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

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.

5 July 2020 Lockdown delays

I remind myself that this blog is primarily intended (solely intended?) to record the restoration of my MGB GT. As such I should stop worrying about lack of progress, and instead record what I have been doing lately and focus on that. This is what I have been up to.

Despite some clear instructions from the old man regarding setting the timing with the second hand distributor, I havent yet got any life out of the engine. To be honest, on my last attempt I wasnt sure I had the timing quite right and it was a bit of a half-hearted attempt. Also, the oil leaked from the oil cooler to oil filter union again despite me adding the washer so something is not right there. The old man things there should be two washers at this union but that’s not what the book says, so not sure. All I do know is that when turn the engine over, it leaks at this union so something is not right. With lockdown beginning to ease, I might get my mate Mark to take a look as he lives just down the road.

On a recent half day on the MG I got fiddling with the doors and the vexed issue of the door glass. I have been struggling to get this to align and to get the regulator to operate correctly. I can get the window in the door and to go up and down but not fully down or up. On my last go at this, I loosened the rear window channel and found that as this had simply been sprayed over in the pain shop, that when removed, there was rusty metal underneath. I removed the rear channels on both doors and used hammerite ‘straight to rust’ paint to seal over the messy metal. I then ordered two new channels from ebay, which have subsequently arrived and need to be fitted. They have new linings, are not rusty and I hope will assist with fixing the glass.

I also removed the quarterlights as I wasn’t happy with how these were fitted. I obtained a quote of around £400 to refurbish them both, which I thought was a bit steep, so I will order new rubbers seals and fit these myself. This will leave one rubber seal in not great condition (on the actual glass), but that will have to be an item for the running repairs/restoration list. I stripped the quarter light and removed the main rubber seals which were very cracked and in poor condition. A clean up and new rubbers will see these go back in better condition. Its also been interesting to strip these to understand how these go together.

I made an enquiry to a local trimming firm who couldn’t help with the roof lining, but recommended two other people, one who had already failed to respond to an enquiry and one who I have yet to contact. Something to progress as I want the roof lining done by a professional.

I also recently purchased new seat rails as the ones I had were incomplete. I am holding off fitting the carpets and hence the seats until I have got the headlining done and sorted more of the electrics so that it is all tucked away.

So I have not been idle, but just not that productive on the MG during this lockdown period. To my future self I say this: the 2020 lockdown was a weird period. Following initial concerns about my employment, work settled into a work from home routine, and actually in the last two months my team and I have exceeded previous business outputs to achieve some remarkable achievements, not without some personal impact in terms of stress and workload. We have however, maintained security of employment, something I am very grateful about. Furthermore, I have prioritised time with Helen and we made good use of the fine weather while it lasted. I have taken on the role of chair of our Church PCC and DCC, joined a house group which meets weekly for Bible study via Zoom, participated in Helen’s work quiz each Wednesday and caught up with people either in person via social distancing or online. We have cleared our loft, filling an 8 yard skip and selling around twenty items on Facebook and Ebay, raising about £300. We have moved our eldest daughter into a new flat in London. We have socially distance-visited our family. I have managed the Trigg fleet of cars with multiple trips to garages for the Cappuccino, loaning of my CRV to Helen’s sister Kate and cleaned and polished Helen’s Jazz. The first few weeks of lockdown were all about uncertaintly and the novelty. The latter period has been more of a test of resilience, and now we are working through the loosening restrictions and working out what that means.

So when I wonder why progress on the MGB has slowed, I will remind myself that I’ve been a bit busy.