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.
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.
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.
So today I fitted the brake and clutch master cylinders into their assembly and then fitted that to the car, including the pedals. Sounds easy doesn’t it, but it took a while believe me. First I had rashly mounted the pedals to the assembly and then when I took it to the car realised that the pedals wouldn’t fit down the hole. So I took it apart again and mounted the assembly sans pedals. This went quite well although at one point I had to lie upside down in the footwell to do up the nuts and that involved some interesting contortions, hence the MG yoga title above.
With the master cylinders in place I can now imagine the first job involved in replacing the brake lines which is to fit the first two lines which come from the master cylinder. This involves them coming out of the cylinder and then performing a 180 degree turn so that is going to test my pipe bending skills. Might get some help for that bit! I did have Mark on hand today to help me fit the bonnet gas struts but with it being a windy day (Storm Hannah), we thought better of doing a delicate drilling job in a gale and instead had a good look at the brake kit which seems quite organised.
After a pleasant meal out with colleagues I returned to my chalet (I’m working away at present) and got the carbs out on the table to do some more work on the cold start enrichment mechanism on the rear carb, which I will call the choke from now onwards. Despite some earlier efforts to clean this up, the mechanism was still so stiff that the return spring couldn’t well, return it.
So I stripped it down again and sanded the surfaces with some 1200 grade sand-paper. On reassembling it still wasn’t very free, so I took it apart and used some 800 grade sand-paper and concentrated on what appeared to be some corrosion within the body of the carb which I think was causing the friction. The frustration is that when loosely inserted it moves freely and only tightens up when fully assembled. Sigh. End result, moving better, but still not enough, so another strip down and sand is due, but not tonight because I don’t want to be doing this all night!
On the plus side, I am cleaning more bits as I strip them and I am getting to know how it all fits together, which can only be a good thing for the future.
First opportunity this morning, since the respray, to push the MG out of the garage and look to see what jobs could be done. Noting that I haven’t got the harness yet or the brake pipes I can’t get started on the critical path items, however I am able to put components back on the car which need to be done sometime and which don’t affect anything else.
So I bolted the quarter lights back on to the doors, easy enough as I could remember how they came off. It was a bit awkward feeding the leg through the narrow slot at the top of the door without scratching the new paint, so I wrapped the end in a cloth bag and eased it through the gap at the middle of the door where I could make a bit more room. After this I was reacquainted with the very long threads on the bolts and the restricted access to them.
Just to be make room in the garage I also put the spare wheel into its recess, laid the cover over it, put the battery into its cradle and put the loose rear seat base in place. Well why not.
I also put the heater into its place to try to reacquaint myself with this unit which is an early fit item as the brake lines run past it under the bonnet. Nothing screwed down, just getting a feel for it really.
One annoyance was when I went to bolt in the engine mounts to find that at the MG spares day I had bought two o/s mounts instead of a pair of each. What a dummy.Still, not an expensive item, just need to buy the right one now.
Had some passing interest as I was working on the MG including a dog walker who came up to say hello and tell me about that he had built a Westfield 21 years ago. We had a nice chat and as I’ve said before, this project is about the experience and the people I meet as much as the end product. A nice morning’s work.
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.