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

Wednesday April 1, 2015:
Today we finally got to see Robert Wright in Conroe, Texas. We got a sudden deluge of rain on arival, but only for a few minutes. Robert has a large assortment of MGB, mostly turn-over projects plus a few parts cars. He also has an Austin Healey 3000 getting a V8 engine (because it was already well under way before he got the car).

Then with a fuel stop we got to replace a failed brake switch (again). This time the NAPA Echlin SL134 (Mexico) failed in 7-weeks 6880-miles (right on schedule). The common link for all the failed switches (5 failed in 10 months, 5000 miles average) is "Made in Mexico" (and I would lay odds they all came from the same factory). The new replacement switch is the more expensive Harley Davidson switch, "Made in USA". Time will tell.

I picked up a pair of 1/4-inch square carbon brushes for the heater motor, found those at a True Value Hardware store. They were a bit too long, but easy to shorten by rubbing on cement for a few seconds. I got them installed and the motor reassembled temporarily (so little bits won't get lost) but it will have to come apart again later to solder the brush wires.

Thursday April 2, 2015:
Back in Houston today, doing a little more work on Karen Hallett's MG TF. You might recall from four weeks earlier (March 6) I blew up a leaky fuel float and didn't get a chance for final tune-up and electrical debugging. In the mean time Karen bought a new float, installed it and got the car running well enough to move it to new quarters. First business today was a tune up, but when running it was leaking fuel slowly from the front carburetor vent pipe. Problem here turned out to be a maladjusted arm for the float valve. It was too high so the float hit the top press to test pin, and also dropped too low so the valve pin interfered enough to hold the arm down. A little judicious bending of the arm set all that straight. After reassembly, set the idle speed back to basic, adjust fuel mixture and air flow balance, and it now purrs like a kitten.

Next question to ponder was why the ignition light stays on while the engine is running. Functional test shows the generator works okay. Also the regulator is doing a good job or regulating maximum current and voltage as it should. Switch on, no ignition light (wrong). Start engine and light comes on (also wrong). Disconnect the regulator end of the ignition lamp wire and the light is out (no connection). Grounding this wire (with ignition on) should make the lamp glow, but it doesn't. Huh? I will have to scratch my head over thie one for a while. But in the meantime the charging system is otherwise working properly, so the car can be driven (if we just ignore the little red light). I am beginning to think the ignition switch end of the lamp wire is grounded rather than being connected to the switch. Will have to check that later. We also found the RR turn signal (brake lamp) not working. That turned out to be a bad contact in the bulb socket, easy to fix.

Near day's end I took a few minutes to change the headlight trim rings on my MGA. The old ones were rusty (since new in 1986 I suppose). Someone gave me new ones several years ago, which I fished out of my storage locker a couple weeks back. New trim rings look okay, but just as important was to free up the space in the boot.

Back to WiFi work this evening. Then later night I have some time to tinker, so I finish installing the new brushes in the heater motor, solder the wires, reassemble it, and power it up to be sure it runs.

Friday April 3, 2015:
Got the heater blower installed and running this morning. It seems to be picking up more vigor with running time on the new brushes. Still amazed that the armature I rewound in 1999 is still working.

Stopped for a visit with Ron Redding at 5R Restorations in Brookshire, TX. He has a lot of customer MGBs in his shop at least one MG Midget, and a few other models. I think the MGA is his personal pet. I kind of like the small gear reduction starter with the motor on bottom and plenty of space near the chassis.

Then there is this MG TD with a supercharger, front fenders restyled like a TC, and '42 Ford tail lights. Vintage MG folks may be rolling in their graves over this one.

A "modern Midget" getting a new engine, and his personal go-fast machine (self-evident).

Farther west we blundered into Timeless Texas Classics on US-71 near La Grange, TX. This place is infested with Metropolitans. Someone thought "52" seemed to ring a bell. Some of them are restored and in the front show room. Apparently many more hiding out back.

That would be a '62 (Nash) Rambler American, another Ford Ferguson, and Preston Tucker.

But we were really heading to see Bill Jones at Vintage Sportscars, Ltd in La Grange. The story here is that good help is hard to find, so restoration progress goes as fast as Bill likes to work.

This is a very personal business, dealing mostly in MG T-types these days. How the Jaguar snuck in is an odd story. The TD with a bit of front end modification is getting a 6-cylinder engine. The MGA is solid with original sheet metal. Tons of spare parts in storage.

Then we were sitting on WiFi for a while, considering heading south. We had a call down to Sam Stanton in Brownsville, TX, inquiring about South Texas British Car Club. Sam called a friend, and very shortly we had a call from a fellow who was supposed to be in Harlingen (near Brownsville) but just happened to be in San Marcos tonight (near San Antonio). So we hit the expressway and drove an hour west in a rush, arriving about 10-pm, to say hello to Javier (Harvey) and Mary Bazan.

"Harvey" has an MGA in the workshop here, along with a couple of TR GT6+ and a "Spit-6". This is supposed to be a Spitfire getting a 6-cylinder engine, but it is really a GT6+ getting a Spitfire main body shell (while retaining the GT6+ chassis and bonnet). That should be interesting when finished.

Saturday April 4, 2015:
In the morning as we were getting ready to depart from Harvey and Mary's place, a roving landscaper noticed the MGA with trailer in the driveway, then stopped to point out another little trailer sitting far back in the grass across the street. This was a light weight (relatively speaking) all steel trailer, perhaps old but durable. It has trailing arms, coil springs, shock absorbers and a panhard rod (somewhat more sophisticated than my little leaf spring trailer). In a few minutes Harvey had a deal to buy it (cheap), and took it home immediately.

We then spent the rest of the day catching up business, arranging for shipping of replacement front hubs for the MGA (for 2-day shipping Monday to Wednesday), and making out a lengthy parts order to be shipped to same address in El Paso TX (to also to be shipped Monday). Then of course the obligatory time to post photos and notes from the past few days. With a bit of after dark traveling we cruised down US-183 and US-187 taking a short loop around Victoria, then south a bit more on US-77. We then took a little side trip on TX-239 and TX-35 taking a coastal route through Rockport to spend the night in Aransas Pass, a bit shy of Corpus Christi.

Sunday April 5, 2015:
Today we caught the free ferry from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas, TX, all of 0.2 miles. The ferry boats are four lanes wide and several cars long. There are six ferry docks each side, and the boats are very busy. They should build a bridge here. Continuing south on Mustang Island Road (bird watchers paradise) we finally turned up through Flour Bluff into Corpus Christi. After a brief rest stop we were heading south again on US-77, making a fuel stop in Raymondville. From this perspective it is beginning to look a lot like Florida, flat with palms.

After a couple of phone calls, a call back, and another half hour sprint down US-77, we stop in Harlingen to visit Javier (Harvey) & Mary Bazan. Yup, same folks we saw in San Marcos a couple days earlier. Small world, and we all move fast. Here we get to see Harvey's MG TD, Mary's Mini Cooper, and the dog that likes video games. The TD has one of those nice reliable Airtex fuel pumps, and a coolant recovery tank.

Monday April 6, 2015:
Harvey's TD was running very rich, so it got a carburetor tune-up and is running much better now. Took it for an extended cruise to enjoy the nice Texas weather. Also got parts ordered for the replacement MGA front hubs to arrive in a few days.

Tuesday April 7, 2015:

We drove down from Harlingen to hang out in Brownsville briefly, missing an appointment for lack of contact.

Then we putzed around the farthest south point of Texas for a while before following the southern border northwest for a few hours. We were seriously working on our sun tans today. There is lots of history along this border we got a few pictures, but not half of the historical markers along US-83 between Brownsville and Laredo.

This last photo just shows that some truck driver has the same technique as I, backing over the parking curb so the vehicle doesn't stick out too far in the isle.

Wednesday April 8, 2015:
This was destined to be a long day, and not entirely according to plan. After a quick breakfast we were off at 9:30am making our way north through Laredo, targeting Eagle Pass. We had two route choices, US-83, 125 miles which might take just over two hours, or Mines Road, 114 miles along the Texas/Mexico border, which may take more than four hours. Naturally we chose the "scenic" route, but what kind of road is it that may average only 28-mph? Getting out of town was tough enough, having to crawl a few miles through the trucking district, not so bad. Once out of town we were escorting trucks at a reasonable clip for 15 miles to the intersection with TX-255 "Camino Columbia Toll Road" (which we will not use), so far 30 minutes. Then we found a nice black top road with no traffic at all, sailing long a mile a minute for another 30 minutes. Now this was beginning to worry me, because 114-50=64 miles left, and 4-1=3 hours left, and then we found out why.

The pavement suddenly ended with a sign reading "End Of State Maintenance" and the following gravel road was so bad as to be limited to 20-mph max speed, no bull. The last time I saw this kind of road was for 60 miles of the Dalton Highway in Alaska in 1997, the Haul Road along the pipeline north of the Arctic Circle. That time there was no alternate choice, so we ran slow and "survived" (a very appropriate word). This time we did have a choice, and discretion is still the better part of valor, so we took a few pictures and turned around.

Everywhere along the border we see the US Border Patrol vehicles (smile and wave). We backtracked 30 miles to the toll road entrance, then backtracked another 15 miles to skirt around the toll road (5 miles from our morning starting point). From there it was all highway, most of it running at 70-mph or better, so we hit Eagle Pass slightly ahead of schedule. Then we continued up US-83 through Del Rio and on to Marathon where we paid dearly for fuel (because it was in the right place at the right time).

Our intended destination today was Big Bend National Park, next intersection 70 miles due south down TX-385. The evening drive into Big Bend was absolutely delightful. I love mountains, even the parched ones with scrub grass and cactus. I'm sure the Bluebells along the road were seeded by the state, but very nice regardless. We hit the south end of Big Bend loop as planned about 7:20pm. This place could easily be a one week vacation spot, but remember we are not tourists. This is when navigator decided he didn't want to drive 20 miles out of the way just to pitch a tent in one of the two campgrounds that still had space. "Bummer", says me, but we drove on west on TX-118 while we still had daylight.

At the southwest corner of Big Bend loop we turned west on TX-170, destination Presidio, 66 miles The real point of this was to continue following the border as near as possible. This turned out to be another delightful road but for a different reason. Think nice blacktop, lots of twists and turns, 40 mph average speed, lots of hills (some up to 15% grade). Nice sunset, and with diminishing light more challenging driving. We found hilltops with very short visibility combined with switchbacks that tend to change direction unpredictably at tops of hills. Lanes were well marked with reflectors, easy to see in the dark. Going downhill toward face of a mountain the road would appear to disappear into a dark tunnel, only to turn away just before some possible impact. This was jolly good fun as I was busy driving and navigator was busy putting nail prints in the dash and creases in the seat cushion, and neither us us was taking pictures (not that pictures in the dark would turn out anyway).

Upon entering Presidio with reduced speed limits, going north the lane markings suddenly disappeared as we crossed an intersection. We slowed down some (a lot), and a few blocks later came to a "T" intersection (end of road) with no traffic signs. Obviously no longer on TX-170, we turned around to backtrack, finding no less than three stop signs in three blocks going south. Duh? This looked like someone had intentionally removed all route or warning signs going north before the main highway crossing, and perhaps also four stop signs. Having survived this incident, we turned west through town, enjoying a view of the international bridge over the Rio Grande River, well lighted in the night.

Then the road turned north, and we headed out of town on US-67, 59 miles to Marfa. As far as 12 miles on I was still looking at the international bridge in the rear view mirror. It is ultimately dark out here, and you can easily see lights at least 20 miles away when the land is flat enough. On a clear night bright stars blanket the black sky. After winding through more mountains we get flat land, and another Boarder Patrol check point (4th one today) before a fuel stop in Marfa. When I told navigator to scrape bugs off the windscreen (for the third time today), he said to get the picture first.

Nothing at all happening in Marfa at 9:30pm, so we headed northwest on US-90 an hour plus to Van Horn on I-10 (looks like a truck stop town town). Not much happening here either, so we continued west on I-10, looking for that elusive WiFI hotspot. By the time we gave up an found a rest stop barely a half hour shy of El Paso we had crossed into another time zone, gained an hour back on the clock, but it was half past midnight. 820 miles in 16 hours, I guess qualifies as a long day, and we were almost a day ahead of schedule.

Thursday April 9, 2015:
Alright! A day to relax (sort of) and catch up with the web work (which never ends). -- By evening our package from Moss had not arrived in El Paso. Bummer. It turns out Moss now ships UPS Ground Saver unless otherwise specified, and that commonly takes an extra day for delivery. I made a special point of requesting UPS Ground, "not Ground Saver" (On The Phone), but apparently it was sent "Ground Saver" in spite of my request. And it was shipped from Virginia (Eastern time zone) when destination is El Paso TX (Mountain time zone). Go figure. Anyway, tracking information says the package was in Dallas last night, and Ft Worth tonight. Fingers crossed that it doesn't have to make another stop before El Paso, because if it misses Friday delivery we're screwed for a couple more days due to no Saturday or Sunday delivery.

Friday April 10, 2015:
Well, the package made another stop in Midland, TX, in the small hours of the morning, so likely won't make today's local delivery. I would like to see exactly when it arrives in El Paso, then see if it can be picked up at the local UPS depot.

Meanwhile we had a couple hours to kill, so we took a nice 50 mile cruise in the mountains around the city. Starting east side we went north on the TX-375 loop, continuing west on Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive. This included a long 8% grade climbing through some switchbacks, 3rd gear to the floor barely maintaining 50-mph up the hill with the trailer (but nothing new or unusual). After a brisk coast through switchbacks down the other side we turned hard right into Franklin Mountains State Park (Lower Sunset Trail). This was two miles up steeper hills, mostly 30-mph in 2nd gear, but delightfully intimate with the mountains before returning to the expressway.

Before reaching I-10 we turned south onto some local through street staying reasonably close to the west side of the mountains. Finding the Police Academy in these hills was a surprise.

Just before end of the run we made one more left turn to run 2-1/2 miles up McKelligon Canyon Road (and back), finally barreling down hill back into the city. All in all, a nice way to kill a couple of hours.

Well the package didn't make El Paso until mid afternoon, so now it won't be delivered until Monday. !@#$%^&*. First time ever that a Moss package wasn't delivered in 3 or 4 working days. Shipped with wrong service, and shipped from wrong coast. To top it off, UPS said it was already tagged for delivery so it could not be retrieved for pickup at the UPS depot. Bummer. Come back Monday evening after local delivery, no other choice. So naturally we headed an hour north and landed in Las Cruces, New Mexico for the night, as we have an appointment here in the morning. Sorry Texas, but we well be back later.

Saturday April 11, 2015:
Today we have a tech session with British Motorcar Club of Southern New Mexico the home of Walt Kowalski in Las Cruces. I didn't count noses, but I think about 10 little British cars and at least a dozen people in attendance. Apparently several of the attendees knew who we were immediately on our arrival.

A nicely equipped shop. Lots of pictures, not all posted here. I saw three pedestal grinders for grinding wheels, wire wheels, and buffing wheels, a Spridget in process, a four-post lift.

First project for the day was to be buffing a nasty scratch out of the windscreen glass on a Morgan. I seem to have made a bit of an ass out of myself interfering while getting these pictures. The idea is to mix cerium oxide powder with a bit of water to make a paste, then use it to buff slowly with a power buffer until the glass comes out clear. Bottom line is, it seems to work.

Second part of the tech session was a welding demonstration using a TIG welder. I have done welding with a stick welder, spot welder, oxyacetylene, and MIG welding, but had never touched a TIG welder before. To be fair, I am a career machine design engineer, and I have designed a lot of things that needed to be TIG welded. I had also watched the process on a few occasions in the past. The photo at right below was my very first touch on the TIG welder, and it seems to have turned out fairly decent for the first try (with no filler rod).

Additional tech stuff was demonstration TIG welding aluminum, and a variety of misadventures (demonstrating how to do it wrong) with the MIG welder. The after-party party resumed at Red Hawk County Club (golf course restaurant) on the north side of Las Cruces with a dozen remaining souls. Nice lunch, friendly folks in this club, and a nifty photo-opp with the Donna Ann Mountains in the background. Now tonight it seems we will be heading farther north for another appointment.

Sunday April 12, 2015:
Somewhere between late night and early morning we had a 3-1/2 hour run up I-25/US-85 from Las Crusas to Albuquerque, NM. We missed yesterday's cub meeting with British Automobile Owners Association, but today there was an impromptu meeting of club members at the home of Kevin Kittle, the club's newsletter editor. The cars came trickling in one, but soon there were many (at least several). The blue car is a Morris 1000 that has been converted to electric, quiet as a mouse when it runs off. Seems like there were as many Midget as MGA (or should that be the other way around)? The Rover and Mini live here.

Out back there were several "non-runners". First in line was a Triumph 10, then a couple of Morris Minor, one of which appears to be the start of a conversion to a truck, an old Land Rover, an MGB, a couple of Jaguar in the back, and an extra Mini on the side.

After all proper introductions and tire kicking, the party resumed on the patio with some nice grass skirt umbrellas to shield the hot sun. All said and done, it seems we had a couple hours of daylight left, so we took a recommended short cruise.

This started with an up hill run 15 miles east on I-40 (70-mph) followed by a few miles north on NM-14 (more up hill at 50 mph). Then we turned west (sort of) on NM-57, better known as Sandia Park Scenic Byway (or Sandia Crest Road). This was just 14 miles of asphalt, but it took about 25 minutes to climb a very serious hill with tighter and tighter switch backs. Starting a mile above sea level with 80dF temperature in Albuquerque, we were now two miles high with more like 50dF and plenty of snow that had not yet melted (just in time for sunset).

The run back down the mountain was uneventful, more casual, being careful not to melt the brakes, of course. Then back the way we came on I-40 west followed by I-25 and US-85 south. By day's end we were down to Truth Or Consequences, NM, a bit less than two hours away from El Paso, TX.

Monday April 13, 2015:
Our primary task today was to amble on back to El Paso to retrieve the packages the had arrived for us at the home of a friend. The smaller but heavier package contained two front wheel bearing hubs, quickly tucked inside the trailer. The larger package was the long awaited delivery from Moss Motors containing all sorts of booty, which had to be tied momentarily on top of the trailer for short transport.

At first opportunity we stopped to unpack the larger box, and install the new 4-inch air trunking tube in the MGA. This was somewhat overdue, replacing a 28 year old part I had damaged several years earlier. This should keep some engine bay hot air out of the vent in warm weather. You may notice the navigator was happy to help with this little project. When finished, the rest of the smaller parts were stashed, mostly in the trailer, a few in the boot, and the large box with packing materials was unceremoniously disposed of.

The rest of the day (and half of the night) was spent catching up with business, bbs, email, tech questions, a couple new tech web pages, and posting these photos and notes from the past few days. We were fortunate this time to find a WiFI hot spot with 24 hour service (and an electrical outlet to keep the computers charged up).

Tuesday April 14, 2015:
Kind of foot dragging today, no appointments. Lots of time spent on Chicagoland MG Club web site issues. Some time spent with email contacts in Arizona (our next destination). MG is overdue for an oil change, but I was somehow too busy to get to that. How does that happen on a day off?

Wednesday April 15, 2015:
Looking for an oil change today in El Paso, but no joy. Two different places both quoting hour and a half wait before service, and we were anxious to be moving. So we pointed it west back through the Transmountain Drive again, out of Texas into New Mexico, just north of the southern border (as usual). The trip is 25 miles shorter then the interstate route and a few minutes less travel time taking the scenic route on NM-9 and AZ-80. But it is lonely out there with very little traffic, every second vehicle being US Border Patrol, cactus, sagebrush, tumbleweed, sand and rock, no trees.

Starting with a full tank of fuel we made the 225 miles okay, only pausing momentarily for photos at a few historical markers. Lots of flat land, with a little of it through some hills. The main attraction was the abandoned rail line, and the point of Geronimo's surrender.

Somewhere long the way we crossed the Continental Divide at exactly one mile altitude (5280 feet). We also moved from Mountain Daylight Savings Time to Arizona Time and set the clocks back one hour (because Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time). This was actually quite a pleasant drive, mostly 65 mph casual with the road all to ourselves. We finally chugged into Douglas, Arizona (on the southern border) in late afternoon, finding a WiFi spot and a late lunch. So we just drove from Texas to Arizona without actually setting foot in New Mexico (this time).

Thank you for your comments -- Send e-mail to <Barney Gaylord>
© 2015 Barney Gaylord -- Copyright and reprint information