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…

30 Jul 20 Putting my back into it

I was motivated to get outside after work today and do something useful on the MG. I have for a long time bemoaned how I routed the rear loom which turned out to foul the internal trim panels due to a temporary cognitive failure on my part. So I decided to reverse this and find a better route. Reversing the install turned out to be much simpler than I thought.

I then had to work out a better route and curiously it is remarkably unclear what this should be. After a bit of trial and error I have found a route which allows the loom to reach all the right places and also looks like a reasonable location to be clipped in place out of the way and logically. At least I hope so.

It was good to make some progress after having had a lot of (admittedly not entirely unpleasant) distractions. The only down side was a twinge in my back as the MG is getting heavier the more parts I bolt on, and my back is getting no stronger. I may revert to towing it up the drive until she’s a runner.

16 May 20 Going dizzy

I ordered a second hand distributor in an attempt to resolve the non-starting engine. Suspecting a timing issue, my Dad and I have gambled with the idea of getting it started with a good old-fashioned mechanical distributor in lieu of the Accuspark unit. The electronic distributer is great I’m sure, but you can’t see what is working or not, so anyway, today I bolted the new used mechanical distributer into the MG and tightened up the clamp. The distributer clamp is one of those awkward jobs on the MG where the spanner (7/8th) has about 30 degrees of movement and needs to be turned around to get at the next turn. So doing the bolts up to the clamp is a long job and you have to get into a zen like state and push through it. Or you can have a really good podcast playing in the background, such as Adam Buxton’s ramblechat with Louis Theroux.

Before tightening up the distributor clamp (I had actually popped the unit in a couple of weekends ago, including the long job of removing the clamp bolts) I had to see to the troublesome oil cooler pipe connection to the oil filter base. Having thought I had sorted this out previously, I had attempted to start the MG recently and not realising this was not done up correctly, had managed to create a large puddle of oil on the driveway. This is my second offence and although Helen was very understanding I was really annoyed at myself for this careless error. I now actually have a shortage or oil, so will be ordering some more soon and will need to remember to stick some cardboard under the car just in case. The error was to have the crush washer in the wrong place, something easily diagnosed when I checked in the catelogue.

I’ve sorted another issue through a second-hand purchase. The inlet manifold of the MGB has a bolted in connector onto which the vacuum pipe fits. On my inlet manifold, the connector was missing, and I don’t remember removing it. Having scoured the online MG catelogues I identified the part number but it was notified as being on back order, so not available any time soon. So I took the plunge and ordered a second hand inlet manifold from eBay that looked like it had the right fitting. It arrived as described and had the fitting. So problem solved and a paper-weight to boot (the surplus manifold). Now fitted on the MG, if only I could find the plastic end piece which I carefully stored away…

I was pleased with my ebay purchase which I showed to my colleagues via MS Teams

More ordering with SC Parts has resulted in two large boxes arriving at Relentless Duck Restorations Goods Inwards containing shiny new seat rail kits. The seat rails have mystified me for a while. The car only came with three out of the required four, and I have been baffled as to how the rails work. Now with the new rail kits from SC Parts, I can see that there was a lot more missing, so I am now reassured that the fit will be relatively straightforward. Not that I’ll be fitting the seats just yet, as I have the roof lining to fit before I work down to the carpets and seats.

I received a fun classic car related present from fellow enthusiast ‘Puddleduck’. Its the Haynes classis cutaways colouring book. Apparantly colouring in is good for mindfulness, being in the moment and all that. Puddleduck also has the book and he admitted that he sometimes goes onto classic care trader websites to check up on paints schemese and details such as indicator / side light configuration so he can shade in accurately. Crikey, that’s a level of dedication I can only dream of. Anyway, thanks Puddleduck.

28 Apr 20 Daft cat

Just a quick entry to record this picture of our daft cat. My daughter popped into the garage to access the freezer and as often happens, the cat dived in to poke around the garage in search of a mouse (although she is a useless hunter and there are no mice in the garage, unless you count the 2 x frozen mice we have kept for the in-laws pet snake for when lockdown is over). Anyway, standard procedure is to close the door and leave her in there for ten minutes. She’s usually ready to come out. But tonight she decided to stay in the MG and Lou managed to capture this shot – daft cat. Pity she can’t sort out the timing!

Stay safe folks – God Bless

12 April 2020 What a nut

A couple of hours on the MG this beautiful sunny and warm Easter Sunday and I was focussed entirely on one task and one task only. This was to get a nut onto the threaded trim connector which was poking through the front o/s wing right on a seam which prevented me getting the nut onto the thread. I jacked up the front, placed an axle stand under the car and removed the front wheel to get better access to the thread. I then spent about an hour using including a hammer and dremmel cutting wheel to slowly but surely make space for the nut to fit on. It sounds easy now as I write it, but it was blooming difficult. Ideally, I would have turned the whole car upside down and sideways as this would have made the whole job easier, or at least ‘put it on a ramp’ as my Dad sometimes says (that fully equipped workshop being someway down our family list of priorities). One of the issues was that surprisingly the deep recesses of the front wing are a little dark and so I had to improvise a lighting solution. See pictures below for reference. I finally got the nut to bite on the thread (Halleluiah!) and from then on it was simply a case of tightening up the nut until the trim sat snuggly on the front wing. I had read in my restoration book that it was possible to snap these threads so I was very cautious in tightening it up and decided against jumping up and down on an extension bar which I am not sure is ever a good idea. A satisfying time overcoming a problem while I listened on Radio 4 to a profile of the new Labour leader Keir Starmer and some other analysis of the Coronavirus pandemic.

6 Apr 2020 External trim

I am writing this a week later that it was done, so apologies for my tardiness. I spent a lot of time on this long weekend (Monday off) working on the MG, mainly fixing the external trims. The MGB is blessed with a striking stainless steel trim which runs down both sides, made up on three pieces, front wing, door and rear wing. Each trim snap fits onto a number of round fittings which are pop rivetted into the bodywork plus one screw plate per panel. The pop riveting went reasonably well, except that a couple of holes were too big for the pop rivet to take and so I had to miss these out. The o/s rear had a mislaigned hole so I had to miss that one out too. The front wing screw fittings needed to be drilled and I had a mixed experience with this. The n/s wing drilling went reasonably well – aligned well on the horizontal plane, I didn’t really get it far enough forward to completely pull the trim in. So learning this lesson on the o/s wing, I drilled further forward and although perfectly aligned for the trim, the thread came through next to a seam on the inner wing so I couldn’t fit the washed and nut. Annoyingly I had to leave the job partly done. Worth mentioning that the trims snap on nicely if you smack them sharply with the heel of your palm. Okay for the first couple of trims, but a bit painful by the end of the day.

As an aside, I had planned a load of jobs for this weekend, but was frustrated by lack of parts, particularly the seats which are frustrating me with a lack of clear information on how they are fitted and not having all the parts I need [sigh]. I did manage to fit the crush washer to the Oil Cooler pipes. This joint had been leaking oil and then I found the washer in a parts bag. Not doing much good there was it! Now its fitted I no longer have the oil leak, just the stain on the driveway to remind me of my error. Onwards and upwards

My list of jobs – I didn’t get too far!

5 April 2020 Door glass

A fine spring day (Sunday) as the COVID-19 lockdown continues. With the engine start programme on pause, I decided to continue refitting some of the extensive exterior trim on the MG. Having recently taught myself to pop-rivet, and finding out that is the most fun thing ever, I continued to fit the chrome drip rails and today managed to complete both sides. Just one clip missing which will either turn up or I’ll have to buy from Moss. I then turned to the door glass which I have been wanting to fit for a while. Unfortunately, the door glass is very badly scratched (I don’t know how) so I will need to replace them, however, I decided that there was merit in having a go at fitting them anyway as a sort of trial run for when I get the new / second hand ones. Tricky to justify buying new glass at the moment as I can’t collect from Moss (shop closed) and the cost of shipping glass is blooming expensive. Also, I would have to pry off the metal rails which looks tricky, so maybe I’ll source some second hand units via Ebay for as long as that remains. Anyway, back to today’s efforts which went alright actually. I had to remove the quarter lights and then reaquaint myself with the lifting mechanism which is a bit fiddly. I just looked at it and fiddled it around a bit until it fitted – it took a couple of attempts, I then dropped the windows in and they seemed to slide up and down quite convincingly After checking on YouTube I find that I haven’t hitched the glass properly, so something to sort out tomorrow on my day off.

Lots of people say hello as I’m working out the front on the drive, but one visitor today didn’t really understand the whole social distancing thing. I kept backing away as he enthusiastically looked over the MG. He apparently has a couple of Lotus’s he is intending to restore although when he mentioned making one of them into a four door, and commented on how thick the fibreglass was, I began to question his sanity. It was about 7mins and 30 seconds into the conversation before he mentioned ‘Wheeler Dealers’ which is where my interest tends to tail off. Anyway, I think he was probably a bit lonely and confused by the whole Coronavirus thing. It goes to show how it is impacting people in different ways. I wished him well and off he went with his shopping trolley.

Final job today was to scrub the interior trims that I have. I just used some kitchen cleaner to clean the vinyl so I will fit what I have got tomorrow. There are definately some bits missing, so I’ll have to decide how to replace these and draft up an order to one of the many suppliers. I am keen to attempt a repair to the headlining, so there is not much stopping me cracking on with this now.

21 & 22 Mar 20 Significant progress

I am writing up progress over two days today, Saturday and Sunday of this first weekend in which we are living through the most extraordinary changes in our lives due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m not going to focus on that, instead I’m going to talk about progress on the MG.

On Saturday I managed to get the MG to crank over – this was a big step forward. I didn’t get it to fire up, but we’ll get to that. The main thing preventing me from starting the engine had been the wiring of the ignition switch. I had been baffled by the switch terminals which I just couldn’t relate to the wiring diagram. Added to that, having got it wrong and frightened myself with the battery terminal sparking, my confidence was low. However, after conversations with my Dad and some on-line help from Nick Dring (thanks guys), I sat in the MG on the driveway on a sunny Saturday and just ran through some wiring scenarios. Using my Dad’s fooproof lamp test to keeps things safe, it took eight attempts to finally get it right. I had the engine cranking over in every ignition switch position including 0, I and II. Position III remained elusive, but it was a great feeling when I finally stumbled on the right combination and it cranked over on position III. Of course I could have avoided all this by taking a photo of the switch before I stripped it down, but its a bit late for that now!

The rest of the day was spent in attempting to get the engine started, ultimately unsuccessfully. I did connect up the choke (not very well), tightened the throttle cable and resolved a couple of areas which were leaking oil due to not being tightened up properly – namely, the rocker cover and the oil filter oil cooler pipe union. For fuel I used a bottle (borrowed from my friend john) connected to the carbs and hung from the bonnet catch. Out of interest, I recorded key parts of the day on my iPhone and made them into a YouTube video, linked below. Be warned, its 14 minutes….

Video of me not starting the MG

Onto Sunday and I diverted from the engine (for which I need some brainy help) to focus on some items of trim which I have deliberately ignored for a good while now. It made for a change to be focussing on something different. Plan for today was to fit the chrome trims to the rear quarter lights. I had previously fitted these just to get them off the garage shelves but they had to come off for me to fit the trims. This meant that I needed to learn how to use a pop rivet gun which I have never used before. A quick YouTube video later and I was a pop-rivetting hero. As any one will tell you, its really easy. The trims are original and despite a clean up using autosol they are a bit ratty, but from what I remember, buying all new is extremely expensive and in these dire times I can’t justify any frivelous expenditure. I can always buy new trims later down the line. I got the o/s all sorted nicely, but the n/s side wasn’t as easy, the trims being a bit buckled and hence more difficult to fit and the rubber seal had gone missing (it’s somewhere in the garage). Anyway, some useful time wokring outdoors on the MG – I halted during the middle of fixing a trim to the A-post on the n/s due to being asked if I would like to go for a walk with Helen and Lou – priorities being what they are, I pushed the MG into the garage and that was the day’s work done.