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.

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?

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.

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.

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.