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.

4 Oct 20 Milestone #2 Engine Start – Achieved

So the title of today’s entry gives away the punchline, but suffice to say I am very pleased to have managed to start the engine today. Woohoo! As a quick recap, I had to send the carbs away as they had been incorrectly re-assembled when they were refurbished. I’ve had an explanation from the company boss that they were installed as they came in. Err, that will be me then. However, all I had done was to take the carbs apart, decide they were in a shocking state and send them away to be rebuilt. Anyway, its all good now and that’s the main thing.

As always with this project, there were some hurdles and hiccups along the way, mostly my fault as we will see. Firstly I removed the carbs from their wrapping. They had been thoroughly wrapped but of course as they were not on the heat shield, but separated so I had to do that thing where you put the linkages together and then hold it all together as a loose assembly as you carry it over to the car and mount it on the studs. In my enthusiasm to get it started, I fitted the throttle linkage upside down, only discovering this after I had awkwardly installed all four nuts and tightened them up. The nuts are extremely awkward to fit – to get the nuts onto the studs the carbs need to be slid up to near the tio to clear the carb body. The two under the carb are even more awkward. Still at least I have now had plenty of practice. Still impatient to attempt a start, I interupped Helen from her work educating the youth of today (yes, secondary school teachers work on the weekend) and asked her to crank the engine over while I manipulated the choke and throttles. On the second turn of the key, the engine fired, but didn’t catch. This was a promising sign, so Helen cranked again and this time I caught it on the throttle and we had a spluttering rev, and a bit of popping. A third attempt resulted in steady fast running with choke and throttle applied. A little exhaust smoke was rising into the engine bay and it was a it of a smoky affair all round. Having relieved Helen of her responsibility as chief cranker I set to to correct the linkage mis-assembly.

I was determined that to turn the linkage around to its correct orientation I wasn’t going to remove both carbs. Instead I removed the front carb, and loosened the nuts on the rear carb. This gave me enough fiddle room, just, to swap the linkage around and then to enjoy the fun game of ‘put the the nut on the stud under the carb bonnet’. It really is a dexterity test and took a bit of trying, but I got there in the end without breaking down in tears. With the linkage in the right way, I could connect up the throttle and choke cables and start the engine in the usual way from inside the car. When I say, the usual way, the ignition switch is on the floor of the car, so not exactly usual, but I didn’t say it was perfect. The car started on the second attempt and I was able to walk around to the front while it ran and see if there was anything amiss. The engine was running fine with full choke but started to splutter as soon as I reduced the amount of choke, so not sure if it was still a bit cold, needs setting up or a bit of both. Anyway, this was a test and I didn’t want to push my luck, so with a quick look around the engine bay I knocked the choke off and let it stall.

So issues identified to investigate today included:-

  1. Loose alternator bolt – tightened
  2. Noted broken cores in the Earth cable to the battery – need to order a new one
  3. Coolant level dropped – top up and check

So we have achieved ‘Engine Start Milestone’ which I set quite a long time ago. Next Milestone I am setting myself is ‘Dashboard Complete.’ This is a complicated one which is going to involve fitting all the gauges, the windscreen wiper system and the Heating and Ventilation System. However, it’s the next logical step and certaintly needs doing before any other interior work is undertaken. Thanks to all of you have journeyed with me towards this milestone. Your support and practical help have been invaluable. God Bless.

12 Aug 20 Releasing the carbs

Having established at the weekend, with Matt’s help, that the carburettors were blocked, and having consulted the ‘MG helpline’, A.K.A. my Dad, I found time this evening, with the help of my friend John, to investigate the problem. The UK was in the middle of a heat wave, one in which the temperature and humidity peaked between 5pm and 6pm arond 30 degrees, which was when we started to look at the MG. So the only right thing to do, while we wheeled the MG out, was to crack open a couple of cold beers and take a leasurely look at the problem. With John on board, this was going to be a logical approach to problem solving. Having already proven fuel would flow up to the carbs, we now knew the challenge was with the carb itself.

Step 1: Use a footpump to attempt to blow air into the carb. Result: No air passing through. Conclusion: Float/Needle valve stuck

Step 2: Remove carbs. Removing the carbs in theory is easy, its just four nuts. In practice, its fiddly, because the nuts won’t come off without waggling them to the end of the studs and then getting the angle just right. Having two people on hand is a definate advantage here, unless you are an octopus. Next challenge was to keep the carbs together with the linkages intact. To do this, we had the idea to use the plate that holds the air filters as a sort of jig. That took a bit of work to get right, but without (much) swearing, the carbs rattled free of their studs and were on the work bench.

Step 3: Remove float chamber lids. These come off easily enough, although the ‘O’ ring on the front carb hopped out of its slot and showed little enthusiasm to pop back in. Using the footpump and with the float valve open we used the foot pump again to add pressure and with a nice ‘pop!’ the needle valve on the rear carb freed itself. Surely the front carb would do the same, but it wasn’t shifting, so John tickled it with a pair of fine tweezers and before long both carbs were wheezing along in harmony at each press of the pump. How satisfying.

Step 4: Reassemble and refit the carbs. Hmm. That float chamber ‘O’ ring did not want to play ball and needs to be replaced, however, we think we teased it back in place and made a seal on both float chamber lids. We then man handled and wiggled the carbs back onto their studs, tightened them up and connected the breather pipe, fuel line, throttle and choke linkages.

Step 5: Test start the engine. ‘Hang on a minute,’ said John ‘didn’t you say that the fuel pump and coil are always on when you connect the battery?’ A discussion ensued in which John advised me against firing the engine when we are not confident of how the wiring was configured. So we disconnected the ignition switch and using a multimeter, identified what the various terminals were and then attempted to connect the correct wires. As we were nearing a conclusion on this, the rain came in heavy so we abandoned the task for the day having made some actual progress, but with some work to go to achieve sustained running.

9 Aug 20 Fuelling around

So having demonstrated that the MG would start, it was time to connect up the fuel pipe and provide a reliable supply to the carbs to sustain running. I had a reliable assistant in the form of Matt (Ellie’s boyfriend). First we bought some fresh fuel and charged the tank with 5 litres. Next we connected the fuel pump wiring, connected the battery and heard a reassuring tick from the pump (err, surely after you turned on the ignition…). After a short while we were concerned that no fuel was flowing through and sure enough, on checking I found the pump was plumbed the wrong way around. I wonder who did that?

After a bit of replumbing and we were back in business although still there was no fuel feeding through to the filter let alone the carbs. Vaguely remembering something about air locks we released the pipe at the carbs end and with a hiss we started to see fuel travelling through the filter and turn up to the carbs. Progress!

But this wouldn’t be the Relentless Duck blog without some ‘issues’ and without detailing all the challenges, we did have a leak out of the fuel sender unit. Not being sure why this was leaking we set up a fuel can to catch the drips until the level was low enough for it to stop. The following day, on a break from work, a YouTube video showed how this should have been tightened up. Another day, another thing learned.

With fuel to the carbs, surely the MG would now fire up and continue running? Sadly not, the carbs refused to take the fuel and the removal of the lid from the float chamber revealed it to be dry. Oh dear. Further investigation needed, the outcome of which will be covered in a future post

07 Aug 20 ENGINE START!

I don’t really approve of ‘shouty’ capitals, but I think this entry justifies their use, albeit in the title only. Today, on my 50th birthday, we achieved the Engine Start Milestone. Let me qualify that a bit. When I say ‘we’ I mean, my Dad, mainly. When I say the engine started, I mean just that – we got it to start, but not run. This was principally because to fuel it, we were not using the main tank, but a borrowed fuel bottle hung from the bonnet catch. But it did fire up, several times and briefly make a loud ‘vroom!’ before ceasing when the fuel we had poured down the throat of the carburettor was consumed. The important point is – it starts!

So today being my 50th birthday, we had invited some close family over within the COVID regulations – so a much smaller group than usual and with the requisite social distancing. My darling wife Helen had, as usual, put on a lovely spread and guests arrived and were dining al fresco in the relaxed garden setting under the Gazebo. After waiting for what seemed to be a polite period of time, Dad said to me ‘what about the MG then’ and we discretely retired to the garage to scratch our respective heads on the non-starting issue.

Dad focussed on getting the electrical side of things sorted and this involved correctly wiring the distributor and setting the timing. This took longer than it should have done, which isn’t very interesting to record here, however after muc removal and refitting of the distributor cap and HT leads we had a spark occuring at the right time but no starting of the engine. We turned out attention to the fuel bottle and suspicious that fuel was not actually getting into the carbs, we poured (I should say, carefully measured a precise quantity of fuel) fuel into the throat of the carbs and turned the engine over. With a vroom and a puff of smoke out the exhaust the engine fired for the first time in over two years. Yes! So I am grateful to Dad (and Matt my Daughter’s boyfriend) for this birthday treat! It was all very exciting. We fired it a couple more times to see see if we could maintain the running before concluding that actually some fresh fuel in the tank and connecting the fuel pump was probably the way to go. Sadly we had run out of time, so this job was deferred for next time.

So this is a great encouragement – I’ve had a lovely birthday, which really started on Wednesday with a visit from my oldest (he not old, but I have been friends with him for the longest time) friend Phil, then a surprise gift and cake from my work colleagues on Thursday, leading to today’s event. Tomorrow we have friends over to continue the celebrations, again reined in by the regulations to a very small group. I heard someone say that birthdays should be a three day event – I’m on four days and going strong!

1 Aug 20 a step forwards

I’ve had a problem with oil leaking from the oil filters area for a while and this has prevented me progressing the engine start because cranking the engine resulted in a pool of engine oil under the car. Having had several goes at refitting the oil filter to oil cooler union, today I used my brain and had Helen in the car cranking the engine over and me looking to see where the leak was coming from. Turns out the leak was from the oil filter ONTO the connection so I was looking in the wrong place. So my focus turned to sorting this connection out and following a phone call to Dad I removed and refitted it. No leak on cranking! Problem solved. I couldn’t resist cranking the engine over to fire (which it didn’t) but I did check and I was getting no spark so at least I know one of the problems to sort out.

This lovely engine bay will sound nice too one day
Oil everywhere but where from!

Back to earlier in the day and ongoing (and off going) saga of the doors and their glass. I had previously fitted the quarter lights but on inspection the runners were perished so I recently ordered some new one from Moss and had stripped them down. So while British Grand Prix Practice and Qualifying ran on I sat in the lounge working the new rubbers into place using a blunt ended tea spoon. Apart from where it dug into my palm painfully it wasn’t too bad and I followed the general approach that Andy from Wiltshire Windscreens showed me when he fitted the front and rear screens. So with these done I loosely fitted the back in. I will tighten them when I get the glass as I think you need them loose to get the whole mechanism in and then you tighten it all up.

Also in preparation for the glass (which I need to order) I removed the lower bracket from the rear glass stay. I have ordered new ones of these with nice new felt lining but they don’t come with the bracket. Rather than put the old brackets on as they were. I decided they would be better painted. I used a Hammerite black straight to rust paint, brush applied. It doesn’t need to look good but it should be protected against corrosion hence this approach. I was a bit delayed in fitting the stays as the paint is still drying so I will need to fit those when I next get the MG out.

Waiting for these to dry before fitting

So that’s about it. Keith the TV aerial guy was passing with his mate and said Hi. A couple of other people nodded their appreciation (or sympathy or contempt it’s hard to tell) so it was an encouraging day on the MG. Last thing to say is that to save my back I towed it out the garage this morning with my CRV which worked reasonably well although I did need a willing assistant which was of course the ever patient Helen.

A closing thought about gratitude…

22 Feb 20 Re-fuse-ing to give up

Spent a couple of hours on the MG this afternoon. It was cold and windy so I confined myself to the garage. First job was to finish off fitting the new rubber oil cooler pipes. I am replacing the nasty braided ones which are very stiff with OE spec rubber which is a bit more pliant. This is an awkward fit and it requires a bit of coordination because the oil gauge pipe has to be fitted AFTER the pipe cooler pipe because otherwise the spanner crushes the oil gauge pipe. Have a guess how I know this? After fitting the pipes I had to fit the hateful grommets to the radiator shroud which is another awkward job. Anyway it’s done now.

It’s all a bit congested here

Next I decided to progress the wiring loom connections. Last week I had to unpick the loom due to poor routing so this week I put some of that back. I connected the alternator which is easy then had to take the coil off to get that connected properly. So far so good. I then checked the fuse box which I wasn’t convinced had been connected properly. Rather than rely on pictures on the internet I actually used the wiring diagram and managed to use up all the available wires so it must be right! (It is right really).

So onto the next thing and I identified a problem. The distributor, which is a new unit from Accuspark needs power which it gets from the coil. Unfortunately one of the cables is not long enough. It mentions this in the instructions which cheerfully say ‘you may have to lengthen the wire’. I might write back to them to say ‘you could just supply the right length wire.’ So I need to grab a pal who can joins a bit of wire for me

This is the probably definitely correctly connected fuse box

Final task today was to fit an earth wire to the inner wing. The original bolt had been painted over and the head rounded off when I tried to release it. Even my freeze spray couldn’t rescue the situation so I did the brutal thing and drilled it out. I managed to then get another bolt to fit and job done. Not a bad afternoon’s work.

12 January 2020

Pushed the MG out into the cold January air after Church today. It was a funny day weather wise, definately cold without enough sun to feel any warmth and threatening clouds scudding overhead. Continuing to focus on the engine start I decided to offer up the dash panel. I could continue to engine start without the fascia in place, but unless I connect up some of the gauges I am not going to know stuff like oil pressure, so I think its worthwhile.

I wrestled with the dash a bit which is ungainly due to the gauge fitted and their respective connections (temperature capilliary tube and oil pressure pipe) and I recalled how it was a bit of a struggle to remove. The pinch point is around the steering column: The bottom of the dash straddles the steering column while at the top is a bracket which goes under the dashtop where it bolts into place. The clearance is really tight, but with a bit of a heave I managed to get it in, then realised I had scuffed the dash slightly around the steering column. Later that day a friend would ask ‘You didn’t cover it with a cloth then?’. To conclude, the dash is in, held by a single bolt for the time being and ready for its connections to be threaded through into the engine bay.

I had also placed the new seats in the car earlier. Note, placed, not fixed. The seats are in the car purely to make a bit of room in the house while we have a room decorated. I can’t fit the seats just yet because I am missing a seat runner. I bought the car partly stripped down and on stripping it down I found a runner was missing. Unfortunately, the runners are handed and I am not sure if the missing one is left or right. A logic puzzle to ponder sometime soon, but not critical to my current engine start mission. I am undecided whether to leave the seats in or take them out when we have our room back. I think they should probably go back inside the house for now as they will be in the way as I fit out the interior after engine start is achieved. They will need to be protected from the cat who sees any such object as a legitimate scratching post.

My friend John appeared, bearing an oversized spanner which fits the engine pulley bolt which I was after so I could set the timing on the distributer. While he was there, he turned the pulley until we found the timing mark, so that was handy. Just need to dap some paint on it now and then study the distributor instructions. Thanks John!

Plan for my next opportunity on the MG is to fit the exhaust. As I was saying to Helen (and I sure she was fascinated), I haven’t really looked at how this fits. The old one came off without much fuss so re-fitting this should be relatively easy (famous last words). This will then allow me to attempt to fire up the engine without upsetting the neighbours (such hope!).

The interior before I offered up the dash

27 Oct 19 Engine installation

A big milestone achieved today with the engine and gearbox installed. It was just getting dark as we finished, and we didn’t manage to properly fit the geatbox mountings (a well known MGB challenge), but as my friend noted ‘It looks in’.

This is how it unfolded. The original plan was to install the engine yesterday, but unfortunately in this part of the UK we had a severe rain storm and it just wasnt feasible. Moving the job to today, meant I lost one of my two helpers, who had a work commitment up North. So it was just me and a friend from Church, John, who knows a thing or two about mechanics and is a practical and clever guy who I was confident would get the job done. Question was, would I be enough of an assistant?

First job was to see how to sling the engine. John got on with this while I torqued up the gearbox bolts. We then lifted the engine just to see how it would hang.

Having got the engine rigged up to the crane we had to rotate the engine and car through 180 degrees. The engine crane takes some manouvering. We used spare wooden floor boards as runways for the castors to make it as easy as possible, but even this was tricky, with having to move them around and the crane occasionally falling off the runway. To turn the MG, we had to push it up the drive and onto the road to do a three point turn. An old gentleman was walking his dog and looked curiously at us. He asked ‘What’s wrong with it?’. John replied ‘It hasnt got an engine’. He seemed satisfied with the answer and continued on his slow walk up the road.

As further preparation I jacked up the rear of the car and removed the grille to give us some more room to get the crane as close as possible for maximum reach. We also laid throws around the engine bay and wrapped the gearbox with a sheet and a feed bag as protection against any accidental knocks.

Received wisdom recommends jacking up the rear to help the angles

So having done all the preparation, it was time to see if we could do the job.

Here John articulates our well planned operation ‘lets give it a go!’

First attempt at lifting the engine ended in failure. We found that with a single sling we weren’t able to tilt the engine enough by force alone to get anywhere close to the angle we needed to fit into the car. So we rigged up the balance bar which I had been loaned by Corsham Tyre Services. The balance bar has two lifting points connected by a threaded bar which allows you to tilt the load. Cool piece of kit which as it turned out was critical to the job getting done.

With the whole unit tilted, we were on our way

Our next set of challenges were around maximising the reach of the crane which was at its absolute limit. We had to release the bonnet struts and lash the bonnet up as high as it would go (see picture above). With the crane at maximum reach, at maximum tilt and very close to the bonnet, it looked as if we would be short of where we would need to be. However, with a bit of shoving and pushing, some very careful manipulation of the crane height and angles, and some light prying, we got the engine close enough to the mounting brackets to get a bolt on each side. Seems easy when I write it now, but it was fairly stressful as the space is really quite tight, especially with the starter motor on, not one of my best ideas. So we had the engine in place, and our focus now turned to the gearbox and the dreaded cross-member.

The cross-member is an awkward piece of design by MG which is well-known for being very difficult to fit. And so it turned out to be. We managed to get one gearbox mounting fitted, but the other side refused to play ball despite our best efforts. Regretfully, we had to bolt up the cross-member with only one mounting properly installed because we were losing the light at this point. A sensible decision, as there was quite a lot of kit to put away, and although it was disappointing to be beaten, we at least had got the main job done and left things in a safe state for future completion.

So thanks John for leading the job today – in the evening, I was invited over to his place, where John’s wife had cooked a delicious spag bol (my wife Helen was away on a school trip to China).

Secondly, thanks to Corsham Tyre Services for lending the lifting kit without which we really would have struggled.

Thirdly, thanks to Austin for his generous loan of the engine crane.