26 Dec 2020 Moving under its own power

First of all, a very Happy Christmas to everyone – I hope you’ve all had, or are continuing to have a great time. Progress on the MG took a leap forwards (actually backwards, but we will get to that) recently following a visit from Phil James, who is a specialist classic car electrician. We had been messaging back and forth for a few weeks after my initial web enquiry and finally settled on a date that worked for us both in early December. Phil came for the day and after a brief chat he just got on with labelling, tidying up, connecting and sorting out the loom with all its connections. I got on with my day job, but checked in on him from time to time, keeping the tea topped up. He made rapid progress and by the end of the day, he had got a lot more connected than I could have hoped for or achieved in the same period! I would recommend him highly.

Phil’s website is here

This photo doesn’t really do justice to how much more complete the electrical loom is based on the work done by Phil

So that was a good day’s work and I’ll have Phil back soon to fit some more components which I have needed to buy. Part of the idea of getting him involved was to help me work out what was needed and we certainly achieved that and I’ve been busy since on the internet ordering the missing bits. Watch this space for further updates as various components get fitted.

So it was with refreshed enthusiasm that I crawled into the MG through the hatch the following day (which was a Saturday) and decided that I would attempt to drive out of the garage, rather than the usual back-breaking push. I should explain, that there wasn’t room to open the door due to how it was last pushed in. Feeding myself into the driving position (the seat had been lifted out to make room for Phil), I cranked the MG over and was pleased for it to burst into life on the second turn of the key. It would have fired up first time, but I am still getting used to ‘catching it’ as it turns-over. It was a bit intimidating to select reverse for the first time, with the engine running, but I gave it a go and was greeted by a grinding noise. Ah. I gave the clutch a couple of pumps and tried again. This time, the gear selected smoothly and I was able to feel for the bite point on the clutch, raise the revs a little and ease the MG out of the garage. This was the first time the MG had moved under its own power in my ownership, and from a time perspective in approximately 8 years. Woohoo, what a moment! Before I got carried away, and remembering that I have NO BRAKES, just a handbrake, I gingerly allowed the MG to come to rest on the lip of the garage entrance and shut it off.

As I reflected on this progress, both electrical and mechanical I was enthused to order new brakes (Calipers and disks) for the MG and I’ve put sorting the brakes onto my priority list for the new year, so it can be moved around with confidence, and of course, when appropriately complete, to be driven for real.

On a festive note, a couple of photos below of a nice pre-war Riley that I spied at a recent event new to me, which was Carols on Track, a drive-in Carol Concert organised by the local Churches after Castle Combe Racing Circuit generously made their paddock area available for the event. As a response to the pandemic restrictions, Churches all over have been thinking about ways to celebrate the Christmas season. Our own Church has been hosting restricted services, as well as online content, but we had no way to hold our traditional Carol Service. So we were delighted and intrigued to attend Castle Combe. The basic idea was to get parked up and then either stay in your car, or stand socially distanced outside, as the Carols and Lessons were played out over a professional PA system. I have to hand it to the organisers, who had arranged for hot drinks and hog roast stall to be available for the punters. The service was a combination of deeply emotional carols such as Silent Night to the all out riot of the 12 days of Christmas with horn blowing and lights flashing. Great fun, and it may become a permanent fixture, COVID or no COVID. Turnout was about 100 cars as a conservative estimate.

So, I’m feeling positive about 2021, with more work due on the MG, perhaps that elusive first drive, and us all getting on top of COVID. Best wishes to you all and God Bless

21 Nov 20 Wiper Motor and other bits and bobs

In early December I have a classic car auto electrician coming to look at the loom on the MGB and to help with its installation. He’ll carry out an assessment first, and then recommend what he is able to do. In readiness for this, I rolled the MG out onto the drive on this sunny November afternoon. Before I got on with the neccessary work, I couldn’t resist firing up the MG. She started on the second go, so the battery had held out, which is encouraging in terms of the alternator actually working. I had a bit of a fiddle with the idle speed and mixture and managed to get it idling relatively smoothly with the choke fully in engine warmed up. I am not kidding myself that the carbs are set up, but at least its running better than when initially started a few weeks ago. I am a bit addicted to the noise and couldn’t resist a couple of revs. My neighbour’s grown up son came to see what the noise was and he liked what he heard!

The preparation on the loom today consisted of me undoing the jerry-rigged set up I had created to get the car started. The loom was basically resting in the foot well which is clearly not right. I disconnected the ignition switch (having taken numerous photos) and various other connections including several temporary earths. I then took a good look at the loom and carefully unravelled it to lay behind the dashboard in roughly the right configuration. I then looked at where the loom enters the interior and identified the correct location of the first earth connection. Having learned that stainless steel does not have as good connectivity as mild steel, I didn’t use a fresh shiny bolt but dug out an old one from the bolt box. That led me to contemplate the wiper motor which is just under the dash on the off side (UK). The wiper motor was dangling awkwardly from the drive cable so needed to be fitted properly in its mount. First I tightened up the drive cable connection to the motor as this was only half on. I then offered the motor up to its mount, noting that the angles didn’t really work, but it was possible to persuade it in. The motor is mounted by a steel hoop, but to keep it in snug there are two rubber elements – a pad which goes against the bulkhead and a lining to the hoop. Getting these to align and stay in place as I tightened up the two bolts was tricky to say the least, but I managed it after a couple of attempts. So with the wiper motor in place I was able to fit the earth connection I had spotted earlier. Due to the exact positioning of this, effectively under the scuttle, and the bar runs below the dash, this wasn’t that easy – I had to sit on the floor with my back to the car and feed my hand through the various obstacles and then get the right angle. Hopefully, that can stay there now for the duration!

I also greased the speedo cable in anticipation of connecting this up in the near future. All the while I was listening to a radio adaption of Ian Flemming’s James Bond in Moonraker. A great afternoon.

15 Nov 20 Replacing the alternator

A surprisingly sunny November morning appeared from what I had thought was a write-off rainy weekend, so it was out with the MG to swop out the old alternator with a new one from MGB Hive. When I first got the MG, the alternator was covered in white aluminium corrosion crystals. I scraped off the worst and when I fired the car up (this was 3 years ago) for the first time, there was a flurry of white as the loose crud spun out. Suffice to say I thought the alternator had seen better days and so having recently restarted the engine I decided to replace it. Also prompting me to this job was that whenever I have run the car recently, it has flattened the battery. This was either because the old alternator was not working properly, or because something wasn’t wired properly. As I was going to replace the alternator anyway, I tried this first.

The alternator is held in place with two bolts at the top, which mount onto lugs on the engine block and with a single bolt at the bottom which secures a curved slotted plate. The slotted plate allows the alternator to pivot so that the fan belt can be fitted over the pulleys and then tensioned correctly. The slotted plate then fixes to a lower lug fixed to the engine block. The lower lug is fixed with a specifically shaped bolt which I had replaced much earlier in the rebuilt when it had sheared off spitefully on removal. Before I took the old alternator off, I started the engine and measured the voltage at the battery – 12.3v.

Fitting the new alternator was pretty simple although it’s a heavy old bit of kit. I did a visual comparison before I removed the old one just in case it was to join my list of wrongly ordered parts, but it measured up alright so I committed to the job. I laid a decent blanket over the wing for protection and knelt on a tool box with a blanket on it for comfort. I used a combination of tools to remove the bolts which were 0/5″ and 9/16. This included my trusty Halfords Professional mini socket set, the Elora large socket set gifted to me by my friend John, the socket spanner set gifted to me by my brother Tris and a plain open jawed spanner. Each tool works well in its own way and I was grateful for the choice.

With the new alternator fitted and the fan belt at roughly the right tension, I fired up the car again. It fired second time and settled into a lumpy idle (carbs still not set up right – where are you Dad? ha ha). I tested the voltage at the battery and got…the same 12.3v. I was hoping for between 13-14v but I could be wrong. So maybe the issue is not solved. I should have had someone hold the revs higher and measured it again, but Helen was working in her study, so I didn’t disturb her. So we will see if the battery is flat when I try again. Hopefully next weekend we will get another weather window for further investigation. Before sitting down to do this update, I sent a web enquiry to a mobile auto electrician just to gauge their interest in giving the electrics a once over and validating what I’ve done. I think it might be worth getting a professional involved in this one…

7&8 Nov 20 Starting progress

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.

Thanks for reading – God Bless and Stay Safe.

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

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.

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

22 Feb 20 Re-fuse-ing to give up

Spent a couple of hours on the MG this afternoon. It was cold and windy so I confined myself to the garage. First job was to finish off fitting the new rubber oil cooler pipes. I am replacing the nasty braided ones which are very stiff with OE spec rubber which is a bit more pliant. This is an awkward fit and it requires a bit of coordination because the oil gauge pipe has to be fitted AFTER the pipe cooler pipe because otherwise the spanner crushes the oil gauge pipe. Have a guess how I know this? After fitting the pipes I had to fit the hateful grommets to the radiator shroud which is another awkward job. Anyway it’s done now.

It’s all a bit congested here

Next I decided to progress the wiring loom connections. Last week I had to unpick the loom due to poor routing so this week I put some of that back. I connected the alternator which is easy then had to take the coil off to get that connected properly. So far so good. I then checked the fuse box which I wasn’t convinced had been connected properly. Rather than rely on pictures on the internet I actually used the wiring diagram and managed to use up all the available wires so it must be right! (It is right really).

So onto the next thing and I identified a problem. The distributor, which is a new unit from Accuspark needs power which it gets from the coil. Unfortunately one of the cables is not long enough. It mentions this in the instructions which cheerfully say ‘you may have to lengthen the wire’. I might write back to them to say ‘you could just supply the right length wire.’ So I need to grab a pal who can joins a bit of wire for me

This is the probably definitely correctly connected fuse box

Final task today was to fit an earth wire to the inner wing. The original bolt had been painted over and the head rounded off when I tried to release it. Even my freeze spray couldn’t rescue the situation so I did the brutal thing and drilled it out. I managed to then get another bolt to fit and job done. Not a bad afternoon’s work.

1 Jan 20 blockage cleared

Happy new decade everyone! A mini post today to record me spending just half an hour in the garage during which I discovered that the heater control unit pipe was completely blocked with rusty crud. I found this when I was offering it up to where it is mounted on the engine and was asking myself how any coolant was supposed to flow through it when there was no hole. A quick prod with an old screwdriver proved that the crud could be dislodged fairly easy and this was also the case with the aperture into the engine water jacket.

I wondered to myself if this was possibly the reason the car overheated when I first fired it up shortly after buying it, and why the fan was set to be on the whole time. What a bodge by the previous owner, but satisfying to find this problem and be a step towards sorting it out.

The heater control with crud opened up
This is where it attaches to the engine block. I have removed the crud but it really needs a bit more work. Don’t know how I missed this when I had the engine out!

And finally, this is me, my better half and my in laws at a New Year’s Eve party last night

Rocking the night away!

27 Jul 19 Thinking ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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