The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (October 16 - October 31, 2014)
Thursday, October 16, 2014:
We took a dinner break about 6-pm with a quick run into town, but returned after dinner for a bit more fun. These guys like to throw together some strange odd projects on shoe string budgets. But to be fair, they also get serious sometimes, like restoring the TR6 to be a very nice daily driver car. I picked a bit of plastic masking out of the driver side door, and someone began chanting, "MGA guru worked on my car"! In case you were (or weren't) counting, this makes the fifth MGA guru visit in one day, and we will travel a little to the west (to Statesville, NC) before retiring for the night.
Time, opportunity, and facilities come together today as I get motivated to swap out the whining differential for a decent replacement. You may recall I procured the replacement part on Aug 17, and did some prep work to it (input shims and seal) on Oct 6. Now two months in the works it will finally be done.
Body up, axle down, wheels off, drain differential oil, pull the brake drums and half shafts, disconnect prop shaft, remove 10 nuts and lock washers, pull the differential out and take it to the work bench (about 1/2 hour). Two differentials disassembled enough to move the 10-spline sun gears to the replacement unit, then reassembled (about 1/2 hour). Install differential with new gasket, install half shafts with new O-rings and gaskets, install brake drums and adjust rear brakes (about 1/2 hour). Install 3-pints gear lube (about 20 minutes, not as bad as I first thought). Inspect and reinstall prop shaft (4-bolts), install wheels (about 10 minutes). Two hours net for that job was not bad (done it a few times before).
The replacement differential had a badly worn pinion shaft. The mated planet gear had a little matching wear in it bore. The worn bits were moved into the old unit being removed from the car, while the better bits that were previously in service were moved into the replacement unit for continued service. So the replacement differential now contains the same four bevel gears and pinion shaft that were in the car before the swap. The removed differential now has to worn pinion shaft and one worn planet gear, 25-spline sun gears, and significantly worn input pinion and carrier bearings. It could be rebuilt with all new bearings, a new pinion shaft and one planet gear. Considering early MGB used differentials are pretty cheap, I think this one is going to the dumpster (unless someone wants it for free and very soon). If no taker, I may keep the bronze thrust washers for spare parts.
While we're here, drain and change gearbox oil (way overdue). Also engine oil and filter change 4000 miles after the 500 mile service after the major engine work). Good news here, almost no debris on the magnetic drain plug, meaning the reworked engine is very healthy.
A note for future service needs. There was a minor vibration at prop shaft speed which I was hoping would go away with installation of the new differential. It helped some cutting the prop shaft vibration about in half, but not the full cure. I was anticipating a loose U-joint (even though I had changed both U-joints 2-years 35,000 miles back). U-joints are good, but the rear flange yoke has a worn bore so the U-joint bearing cap wiggles a bit in the yoke. This will require replacement of the rear yoke (so start hunting for the replacement part).
Rest of the day was a real laundry day, plus lots of chat about cars and the fun parts of life, plus catching up with the photos and notes and updating a few web pages. Tomorrow we hit the road again.
Friday, October 17, 2014:
Traveling a few hundred miles east today. Aside from taking the scenic route, we make a slight side trip to visit Moss Motors in Petersburg (4th visit in recent months) to pick up a U-joint and rear flange for the prop shaft, a pair of check straps, and a new (spare) throttle cable. Price of fuel is lower in central Virginia as we drive past a tank farm where fuel trucks are loading and fuel deliveries are very short distances (record low prices for this trip so far).
Before dusk we are pulling into the woods (so to speak) on Merry Point Road in rural Lancaster, Virginia, to visit Bill Haglan and his 1958 MGA 1500. It has been repainted once in original color Orient Red with replacement interior materials, vinyl seal covers and vintage AM radio. It has some cosmetic issues like paint over piping, incorrect door seals and boot seal, but is otherwise a very reliable daily driver car. Body sills on this car are solid as new with no rust, apparently never tampered with, a very good example of a "California car" that has been well kept and likely never driven in the rain.
One very interesting feature is the original spare tire cover in the boot with a perfect example of original texture and color of the print pattern, and original rivets attaching the cover trim to the rear bulkhead (never removed since new). The replacement vinyl convertible top is in very good condition (after it was meticulously re-stitched by hand in several places. The top frame and canopy are correct type for the 1500 model. The front wood bow is incorrect third generation style intended for the later Mark 2 top with wider canopy. The wood bow is too long on the ends with ill fit at front of the canopy where side curtains will not fit up tight against the windscreen frame.
We finally amble off to a local bistro for dinner, then chat about cars until late night when it is time for some serious shut-eye.
Saturday, October 18, 2014:
Slept in a bit late, then chatting MG stuff again after breakfast. We jacked up the "California A" to inspect sheet metal under the body sills, and sure enough all original sheet metal with no rust other than a little thin dust on the surface. The frame likewise has original black paint on must surfaces, and no rust around the drain holes. It has been ages since I have seen an original MGA in this good condition. For a body off restoration (if ever desired) just bead blast it and paint it, no repairs required. Our host's cell phone based WiFi is not working for us in rural Lancaster, so when we depart we make a quick stop at the common local eatery with the WiFi service.
Give us a couple hours to process photos, update web page check email and BBS.
Then we are back tracking nearly two hours to Waverly, VA, where we maybe should have stopped the day before. We have an appointment with Coleen and Steve Ellis. Approach instructions are, "Turn into a hidden, jungle driveway. If you are driving the MG - Stop. The driveway has lumps, bumps and sinkholes that will eat a MG. Best to call at this point, and Steve might be able to get you thru the farmers lane". So naturally we just drive in and drive right up to the house. We've seen worse roads before.
One step inside the door of Steve's shop, and I notice a drill press, milling machine, and a lathe (among other things). "Hey Steve, can you drill a 3/4-inch hole"? Yes. Oh boy, MGA maintenance time. I go unbolt the trailer hitch plate from the car, and Steve drills the hole out from 5/8" to 3/4". Now I can install the new hitch ball with extended threaded shank so I can add a spacer to raise the hitch one inch. We couldn't find a suitable tube spacer, so I reassembled it at original height, and I can get a stack of flat washers later.
Stepping through the inside door to second room in the shop, we enter the toy room. Here, buried under various paraphernalia, lie an MGA, a 1966 Mustang, an Austin Healey 100-6, and a TR4 (hope I got that right). Seems like these cars may not get much attention any time soon. Stepping through the next door to third room we enter the mechanical shop, currently filled with a number of motorcycles. These seem to consume a lot of Steve's time these days. We spend time chatting about MGs and travel and other "guy things".
Did I mention there are 11 dogs and 7 cats here? While animals are fun, navigator seems to have an allergy for cats, so we will stay somewhere else tonight. So about 10 pm we are navigating our way back out through the "lumps, bumps and sinkholes that will eat a MG". No problem for an MGA of course.
Sunday, October 19, 2014:
Lots of work on the websites, and looking forward to contacts in North Carolina. By days end we travel south to Rocky Mount, NC where we spent the night. No MG visits today.
Monday, October 20, 2014:
More web work, and more email contacts. Beginning to stack up a visitation schedule for the week. Don't like standing still too long so in the evening we amble on west to Durham, NC, to spend the night.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014:
Arrive Greensboro, North Carolina, to visit Christopher Wilson with a nice MGA 1600-MK-II. This one currently has a 1800 engine, but the original 1622 engine is kept in store for future reference. This is an early 1961 MK-II car with no oil cooler and no front sway bar. One odd feature is a 1500 type front frame extension with no provision to mount the optional sway bar, so this piece must have been replaced once in a past life. We go for dinner and chat late. Time to chat a bit more in the morning.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014:
I get a short test drive in Christopher's MGA this morning. The car runs well and pulls strongly with the 1800 engine. Seems to be a very nice daily driver car needing nothing, and is a reliable daily driver, ready to go anywhere at any time.
Next stop, very close, is a visit to Hendrix Wire Wheel, Greensboro, NC. Smiles and welcomes all over the place as we get the VIP tour of the shop and several out buildings.
They do much more than just wire wheels here, including lots of repair work and a dynomometer. We find "Grace" here, the Austin Healey 100 that has run the entire country over for cancer charities. She is in for an engine rebuild, after which it is reported she will be taking life a little easier in the future.
For your MGA, Nexan tires are highly recommended for daily touring work, 165-80R15. I think I am about to buy a set of these for my car, ASAP. You can find these on eBay or order up a set from Walmart (wherever they have an auto service facility). Yes the last picture is a VW Thing.
Then a few more miles on, still in Greensboro, we stop to visit Larry Melvin at his British car shop, Melvin Automotive. He has been in the same location for 35 years, and still enjoying working on the cars. For sure he has as many tales to tell as anyone.
Then we head south a bit to visit Bryant Aydelette, still with Greensboro address. The driveway next to his street side mail box turns into a dead end sporting lawn art, but we soon find another drive leading to a large garage.
He has an MGA and an MGB, both very nice driver cars. I am puzzled for a while by the tire stance on the MGA, with the rear tires apparently too close to the rear fenders. Front and rear wheels and tires are same model. After a picture underneath at the rear I conclude this one must have a bolt-on wire wheel conversion using an original disc wheel rear axle (7/8-inch wider on each end). This sort of works with standard size tires, just looks a bit odd to the trained eye. But it likely wouldn't work well with wider tires that might foul on the fenders.
We are not destined to stay long here as we have still another appointment today. We head south some more to Asheboro, NC, to meet with the "Central Carolina British Auto Society". This one I had not heard of before now, and no great mystery. They are another "non-club" loosely organized, just some friends getting together on Wednesday nights to work on cars in a personal garage. This reminds me of the Tuesday night tinkering group in York, Pennsylvania. All smiles and welcomes, some of the people here are familiar with MGAguru.com.
But what are these guys doing tonight? Oh, WHAT? Separating the remains of a TR Spitfire, they are scavenging the front 3/4 of the chassis to be used to build a Three-Wheel Morgan clone. It will use a common motorcycle engine with in-line prop shaft and single rear wheel drive. I may have to schedule an appointment to return later to see the final result.
Thursday, October 23, 2014:
Today we had a wonderful visit with Dave & Kathy Ahrendt in Lenoir, NC, along with several of their friends who showed up to greet us. Also in attendance was this nifty Volvo P1800 with a sport engine and air conditioning. Kathy posted up a nice barbeque lunch including deserts, which kept everyone busy for a while.
Dave has a few nice toys of his own, including the MG TC in the house garage and a beautiful MGA in the workshop garage. Oops, I seem to have missed the picture of the MGA, as Dave was moving it out of the shop so my car could enjoy temporary nesting. One minor fix was to install a new rubber pad on the throttle pedal. This pad from Moss Motors is not exactly concours original, but it will be serviceable.
Here I found time to paint and install the new rear flange on my prop shaft. After a bit of struggle to get it assembled (what else is new?), it needed a little grinding on one corner of the new yoke to allow mating of the grease gun nozzle connector. I'm glad I was greasing it before reinstalling it in the car. I may have to wait a couple of days before we get it up to expressway speed again to see if it reduces vibration.
Friday, October 24, 2014:
Well that test run didn't take long. Today we travel east on some nice mountain roads, and I get a chance to run it up to expressway speed for a minute to verify that the prop shaft vibration has been banished. Yee-Haa!
Our visit today is with Jim Ferguson in rural Taylorsville, NC. The approach is a long narrow gravel drive between closely snuggled trees leading to a comfy little well appointed house on a TVA hydro lake. I am immediately impressed with his grease pit, constructed on a steep slope over a narrow holler. Then there is a utility tractor sporting a serious mulching machine that is a near necessity for maintaining the forest surrounding his house. A short walk "down" brings me to the serene surroundings of the lake with boat house, docks, dogs, and the wild life commonly found in the forest.
Then we chug on over to his "farm" several miles away to retrieve his MGA for a cruise the following day. Unfortunately, after the last cruise it was discovered that the rear air cleaner cover had parted company and this should be fixed before venturing out again.
As a quick fix we fashioned a flat cover from a sheet of Formica covered particle board. While trying to install it I dropped a bolt (or two). While searching for the dropped bolts we found the original air cleaner cover wedged between the inner fender and frame (very good fortune), and it didn't take long to find replacement fasteners and get it back together. Peachy!
Also hiding in his barn is this nifty little Riley Elf. This is a sister car to an early Austin Mini. It appears to have been assembled (or re-assembled) from a collection of parts from several different cars, but it is now a solid and good running little car.
This little Bushtec trailer also resides here. Apparently it gets used regularly, because it has already worn out a set of tires. Back at the house we chat a little longer with Dave and his wife before parting company. Tonight we intend to make some distance east perhaps half way to tomorrows morning appointment.
Saturday, October 25, 2014:
Primary target today is the Uwharie Mountains British Car Meet in rural Denton, NC. Aside from being misdirected on the way, we did get finally there and had a good time. I tried counting cars but got derailed a few times by friends with inquires. Best guess is about 65 cars in attendance, and twice as many people. It was a great picnic and they do this twice a year.
At the picnic we met a lot of new friends, among them Charles & Shelly Kappauf from Greensboro. There is a picture of a white MGA in Hendrix shop three days earlier. This one recently got a new five speed gearbox and gear reduction starter. It was picked up a couple days ago and driven some, but this morning the new starter wouldn't work. So we followed Charles "other" car home to have a look at the dead MGA. Sure enough, the new gear reduction starter is dead. Power is connected, but jumping power to the relay trigger terminal does nothing, not even a click,just open circuit. Looks like triple-A is about to pay for another tow back to the shop. We hang out long enough for dinner, but then head back toward the expressway with a jaunt west in mind for tomorrow's appointment. In the end we drove two hours west to overnight at Morganton, NC.
Sunday, October 26, 2014:
Catching up with WiFi work in the morning (first time caught up in a week). I also called Walmart in Salisbury, NC, to confirm an order for new tires for my MGA (which we should have installed in a couple of days). Then we drive another hour west to Asheville, NC, for an appointment with Norm Davies who has a nice driver MGB and an MGA restoration project in the reassembly phase.
The MGA front bumper is a 1980's vintage replacement part with too-flat face and too-square corners, so the front overriders have been ground on the edges to match the incorrect contour. Those with a keen eye can see this in the picture. The contoured rocker panels also seem to be 1970's vintage parts with incorrect shape, too tall on the outboard side so they interfere with bottom edge of the doors.
We spend some time inspecting his convertible top frame (original) and front wood bow (new Moss Motors part). The frame with center notches and short slot in the leg is early MGA 1600 type, correct for this car. The wood bow with overhanging flange at top rear and long ends is the "third" type bow intended for late 1600 and 1600-MK-II cars, which is a mismatch for this early 1600 car. The wood can be trimmed at the ends to convert it to "second" type for the early 1600 with narrow canopy rag top.
There are a couple more things wrong with this wood bow. The worst and most blatantly obvious is that the bore holes for the copper bushings do not line up with holes in the steel frame. To fix this properly requires plugging the holes and re-drilling them in correct location. Norm has wood working tools and can do this "fix", but otherwise it may be beyond the resources and abilities of most home restoration people. The wood bow is also flat with top side parallel to bottom side, which is not as original. It should be wedge shape with thinner edge in front. This is serviceable as is, but it changes the appearance on outside in front after assembly, where the leading edge of the front of the rag top will be too thick.
We spend some time cataloging parts, particularly identifying three convertible top canopies, an early wide tonneau cover (wrong for this car), an interior panel kit, leather seat cover kit, and carpet set with non-standard brown color. It is soon dinner time, after which we check out some football (strange watching TV now). There is late night car chat, after which it is time to crash for the night (or in my case catch up with photos and notes before sleep).
Monday, October 27, 2014:
Early start today and a casual drive (secondary roads) from Asheville to Huntersville, NC. We are here to visit Dick & Beth Lunney, editors of North American Classic MG cars magazine. After a short stop we go off to lunch at a local pub. Thinking we were only doing lunch, I left my camera behind (rats).
Next stop was a visit Hendrick Motorsports home base (the NASCAR team organization). There is an extensive complex of buildings where the race cars are prepared for multiple race teams, pit crew training, and museum space among other things). It gives a very strong impression of the complexity and great expense involved in NASCAR racing.
Then we take a short visit to Auto Barn Classic Cars where we find lots of classic cars available for sale, some of them getting restoration work.
Next stop is a casual visit with Robert Ravich in Charlotte, NC, who has a nice MGA (and a nice house on the lake). Then we roll on back to Dick Lunney's place for chat, dinner, and more late night chat well past midnight.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014:
Top priority today is to fix a non-charging problem on Dick Lunney's MGB. The ignition lamp checked out okay, would light up using jumper wires, but would not light when ignition was switched on.
The ignition lamp socket and bulb are killers for access on the late model MGB. Following the wiring with test light and schematic, it turned out the harness plug on back of alternator was unplugged, like it came loose on its own. Further inspection revealed a bent connector pin in the alternator so the ignition light wire was not connecting to the alternator. Straightening the bent pin and reconnecting the harness plug solved that issue, and the alternator is now charging properly.
Next up is to get new Nexan tires on my MGA, which been ordered a couple days earlier.
This required a late afternoon trip (sans trailer) to Walmart in Salisbury, NC, (45 minutes travel). The process there was a bit of an inefficient foot dragger that sucked up two hours to get the tires installed (bummer). There was also a small problem with the MGA, that it wouldn't start when it was time to enter the tire service bay. That turned out to be a corroded cable connection on the battery cut-off switch which I fixed in about 10 minutes (at least well enough to work for now). In the end the new tires were necessary, and it is nice to removed that particular worry.
Then we had to hustle over to Statesville (again) for a meeting with Piedmont British Motor Club at the Boxcar Grille. We were an hour late this time due to delays at the tire shop. We may have missed a substantial part of the club business meeting, but we did get food, and we had plenty of time to chat with the locals. A few people we had met in the past week, and we made a few more new friends. We may now also have one or two more appointments for the next day or two. Then follow Dick Lunney back to Huntersville where we try to knock off the chat by midnight so we can get a little more sleep this time.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014:
First stop today is Elite Vehicle Restorations in Denver, NC, run by Glenn Jermalowics. The big Healey is in for service. The TR6 is nearly finished with partial restoration. The MGA is finished. The AH 100 is Dick Lunney's car doing restoration. The Spitfire and TR3 are awaiting restoration. The VW bus is here for body sheet metal rework. This is a busy place.
Next stop is Sports Car Salvage, Ltd. in Mt Holly, NC. Meet Tony, the owner, who has been accumulating salvage cars for the parts for decades. The Sprite is a car he has raced for many years.
The Lotus 7 is undergoing restoration (apparently all the parts are here). The engines are only a small sample of his inventory (and there is a similar large inventory of transmissions). The Tigers are a favorite hobby; the white one bears a Chrysler emblem on the lower fender (after acquisition of Roots Group).
From here down the pictures may break your heart, but most British car enthusiasts should get the idea.
At least 200 cars have already been removed from the "lower pasture", but still more to go.
Tony has done his bit to keep these cars from the crusher, but time moves on, and more of these now have to be recycled. Many of them are stripped for parts before the shells are crushed for scrap, but the stored parts inventory is already huge.
With bit of daylight left I get to do some maintenance for my road warrior. I finally get around to adding the upward spacers for the trailer hitch ball (that has been in the works for months, and over due for decades). That makes the trailer more level, 1/2 inch lower in the rear for better sight over the top, and less likely to drag the tongue prop on aggressive pavement dips. You might also recall the coolant loss immediately after engine repairs a couple months back. Well, today was time to refresh the anti-corrosion coolant anti-freeze mix.
Thursday, October 30, 2014:
Today we head back north again to visit PJ Lenihan in Winston-Salem, NC. He has an MGB GT with a 3.4-liter V6 with 4-bbl carburetor (slightly over 200-HP) and 5-speed gearbox (a wonderful combination).
PJ insists that I should drive the GT, so we swap cars for a run to lunch. The GT is delightfully light and frisky and at about 10 pounds per HP it will definitely scoot when you kick it. It is also entertaining to follow the MGA with trailer, almost an out of body experience.
Hey, the new car tires are alright. Navigator reports the odometer error is now 0.1 miles excess in 35 miles travel, or less than 0.3% error. Pretty good compared to 1.3% error with the worn (smaller OD) tires. We will have to re-check and verify this later.
Friday, October 31, 2014:
This was mostly a work day for the club newsletter. While stationary we were regularly surrounded by ghosts and goblins and demons of all sorts. I was too busy to take pictures, which may be just as well, as I could have flooded the page with pictures not related to MGs. We did finally move south after dark into South Carolina with the intention to be close to a scheduled morning appointment.