The MG project slowed to a crawl in 2021, a combination of factors resulting in little progress. My mantra for this project has been that I have deadlines at work, not for my hobbies and although this has served me well, I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed that in 2021 I didn’t get the MG on the road.
Looking ahead to 2022, her Majesty The Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee. She ascended to the throne in February, however there is a weekend of celebration in June 2022 and I’m thinking of using that as a target date to get the MG roadworthy. A recent conversation with my eldest daughter hinted at a longer deadline which would require the MG to provide certain duties but that was said somewhat in jest!
So there we are, a realistic objective. Funds are available, time will have to be made available and skills will need to be borrowed, begged, bought or learned to get the MG on the road. The list is relatively small, but involves some substantial jobs and as we all know in this game one job often leads to another, reveals another and others which are as yet unknown will surface! …and there are the jobs we create ourselves through mistakes.
I’m promising myself regular updates as we close on the target. Best wishes for 2022 to all those involved in keeping old cars going.
Today was a Monday, with a day of annual leave booked, and a friend coming to help me on the MG. A sunny September day awaited. I hauled the MG out of garage (no unnecessary start ups here, right Dad?) and set to on fixing the rear number plate.
As I am proceeding without rear bumpers, I had given myself a challenge as in the original set up, the number plate lights are mounted on the inside of the over riders. I solved this by observing that on my friend’s rubber bumper MGB, the number plate mount had integrated lamps – ah ha. A search on eBay resulted in a used number plate mount arriving some weeks ago which I had painted with black Hammerite and was ready to fix. The number plate itself was a metal unit with silver on black lettering which needed to be drilled. It is always a bit scary to drill into lovely new shiny painted metal, but using masking tape and progressively larger drill bits I had the holes drilled. They weren’t in quite the right place, being a couple of mm out, so I slotted them both with a circular file (I know, just shoot me). Before I put the assembly together, screws, spacers, washers and all, I used a dremel tool to clean up the heads of the screws as they were looking a bit ‘used’. Proud of myself. I mounted the rear plate and discovered it was not quite level. Out with the file again and managed to make it mostly straight. Stepping back, the installation looks good, in my humble opinion.
I have been wanting to get on with fitting the carpets to the MG for some time, but wanted some assistance. Ashley (the son of a University friend of mine) has been working on cars and bikes since he could stand up and kindly offered to help, so we arranged the day and here we were. I had previously made a tentative start on the carpets by fitting the moulded piece to the transmission tunnel and gluing the sills. Ashley’s first advice was not to glue everything down straightaway, and also to only glue what really needed to be stuck down. This would allow us to pull carpets up if I needed to access areas in future or to pull it back if I was working in a particular area and wanted to protect the carpet. He added that through use, any areas which needed glue would make themselves apparent, and that some areas could be fixed with Velcro for easy removal.
The battery area presented some issues. Firstly I had earthed the battery to the bulkhead which goes up to the seat base and battery cover. For reasons unknown, the battery in the MGB is mounted under the rear ‘seats’. The bolt securing the earth cable was protruding on this bulkhead which would have resulted in a bulge in the carpet. So we moved the earth cable from this bulkhead to a likely looking hole in the rear of the battery compartment and insulated the cable as well. A much neater installation, and this allowed us to (sparingly) glue the carpet to the bulkhead.
Next up was to fix down the battery cover. This is fixed by five neat fixings which require a quarter turn. Amazingly through the whole strip down and repaint, four of the five fixings survived which was a surprise. Ashley used some of his detailing products to clean up the battery cover and we fixed it in place.
We then moved onto the rear arch carpets which were a world of weirdness with what appeared to be lots of excess carpet at the top of the arch and the cuts in the wrong places. We used the rear window trims as a guide to what needed to be trimmed and took the minimum excess amount off the top. Although I had both rear window trims, I did not have all the right screws, so we just put these in place with the minimum fixings and I will order new screws to finish this area off. The carpet then runs up into the inner arch, so for the present, we placed it there rather than cutting and gluing pending agreement of the final layout we settle on.
The GT version of the MGB is blessed with a micro-rear seat with a vertical seat back and mini-bench only really suitable for small children, and then not safely as there are no seat belts. I had not intended putting the rear seats back in, but am now reconsidering this as otherwise I think it creates more work in having to deal with what is left unfinished. So I will need to organise for having this recovered, or tackle it myself.
Another big gap in posting due to other life distractions. Recently I had an electrician (Phil James) booked in to do some jobs on the MG. He did a cracking job, fitting the electric fan, switches in the dash and centre console and the heating rear window. Of course we needed to fire up the MG to commission the fan and this is where things began to go wrong.
The week before Phil came I had done a few little jobs including tidying up the brake, fuel and loom lines which run under the car as well as fitting the air filters. A good job done. Annoyingly the MG then refused to start and was the same when Phil and I needed it to.
Poor Phil, he tried everything and in the process sorted out the carbs which had overfilled dashpots and the rear carb where the piston was not moving freely. So we had to admit defeat on the day.
Meanwhile my Dad had said ‘it will be something simple’ and today I got to the bottom of the issue. I tried a simple test which was to remove the fuel pipe to the front carb, stick it in a bottle, turn on the ignition and see what happened. In short nothing. So I removed the rear wheel to get a good view of the fuel pump. I confirmed the connections were all good so it was a mystery until I noticed that a rubber pipe which connects to the main fuel line under the car was going through a tight curve and looked kinked. And so it turned out to be. I adjusted the curve switched the ignition on and hey presto click, click, click and fuel at the carb. Woohoo! So problem solved and another step along the way. The MG fired up and ran smoothly. I then spent some time sorting out the wiper mechanism which I had incorrectly installed. Still work in progress, but it’s on the right lines now, just blooming fiddly work. A good day’s work.
Crikey, its been a while since my last post. What can I say, I’ve been busy.
Anyway, today was a good day. Recently I’ve been trying to resolve a misfire and due to my low level of competence, I had unsuccessfully tried to change the points in the distributor and managed to convert the misfire into a non-starting issue. So I left things alone for a few weeks while other events took precedence such as work, volunteering at Church, Gardening and walking with Helen. Of course Dad had been saying why not just fit the Electronic Distributor that I had bought originally but I had got it in my head that it was a horrendous, virtually impossible job. Then Thursday of this week, later in the evening instead of slumping in front of the TV, I popped into the garage and stared at the distributor. Then I reached for a 7/16th spanner and sort of offered it up to the bolts. It’s really fiddly, but I got some movement going and then the bolts were getting slack. I reached down to the distributor and just like that it came out. I was that surprised I just stared at it in my hands. How did that happen?
Buoyed up by this, today I slotted in the electronic distributor pretty easily and then just wondered if it would start. It did! I was really chuffed, and the misfire had gone, so success all round. I did have a bit of fun with tweaking the timing and having to adjust the carbs but before too long I had it idling nicely and cleanly revving, so this was a big step forward.
I spend the rest of my time pottering around. I fitted the twin horns, discovering as I connected them to the loom that the switch was live. That made me jump alright. With both units connected, they make a pleasing ‘honk’. I did give the heating controls a good check over and discovered that I need to buy one new one. I stripped the cables and connections off the old units ready for re-fitting. Completing the heater installation is going to be quite a project in itself I reckon. I then spent some time stripping the spare door that I recently bought in readiness for installing the glass from that door into my car. Finally, Helen and I sat out the front of the house with a cup of tea and a piece of cake in the sunshine. I had the usual couple of nice chats with passing neighbours and the postie who all admired the MG which was looking very bright in the sun.
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.
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.
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
Fitted interior light to the centre console ready for wiring up.
Scavenged the heated rear window warning light from the old loom and old centre console
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
Fixed the ignition switch to the steering column. No more fishing around in the footwell for the ignition switch.
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!
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)
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
Cleared out the interior of rubbish, tools, nuts, washers and grit!
Fitted grommits to the footwell aperatures
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…)
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
I hope that I finish the brakes before I run out of song / TV titles I can use for a play on words. Following a seven mile walk this morning with the lovely Mrs T, this afternoon was dedicated to completing the brake job started a couple of days ago. My set up was a little different as I was keen to keep the garage door firmly shut against the very cold weather. Not that it was much warmer in the garage when I first entered the space, although wearing my overalls and with my hands around a warming cup of coffee, things were bearable. A couple of pieces of dark chocolate may have also helped…
So today’s job was to fit the new calipers, pads, clips and split pins. A relatively simple job you would have thought, but it did take a while. The calipers are of course incredibly heavy and holding these up while you slide the two bolts through is hard work for a pen-pusher like me. However, the pads, clips and split pins went in very nicely and the disc rotated well with no binding. The hardest part of the job today, was getting the flexible hose free from where it mates to the copper cable. For some reason, my Christmas-addled brain just couldn’t work out how to dissemble the simple connecting piece. I did eventually work it out, and came up with a technique (involving winding the caliper) to tighten up the flexible connection without twisting it. All a bit awkward, but I was pleased with how it all came together in the end. Sometimes you just have to think hard – coffee always helps. With the car in the garage, there wasn’t the usual rush to get the wheel back on and the car pushed back inside. So instead I did a job I’ve been pestered by my Dad about since I’ve had the car. I gave the wheel a quick rub down and then brush painted it in Hammerite satin black. I’ve no idea how this is going to turn out, but this is very much a quick smarten up pending selection of final wheels for the car, which is someway off. If I get a reasonable result, I’ll do the other wheels as I do the brakes so that I’ll have them all smartened up over time.
I enjoyed listening to Radio 4 as always, especially Gardeners Question Time, which is a favourite, although I have absolutely no interest in Gardening. Happy New Year to you all. Here’s to a better 2021.