okay and staying safe.

21 Nov 20 Wiper Motor and other bits and bobs

In early December I have a classic car auto electrician coming to look at the loom on the MGB and to help with its installation. He’ll carry out an assessment first, and then recommend what he is able to do. In readiness for this, I rolled the MG out onto the drive on this sunny November afternoon. Before I got on with the neccessary work, I couldn’t resist firing up the MG. She started on the second go, so the battery had held out, which is encouraging in terms of the alternator actually working. I had a bit of a fiddle with the idle speed and mixture and managed to get it idling relatively smoothly with the choke fully in engine warmed up. I am not kidding myself that the carbs are set up, but at least its running better than when initially started a few weeks ago. I am a bit addicted to the noise and couldn’t resist a couple of revs. My neighbour’s grown up son came to see what the noise was and he liked what he heard!

The preparation on the loom today consisted of me undoing the jerry-rigged set up I had created to get the car started. The loom was basically resting in the foot well which is clearly not right. I disconnected the ignition switch (having taken numerous photos) and various other connections including several temporary earths. I then took a good look at the loom and carefully unravelled it to lay behind the dashboard in roughly the right configuration. I then looked at where the loom enters the interior and identified the correct location of the first earth connection. Having learned that stainless steel does not have as good connectivity as mild steel, I didn’t use a fresh shiny bolt but dug out an old one from the bolt box. That led me to contemplate the wiper motor which is just under the dash on the off side (UK). The wiper motor was dangling awkwardly from the drive cable so needed to be fitted properly in its mount. First I tightened up the drive cable connection to the motor as this was only half on. I then offered the motor up to its mount, noting that the angles didn’t really work, but it was possible to persuade it in. The motor is mounted by a steel hoop, but to keep it in snug there are two rubber elements – a pad which goes against the bulkhead and a lining to the hoop. Getting these to align and stay in place as I tightened up the two bolts was tricky to say the least, but I managed it after a couple of attempts. So with the wiper motor in place I was able to fit the earth connection I had spotted earlier. Due to the exact positioning of this, effectively under the scuttle, and the bar runs below the dash, this wasn’t that easy – I had to sit on the floor with my back to the car and feed my hand through the various obstacles and then get the right angle. Hopefully, that can stay there now for the duration!

I also greased the speedo cable in anticipation of connecting this up in the near future. All the while I was listening to a radio adaption of Ian Flemming’s James Bond in Moonraker. A great afternoon.

15 Nov 20 Replacing the alternator

A surprisingly sunny November morning appeared from what I had thought was a write-off rainy weekend, so it was out with the MG to swop out the old alternator with a new one from MGB Hive. When I first got the MG, the alternator was covered in white aluminium corrosion crystals. I scraped off the worst and when I fired the car up (this was 3 years ago) for the first time, there was a flurry of white as the loose crud spun out. Suffice to say I thought the alternator had seen better days and so having recently restarted the engine I decided to replace it. Also prompting me to this job was that whenever I have run the car recently, it has flattened the battery. This was either because the old alternator was not working properly, or because something wasn’t wired properly. As I was going to replace the alternator anyway, I tried this first.

The alternator is held in place with two bolts at the top, which mount onto lugs on the engine block and with a single bolt at the bottom which secures a curved slotted plate. The slotted plate allows the alternator to pivot so that the fan belt can be fitted over the pulleys and then tensioned correctly. The slotted plate then fixes to a lower lug fixed to the engine block. The lower lug is fixed with a specifically shaped bolt which I had replaced much earlier in the rebuilt when it had sheared off spitefully on removal. Before I took the old alternator off, I started the engine and measured the voltage at the battery – 12.3v.

Fitting the new alternator was pretty simple although it’s a heavy old bit of kit. I did a visual comparison before I removed the old one just in case it was to join my list of wrongly ordered parts, but it measured up alright so I committed to the job. I laid a decent blanket over the wing for protection and knelt on a tool box with a blanket on it for comfort. I used a combination of tools to remove the bolts which were 0/5″ and 9/16. This included my trusty Halfords Professional mini socket set, the Elora large socket set gifted to me by my friend John, the socket spanner set gifted to me by my brother Tris and a plain open jawed spanner. Each tool works well in its own way and I was grateful for the choice.

With the new alternator fitted and the fan belt at roughly the right tension, I fired up the car again. It fired second time and settled into a lumpy idle (carbs still not set up right – where are you Dad? ha ha). I tested the voltage at the battery and got…the same 12.3v. I was hoping for between 13-14v but I could be wrong. So maybe the issue is not solved. I should have had someone hold the revs higher and measured it again, but Helen was working in her study, so I didn’t disturb her. So we will see if the battery is flat when I try again. Hopefully next weekend we will get another weather window for further investigation. Before sitting down to do this update, I sent a web enquiry to a mobile auto electrician just to gauge their interest in giving the electrics a once over and validating what I’ve done. I think it might be worth getting a professional involved in this one…

7&8 Nov 20 Starting progress

One advantage, perhaps the only advantage of lockdown is that we are forced to stay at home and not go ‘gadding about’ as we are normally inclined to do. So it was that after a most pleasant stoll in nearby Cirencester Park, Gloucestershire, as part of our permitted exercise, I found myself with a sunny late autumn afternoon to dedicate to the MG.

I decided to sort out the choke spindle on the carburetters (carbs for short) which I had managed to fit the wrong way around. What I haven’t recorded here is that I had previously corrected the throttle spindle which I had also fitted the wrong way around. Such is the lot of first time amateur car restorers such as myself, progress is riddled with little mistakes, however, with each mistake, I try to learn something. So to the choke spindle, which is an assembly comprising a spindle which sits within a cup on each carb (the MG has two). The choke mechanism operates when the choke handle is pulled on the dash. This causes the cable to tighten which, being attached to a lug on the spindle causes it to rotate. This rotation causes the choke mechanisms on both carbs to be operated because the ends of the spindles have lugs which fit onto the cams which themselves are on the end of the choke mechanism. The choke mechanism moves the needle inside each carb to richen the mixture, but also opens the throttle because the cams connect with a screw on the throttle spindle.

The fun begins when you realise that the spindles are not held in place in any way other than sitting in the cups on the carbs so when fitting the carbs you have to align the spindle ends (4 in total, 2 for the throttles, 2 for the chokes) with the cups, and have them aligned to the lugs (again 4 in total) while you are trying to to wriggle the carbs onto the mounting studs (4 in total). I make that around 12 points of contact which you are having to manage and it was certainly easier when I was able to phone a friend. To reverse the wrongly installed spindles, I loosened the carbs, but wanted to avoid taking them off as then you have to do the full accordian player impression as the two carbs writhe in your hands. The carb mounting studs are worth a mention, being located cruelly in the most awkward position and in perilous proximity to the razor sharp edges of the heat shield. It would be good to have three elbows on your arm at this point rather than the inadequate one we have to deal with. I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account, but suffice to say I got it all done in two attempts and only one skinned knuckle. I then fitted the air filters and went for a start up.

I connected the battery (ignition switch solution still pending), heard the familiar ticking of the fuel pump and turned the key. One click and then nothing. Mmm. I tried my spare battery, and it cranked over willingly but wouldn’t fire. Then I remembered to reconnect the coil wire I had disconnected. This time the engine started straight away, with full choke of course, and settled at a fast idle. After it had run for a minute or two I pushed the choke in and tweaked the idle speed to get it to idle correctly. I recorded the sound of the engine in the YouTube clip below. To get the authentic bass – use headphones. For an MGB is does sound rather tasty. Its obviously not set up right just yet, but it’ll do for the moment.

So that was a reasonable afternoon’s accomplishment. Today (Sunday) was a more gloomy day both weather and progress wise. A dull autumn day dawned and after finishing off the chores and watching Church online (another COVID consequence) I pushed the MG onto the drive intending to fit the engine fan I had bought recently. To get access to the pulley I determined it would be neccesssary to loosen the radiator and pull it away from the area. This is relatively simple on the MGB, being six 0.5″ bolts (what else) to remove. Having pulled the radiator back I realised that the fan I had bought was the wrong one – annoying as I thought I had searched it correctly. More catalogue searching required and another item for my MGB parts shop which I will be opening at some stage to sell on all the surplus parts I have amassed over three years. So I had to pointlessly put the radiator back again. It was then I remember that fitting the radiator is more difficult than removing it. The radiator is mounted by the aforementioned six bolts to a steel shroud which is fixed with eight bolts to the inner wings. The challenge is to get this all to align. The shroud in my MGB, despite being resplendant in shiny black from the paint shop, is I believe a bit warped. The off side is particularly difficult and I had to loosen all the bolts on the radiator and shroud on that side to get each bolt to bite on its thread. Having had this difficulty before, I was up to the challenge this time, and a bit of thinking and remembering got the job done in the end. All helped along by my Radio 4 soundtrack in the background, latterly a re run of ‘Just a minute’ with the late Nicholas Parsons.

Thanks for reading – God Bless and Stay Safe.

17 Oct 20 Jaguar Mk2 Driving Experience

Something a bit different! Following up on my recent driving day experience in three modern supercars, today I travelled with Helen to Upton Warren in Worcestershire to drive a Jaguar Mk 2. This was a present for my 50th Birthday from our dear friends Sarah, Lewis, Martha, Freya and Joe and much appreciated – thanks guys. We had an unhurried drive up from our home in Wiltshire and the weather stayed clement, a good start. We arrived at ‘Great Driving Days’ which was situated on an agricultural yard next to a field of Highland cattle. We spotted ‘our’ car on the yard and eagle-eyed Helen spotted that one front corner was pushed in. The guy explained that the car had been ‘bent’ when out on loan earlier in the week, ending up in a ditch. Oh dear. We were offered a swop, but my heart was set on the Mk2. We had a quick overview of the controls and pressed the starter button. Amazingly, it fired instantly, which was impressive. Later my Dad would relate that a friend of his had a Mk2, back when he was a young man, and they always reckoned that his car started before your finger reached the button! I gingerly blipped the heavy throttle, selected first and eased out the clutch. With a whine from the gearbox, the old Jag pulled smoothly away. We rumbled along the track to the main road and with Helen in charge of navigation, turned left onto the main road.

First impressions: Pick up was lively, but I was having some trouble initially with negotiating the gear change from 2nd to 3 via quite a wide gate while smoothly feeding in the throttle. Compared to my daily diesel SUV, the throttle response was really crisp so blipping the throttle when changing down was a real pleasure. The other first impression was of the slow steering, which although it had been converted to power steering had a slow initial turn in with it needing a good quarter turn on even the slighest bend. I was having to recallibrate against modern cars – the slow steering, crisp throttle response, the long throw and wide gate of the gearbox. So I was concentrating quite hard at this point, but appreciating the sound effects of the straight six up front.

After a few minutes I was starting to get to grips with the controls and starting to just enjoy the experience – the view down that lovely bonnet with the leaping Jaguar. Feeling more confident, as the first straight bit of road appeared, I tentatively pushed the throttle all the way in third and allowed it to build revs. This was fantastic, over a certain RPM, the engine note changes and becomes a deep-throated roar accompanied by a decent shove in the back. I looked down at the speedo and we were only doing about 45mph! The beautiful large rev counter was unfortunately not working, so I changed gear ‘by ear’ and I was respectful of the age of the vehicle. All the gauges were reading well – temperature was steady (it had a later electric fan), oil pressure held up, although it dropped at idle and the voltmeter stayed put. The dash is all wood, with great big old gauges with retro script and a row of toggle switches, it really is iconic.

The route we were following had a really good mix of roads, from quiet country lanes to open B-roads and a little bit of A-roads. During the drive, I was starting to discover a dual character to this old Jag. Its first character is all about burbling around in the big squishy seats, enjoying the view and using the torque of the engine to pull you along with minimal changing gear. As we pottered through a narrow country late, I pulled over to let some cyclists come through – the lead cyclist mouthed ‘nice car’ and waved. I agreed! The other character of the car is when you have room to give it some welly in second, snick it up into third, give it some more welly, attain a pretty good turn of speed and then fling it into forth. For an old car, the acceleration is brilliant and the gearchange is really slick once you’ve got the feel of it. In this mode, the Jag is a racing machine, apparently lapping up this kind of treatment. It has to said, with open throttles, at higher revs, it was very noisy, with induction roar, exhaust blare, gear whine and wind noise all contributing to a glorious din. In addition, heat was wafting up the gearlever gaiter from the gearbox – a multi sensory experience!

With my amateur mechanic hat on, I would say that the Jag was idling at too high revs – I wondered if they had set it this way to help people to avoid stalling. Also, the particular car had a few defects which it would have been to rectify, like loose door capping and a stiff throttle pedal which could have done with being eased to make it drive smoother, but I’m being a bit picky.

We stopped for the obligitary photo shoot with Helen taking her usual high standard of still photos and video on her iPhone, including her jumping out of the car and energetically running up the road to film the Jag driving through a ford.

All too soon it was time to return the Jaguar to its home and we arrived back safely to the farm with Jag in one piece. A really enjoyable experience – now to the pictures!

Two hands on the wheel please Mr Trigg – look at that iconic dashboard
Nice artistic detail shot from Mrs Trigg
Mrs Trigg looks adoringly across as her husband manfully tames the big cat
Iconic photo of classic car driving through Ford

So thanks to the Boddy family, Helen and to ‘Great Driving Days’ a small business based in Upton Warren. I would highly recommend them based on this experience. For anyone else doing one of these, you need to set your expectations. These cars are in working order – don’t expect concours condition – and being classics, they are noisy, smelly and antiquainted. That’s the appeal and it was an unforgettable, and repeatable experience!