The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (February 1, 2015 - February 15, 2015)

Sunday, February 1, 2015:
Special appointment today with Eric Baacke in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. We dropped in about 10-ish with a bit of drip and drizzle (which soon turned to warm and sunny). Primary task for today was to see if we could get the MGA's frozen engine to turn. The car rolls freely, so we put it in 4th gear an began to roll it to and from with great vigor. Engine was rocking and gears were clunking from the backlash, and finally the rear tires were skidding on the floor, but no joy, the engine wasn't turning.

Radiator was already loose, and hoses were so rotten that they came off with one good pull, and the radiator was out of the way in a flash. Eric had filled the cylinders with ATF some months ago. When we removed the cylinder head for internal inspection every bit of the fluid was still there, right to top of the bores, so nothing had gotten down to the piston walls. Vacuum bleeder made quick work of removing the ATF.

We then removed the generator, starter motor and oil filter for best access, and went to work on the flywheel ring gear with a large crow bar. Pushing and pulling, rocking the engine, bending the crow bar, but still no joy. This engine is officially frozen and will have to be disassembled to beat out the pistons. But it's just some mechanical work, now a job for another day. Does that mean we failed? At least we did the diagnostic work and came to some discoveries and conclusions.

We spent some time analyzing condition of the car in general. Body sills are shot and need to be replaced, but the upper body is in surprisingly good condition (allowing for peeling paint and surface rust). Floorboards are shot, but the frame is also in surprisingly good condition and very straight and solid. Every bit of fabric is shot. Plan of attack should be to set the engine aside for last part of the restoration and replace the body sills first, before removing body from frame.

My car is only the third MGA Eric had even seen "in the flesh", and he had never driven or ridden in one. I wouldn't want him to spend a lot of time and money on restoration, then ultimately discover he doesn't like the car. So I got him to drive mine (vigorously) for about 15 minutes. Yee-Haa! I think he's hooked. And he has new determination to get that Mustang finished so the parts won't be mixed up or lost when he gets seriously into restoration of the MGA. Off to lunch before Eric ran out of time today, followed by a quick phone call, and then we were off to our next appointment.

Fifty miles to the west (by way of I-10 and part of the gulf coast road US-90) we arrived in Bay St. Louis, MS in early evening to visit Frazer and Beverly Rice. They have a very nice MGA 1600-MK-II. Everyone along this stretch of the Gulf coast talks about Hurricane Katrina, before and after the event. Yes, six feet of flood water, up to here. The MGA that was in the garage was totally submerged, written off, but then restored and sold on with a "Flood" title. This blue one was father north on high ground, untouched by the flooding, and subsequently had the restoration finished to be the replacement car.

Primarily a social call here, and the Superbowl game was on at the neighbors, so by dusk we were headed a bit east again for our night stop (and a long stint on WiFi for web work).

Monday, February 2, 2015:
Sitting in Gulf Port MS, finally got a break from socializing. After sleep in, email, tech questions, and a couple of web page updates, I spent the rest of the day finishing up the CMGC newsletter conversion to HTML (web pages) and uploaded to the club web site. Then get the MG fueled up (at a new low of $1.75.9/gallon), and on the stroke of midnight we head north. Did we not say where we go next?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015:
Having a relatively long haul ahead, we drove up I-59 for about 4 hours through Hattiesburg, Laurel, Meridian MS, crossing into Alabama to Tuscaloosa, then got some sleep. We made a late morning stop for breakfast and email check, then drove a few more hours including a fuel stop, passing through Birmingham then up I-65 north. 405 miles up the road from Gulf Port we were in Huntsville, Alabama, with a few hours to spare to catch up WiFi. And then, ....

Say hello to North Alabama British Motoring Society with more than 40 people for a dinner meeting at Logans Roadhouse (possiby a new attendance record). After dinner and the normal club business meeting, we were called upon to do the pony show, explain the circumstances and purpose of our road trip, offer our services, and do a little promotion of my MGA Guru web site (playing Stump The Guru), and at least mention the Chicagoland MG Club. There was a short photo op (with half a dozen MGA owners), followed by a tire kicking session in the car park, and then we pointed it south and hit the road again. Say what?

By now you're getting this, right? Like last night, 1-1/2 hours down I-65 before another fuel stop in Birmingham AL, then another 1/2 hour before a midnight email check and some sleep.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015:
Like the day before, sleep in, catch breakfast and an email check, a few tech questions, some BBS time, and head south again before 2-pm. This time running mostly 80-mph in traffic, then 80-mph with rain down I-65. Got a few drips, drug out the towels, and kept going. Just shy of destination, almost sucking air (only 20-mpg at 80-mph with the trailer) by the time we found gas at $1.85/g in Bay Minette (rather than $2.12/g at the interstate exit), then immediately back on the road south down US-31 (at a very casual 55-mph).

Arriving Daphne, Alabama (man this place looks familiar) with 1/2 hour to spare for a quick email check, having done 760 miles since leaving Gulfport 42 hours earlier. Then say hello to Mardi Gras MGs British Car Club meeting at Don Carlos Mexican restaurant. A bit smaller group this time, having relocated farther north than their prior meeting place, but a bunch of jolly good British car enthusiasts nonetheless. After dinner and the business meeting I get to do the pony show again, and I must be entertaining because the cross-talk stopped and people were paying attention and asking questions.

Once the meeting broke up we were warming the car up when we were approached with an offer to stay the night, which is hard to refuse when it's cold and raining. Not that we would have refused anyway, as that's what this trip is all about, meet, greet, and chat about MGs and British cars forever. So we follow some Honda tail lights down AL-181 (hurricane escape route) somewhat farther than might be expected, a bit over 20 miles farther south (which is why we fill the tank before the club meetings). I didn't know the land went that far. Now say hello to George and Lynette Whitley in rural Fairhope, Alabama, down on County Route 1, once again overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and listening to the waves gently splashing. You know the routine here, late night chat until the hosts drop out one at a time, then a couple hours of WiFi work (so you can see the trip notes) before I crash.

Thursday, February 5, 2015:
The MGA gets a well deserved day off, and also the passengers. A wondeful day here. What the locals consider a chilly winter day looks to me like a balmy spring day in Chicago. Sitting in the sun while doing WiFi stuff, and catching the nice sun set. Thinking about the friends in Chicago, and other northern states currenty in the throws of serious winter storms. ...???... Okay, I'm really thinking I'm glad I'm here and not there.

Friday, February 6, 2015:
Today we toddled over to George's "basement", a storage facility five miles away. We came to visit "Angie", the 1966 MGB with a Weber carburetor and alternator. We had a bit of tune-up work to do here and found a few small issues in the process. It started with almost no choke, was running rich, had a black tail pipe and uneven idle. A couple of the resistor type spark plugs were too high on resistance, and a couple of the HT wires were also high on resistance. One plug looked like no fire so we did a compression test. One cylinder was low on compression, but after some cranking it came up some and after some running it improved a lot. That was perhaps stuck rings from not running often enough, promise to drive it more in the future.

After grinding a small screwdriver to fit the distributor cap terminals, we cut the tail off of a couple of HT wires and reassembled it to get the wire resistance down, installed a new set of plugs, and checked the distributor cap for good internal posts. Also reset the valve lash after finding all rocker arms with too small gap. Then gave the Weber carb a quick mixture adjustment (very easy). Going after ignition timing, I set the timing by ear, then checked the results with a timing light, finding 24d BTDC. That sounds like a lot but it runs well.

Then we had an extended session with a nice set-back timing light. After setting timing to 32d BTDC at 4000 rpm with vacuum disconnected, we found 19d BTDC at idle (not too far astray from my initial setting by ear). Then we found no vacuum advance, which was ultimately traced to a leaky hose connection on the vacuum pipe. This was fixed with a few turns of small wire for a hose clamp. With vacuum advance working, the set-back timing light revealed 53d BTDC at 4000 rpm with light throttle, or 21d as a result of the vacuum unit (very good results). After a nice test drive, the proof is in, just check the grin on the face of the driver.

Back to the house for more chat about cars and clubs, get a few nice shots of the sunset again, and the extended family took a short run for fried chicken dinner. Back to the house again for more car and club chat, looking up the locations and routing for tomorrow's rally, posting photos and notes, and trying to knock off before midnight (for a change). I must thank George and Lynette Whitley for being such gracious hosts.

Saturday, February 7, 2015:

Today we had a morning rondevous with Mardi Gras MGs British Car Club in Silverhill, AL. Five cars (eight people) joined for a caravan to Pensacola FL. There we joined a rally (with about 100 cars) co-sponsored by Panhandle Cruisers and Pensacola Austin Healey Club.

The rally (tour) was to run 56 miles from Pensacola, Florida to Atwood, Alabama, traveling some scenic side roads. Since we had complete route instruction for this one, we struck out on our own to enjoy the casual cruise through the rolling hills and forests. It was a fairly quick trip, pressing along near the speed limits. Seems like we caught up to the Chevy club near the end.

The tour ended at David's Catfish House in Atmore Alabama. Since we had an early start the other British cars had not yet arrived. So we moved temporarily a few blocks up the street for a WiFi connection to check email (for an anticipated message). Must have gotten distracted for a bit. When we returned to David's 75 minutes later most of the cars had already left, including the Brits. Or maybe they didn't stop here at all, some of them going to visit the Casino not far away.

Our next appointment was to be in Columbus, Georgia (again), so we headed northeast on the scenic roads. Somehow navigator couldn't figure out how to go east, so we casually followed US-31 North, offset and parallel to I-65, ending up in Montgomery. After some time on WiFi we ambled on east a bit to Columbus Georgia in preparation for our next appointment.

Sunday, February 8, 2015:
So, you're eyebrows just popped up? Columbus GA, again? Yes, we have been here a few times before. First visit was 11/21 to 11/25, then again 11/30-12/7 then again briefly on 1/25 (see prior notes). You may recall there is this hand full of MG enthusiasts residing substantially south of their "home" car club the Peachtree MG Register in Atlanta. They seem to have lots of enthusiasm, and lots of things to do with their cars, and Atlanta is just too far away for regular commuting. So they have reached out to some more British car enthusiast friends and have formed a local coalition of common interest. There is now a new Facebook page and a new group name for "Brits In The Valley" (referring to the Chattahoochee River Valley). Their first official meeting was Saturday Feb 7, 2015, at a local restaurant and there are already a couple of hand fulls of enthusiasts. Today we have their first collective tech session at the home garage (workshop) of Larry Stephens in Columbus.

In attendance were yours truly Barney and Elliot Gaylord (red '58 MGA), Keith Farley (white '71 MGB), Keith Treadwell (white '60 MGA), Jim Walton (red '64 MGB), Brian Winter (green '65 MGB), Larry Stephens (red '62 MGA and E-type Coupe resident here), and Ray Mobley (Porsche 911). Ray also has a '65 MGB (and a pair of Volvo 144). Notably absent was Phillip Clark ('74 MGB and other Brit cars) who has the home shop on south side of Columbus). There are a few more members of this group not present today.

Lots was accomplished today. Each car that didn't have previous attention got a tune up, and there was plenty of discussion about the character and maintenance of little British cars. The white MGA got special attention to the speedometer with dual odometers none of which was working. Turning the input shaft gave no output at all, so the instrument was disassembled enough to get the works out of the case for inspection. The trip reset knob was removed (with certain prejudice) as well as trim ring and glass and light guard. Indicator needle was pulled from the shaft, face plate removed (two screws), and all was finally exposed. For both of the odometers the eccentric drive shaft was seized so the phenolic gears had sheared teeth (and we have no replacement parts handy). We were able to free up the indicator needle spindle with judicious application of aggressive solvents. In the end it was reassembled and shown to have working speedometer, which was a huge improvement for the shade tree effort.

Near days end it was noted that the resident red MGA had a substantial oil leak while idling, something like a fluid ounce of oil every 10 minutes, which appeared to originate somewhere near the oil filter. After mopping up and wiping dry everything in the vicinity, it was disclosed to be leaking at or very close to the oil cooler hose crimp fitting nearest to the oil filter connection. Having old looking hoses with unknown history, it as decided to order two (original type) hoses for replacement to assure reliable future function.

All in all this was a very productive day and a great tech session to kick off activities of the new Brit car enthusiasts group. Perhaps I will return this way again some day (maybe). Best wishes to all involved.

On another note, for those who may recall these notes from December, this article has appeared in the current (March 2015) issue of Classic Motorsports magazine. (Click for larger images).
Not the centerfold, but very near the font of the magazine.

Monday, February 9, 2015:
Tonight we dropped into the club meeting for British Motoring Club of Montgomery, Alabama, with about 30 people in attendance. You may recall we were on tour with this group on January 24. We had a bit of trouble finding Young Barn Pub & Oyster Bar in a strip mall on a side street from a side street, arriving late for dinner but in plenty of time for the business meeting. Being our second visit, they made us honorary members and gave us a club sticker (which we may paste somewhere on the car). Selection of British cars present was a bit sparse, but there was another MGA and a new Mini.

After the meeting a substantial part of the group reassembled in the parking lot to ogle the club sponsored survivor (sort of survived) of the 24 Hours of LeMONS "race", Feb 7-8 at Barber Motorsports Park at Birmingham, AL. This is s Triumph Spitfire with nearly stock mechanicals, and a bit of eclectic trim. Rules for the race cars limit investment in the drive train to $500 maximum, but you can spend any amount you like on "fuzzy dice" type of cosmetic trim. This one is sporting a pair of guitars and a functional keyboard piano instrument. The car raced two days, surviving nearly the whole race, ultimately breaking the crankshaft and destroying the engine block one hour before the end. But it finished third in class (as a lot of other cars broke earlier).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015:
Tonight, a couple hours up the road, we met with Birmingham (British) Motoring Club at Logan's Roadhouse (in Birmingham, AL, of course). With more than 20 in attendance, the business meeting stretched on a bit discussing upcoming events. We provided the entertainment relief for a while, well received. Questions and discussions continued after the meeting, until the car park was nearly empty by the time we were leaving.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015:
Today we pointed it north agian, but before we got out of town the brake lights were not working (again). Not surprised, I figure this pressure switch was running on borrowed time for the past few weeks, making 11-weeks 8400-miles, second short failure of a Borg Warner switch. Will cut it open later. The new replacement is NAPA Echlin SL134 (made in Mexico)

Today's destination is Madison, Alabama (just west of Huntsville) to see some old friends, Jim and Ann Parsons, who we know from back in the Chicago are since the late 80's. They used to have a couple of MGAs, one project and one driver car, both sent to new homes some years ago. Since we happen to be "in the area" (again), we will drop in for a visit. This leads to chat before, during and after dinner into late night.

Thursday, February 12, 2015:
Mostly a day off, couple of web page updates, and some email exchange about possible advertising functions on the Chicagoland MG Club web site. Jim Parsons an I took a short trip to the local high school shop lab where they are building a robot for national competition. Sorry, but I didn't take the camera. Nothing to do with MG, but a cute diversion. May get pictures later.

Friday, February 13, 2015:
More web site "negotiations", but today's news is cutting open the most recent failed brake light pressure switch. We're getting used to seeing this by now, thin copper plating burned off by electrical arcing, really junk construction of the contacts.

I don't know where all the carbon came from, possibly from heating the plastic housing. The brake system is running DOT-5 (silicone fluid), and there was no fluid on the contact side of the rubber diaphragm.

I cleaned the contact parts with vinegar and salt, about 10 minutes with a little scrubbing, then a couple more pictures, the last one with a magnifying lense. The contact materials are certainly rubbish.

Saturday, February 14, 2015:
There was another trip to the high school robot shop today. I actually got to fettle a few pieces on the machine and make some suggestions (although they have plenty of professional guidance without me). The robot is supposed to snatch rectangular plastic bins, stack them at least four high and place a garbage can on top, as many stacks as possible within a time limit, while competing against other robots on the same floor space. Kicker is a limit of something like 68-inches on overall height of the robot, and a strict weight limit. This robot has a few fancy tricks up its sleeve. See for more information.

In the evening Jim wanted to take his son Mark for a ride in the MG. Yeah, sure, going to be fun trying to squeeze those two guys into this car. Ah, but Jim has been there before. He drove this car around the mountains near Marietta, Ohio in 1988, and on the Indy track in 1989, and he had his own MGA to drive for some years. But of course the cars keep getting smaller every year. They did managed to get the doors shut, and they're off.

And then they were back. Well, after a while they were back, and at least we know all the lights work. Mark said yes, he enjoyed the ride, but not as much as dad did. I knew the demo drive was not for Mark's benefit.

After dinner Mark had serious homework to do while Jim and I had car chat going past midnight again.

Sunday, February 15, 2015:
Time to hit the road again. This morning in Madison, Alabama, the cup of soda in the door pocket was frozen, and the engine with 20W50 oil was sort of slow cranking. But eventually it fired up, and we were off at 8-am sharp. 190 miles down the expressway in less than three hours put us in Montgomery (again) with two hours to spare. Had to make a call to my bank first, then grab lunch and answer some email. At 12:50-pm we join some cars from British Motoring Club of Montgomery who are heading down to the Gulf coast for Fairhope Mardi Gras Parade. Count one MGB, one AH 3000, one MGA, one retro T-Bird, and a couple of sport utes.

A few more hours and another 170 miles more casually down the expressway with one extended pit stop. By 5-pm some of the folks are checking in to a hotel in Spanish Fort, AL, while I have another hour to do some planning. By 6 we were headed out for dinner, but a few restaurants had two hours or more waiting time. We finally ended up at Captain's Table on Battleship Parkway in Spanish Fort, AL. The waiter was busting his chops with hustle but not getting enough cooperation from the bar and kitchen, so service was a bit slow. But the food was excellent all around, and the waiter was entertaining. In the end we called in the supervisor to say the waiter should get a raise, and we all left him a big tip.

While everyone else was heading back to their respective hotels, we were heading south to rural Fairhope, AL, to visit George and Lynette Whitley. Hey, we've been here before, but were invited back again, along with a small ulterior motive. Navigator left his hat here, the one with the LED head lights that works well for map reading at night, and it seemed worth the effort to retrieve it. Chat about cars and clubs and web sites until nearly midnight, and then I get to chase these photos and notes before turning in.

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