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.

27 Jul 19 Thinking ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.