The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (February 1 - February 15, 2016)

Monday February 1, 2016
Morning email check, a late breakfast, followed by heading north and west into the Florida panhandle. In this neck of the woods there are plenty of pulpwood farms just doing their growing thing for 40 years at a stretch. Following US-98, FL-267, FL-20, and finally US-231 south, landing in Panama City a day early. We may see if there is anything helpful we can do here before tomorrow night's club meeting. Otherwise plenty of WiFi work to keep me busy.

Tuesday February 2, 2016
Spent most of the day on WiFi. Did some work on the mechanical shops list. For evening plans, we were sitting very near where we thought out next meeting should be ("thought" being the key word). Turned out we had the address wrong, we were in Panama City rather than Panama City Beach. Once we got that straightened out, Mapquest stopped us a mile short of the destination, and we had to guess at the final location. We were nearly an hour late but didn't miss anything, arriving at the tail end of ordering food and beginning of the club meeting.
Meet Bay British Cars club with at least 40 people crammed into the small dining room at Triple-J Steakhouse in Panama City Beach. We had met about half of this group a year earlier, but still all grins and welcomes. By end of the meeting we have a couple more appointments, and we follow Charlie Schott and is wife home for the evening. They seem to have some plans for my talents tomorrow.

Wednesday February 3, 2016
Today we did some work on Charlie's big Healey BT7. First business was overdrive not working. Center picture right to left is fuse box, OD relay, and OD kick down switch (and a flashlight). After a quick check of the wiring diagram and a bit of poking around with a test light, there were two immediate problems. No power to the white wires in the OD circuit, and no ground wire for the relay winding (switching coil). This must be two errors in new OD sub-harness, missing a black wire and having a Lucar terminal on a white wire that should have a bare end. The white wire with Lucar terminal dangling on the right side needed to be clipped and stripped to have a bare end to connect to the fuse block. And we had to make a short black wire with one Lucar end and one fork end to ground under a mounting screw. With all that sorted out we soon found a dead panel switch (no internal contact), which we removed so we coud touch the wire ends together to make the switch connection. We then verified that the 3-4 gear switch was working so the OD solenoid would click on when shifted into 3rd or 4th gear.

Then it was time for a test drive before rain set in. The first thoroughfare was fast enough to get it into 3rd gear, then touch the wires together and it kicked into overdrive as intended. Disconnect the wires and it shifted out of OD as intended. Then select 4th gear and touch wires to kick into OD, and disconnect to shift out of OD. All is well with the world, get that picture with the big grin. There is an oddity in the wiring diagram where the kick down switch is wired in parallel with the OD relay, and gets power from the OD dash switch same as the relay. That means OD is enabled whenever the dash switch is on, except defeated in 1st and 2nd gears by the 3-4 switch on the gearbox. But the kick-down switch does nothing, because it has power input on both sides when OD is switched on. I think the kick down switch should be wired in series between relay output and the gearbox switch, so a hard step on the loud pedal will drop it out of OD. That question and possible re-wire will wait for later. Then as the rain set in we set out for a late lunch at a local eatery.

The test drive revealed a backfire pop sometimes with initial throttle, so we looked into that after lunch. Plenty of oil in the carb dashpots, but the rear carburetor seemed to be running a bit lean, and a minor mixture adjustment seemed to fix it. We then checked into a fuel gauge that was constantly stuck on 1/4 reading. Correct power and ground, good connection to the sender unit on the tank, same resistance showing at both ends of the sender wire so that wire connection is good. Sender resistance measures about 20 ohms. Shorting sender to ground drives the fuel gauge to "E" as it should, so the gauge seems to be functioning properly. We need a couple of 68-ohm resistors (not immediately in hand) to verify correct function of the gauge. It is my gut feeling that the sender unit is stuck on 20 ohms regardless of fuel level in the tank. Owner does not want to break the tank seal to check the sender until after a the test with resistors can be done. There is another issue with the speedometer that tends to stick on 20 mph, even when the odometer operates correctly. This must be a dirty needle shaft in the speedometer, one of those side effects of not driving the car enough. The instrument will have to be opened up for cleaning (later please).

Thursday February 4, 2016
Today we were off to see Gary Finster in Panama City Beach, FL. His first problem was a 1961 AH 3000 BN7 that wouldn't start without a shot of starting fluid (it had fresh gas), and got terrible gas mileage when driving. No start from cold is usually insufficient fuel, commonly not enough choke due to maladjusted choke linkage. True here as well, as the choke cable was sticking so it couldn't be pulled out far enough. With some manual help at both ends of the cable we got it pulled out for full choke, and the engine started on first crank. Note to Gary, clean and oil the choke cable or buy a new one. As to the poor fuel economy, we found a cracked fuel hose spraying fuel like a lawn sprinkler. It appeared to be original factory issue 55 year old hose. We spent some time with a Dremel grinder to cut off the steel crimp shells and save the end fittings. Then a lunch break and a run to the parts store for new hose and a fuel filter, and installed new hose with screw clamps to get the car back in service.

The next patient was Gary's 1952 MG TD. This car has a new wiring harness and a double relay box intended to make turn signals work, but so far it can only make flashing on four corners at once. The relay box and wiring harness were familiar, set up like an MGA with different color wires to all four corners. Problem here was to figure out how left and right side lights were tied together when they shouldn't be. I leaned on something I learned about MG TC turn signals two weeks earlier, having a single filament bulb in the front lamps to service both parking lights and turn signals, but in this case the relay setup was different. Sure enough the front lamps were single filament, but this wiring setup was to use double filament lamps. Left and right lamps were tied together with the red wire for parking light circuit. Considering current state of this project, the prudent path forward from here is to change the front lamps from single filament to double filament fixtures. These conversion parts are available, so add them to the next parts order. We also fixed the horn which turned out to be a bad fuse. It didn't look bad, but may have been disconnected at one end of the wire inside the glass tube. Pinching the fuse ends together got it working, so we could retire for the day. But add a new 25/50 amp fuse to the parts order.

Friday February 5, 2016
Today mid morning we dropped in to visit Robert Moore in Panama City, Florida. I heard he had some vintage cars, but I wasn't prepared for everything else. He seems to be collecting almost everything vintage, not only automobilia but also motor boat motors, wooden dolls, model railroad, slot cars, vintage clothing, coke machine, jukebox, telephone, road signs, model cars, vending machines, bicycles, you name it and he likely has it.

The first building houses a couple of cars, a Jaguar E-type that is driven regularly, and a 1941 Ford (I think) that is a nice piece of time warp. Across the street is the "Historical Society Of Bay County Museum" (or at least a subdivision thereof). Most of this is another story, and I'm not a lot into history and museums, so I put my camera away for a while. But on the same premise are a couple more cars, a Jaguar XK-140 and an MGA 1600- MK-II. These cars don't seem to need much help, and we were on a tight schedule, so off to other endeavours. For more photos of Robert Moore's collectibles Click here.

Then we had a personal appointment about 60 miles west in Niceville, Florida, which is on the north side of Choctawatchee Bay. Unfortunately we missed a turn, and ended up on the south side of the bay near Destin, FL. Being a little late already, we bit the bullet and conceded to pay the $8 fee ($4 car + $4 trailer) for 6 miles on the shortcut toll bridge across the bay. But when we got there it would accept Florida Sun Pass prepaid toll only, and we don't have a Florida account, so we had to drive the long way around the bay, add 25 miles and 40 minutes.
Business finished in short order, we took a shortcut northeast 100 miles in two hours out of the Florida panhandle into southern Alabama. A pleasant trip for sure, nice forests and a few mild hills for a change. Also dramatically lower motor fuel prices in Georgia. The lowest price we found in the past two years was $1.59.9/gallon in Katy, Texas in mid December, and were paying up to $1.99/gal in most of Florida. By day's end when we needed fuel we found a new low price $1.55.9/gal in Dothan, AL.

We were in Dothan (at 5-pm) to visit Ed Stone. This modest looking garage turned out to hold a bunch of treasure. On the right a 1961 Rolls Royce, then a TR6 and a Buick (who let that one in here?). On the left a Jensen Healey and Austin Healey 3000, and hiding in the back corner a Morgan Plus 4 and a 1961 Bugeye Sprite.
First patient today was the Rolls Royce with a dragging left rear brake. Jacking up the rear we found the right side turns freely even after application of the brakes, so it's not a clogged hydraulic hose. The left wheel was dragging badly (could barely turn it by hand), then after application of the brakes it was frozen, brakes would not release. Opening the bleed nipple released a tiny dribble of fluid, but did not release the brake, so it is not residual hydraulic pressure. I whacked on the parking brake mechanism some and managed to get it back to only dragging badly, but when the brake was applied and released it was frozen again. This appears to be a frozen slave cylinder, and I don't have parts for the Rolls, so put this problem on hold until the thing can be disassembled for additional inspection.

Next up was the TR6, reported to have too fast idle. Find two non-stock Weber downdraft carburetors. It started easy enough, idling fast as noted. Upon reducing idle speed it was running rough and would backfire through one of the carbs on quick acceleration. Air cleaners off and a manual stab at the throttle reveals the accelerator pumps are working (at least a little). Seems like one carb too rich and one carb too lean. Another issue is throttle pushrods being too short, so full throttle forces the linkage over dead center where it will catch and not return. Someone had rigged a mechanical stop on the pedal arm to prevent the over center problem, but that results in the secondary throttle plates opening less than half way (no good for performance). While fiddling with it a brittle old nylon rod end broke leaving one carb with no motion. I could still give it a tune up by pushing two throttles by hand, but the car will not be drivable like that. Put on the order list longer pushrods, at least one link ball end connector, and note to remove the throttle stop.

Then we moved over to the Bugeye Sprite that had not run for several months. Good cranking but no fire. It has spark. Checking the chokes reveals both main jets stuck tight, not allowing manual choke. Also fuel overflowing out of the front float chamber, meaning stuck float valve. The fuel was ugly orange and smelled like turpentine, so apparently gone very stale. Moving a hose and running the electric fuel pump emptied the fuel tank into a bucket. Then we installed a gallon of fresh fuel and flushed it through until it ran clean. Also R&R the float covers to clean the stuck float valve, remove stale fuel and clean some crud out of the float chambers. Two fists and a large pair of channel lock pliers finally managed to free the main jets, which then surprised us by moving freely. Adjusted the choke cable to give full choke travel, and a bit of encouragement with a shot of ether got it running. Once warmed up it was a happy hummer and ran like a Sprite.

Jensen Healey, AH 3000 and Morgan +4 are all happy runners need nothing, so it was time to call it a night. Play time over, we were then off to find a WiFi spot to catch up with business (and the Buick wasn't mentioned all night). Up here away from the Gulf, night time temperature hovering just above freezing (and we want to go north)?

Saturday February 6, 2016
Stayed in Dothan all day catching up on web work, photos and notes, email, a new tech article and couple of tech updates. Also some time chasing contacts farther north in Alabama for upcoming appointments. Rolled out of town late night heading north. Less than 20 miles along in Ozark, AL we found our first fuel prices under a buck and a half a gallon. Two signs in the same gas station didn't even match. From there on the standard price in Alabama seems to be $1.49.9/gal. Another 80 miles on we landed in Montgomery for the night.

Sunday February 7, 2016
More WiFi work, 11-am to 3-pm. Email responses not as quick as anticipated, so we made a couple of phone calls. Bingo! We verified an appointment just when anticipated. Hauled out of Montgomery taking state highways and some mountain back roads, shortest route, arriving 6-pm near Cottondale, AL. Say hello to Elizabeth Leigh Bearden who has a 1978 MG Midget in need of some nursing, like had it several months and never had it running (but we are determined).

The car has a Weber downdraft carburetor (not a bad mod), points an condenser type distributor (also not a bad mod), and wiring is somewhat disheveled (too many non-standard wires). After a few electrical tests we set the new 1.6-ohm ignition coil aside and reinstalled the old 1.6-ohm coil (nothing wrong with it). What was supposed to be a 1.6-ohm ballast resistor turned out to be 10-ohms, so we tossed that out and installed a length of resistor wire with the correct 1.6-ohm resistance (ballast resistor for the 1.6-ohm coil). After connecting another wire from coil to distributor, we had spark. But no fuel flow.

Fuel tank had been drained and fresh gas installed. We borrowed a Mityvac from a neighbor to suck on the fuel feed pipe, successfully drawing fuel from tank to fuel pump. Reconnecting the supply hose to the mechanical fuel pump, and disconnecting hose at carburetor, we cranked on it for a while, but still no fuel delivery. This may be a bad fuel pump, but I don't give up easily. Late enough to knock off for the evening (everyone looking forward to a late dinner), so we will take this up again tomorrow.

Monday February 8, 2016
First of all, some slightly more complimentary pictures of Elizabeth working on her MG Midget. She is a quick study and likes to get into it. Here she is pulling the leaky radiator so it could go to the shop for repairs.

First note of the day, add a white wire with red stripe from starter solenoid trigger terminal to ignition coil "+" to bypass the ballast resistor during starter cranking. Second note was to remove the fuel pump for inspection to see why it wasn't pumping. Turned out the fuel pump was okay, but there was a loose hose clamp letting air into the supply line. Tighten hose clamp, reinstall fuel pump, reconnect hoses to carburetor, and we had lots of fuel flow. Big smile from Elizabeth as she can return the new ignition coil and new fuel pump that are not needed.
Then trying to crank start it would pop back through the carburetor occasionally, otherwise not run. This turned out to be distributor drive gear mis-oriented with rotor pointing in wrong direction. A 30 second session of musical chairs with HT wires in the distributor cap got spark timing close enough for the engine to start and run, which it did for the first time since purchase of the car several months ago. No doubt the mis-oriented HT wires will confuse the next mechanic, but we might fix the drive gear later. We also adjusted the electric heating release automatic choke so it would release the choke after warm-up.

Once it was running we discovered a badly leaking radiator, so there was an executive decision to yanked it out, and then a lunch break to take the thing to the radiator shop for (possible) repair. At the shop we found an AH 3000 MK-III in back with an interesting extra pair of front running lamps, a little odd at first glance, but maybe it would grow on you later. On the way back we passed a station sell gas for $1.39/gallon, another new low for this trip.
On return we went to work on the non-functioning parking brake with full pull and no brake. Adjust the rear brakes first, then adjust the cable outer jacket longer to reduce throw of the hand lever. With a LOT of cable adjustment, all the way to the limit, we got the hand brake to work well at half travel of the lever. Then a standard brake bleeding process all around to get the driving brakes to work properly, no problem there. Clutch bleeding turned problematic with trapped air in the circuit. On another executive decision that problem will wait for another day, as the family was waiting for dinner. Duck tape on the tire is part of the process of repainting the ROstyle wheels.

Tuesday February 9, 2016
Okay it's not a fluke. We filled it up today in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, $15 for 10.7 gallons. Gotta love the world oil glut.
Then we were off for an hour run east to Birmingham for a meeting with Birmingham (British) Motoring Club at Logan's Roadhouse. It was downright cold for these folks, just above freezing (balmy spring day for northern Illinois), so attendance was somewhat lower than when we were here a year ago. I think I counted 20, which would be 15 locals and 5 guests, the guests being myself and navigator plus Elizabeth and her daughter from Cottondale and their friend (can't remember his name). They brought a King Cake for Fat Tuesday (last feast before Mardi Gras). We had a good dinner (and King Cake) and a good club meeting. I had to report an additional 40,000 miles since last years visit here. And how many cars have we fixed since then?

Wednesday February 10, 2016
Day off. By now you should know what that means, a full day on WyFi. One task was posting a new tech page about an MGA "drop head Coupe" recently disclosed in my home town Naperville, Illinois. Then time to catch up a couple days of photos and notes and BBS and lots of email. And more time expanding the new web pages for links to the shops that will service your LBC and parts needs.

Thursday February 11, 2016
Another Labor Day (are we sure this isn't September?). Spent time enhancing a tech article about converting a Z-type Magnette to disc brakes using inexpensive "modern" parts. By day's end we wandered back to Tuscaloosa for a Friday appointment.

Friday February 12, 2016
Today we dropped in to visit Yardly Bailey in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the proud owner of a very nice TR3 that has been in the family since new, and was restored a few years ago. We will call this one a show car.
We talked a bit about a minor issue with door alignment, and did a bit of adjustment for fuel mixture. Otherwise nothing much needed here. Then we found another low fuel price in Tuscaloosa.

Saturday February 13, 2016
Today we had a visit with Eddie Davis (and wife) in Tuscaloosa, AL. Apparently the MGA is her car. This one was restored a few years earlier (was a bit of a mess before restoration), painting done by Eddie's brother. I rather like the wide wheels (with graphite color paint) but the 185-60-15 tires don't quite fill the wheel wells.

Around back we have Eddie's Garage (and the workshop). The TD is Eddie's car. This car was one-owner since new before Eddie bought it, having been resprayed once in original color in the late 90's. The paint now has nice patina (looks like it could be original if you didn't tell anyone), and the car is generally unmolested since new except for maintenance.

But today we were on a mission, going about 10 miles north to Northport, AL, to pick up a ton of parts that go with two MGA that Eddie is buying. This stuff is from an estate sale. The MGB now belongs to the deceased's son. Two MGAs and a ton of MGA parts will now belong to Eddie. The three bay shop was loaded with this stuff, two cars deep and an additional loft in the left bay.

The seller was running the fork lift to help with moving and loading. We took all of the boxes and loose parts in the big trailer. Two rolling chassis, three engines and some gearboxes will require another trip (or two).

By day's end the stuff was stowed in a fairly organized manner along one side of two 10x15 foot storage lockers leaving space for the two rolling chassis. Eddie sounds hyped about this project, like he may get started on the work immediately with gusto.

Sunday February 14, 2016
Happy Valentine's day. We are plotting and planning today. Around late afternoon we drew a straight line on the map and pionted it south. Took some state highways and a bunch of county roads, winding through the hills after dark. Some places we drove for 20 miles at a stretch without seeing another car. A few hours on we stopped in Monroeville, AL for a WiFi break, and stayed over night. Had time today for some serious work on the Shops list.

Monday February 15, 2016
Casual day, morning on WiFi, then south again in a couple of short hops. In the evening we were meeting with Panhandle British Car Association at Sonny's BBQ in Pensacola, Florida. Yes we have been here a year ago, but we had a couple of days to kill, so no big deal to do a 450 mile nine hour round trip for another club meeting. Sporadic heavy rains during the last hour. Snatch a quick picture or two on the way to splashing in the front door and another inside (forgive the water spots on the lens). By the time everyone had trickled in there were 30 people on hand for BBQ and a rather serious club meeting. One more picture on the way out. I guess they drive Minis in the rain. Back to WiFi for a couple hours before heading back north. We intend to be back in Monroeville, AL before midnight.

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