MG Midget Restoration
(this is one image heavy page so you may need to wait a little for the images to load)
October 2008 – August 2019 !
France Road Trip 1992
Well, the time has finally arrived when I rebuild my MG Midget Mk1. The car has been off the road since 1997, dry stored in a garage or outside under cover for the last 11 years. Pressures of work and a growing family, plus the distractions of an MGBGT, Mazda MX5 and a Range Rover. It failed its MOT with structural problems (rust) on the H frame (below the engine) and the front splashguards (footwells) and at the rear. The bodywork – rear wings and A posts were all rotting away too, though the sills were in pretty good nick following the last full body restoration in the late 70’s.
After placing a Wanted ad on the MG enthusiasts a nice chap by the name of Alistair Shaw got in touch to tell me of a completely restored shell lurking in Suffolk. I got in touch with the owner, Dominic LeFanu of MG Restorations, got him to send me lots of photos, and we agreed a price. The shell had no V5 but was complete and in very good order, with new front and rear suspension and an Ashley fibreglass front end. I sold the latter on through eBay which helped to make the deal much better value. When you think a heritage shell for a Midget is @ £4500, then there would be a pile of conversion work to make it a Mk1, the price of £1900 for this shell, less the £330 I got for the Ashley front end made a good price and worth-while exercise. The cost of sorting out my existing shell ( I am rubbish at welding and bodywork) would have been much the same (£4500). An uneventful trip with a trailer on the back of the Rangie to Suffolk saw me back home with the new shell. A couple of months passed as I waited and waited for the right time.
Plan was to reuse as much as possible, given that most of the mechanicals and ancillaries were in better nick than the car itself, but to treat myself to a new wiring loom, and to convert to disc brakes on the front.
Colour and trim, planning for MG Nightfire Red Pearlescent, with a cream interior. Undecided on whether to refit all the chrome / bumpers, and may decide to paint all the chrome/ally trim in Old English White or similar. The car has never been “standard” since I have had it (1979) and I may as well have it as I want it 🙂
Exterior Reference Shots
October 17th 2008
I decided to work from the front to the back.
Stripped the front trim and centre trim from the bonnet, then removed the bonnet. Worked through removing the front scuttle and the wings. In all only had a problem with 3 bolts, not bad after 20 years.
The two bottom bolts that tie the wings to the front scuttle were seized solid, so I decided to remove the wings and the scuttle as one, and tackle them in comfort (hacksaw!). A wing to the top of the scuttle bolt also sheared off on removal. Surprisingly all the wing bolts/screws to the footwell came out with ease. Secret bolts securing the wing to the bulkhead, at the top of the wing and underneath. I had previously fitted an oil cooler in situ, and of course it wouldn’t come out of the small space it occupied in the scuttle, so the pipes were disconnected from the engine, sealed off, and it all came out together. Oil black and mucky. Inside the distributor cap it looked just like the day I last used it.
Every nut and bolts and screw is all going into one pot, hope I don’t live to regret this! but planning to replace most of them with galvanised or zinc plated on rebuild
All trims and lighting removed, along with bonnet locks.
Engine Bay Reference Shots
With the wings and the front scuttle out of the way I got on with the removal of all the ancillaries, working first the drivers side, removing all electrical and mechanical items, moving the loom out of the way as I went. Lots of additional wires for extra things! (horns, screen pump, fuel pump, stereo, etc). Removed exhaust and carburettors at the manifold. All water pipes came off easily, and still about a pint of water in the cooling system, beautifully clear blue as well. Dynamo and starter all came off easily, the bendix still working, a little stiff, but a dash of WD40 made it like new 🙂
Hoping to be able to get the engine out using jacks and scaffold boards, as no hoist available. Continued to strip down the engine bay, its got fiddly now. little bits and bobs. Engine and gearbox out went fine.
Engine Out Shots
Removed exhaust. Jacked up the engine a bit, tied the gearbox onto the bonnet supports to hold it up, released the bellhousing bolts, more jacking and a good tug. needed a serious yank to get it up onto the steering rack, then slide it down a scaffold plank to the ground. Almost went as well for the gearbox, undid the two bolts on the tunnel, and then the two bolts going up through the floor. Put jack under the box, removed rope, and gave a similar yank. Oops, fell of the jack and oil everywhere. Fortunately, not as heavy as the engine. Dismantled all my brake piping and removed master cylinder (now that will be a job to refurb), removed engine mountings, windscreen (finally shifted the big philips, without the need to get an impact screwdriver) and doors (strangely crosshead bolts holding these in, not on the new body). Good days work, can start on the interior next. Oh the heater box crosshead screw refused to budge, so they came off with a chisel and Birmingham spanner.
Went to work on the interior, removing all the carpeting and trim. The dash surround was going well until I had one nut that was the wrong size for every spanner i had in the garage. Finally took off the steering wheel to get at it properly! Both footwell carpets were pretty rotten, but the floors were in actually fairly solid nick thanks to the glassing I had done all those years ago. Slowly, slowly everything came out, tackled the dash last, which is only held on by three bolts above and two below. Some gentle tugging and it all came out in one piece, instruments, loom, radio the lot.
Interior Strip Out Shots
Back end and brakes. Petrol tank bolts all came off, but were stiff, bumper bolts fought for some time. rear lights in good nick, and number plate light all came away OK. Found a nice rusty hole middle of the boot though. Removed UJ bolts on the propshaft and squeezed myself under enough to undo the hidden nut holding on the hand brake cable – why put it there. Whilst underneath I noticed that I had previously fitted SPAX rear shock absorbers, so they had to come off too. Dismantled one rear brake, but again no right sized spanner to remove the bolt holding the rear brake cylinder on. Time will provide the solution to this. Now both bodyshells are looking very similar.
Had a big tidy up in the garage, tucked some body parts away in the loft, and stripped the wings and doors of all trim and electrics. Been looking at the prices of new/used parts so will need to be doing a far bit of refurbishment. next job is really to make a start on the new bodyshell, find a good sprayman and agree a price. Still undecided as to whether to go for tartan red again, or to go a bit more custom and have Nightfire metallic or similar. I guess cost will be the issue here. Also need to decide what to do about the brakes. probably need a new master cylinder so should I upgrade and us 1275 masters given I will need new front calipers.
More tidying up, piled up the carpets and trim, wrapped in cardboard and stored in loft for later. Hood, tonneau and seats likewise. Removed the drivers side shock absorber, and loosened the rear axle fixing bolts on both sides Cut through the rubber axle straps, first lazy thing I have done! Removed front brake drums and dismantled brakes, removing brake cylinders and pipework. That’s just a bout it for dismantling, other than it stopping being a rolling shell. Will push it out into the front garden tomorrow so it can live under a sheet. Photos taken to see if I can flog it on eBay or via MGOC – Restorations. Found a good frogeye spares website, so should have no problems getting all bits and pieces needed.
Moved the old shell out of the garage, and place it out under a tarpaulin. Put it up on ebay as well, and have two watchers. We shall see!
Old bodyshell sold on eBay for £152.50 ! Now have to hope for some reasonable weather in order to remove the front and rear axles and get it up on stands awaiting collection. Started working up a parts and supplies list as well. Purchased a set of calipers and pedal box with master cylinders from a 1275, to improve the braking. Some work required to get the pedal box fitted as is a different shape. Still tempted to do my own respray with aerosol cans. I know its not recommended but reckon its worth a try, even if it has to go off for a final spray over. Some good help regarding under body protection from the internet, with a choice of products, one for stone chip prevention that can be oversprayed, the other for salt and corrosion protection for the bits that do not need to be shiny. Etch primer is also available in cans but won’t be getting it from Halfords at £12 a can! Also bought a couple of aerosol can triggers to improve spraying control. The cost of Christmas is going to get in the way!
Body Shell Shots
Moved bodyshell back onto the drive, in order to remove axles.
On a freezing cold evening, in the dark, removed the rear axle. please I released all the bolts earlier on in the dismantle, so it was a simple job, but cold. Upper Link bolts seized solid, so they will have to stay. Released track rod ends and removed steering column
Removed steering rack, and both front suspension units (remember to take the bolt on the damper arm out in order to release it from the top trunnion!) Removed both rear springs, but reinforcing plates wouldn’t budge, probably been welded on at some point in the past, so will have to get two new ones, as the new shell doesn’t have them. Bought spanner (19/32th) to remove rear brake cylinders. One undid, the other was so corroded I had to bang a 9/16 on to get it off. One cylinder came out easy, the other required force! That’s it now, time to get on with the rebuild!
Finished: December 6th 2008
Got on with sorting the new shell, need a damn good clean up after sitting in a barn for 10 years. Pleased to find no rust anywhere and everything as it should be. Measured up and cut out some metal around the pedal box, to allow for the different / newer pedal box and master cylinders for the disc brakes. The originals are just not good enough for today’s motoring, and more expensive.
New Shell Preparation Shots
Time passes, car gets covered in old boxes and stuff my wife doesn’t want in the house any more. Fast forward to 2010 !
Prepared all those little bits, the cowl things inside the engine bay (you know on one side it holds the washer bottle), the brake pedal blank, number plate light, gear lever turret, boot and bonnet hinges, and primered and sprayed with Nightfire red and lacquer.
Prepared the engine bay and the heater channels and sprayed them up too.
Prepped up the bonnet, wings, doors and boot, but only in primer for a trial fit
Fitted all the panels. This is normally easy, but I found with the wings and the front scuttle i had to take a wrap around approach: fit drivers side wing, then fit scuttle, then fit passenger side wing to scuttle then fit passenger side wing to car. Only way I could get it to go all together.
Trial Fit Panels Shots
Time passes again, car fills up with bags and boxes again. fast forward to 2013!
Started to clear up my clutter, made several trips to the skip, shifted stuff out of the garage into the garden shed, and began to find room in my garage for the first time (hadn’t helped that I had filled it up with 12 Range Rover tyres! Built some new shelves with some old shelving from the skip at work, which got things out of boxes. Also constructed a trolley support for the MG so I could move it around. I used an old catering trolley, cut down to its flatbed bottom shelf. really good castors. Then two 8ft lengths of 4 x 2 and a 5ft length of the same. Screwed this all together and placed on the trolley. The two long lengths run from the bumper mounts at the front of the H framed through to the diff tunnel, and the 5ft length and spacers supported the two 1/4 elliptic spring mounts.
Body Trolley Shots
I then did a quick hand sand with 100 grit on the entire interior and boot, vacuumed out, then primered the whole area. Once dry I masked up with newspaper the interior, the boot and the engine bay.
Now with all the panels on the car I took to it with 100 grit (non clogging) sandpaper to knock off all the high spots and sand down scratches and imperfections. I used a power sander for this, then followed up by hand.
Mask up and Sand down 100 grit Shots
Next step was to vacuum off all the dust, then Wet and Dry 400 grit, by hand, with lots of water to start getting a smooth finish.
400 grit Shots
Yes, it has been a while, but finally prompted to action by a warm April. Over the winter I constructed a spray tent in the garage using polythene dust sheets, and got the car sanded down with 1200 grit and applied primer inside and out. had a good couple of months to dry. But towards the end of April with good weather I pushed the car outside and applied the first coat of Rover Nightfire Red. Takes some practice to get a a good shine on it, will need to take my time with the final coat of colour. Warmer weather helps to prevent runs. Will not be sanding down the paint as this prevents the sparkly effect.
Prime and Paint – April 2015
4 & 6th
Where did the summer go? Paint and lacquer sitting on the shelf finally got the better of me. Given last week offered us lovely warn weather, and with a week off, the MG was rolled out into the drive, given a quick clean and rub down with a tack cloth and another good coat of paint, using a further six cans. Applied three coats of lacquer to one of the rear wings in order to test the shine, which after a further sand down with 1000 grit paper and a quick buff with Meguairs Ultimate produced a mirror finish 🙂
The rain then descended for the next two days, so was confined to the garage with the gas mask (Did a good job, btw). One of the few problems with cans is the drips and runs, these needed rubbing down and then the car was sprayed all over again with a further four cans, followed by three large cans of lacquer. Bloomin’ drips from the lacquer cans as well will require further rubbing down and respraying.
Several purchases also made over the summer, new mesh grille, grille surrounds, water pump, rear brake cylinders (again!), heater tap, engine gasket set, clutch master cylinder, slave cylinder, brake master cylinder. Buying things bit by bit, every now and then helps to ease the financial pain. 😉
7th October 2015
Hopefully painting finished today, @ 5 light coats of Nightfire Red, followed by 6 light coats of clear lacquer. This has left me with a dull finish (by design)
Now for the magic! I did a test area on the rear wing next to the door. 1200 grit wet and dry, lightly sanded to a dull finish. Followed up by a brisk polish with Meguairs Ultimate and my Silverline Polisher, starting at speed 1 then moving up to 4.
After sanding and polishing
Hopefully the difference is visible on the photos. I have a lot of lacquer left over so must do the insides as well, then allow the paint and lacquer to harden properly over the next dew days, before going for broke over the whole car with sanding and polishing (will then get washed and polished too!)
8th August 2017
Where does the time go?
Done a lot of work on the body since October 2015, my daughter thinks all I do is spray paint on the car then sand it off again, to only then spray more paint on the car! However, topsides are now done, although I am less than happy with the end result, will probably take the car to “my little man” who has a workshop on a local farm and specialises in Classics, for a spray and shine finish.
All the undersides are also complete, cleaned and sanded down, two coats of stone chip undershield, followed by 2 x primer, 2 x top coat, 2 x lacquer.
That’s it, not painting the body anymore. Let me get to work on the mechanicals.
Have prepped up the steering rack, new boots and track rod ends, all cleaned up. Rear axle much the same, and carried out a quick restoration on my Spax rear shock absorbers and mounting plates. Front suspension, mainly dampers and wishbones also got the gloss black treatment.
Time for a gallery of the bodywork, the photos and lighting do flatter it.
Paint Final – Aug 2017 Shots
11th August 2017
Have warmed up the waxoyl and sprayed all the cavities and wing and boot corners, making a mess of the garage floor in the process. Also doused the rear springs with the stuff.
Refurbished the handbrake from handle to compensator and refitted to car. Original cable in good nick.
12th August 2017
Loose fitted the steering rack, rear dampers, rear springs and rear radius arms, need to make up a couple of spring housing seals too, although these weren’t actually fitted to my car originally.
Fitted new rear brake cylinders to the rear backplates. The bodies on the new ones were bigger than the old ones, took a fair few clouts with the hide mallet to get them to slot in!
13th August 2017
Fitted rear axle. Did this on my own, using a couple of large blocks of wood in order that the spring hanger was just in line with the spring shackles, and anpther block to carry the weight of the prop shaft mount (levels it up). Found it easier to remove the radius arms from the body (that I had already fitted!), fix to the axle then fix to the body. Make sure all your shock absorber bolts have the heads facing out. Once in place then lots of tightening up all round on the springs, mounting plates, radius arms (with jacked up axle). Due to my Spax dampers, I had to apply weight to the car to get them to line up, with it being a bare shell, not enough by itself.
Then able to fit the handbrake compensator and the handbrake cable.
Rear Axle Assembly Shots
14th August 2017
Both front suspensions fitted today. No dramas, everything slipped into place nicely. Had to make up a spring compression tool (2 x 8 inch threaded rod, with nuts and washers and small sockets as spacers). Now suffering from RSI from all the turns on the spanner. Can’t release the wood blocks used to support the dampers as there does not seem to be enough weight on the shell. Hopefully once I get it on some wheels we can all sit on it and release them 😉
15th August 2017
Back on it’s wheels and with steering! Dug the wheels and tyres out from their outside (under cover) store where they had been for the last 15 years. They survived well, just needing a quick wire brushing and cleaning up. Put 20 lb/in into each, and they all still held air! The Michelin XZX tyres still have plenty of tread, but they are now getting on for 30 years old so will probably be a bit hard and weak. Popped them on the hubs, added wheelnuts and removed the jacks. Forgotten how low the car sits! Took the weight of me and daughter to release the wood block on the left, but even with me standing on the H frame in the engine bay and my son on the wing (combined weight of @ 160kg) the wood block on the other side wouldn’t budge. Took to it with a length of wood and a hammer which got it moving. Popped the damper rubber out on the way but I’ll get that back on later.
Refurbished the steering column with new paint to inner and outer column (note to self, be more patient, let the paint dry!), tracked down the mounting bracket and the concertina grommet rubber thingy, and refitted column and steering wheel (Must get a proper socket for that 1 1/4″ nut!) Have to do a proper alignment of the steering rack and column later. Put some old castellated nuts on the track rod ends to save the nyloc nuts for prime time.
Feels like a real car again!
9th September 2017
A couple of week as ago I spent the day finding and sorting all my boxes of MG Midget bits I had stored away for the last 10 years. This helped to define a shopping list! I also pulled together all the items that required wire brushing sanding rust curing and painting, plenty to keep me quiet, also have the exhaust three branch manifold and straight through piping to derust and add high temperature paint:
I also dug out the start motor and dynamo, and ran some power across them. Dynamo turned but start was dead as a door nail.
A very useful video for testing your dynamo is made by Moss USA
The first part you can do off the car, but to check for a voltage supplied BY the dynamo, the second part (where he just slings a fan belt over the pulley), it needs to be spinning. If it is not on the car this can be achieved with an electric drill at 1000rpm, and an 11/16 socket and some suitable converters to attach to the drill. fortunately the dynamo spins in the same direction as the drill!
A helpful starter motor strip down video, although for a Bosch on later cars, just to support what is in the Haynes manual is here:
I got the starter motor in pieces, cleaned up the brushes and the commutator, checked that the field coils were delivering, as per Haynes, then put it all back together again. Ensure the terminal is not earthing against the backplate. Connected up to battery and away it went. Guess lack of use was the main cause of the problem.
Have decided to go all new with the brakes, so new pipework and connections, calipers, drums etc. Also bought some bonded nitrile cork to make up gaskets for things like the pedal box and cover
19th September 2017
A few bits arrived in the post. Fitted the check straps to the rear axle. The rest were mostly brake washers and screws. Not ready for that, but have 7m of cupro-nickel brake pipe to play with. I have a cool pipe flaring kit (see video below) which I used to make up all the pipes for my Range Rover, so should be a cinch on the MG. Got to figure out / remember the pipe runs for the front to back pipe and the clutch. easier when everything is in the way, e.g. engine, gearbox, ancillaries!
That photo of all the bits on 9th September, these have all been rubbed down, derusted, primed and painted now, some in a fetching “Halfords” Dark Green, which is quite bright, the rest in gloss black.
Pulled the petrol tank out of the loft and gave that the treatment:
Wire brush (hand held), wire brush on the drill, Kurusted, grey primer, whole can of black stone chip, dark blue top coat.
Also tested out the fuel gauge and sender unit, all working fine. Wiring confusing! Connect wire from lucar on the sneder unit to the “T” connection on the gauge. Connect the “B” connection on the gauge to +ve terminal on battery. Earth both the sender unit and the fuel gauge, and moving the float should show the gauge rise and fall. See pdf of writings by Dr Davies and others from MASCOT
23rd / 24th September 2017
Wiper Motor and Wheelboxes
I have the Lucas DR3A wiper motor that lives in the engine bay and drives the two wipers, single speed. It was working before I took the car off the road, but like everything else needed a refurb after sitting for 20 years!
First thing to understand is the wiring, which is a bit odd. The unit has three terminals: 1, 2, and E. 1 is black/green wire on the car that runs to the wiper switch. 2 is the live feed and E is the Earth / ground. When testing off the car it is important to know this, and not think you have a two speed wiper unit. You do need to connect the two ground wires 1 and E for things to work properly.
Second thing to remember is that the DR3A has an adjustable limit switch cover. If your motor was working before you removed it from the car, or hasn’t been touched for donkeys years, it is best to mark the position of the limit switch cover again the main gearbox cover. There is a small projection (bump) on the cover you can use as a guide. Mine was just to the left of centre.
No dramas dismantling the motor, only real issue was with the motor brushes, which were worn right down to the holders. New brushes on order.
With the motor reassembled, and then wired up correctly to the battery, away it went 🙂
Both wheelboxes were nearly solid after no use and neglect. When removing both, remember which way round they fit. Take a photo! I didn’t, and had to dig out the fittings and trial fit, look up in manuals and parts catalogues for orientation. Anyway, a squirt of oil under each cog and some twisting and turning and pulling freed up the spindles and got them moving nicely. I removed the tubes and the drive line, cleaned these up, new grease and then all back together.
Heater Blower Motor
There is very little information about the actual blower motor, so this was a voyage of discovery. Removed the motor unit from the blower housing, and undid the “14mm” brass nut which held the fan onto the motor. I then tested the motor on a battery, it whirred away quite happily, but based upon the other motors thought it best to check out the innards. Should have left well alone!
Important! Undo the two nuts holding the through bolts in place, but do not remove the through bolts. The motor is covered by two casings, one at either end. Do not remove the casing with the wires coming out of it, but first remove the other end. This will allow you to see the way the motor is put together, especially the spacer and spring on the through bolts.
Important! Clean off the end of the armature where the fan was fitted. Clean it really well: metal file, wet and dry, wire brush, so that it will offer no resistance to the brass bush in the casing.
You have probably figured out that I did neither of these things, ending up with a collection of bits and pieces on the bench!
The holder had been pinch fitted, you could see four little clumps of metal from the outer casing holding the holder in place. I got out my dremel-like tool with a tungsten carbide tip and ground away at these little clumps.
Then with a small screwdriver working through the armature hole, tapped away at the holder. It eventually popped out! I put a couple of drops of oil on the felt at the end of each casing, popped the brass bush in, replaced the spring loader and holder, and tapped back into place with a screwdriver. Phew!
Final issue was to figure out the order of things for the spacers, springs and washers that fell out because I removed the through bolts. I went for spacer between field coils and brush housing, spring and washer between brush housing and casing. This seemed to work. This is why you take off the end without the wires first!
Brushes were in good order, so put everything back together, tested on battery again and it whirred away quite happily. With the fan on you get quite a force of air out of the thing.
Time to get setup to strip down the engine!
25th September 2017
Filled the rear axle with new 75w-90, and loose fitted the petrol tank (will have to come off to do the wiring) just gets it out of the way for now. 😉
26th September 2017
My overbored +60 1275 (1300!) engine has been languishing in a corner of the garage by the catflap for over a decade, oil drained and orifices plugged. Dragged it out to a more suitable position and gave it a good dust and vacuum down.
Started work on the back end, and thought I would see how seized the clutch was! The six bolts holding it on came undone easy enough, then it just fell off! Lots of wear left on the clutch plate, but I think I will get a new one anyway. So will the flywheel come off? Hell yeah! Six bolts undone after tapping back the flap washers, and judicious use of the hide hammer through the start motor ring saw this fall off too. So what about the endplate? Undid @ 9 bolts, hide hammer and off that came too. BTW, all bolts were screwed back in to their original locations for safekeeping. I am going to enjoy this, but need to set up a bench (or clear one of the two I already have) so I don’t have to do everything on the floor over the winter. Yes, the engine still turns.
1st October 2017
Fitted the new brushes to the wiper motor today. The new ones come with a serrated edge at one end, this goes against the commutator with the grooves vertical. My one is broken already, but it might make sense to remove the card/plastic holder for the brush mountings (under the commutator) as this could break when you pull back the brush mountings to insert the brushes. I used tweezers to hold the brushes with.
2nd October 2017
Took my head off and started refurbishing it today. Only item that fought was the thermostat housing, water pump, heater tap, all other nuts and bolts undid nicely. Got out some new nuts and ran these up and down all the threads using WD40, then did the double nut spanner trick and removed all the bolts from the head. Did the same with the head bolts in the engine block. These bolts and the push rods set in cardboard, numbered, and with “stat” written at one end!
Dug out the valve spring compressor and removed all the valves after a preliminary clean up on the combustion chambers. Quite a lot of crud on the exhaust valves. All a bit black and oily in the ports ? Then set about cleaning up the valves and posts with my dremel like tool and my trusty bone handled knife from the 1920’s (which I remember using last time I did the engine in the early 1980’s) a final clean off with a wire brush attachment on the drill. Checked out the bypass hose adaptor, this looked OK, but cleaned it up and kurusted it for good measure. Was tempted to go at it with a chisel and put a new one in, but didn’t want to risk failure at this stage.
Gave the head face a good rub down with some 800 wet and dry (using WD40), after cleaning up the rough spots with boned handled knife.
Tomorrow will lap the valves back in with coarse then fine paste, clean everything up and then reassemble.
3rd October 2017
As planned, valves all lapped and ground back into their seats and resprung. Renovated the thermostat housing, and dug out the new heater tap (word to the wise: a new tap does not necessarily come with the mounting and washer needed), and eventually found a new thermostat I had kicking about (82 degrees). Tested this and the one I took out (also 82 degrees) in a saucepan of boiling water, both opened OK, but it took boiling water to do it???
Cleaned up the head, wiped down with white spirit, dried off, then primed and painted up bright red! Thinking engine will be black , with ancillaries yellow/blue.
16 October 2017
Main Engine Strip Down and Rebuild
I have been quite remiss, over the last couple of weeks, enjoying stripping down and rebuilding the engine block so much, not taken any photos! but will do so now it is mostly done.
Having torn down the back of the engine, and endplate off, I moved to the front. Drive shaft pulley bolt came undone with a decent whack on my 1930’s ring spanner, and managed to easy the pulley off with a little hide hammering and pulling. Timing cover all undid OK to reveal timing gears and chain. camshaft nut undid OK in similar fashion to above, and the gears levered off without too much trouble. Stripped out the rest and wrapped in paper.
Engine was light enough now to be manhandled by one, so cleared my outdoor undercover bench, and carried the engine out to it! Phew! I lay the engine on its side to remove the sump, as I didn’t want whatever had settled to go back into the engine. Sump off. Pulled out the camshaft, and removed the oil pump, cam followers (tappets) and then stood the engine on its head (so to speak). I have been using Haynes as a guide.
All parts and items were in fairly good nick. What followed was lots of cleaning, sanding off gasket surfaces, priming and painting, then slowly and carefully reassembled. Hopefully got the timing gears back in the right position, and set the distributor drive up on the cam. Didn’t go in the way Haynes said, but final alignment as per the picture. Fingers crossed! Also forgot to fold over the washer on the camshaft nut so had to have the timing cover off again to get that right. Engine has now got heavy, so will have to wait for No. 1 son to appear to give me a lift.
In the meantime been busy buying new bits. Decided to go for an all new clutch, found a good deal online for a Borg and Beck clutch housing, plate and release bearing. My existing one looks OK, including clutch plate, but would rather stick new in to save engine out issues! Bought a halogen light conversion set, along with some relays (do not want to frazzle my new loom!), new cooling hoses, new rear brake drums, fuel/brake pipe clips, dizzy cap and new leads.
17th October 2017
Moved the engine and gearbox back into the garage, and stored under mildy oily towels, awaiting the arrival of the engine hoist. Fitted the flywheel just as the delivery guy appeared with the new clutch set, so fitted that too. Table now clear so may have a go at stripping the dash. Will need photos for this!
23rd October 2017
With a week off work, wife and kids at work and Uni, left to my own devices in the garage, so have been making real progress. Painted up the starter, dynamo, radiator, and water pump pulley (went for a green in the end, yellow might have been too much!). This of course was preceded by derusting cleaning and sanding.
Put the head back on the engine, set all the tappet clearances (only three out of the eight needed adjusting), fitted the water pump and made up new bypass hose. The new water pump I fitted is angled down a bit so the bypass hose needed to be a couple of centimetres longer than standard.
I dismantled the old water pump which was seized, got the bearing free’d up and running, but disintegrated the impeller when trying to pull it off the shaft! Don’t seem to be any spare parts for these, but I will have another interweb search at some point.
Took on the dash and electrics next. Did a photo story to capture all the connections, and labelled everything up with masking tape. Even though I am fitting a new loom i wanted to get a good feel of where everything went, so spent a few hours identifying each wire, where it went and where it came from.
I have an Ammeter (Smiths) fitted, this looks like a factory fit but might have happened some time later. Wiring for this loops into the cable that connects direct to the battery and runs to the regulator.
At the moment have decided not the fit this back on the car, never used it or needed it from what I can remember, and although not deeply researched, won’t work well if I fit and alternator later on.
Having done all that I feel much more confident about fitting the new loom, having a much better understanding of where everything goes. Did a bit of ordering for new bulkhead grommets, rubber rings for the dials/instruments, new heater knob which broke apart in dismantling. While I was at it I tested all the panel bulbs which all still worked, then dug out the front sidelights, rear lights and headlamps. Everything still worked apart from one rear brakelight. Not bad eh?
Next up were the twin carbs. Another photo story needed for these, as Haynes tended to flit around the various carb types with only one image of the HS2’s I have fitted. All came apart nicely, dashpot screws were on tight! I decided to completely dismantle so everything could have a good clean in my petrol bath and a scrub with the old toothbrush. The washers at the bottom of the float chamber were very tight and shot to pieces.
Neither MGOC or Ah Spares could offer a simple gasket kit at a reasonable price, but I found Southern Carburettors Ltd online would offered kit AUE810 which looks like it will do the job. A good place for anything carburettor and classic.
After the clean up, reassemblied the bodies and linkages, it is fun getting the choke linkage spring back on 😉 Use a stout wire to pull the bottom of the spring round once fitted. Thought I had lost one of the tiny circlips for the piston plunger, but a good searhc of the garage floor turned it up eventually 🙂
Did some more ordering, having realised that the fuel line is 5/16 and not 3/16, so have some new cunifer and rubber line on the way. Still deciding the route for the fuel line, cross over at the diff or at the gearbox. Also best site for the electric fuel pump – back or front (where the old one was – still works by the way, the old one, but bought a new one!)
Some images of the cleaned up carbs, not completely back together properly as awaiting gasket kit
Went mad and bought myself an engine hoist (thinking being that if I have to do it twice, then cheaper than renting! Bolted gearbox to engine and then went about fitting the lot into the car. I always forget how steep an angle you need to slot it in. As the powertrain had not been in this bodyshell before, it took some fettling and cursing to get all the mounting bolts (engine and gearbox) to line up and do up, but finally got it in there.
July saw me taken over by all the cars we have on the road, shouting “Service Due” at me, as well as most needing an MOT. Also the sale of my Range Rover of 10 years had me fitting replacement side steps, fixing the air con compressor, etc. It just passed its MOT, and gone off to Weymouth. Newer Range Rover – 3.6 TDV8 MY2009 also took up my time as I sorted all the niggles and gave it a good service.
However, have got on with the brakes, proper 1275 pedal box fitted, new master cylinders for brake and clutch, new calipers, new rear cylinders and drums, new pipes (made by me), new clutch slave cylinder, new stainless steel braided hoses for the brakes.
Handy tip for fitting the clutch slave cylinder (notorious for not providing enough space to fit the upper bolt. Jack up the engine and gearbox where they are mated, just enough to provide the needed clearance to get the bolt in place.
Also made up an oil cooler bracket to properly fit my oil cooler (it had previously just been shoved into the space in front of the radiator!
Been keeping busy, moved to a “tinkering” phase….
Trial fitted the exhaust (just the three branch manifold), and found I needed to cut out a fair bit of the panel below the triangular cross section in order to stop it touching/banging against it. Made up a new bracket and fixings from bits lying about in the garage to connect to the gearbox mounting bracket. Fitted the earth strap, had to use an MGB one (a bit longer) as I couldn’t find the original. Guess what, about half an hour after fitting, i find the original, which had been hiding in plain sight! Also located my clutch slave cylinder clevis pin, a bit worn, but will do for now, and have added to my list of things to buy later.
Finishing things at the rear end…After some deliberation i fitted an extra cable to the fuel sender unit to run this inside the car through one of the bumper mounting holes ( I don’t have a hole for the fuel sender wire in the centre (?)) and I am not intending on fitting bumpers at this stage. Also added an additional earth wire to the fuel sender unit onto one of the fuel tank mounting bolts. With these in place I could then bolt up the fuel tank tight, and fit the filler pipe. Also fitted the fuel pipe to the tank, and ran new fuel pipe (10mm) from the front to the back, and joined up with flexible fuel pipe. I decided to have the fuel pipe rise up into the engine back behind the carbs / in front of the heater box because the electric fuel pump will be mounted under the LH wing (making up a bracket for that). I couldn’t get the proper clips to take on the larger fuel pipe in the rails under the car, so I used cable ties through the same holes. This is much better in my opinion as it insulates the metal to metal contact. Apart from bleeding the brakes, that is the under rear end completed.
Aim to keep adding components on to the car, then when these are in place (and tested) will go for the installation of the new wiring loom
Still tinkering… proper fitted the exhaust with firegum, all nice and tight. Worked my way round and tightened up all the brake and clutch fittings, fitted new brake pedal springs, will leave it a while to bleed brakes and clutch, when I am closer to running.
Fitted wiper motor and wiper boxes. Thought I would test, but couldn’t get the motor to run! Eventually took the end off to find that the brush lever assembly had collapsed. Wiper motor out and on the bench. One of the tiny spring holders had given way. How to fix ? Grabbed a couple of small cable ties, cut off most of the “tail”, drilled a tiny hole in what was left, fitted and a perfect replacement for both holders. All back together an wiper motor running.
Fitted screen washer jets, and the screen vents. Notice two tonneau stud holes were missing by the doors, will have to redrill those.
Moved to the back of the car, fitted boot handle, then refurbished the number plate light and plinth, made up new wires and fitted. Cleaned up a number plate and fitted that too. (number plates will need painting – the black parts). Next up rear and front lights…
It has been nearly a year since my last update, and what a year; taken over by work required on my newer Range Rover, the decision to quit working for a living and to become a man of leisure and house husband / servant!, followed by a death in the family, which generated the arrival of a Morris Minor 1000, the sale of our Ford Ka, then Audi Cabriolet, then the Range Rover, then the Morris Minor, with the arrival of a VW Polo and a Volvo V70 (there is some rationalisation in there somewhere!). In between all of this, i managed to get on and finish the MG, and get it on the road! Sadly I failed to photo record much of the work I did (along with losing some images when my smartphone died), but I will put up what I have, alone with a set of the finished article.
I pressed on with the engine bay, fitting all the ancillaries and pipework, and fitted the carbs and the exhaust (with plenty of firegum). Had to do a fair bit of cutting away in the hole where the three branch becomes one and drops through the body to prevent knocking, and put a fair bit of bend on it with the lower bracket that attaches to the gearbox.
The oil cooler looks resplendent on its new mounting bar. I made a similar mounting bar to go under the passenger wing in the engine bay to mount the electric fuel pump and electric screen washer pump. Below this I added a fusebox (blade fuses) for “ignition live items”.
I cleaned up the dash and covered it in my new cream vinyl, then loose fitted all the dials, switches and gauges. I added two new momentary switches with LED lighting for the horn and the screen washer pump. Then it was time to install the new wiring loom, and connect everything up. All the previous work I had done on understanding the cable routing and positioning bore fruit, and with the correct wiring diagram and the old labelled loom in front of me, everything plugged into the correct place. The only switch that appeared to be around the wrong way was the main lighting switch but after a bit of trial and error found the correct set of connections. The new loom was excellent, the only issue was the light bulb holder for the main beam light, which was of a new fangled design for the slot type bulb, and it was plastic so didn’t earth to the speedo. Rigged something up to get this working, but a better solution will be needed in the long run. I then connected up to the battery, with fingers crossed, nothing went bang, nothing started smoking, and everything worked as I switched things on.
Ooo, guess we ought to try and start the engine ? Hold on there….
I got the engine round to TDC, using a pencil through the spark plug hole to indicate the piston position, then aligned the distributor, tightened and used advance/retard knob to finely set the points. (Will test dynamic timing later). once this was done, I turned the engine over to check I had spark at the points and at the spark plugs. Carbs were set to default / “pre-tuning” positions as per the manual. I then pushed the car outside, and got the fire extinguisher handy….filled the tank with @ three gallons of premium unleaded, along with some Valvemaster. Connected up the electric fuel pump and turned on the ignition. Great no leaks. Tugged on the starter a few times with the ignition off to get some oil around the system. Then went for it. Took a few goes but the engine then sprang into life for the first time in 20 years! Tappets need doing again! Ignition light had gone out, so the dynamo was working OK. Left it to run for a while, thermostat opened up, no leaks from the cooling system, no leaks from the engine, nothing caught fire! Forgotten how noisy the straight through exhaust was 🙂
Will it drive ?
No, clutch not actuating, even though I had bled and bled it. Turned the car around by pushing and back into the garage nose first (meant I could start up and fire the exhaust fumes out in to the open). Bled the clutch again, and this time I had a clutch and could work through the gears on the drive.
Turned to my old school tuning equipment, which hadn’t seen the light of day for @ a quarter of a century, strobe light, colortune, carb gauge. Dynamic timing only required some slight adjustment, carbs were running just too weak to be able to rev properly if I had a blue flame with the colortune, so backed off a bit to yellow, but got it ticking over nicely eventually. When engine was cold adjusted the tappets again. We had a runner 🙂
Lots of work to do here, fit new carpet set, reupholster and fit all the interior panels, completely refurbish and reupholster seats with new covers.
Carpets – straight forward enough, the cuts from the supplier never quite match the vehicle, so trial fitting and trimming where needed. Have never figured out the best way to do the rear wheel arches! Then lots of contact adhesive and fit into place (remember to wait a good five minutes after spraying the surfaces before applying). I had a soundproofing kit from before, so that was fitted below the new carpets.
Interior Panels – again, just a laborious task of measuring, cutting,shaping and glueing, also marking out all the existing screw holes on the panels and on the frame of the car (remember different body shell, so not all screw holes are alike. Couldn’t find any reasonably priced stainless screws and cups from MG suppliers, a suitable pack of 50 was found for a VW camper 🙂 Where new holes were needed slow drilling with 2mm/3mm cobalt drill.
Seats – I spent about three weeks prevarocating about the best way to do these, having dismantled the old seats and refurbished the frames. Bought stuffing and foam from Woolies as it was obvious extra padding was going to be needed for the backs and seats/seat foams I had. eventually after thinking through several scenarios in my head, I went for it, layering and glueing, stuffing and stuffing. I had an all new set of the little black clips to replace the rusty old ones. Finally all done – not perfect, but close enough is good enough – might revisit and do some more stuffing once they settle down a bit. Below are old seat dismantling photos, will and did prove useful as a reference.
I marked up and made holes through the floor carpets for the seat frames, secured them, then fitted the seats. Wow, got so used to being slumped down, now head poking out above the screen!
Finally, I fitted the new grille and trim, all the side trims (double sided tape for the A post trim) and bonnet trim. Stuck the boot badges on with slivers of double sided 3m tape (having cut off all the lugs). Fitted the static seat belts.
We were just about ready to go for a test run. I already had my new V5, the car was insured, and I taxed it (for £0) using the MOT exempt tick box.
Fortunate to have quiet country lanes around us, so after a tentative tour of the village, set out for a blast down an old Roman road to the next village and back. Pulled like a train, no brakes (long pedal on first press), indicator light in cockpit not working – have to get used to turning them off again!
Been out for a couple of 40 mile runs in August, no real issues. Sorted the cockpit indicator light – poor earth. Car got christened in a thunderstorm on the second outing – got a good drying off in the garage afterwards.
Brakes – the problem was caused by the new front disc calipers. The inner seals on the caliper pistons can be very “sticky” at first, and pull the pistons back from the pads far more than the normal fall away. This leads to a very long pedal on first press. My resolution was two fold; try with difficulty to get some lubrication (brake fluid/WD40) in behind the outer dust seals – very tricky as these seals are tight, some thing like a hypodermic needle and syringe might do it. The more probably solution is to build up pressure on the brake pedal, then fix the pedal in position with a block of wood against the cross member, and leave it for days. It may not work immediately, but persevere and eventually you break the stickiness of the piston inner seals and you have a good brake pedal first time. Keep checking the adjustment of the rear brakes as they bed in and might give you an extra notch.
So here we are, after coming off the road in early 1997, and being in actual restoration/repair and refurbishment for 11 years 159PPO is now back on the road, and in tip top condition. Still have parts and plans to add halogen headlights and an alternator, have a hardtop to refurbish, some more electrics to sort out (additional fuse box for “live” accessories – stereo, usb port etc.), but we can now start “enjoying MG” again – if only it would stop raining !!
However, it doesn't stop there, still plenty of things to do and to fiddle with!
Just got myself an off the shelf modern stereo, a JVC, with no CD player so it has a short body, thus is self supporting in the dash. All mod cons, removable face, USB / Mp3. You will spot a 3.5mm jack point along side. I rewired the cables from the front speakers into a 3.5mm jack point, we now have a headphone socket! This means we might be able to actually hear the radio when driving along. If you are going to try this mod, ensure you keep the jack point isolated from the body, just like you would do with speakers. The hole was already in the dash from either my or my brothers previous efforts with stereos and switches.
Passenger Side Footwell Top Cover
Additional Fuse Boxes
Because of the gadgets, and other added electrical items, I furnished the engine bay with a battery Live and an Ignition Live fusebox. This provides extra plug capacity for modern day requirements
Fresh Air Duct
The original air duct that connected to the blower motor had been getting shorter and shorter over the years. I had decided to not refit the blower motor so wanted to make up a new arrangement to fit onto the end of the heat exchanger. I sourced some "proper" air duct and suitable sized rubber hose, along with some super size jubilee clips. Can you tell what I used to make the 90 degree turn, though ?
Some one on the Range Rover forum offered up 5m of exhaust wrap and 10 clips for a tenner, I therefore thought I would try my luck at wrapping the exhaust, see if that made any difference - to anything. I wrapped round and underneath to the join in the pipes. I still have 1m of wrap and 3 clips left over. I may return to the wrap with some skinny jubilee clips, the sliding clips don't get very tight.
Been used in the past to not having any bags for all the weather equipment, but decided to make some up out of red faux leather (its not called vinyl any more). fortunately my good friend Barbara is a seamstress extraordinaire, so after some measuring up on the kitchen table with a 5m roll of faux leather, she set to, and with some zips produced five bags: tonneau, hood frame, hood, sidescreens, and an extra one for my wheel clamp. The hope is it will protect these things and stop them rattling about in the boot. You will notice I made up a couple of holding straps (retained rubbish from a boat cover that disintegrated) for the hood. These fitted nicely into the hoops at the back/top of the boot.
Rear Suspension Bushes
Splashed out on a fancy polyurethane rear suspension bush kit, to replace the bushes in the radius arm links and the leaf spring bushes. I have a bush pressing kit so thought all would be well, however this turned out to be a bit of a trial.
The radius arm on the drivers side came out quite easily, and the press kit did its job of getting the old bushes out. The passenger side did not want to come out, had to use my plumbers wrench to twist the radius arm, which bent the lower part of the inner wheel arch enough to get it out. The new polyurethane bushes refused to be pushed in, no matter what I tried. After several hours of failures, I did some creative thinking and had a hunt around the garage and was lucky to find a piece of stout plastic vacuum cleaner extension tubing, not only the exact diameter of the hole at one end, but of a gentle conical geometry. I cut it down to @ 6 inches and was able to "push the bush" into the "bigger" end of the tube by hand. The applying my press kit was able to compress the bush down to the correct size to push it into the hole. The next problem. On their own, the new bushes are the same length as the metal inner tubing on the old and new bushes, the correct width to fit inbetween the two slots on the chassis. Once the new bush was in place on the radius arm this expanded the bush in both directions giving an overhang of @ 5-7mm either side. After another couple of unhappy hours trying to squeeze this into place (a tricky place to squeeze anything) I gave up and cut one side off (this was already half off due to my squeezing attempts), so that the bush width matched the metal part. Then the other end on the axle wouldn't line up. Some precocious levering and banging got the bolt through eventually. I then realised that I had not refitted the little spacer. There was no lateral movement, so I decided to not fit it, given i would probably have to cut down the new bush to get it in.
The leaf spring was a bit easier, using the press kit again to press out the old bush with the spring in-situ on the car. The new bushes were in two parts, like the wishbone bushes, and easily fitted into the hole. But again the new bushes were proud of the inner metal bush, and the axle would not drop down over them. I used a couple of old bone handled knives (bone handled knives are in my tool hall of fame, along with the press kit) , one either side to help ease the axle over the bush, and with plenty of levering, jacking and hammering in order to get alignment, and finally located the bolt, after much cussing. The old bushes had an outer split spacer, I didn't fit this back in.
We will now see if this makes any difference, and if it was worth it over OEM bushes, currently the answer to that is no....
Dash Indicator Lamp Not Earthing Fix
Got it working when installed the loom, but now refused to blink with the indicators. Cleaned up all mating faces but still no joy. Decided to solder an earth cable to the blinker lamp body, and run this to the speedometer thumbwheel as an earth point. Problem solved.
New Speedometer Cable
Have had a fluttering speedo, probably due to the ancient speedo cable i have been using, so bought myself a new one from MGOC Spares. I got the GSD114 model, listed for a LHD 1275. This turned out to be a couple of inches longer than the existing one, but fitted fine to both the speedo and the gearbox (ribbed 1275). Will test in due course. Didn't work at all on first run. Took the speedometer end off, and could not turn the spindle so it was either seized or working at the other end. Measured the diameter of the square end and compared with the old one. This was a match. Jacked up the car removed the gearbox end and measured square end, also the same as old. Refitted both ends and got them up as tight as I could. Success.
Got stuck in our first traffic jam the other day, with outside temperature @ 26 degrees Celsius. Car did not like this at all, and temp up to boiling point, engine cutting out. Got a 10" fan and thermostat switch and relay off eBay and set to work. Grill off, oil cooler removed, coolant drained and radiator removed. Existing metal fan removed. The new electric fan would only fit on the outer side of the radiator as a "pusher" - steering rack in the way on the inside. (Would have preferred it on the inside as a "puller" then it could stay attached to the radiator when removing the radiator). Did all the wiring for the switch and the relay, tested and got the fan whirring away. Refitted radiator to car, fixed fan to radiator. tested again, working. There was just enough room to refit the oil cooler but I decided to leave it off for the time being, so dug through my parts bin to find the pipe that runs from the block to the oil filter. Bent out of shape so bent it back and got it fitted on. Coolant in, time to test. Even on a warm day at fast idle, it still took @ 15 minutes for the car's thermostat to open but then at 205 degrees the switch kicked in and the fan started running. I left the car for another 10 minutes and the fan did its job and returned the temp to 190, but did not switch off. I believe there is a 15 degree cut off point so may have to set the switch a bit higher. Also plan an indicator lamp on the dashboard, to show me when the fan is running, have ordered a blue LED.
The old metal fan blades and some long bolts have gone into the boot - just in case.....
MGOC wanted @ £175 for their Revotec Midget kit, I sourced everything for under £40 on eBay. I also bought a couple of spare fan fixing kits for when the radiator may have to come out in the future.
New Fuel Tank
The fuel tank shown earlier in the restoration thread had the potential to leak from around the fuel filler - where the upstand is welded to the top of the tank. It fulfilled its potential, and the smell of leaking petrol has been following us everywhere. Bought a new tank from MGOC, who were offering free postage and special rust protected tanks from Canada. On arrival I spotted there was no drain plug on the bottom of the tank. No big issue, will just have to syphon out if tank needs to come out again. I gave it a coat of rustoleum then a spray of underseal. Fitting took @ an hour, given that it was not that long since I first refitted it. Now I should be able to brim fill with impunity ;)
Upgrade to R9/E10 ready fuel hoses
All my fuel hoses were nearly new anyway, but got some R9 fuel hose and fitted it everywhere fuel goes.
Relocate Fuel Pump
After nearly a five month lay off over the winter, I started up the Midget and took it out for a blast. All was fine. However, since getting the car back on the road, the fuel pump had always been very noisy, and very busy (tick tick tick), even without the engine running, and observing "flow" in the glass fuel filter, seemed to be struggling to provide fuel. The fuel pump is mounted in the engine bay, it is a new Hardi solid state model, replacing the old and now leaking SU contacts fuel pump, which had served me well in the same location. I got in touch with Roger Parker at the MGOC, who confirmed my suspicions that the Hardi pump was very much a "pusher" rather than a puller, and needed to be a close to the petrol tank as possible.
There is, of course, no mounting position or fixing holes for brackets etc. because the car would originally have had a mechanical fuel pump on the engine. I spent some time deliberating over the location and fixings for the pump at the rear, there was really only one position, against the rear bulkhead, behind the driver's seat. This minimised the pipe run from the tank, and I routed the outlet down, across the the underside of the transmission tunnel to the main pipe, which runs along the rail under the passenger side.
For installation, I drilled two 8mm holes into the rear bulkhead, then used jack nuts to provide a reasonably permanent fixing for the pump
Now, when turning on the ignition, I only get a couple of ticks from the pump, and the car starts from cold after a couple of turns from the starter. Chuffed :)
I need to come up with some kind of cover, possibly a 2 litre cola bottle might do the trick.....