I’m pleased to say that I went for my first actual drive in the MG that wasn’t a test run. I had intended to clean the MG since it had to spend a night outdoors recently due to work being done on the house. As I had to start it up to move it out I thought it best to give it a full run up to temperature so I set off down the road. I made one small adjustment to the idle speed at a lay-by and tweaked the thermostat for the electric fan and then…went for a drive.
The car was running like a dream and I actually started to enjoy myself working up the gears and placing it accurately on the road. You certainly need to concentrate and each gear change is an effort of coordination although the clutch is very smooth and I didn’t crunch any gears.
It is of course faintly terrifying to be rolling along at 55mph in a car I have largely screwed together (with lots of help and encouragement) myself and invested considerable amounts of my hard earned cash in but I hope my confidence will improve as I gradually increase the distances travelled as I prove it all works consistently.
There is still lots to do including the missing internal trimming but it was satisfying to go for a run on such a lovely evening. On return to home with no problems to report I gave the MG a very careful wash using a clean mitt and very little pressure , having sprinkled it liberally with water first. An equally careful drying off and it was looking gleaming.
On the drive I took some pics at a nearby and well known beauty spot, see below. A lovely feeling of accomplishment. Oh..and on the downhill bits the exhaust popped and crackled (without software…!)…sometimes it’s the little things…
No work to report, just the fun of offering to take Mum for a spin in the MGB. She politely overlooked the various unfinished bits and simply said ‘you must be very proud’. The last sports car she was in was apparently an Austin Healey but I’m unable to corroborate this as it was a long time before I was born!
It was a dry day so I decided to take the MG on a 20 minute drive to shakedown any issues. The MG pulled strongly and seemed to run down the road nicely. It definitely prefers to be pulling than pootling and isn’t particularly good at picking up from really low revs. I’ve got free flowing air filters, tubular manifold and a big bore exhaust so I think that’s probably those mods and it just being an older car compared to my (ahem) 400bhp Polestar EV with its instant torque!
On return home the engine was idling nicely so it’s feeling a lot better tuned than before. I did however see a bit of coolant around the top hose and on closer examination it was coming from a joint that didn’t look too good with the rubber host not aligned with the steel pipe. So this evening I loosened the clips and wriggled it into better alignment – not perfect, but better. I’ll give it another run tomorrow and check again.
A brief bit of work tonight, simply giving the under bonnet a light wipe over to get rid of some of the marks which have accumulated over time. I find that the marks came off with a little T-cut on a cloth. Afterwards I gave the area a spray with some detailer and wiped it off.
I discovered that I’d neglected to put the fuse cover on the fuse box so I located it in a likely looking pile of bits and popped it on after a wipe over.
Looking across the other side of the engine bay the bonnet release cable was looking a bit floppy and there was a blank bracket which must have held a clip at one point. So it was now just a matter of finding a clip to fit and popping it on. I found one that looked right but it needed a clean up so I spent 30 not very interesting minutes with some sand paper making it more presentable. Fitted that and called it a night.
A promising conversation with my Dad this morning inspired me to have a go at getting the distributor back in the MG. My previous blog explained that I had removed it pending adjusting the timing when I discovered that the securing bolt on the clamp was the wrong way around. With that all sorted it was time to pop it back in and make the timing adjustment.
The distributor on the MGB is a fiddly fit made worse because of how I’ve orientated the oil cooler pipe work. One day I’ll loosen that connection and rotate the L-shaped connector to reroute the oil pipe out of the way of the distributor but today was about timing.
With a bit of help from Helen (the long suffering Mrs Relentless Duck), we got the distributor back in place and it was then just the tedious job of tightening up the clamp bolts which are not easily reached. In lieu of an open ended 7/16th spanner I used an 11mm ring spanner which fitted more easily and allowed me a larger turn each go. I was getting about 1/3 of a turn per placement of the spanner so it took a while…
Once I had the bolts tightened, I connected up the cables and put the distributor cap on, managing to get the clips on first time which was a miracle and then popped the coil lead and one HT lead which I had removed for access. We were ready to go for a start up!
The MG started a little reluctantly, not unusual when it’s been left to sit for a while before then smoothing out, albeit idling too fast, and I was able to back it out of the garage. However as soon as I pulled away I could hear pinking so I stopped and trickled back to the drive for an adjustment, retarding the ignition by rotating the distributor anti-clockwise.
It took two more attempts to get it right but then the pinking had gone and it was idling nicely too (not too fast as before). I drove it up to the roundabout, my standard shakedown, before returning to check everything looked alright and to tighten the clamp bolt.
I had intended to do a longer run around our local bypass but unfortunately it had begun to rain so it was time to put the MG away. Good progress and I’ll find time over the next couple of days to do a longer run and find a friend with a strobe light!
After I sorted a leaky servo pipe recently I needed to retard the ignition as the advance was now way to aggressive under load and pinking was occurring. Basically the advance on the distributor was now getting a good suck if you’ll pardon the expression. This at least is the working theory.
My friend John was on hand as we set about loosening the distributor clamp to make an adjustment. This turned out to be a long awkward job as the bolt head was rounded off. We decided that this was a situation worth resolving otherwise it would always be a problem and so committed to removing the distributor, and the clamp.
On removal, we discovered that the bolt had been fitted incorrectly (by whom I wonder?). The clamp is cleverly designed to hold the bolt head so that all you need to do is tighten or loosen the nut. No need for two spanners. This is probably obvious to many people but it was a learning point for me.
Anyway, we concluded that we’d set the timing from scratch with a strobe light on another day so I finished up by cleaning the bracket because why not make it a bit more presentable?
Oh how time flies – no blog entry since September! anyone would have thought I was busy [sigh]. Some progress since the last blog – I have the bills to prove it! A couple of significant garage spells have seen some overdue tasks now completed. These include such delights as wiping wipers, a heater which blows and heats, washing washers, a rear hatch with all the right seals, working indicators and correct mixture in both carburettors.
Today, as well as recording the above progress, I can report a couple of minor jobs squeezed in between studying for an upcoming exam and visiting a local National Trust property (not in the MG, too much salt on the road).
Job 1 – SU Dashpots: I am chasing down a fast running issue, and following a suggestion from Dad, decided to check and clean up the SU dashpots to ensure they can slide up and down nicely. I wasn’t at all sure this would make any difference, but it was worth a try so Matt (future son-in-law) used some metal polish to clean these up while I did another job.
Job 2 – Repair servo hose: In chasing down the fast running issue, I decided to improve the seal where the servo pipe fits to the servo manifold. The pipe end (pictured below) was very ropey and I wondered if air was leaking through there and messing up how the carbs operated. So I used a junior hacksaw to saw a length off the pipe and then refixed it to the inlet manifold.
Road Test – Matt assisted to put on the air filters and we took the MG for a spin up the road to see if we had seen to the fast running issue. Straight away we found a problem, but we are now reflecting that we may have solved one issue, but caused another. In short, we now had a pinking issue under load. We cut the road test short and slowly returned to base. I am now wondering whether with a good seal on the servo manifold, we now to adjust everything to suit that new condition. Certainly the MG was not pinking when I picked it up from Clive and we haven’t made any other changes. What do you think?
Job 3 – Wipers: Clive had ordered me some replacement wipers which were on a delayed delivery, so I had picked these up from his garage the other week. As the car was out of the garage it seemed sensible to pop these on. The wiper blades were a little reluctant to come off- they have a dainty little clip which is supposed to release them, but having been fitted approximately ten years ago (conservative estimate) they were very attached to one another. With Matt pulling and me operating the long nosed pliers (surely everyone’s favourite tool) we got them apart and new blades slid nicely into place, immediately making the chrome arms look decidedly second hand. It was getting late, so no time to clean up the arms, that will go onto the list of jobs for another day.
Before putting the MG away, Matt and I dug out the sound proofing material I recently purchased. It was a bit difficult to work out what goes well, but it was clear that this would be an all-day job with the major issue being having to remove the seats to fit the acoustic matting and carpets (not yet fitted under the seats), so that will need a good dry day and a helper on hand. An interesting afternoon all round and it was good to see signs of Spring. I need to crack on with the MG (goodness knows when) as it is required for wedding duty in November!
First job on this hot Saturday was to refit the door pull which Helen pulled off recently when I picked her up from Tesco. To be fair, it wasn’t fixed properly in the first place so this time I used a decent nut and bolt combination on the dodgy fixing so this should now hold.
Second job was to replace the bonnet release cable because the reproduction one I fitted probably two years ago recently gave up the ghost and was beyond repair. I did toy with the idea of using the original but as it had a big old kink I decided to replace it with another brand of reproduction. This unit was of better quality and more closely resembled the original factory item. It’s a fiddly thing to fit and with my limited know-how I had to think hard about how it went together. Eventually I figured it out but it did involve threading the cable down the fitting and trying to find the hole in the cable sheath which I reckon is like trying to crack a safe. Managed it though! 😀
Just to also mention a recent Garage tidy up and selling off of a couple of surplus parts which went easily enough on Facebook marketplace. More to sell off where that came from
Stiff steering resolved, although not by me. I am striking up a good relationship with our local MG specialist and after a couple of disruptions I was able to get the MG down to him today and he resolved the stiff steering. The problem was with the column itself which had become misshapen and was catching on the mounting bracket. I don’t have full details on the fix as I wasn’t there but it involved reshaping it with some tubing. Anyway, the steering is now bang on and the car drove back from the garage a lot more nicely than it drove down! A major hurdle overcome. He also spotted a few other issues around the car such as the bonnet alignment and non cancelling indicators which are on my list but it was good to discuss possible solutions. The bonnet catch cable has unfortunately also failed, stripping its fitting at the dashboard end which is annoying so that will need a replacement. This evening I reviewed my Completion Schedule, updating jobs done and adding on the new jobs. Its nearly at one page now and with the car basically driveable I can get out and about to get things done. Finally, spotted a rear light out so another job for the list!
A final reflection, it was good to watch Clive drive the MG up the road as I could listen to the exhaust note from the outside – sounded good!
I rarely work on the MGB during the week, being in that phase of life where the day job takes the majority of my time and energy. However, I found myself with a free hour this evening and I was itching to fix some bits I had bought with some birthday money. The parts in question are window winders and door handles. As is often the case, the reason for selecting parts is partly aesthetic and partly needs-based. When we fitted the doors cards earlier in the summer we fitted the existing ‘telephone’ style door pulls. These are soft touch items and very much of their time from the 1970s. Both handles were original and not in the best of shape although I did give them a bit of a scrub up. The one handle was in really poor shape and it barely lasted a couple of pulls before coming free of its fixing. As new units are quite expensive, I instead researched the after market and found an array of aluminium handles (with sporty drilled out holes) which would do the job nicely for a lower cost. My research led me to a reasonably priced set of door pulls and window winders actually intended to fit a Mini but with interchangeability with the MGB. Weirdly this meant ordering the set which comes with Mini escutcheons and door catches which I have no use for but at a lower cost than buying separate parts. To be clear, I haven’t splashed out on these, they are fairly cheap parts but fully up to the job.
Fitting them proved really simple, once I had found suitable screws for the window winders which have a fine thread. I fitted the handles with ‘botch-it’ self tappers into the worn original door fitting – hope that doesn’t offend any purists, it was a pragmatic solution. So there we have it, a nice smart and economical installation and another job off the tick list. Mrs Relentless Duck can now enjoy the luxury of not having to ask to borrow the window winder if she wants to lower the window.
Can’t beat a Beatles quote, but it sort of sums up the last couple of weeks on the MGB. In the my previous post I was expressing my disappointment at missing the local car show. Shortly after this I managed to make contact with a local specialist who is literally down the road from where I live and he was able to sort out the troublesome radiator hose and diagnose an alignment issue with the steering which should explain the stiff steering. the MG is booked back in with him but I’m in a queue so I’m being patient about it.
To today which is my 52nd Birthday and what a lovely day, nice array of gifts, morning Church service with the family, a light bite at the local farm shop and a free afternoon with the MG, although a bit too hot for anything too energetic.
First priority today was to commit to driving to the local Tesco to half full the tank with Ultimatum E5 which was the longest journey I’ve done yet and a test of me as much as the car. I kept a close eye on the oil pressure and temperature gauges but all was well although the idle speed dramatically rose until it was a very noisy 3,000 rpm which was all a bit embarrassing. I filled up regardless and tootled off home, revving like mad at every junction.
Back home I realised that the fast idle screw locking nut was loose and so however I set it was going out of true as I drove along with the throttle open. I took out my tiniest spanner and nipped it up so hopefully that’s done.
The MG was a bit sluggish on the way to Tesco so I advanced the ignition a fraction afterwards and took it for a test drive which showed a big improvement with the MG pulling eagerly without any pinking.
Other minor developments were the installation of various grommets under the bonnet to reduce the oily smells entering the cabin.
I’m writing all this with the benefit of editor’s prerogative so this is a slightly tidied up version of events but the resulting improvement is a matter of record.
I’ve decided not to take the MG to the show tomorrow. This afternoon, a sweltering day in Southern England (Wiltshire to be precise), I undertook some show preparation, but sadly with one issue unresolved, I’ve reluctantly contacted the show organiser and withdrawn my entry. Sheer stubbornness could have won the day, but a breakdown on what is predicted to be a hot day is not sensible.
The specific issue which tipped my decision is a seeping leak from the hose which connects to the bottom of the radiator. This hose is a three-way unit with a smaller hose heading off towards the heater, and other end connecting to the thermostat at the top of the engine. The space at the bottom is devilishly tight, even for my skinny arms and when I fitted it, I couldn’t get the hose to slide nicely over the spigot (I’m going to call it a spigot). Hence, this poor fit leaks when the engine is running. What I need to do is to remove it and refit it, but in the heat of the day and with my puny office muscles (optimised for typing), I couldn’t get the fit any better, despite trying. A short road test proved the MG is running alright on the whole but with a steady drip from the seeping hose, a 10 mile drive, even with planned top ups just seemed too risky.
I did sort out a couple of other nagging issues.
Front disk brake shields. The front disks have a steel shield on the back (presumably to keep out road muck) and when I pushed the car in after nipping up the track rod ends recently there was a scraping noise. I reckoned this was the brake shield rubbing the disk. So I jacked up the front end, removed the o/s wheel and spun the hub to trace where the scraping was coming from. The track rod end was actually resting against the shield, so I loosened it off and retightened it so it was clear of the shield. It was then simply a matter of easing the shield away from the disk until it turned freely. Sorted.
Fuel Pipe. I replaced all the fuel lines on the MG early in the build and had somewhat cobbled the filter to carburettor length under the bonnet which consisted of two short lengths of rubber tubing and a straight bit of copper. This seemed to offend my Dad’s eye as he comments on whenever the opportunity arises. Sorting through a box of bits, I found a length of surplus rubber tubing and wouldn’t you know it was the right length (some may say that this was the correct piece all along, but we will never know). Anyway, it was a relatively straightforward job to remove the existing contraption which is like something off Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and replace with an elegant single length of tubing. Sorted x 2.
All this work was carried out under a new Gazebo we bought off Amazon for £99. It was destined for the back garden, where it has since been erected, but it was first pressed into service to cover up the MG (with the blessing of Mrs Relentless Duck) and what a fine job it did in the hot hot sun.
Happy Summer everyone, I’ll get to a show one of these days.
[Post blog note – just had invite to join friends who are racing at Castle Combe Circuit next week, so maybe the MG will ‘break her duck’ in the near future if I can get that hose seen to.]