The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (October 1 - October 15, 2016)
Saturday, October 1, 2016:
Today we were off to visit Oxford Motorcars in East Providence, Rhode Island. First Saturday every month is Open House, sometimes with a tech session thrown in for good measure. We missed one while we were rattling around New York, so figured this would be a good time to go a little out of our way to hit the right date. There is no shortage of fine motorcars here especially vintage, and predominately British. Some of these are for sale, some are in for service, and some are here for storage. One advantage here is that you can get storage and service (and consignment sales) in the same place. Like a kid in a candy store, this place will make you drool.
There were surely close to 50 cars in this one building, and I am happy to report at least a dozen MGA in the mix.
"FP" on the left apparently has a full race history, and as of today
it may be getting a new owner, and enough prep to put it on the street while maintaining the current appearance. Not a Twin Cam or "Deluxe" but it does have the pin drive steel wheels. The Twin Cam engine on display near the office may be a spare.
Plenty more British cars, including a few more MGs.
This MGA race car was the subject of today's tech session. It was getting an antifreeze test, fogging of the cylinders, and desiccant plugs in preparation for winter storage. (Uh, antifreeze in a race car? Yup).
There was a nice MG TC with a Shorrock supercharger. I managed to corner two of the busy crew for a photo.
For more photos and notes on the Oxford visit, see following page.
Sunday, October 2, 2016:
A special visit today with Steven Devin in Woburn, Massachusetts. Last time we saw him was at the British Invasion car show in Stowe, VT, two weeks earlier. Then he was driving his beautiful black MGA 1600. now we get to check out a couple more of his toys. I think that's an MG Midget (MK-I) in need of restoration. On the other side is an in-your-face MGA 1500 with older yellow paint over piping and rusty dash. But it runs well, and he was driving it for years while he was transforming the black car from a rust bucket to a show car. I believe he intends to keep the yellow one as-is for a long time to come.
Then we took a little commuter run 35 miles east to Long Beach in Rockport, MA to check out the beach house. Rain from the past few days has subsided, now just cool and damp. Petty good day for a BBQ. Then late night chat turned into early morning sunrise chat before we were determined to get a few hours sleep.
Monday, October 3, 2016:
Today we were hauling 20 miles west from the cape back to I-95, then north out of Massachusetts across the SE corner of New Hampshire. Just crossing into Maine, we bailed off the expressway to avoid tollway, and took the state and local roads another 80 miles north through the hills and woods. We were enjoying the fall color tour, and landed in Waterboro, ME. We were here to visit Steve MacKay at Mackay's Garage. He had just finished installing a 5-speed in a customer's TR6, and was about to start on full restoration of a TR3. We had a nice chat about optional aftermarket 5-speed gearboxes and suppliers and procurement issues. Good things end too soon sometimes, as Steve had a prior commitment, and we were about to head back south.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016:
Busy day, lots of miles, and four appointments. First was a quick trip to Hillside Garage in Middleton, New Hampshire (just because it was "right over there"). I like these one-man shops, very personal, and keep the hobby moving. They are getting fewer and further between with time. Yes that's a VW engine, but he does a lot of work on British cars as well.
Next stop was British Vacuum Unit at 112 Briar Bush Rd, Canterbury, NH. Getting there was a bit of a challenge. Paved thoroughfares through the woods were a pleasant drive. Then the roads got smaller. When pavement ran out the GPS sent us down the right road from the wrong end, leading to a 200-year old road that was unfinished, about four feet wide like a deep river bed with large rocks and maybe couldn't accommodate an ox cart.
After a five mile loop to get to the other end of the road, we found it passable, sort of. Single lane gravel, pick your way between the rock walls at 10-mph, and they weren't kidding about briar bushes. I wasn't sure about the very loud welcoming committee but they turned out to be friendly enough. I even got a kiss from the lady, but the guy wouldn't get close enough for a hand shake.
The shop was accommodating. Specializing in reproduction of original style distributor vacuum units. Think thousands of dollars for tooling to make castings and stampings and springs and rubber diaphragms and crimping tools for each different model, and there are dozens of them. The condenser is an example of a faulty part, made with crimped internal connections and a soft rubber closure end that doesn't seal well enough. So he is in the business of manufacturing good condensers as well.
The next stop was G&R Auto Works (and Sports Car Services) in Keene, New Hampshire. G&R has recently taken over SCS, as they are both under the same roof, and the prior owner of SCS is retired. There are some German cars here, and lots of British cars. The shop owner has been searching for years to find the big Jaguar that he is restoring.
I think the little blue sedan is a Ford Prefect, about 1941. The E-type 2+2 is very nice.
Jaguars MGs and TRs all over the place.
How many Spridgets can you count? Get the idea these are low priority these days? The MGA is very nice, and there is an Austin Healey in process in front of it. The baby blue pull-handle MGB is one of my favorite cars.
Then we ran a couple hours south for a dinner meeting with Connecticut MG Club in Portland, Connecticut. This was a bit overwhelming with lots of MGs in the car park, tough finding a place to park.
Star of the show here was a freshly restored MGB from Australia, right hand drive, low mileage, second owner with the original owner in attendance. Lots of good stories here.
Indoors at least 45 people for dinner at the club meeting. Apparently a lot of these folks knew about the MGA guru in advance, big round of applause for welcome, and a good time was had by all.
Retiring to a WiFI spot late night we had another walk-in, and I think we have another appointment for tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016:
Half a day in the morning required to catch up photos and notes from the day before. By early afternoon we were tending to last night's walk-in appointment, a visit with Donna Denert in Cromwell, CT. This is her MGB, and do not dare let anyone say it may belong to anyone else. It may have a few minor maintenance issues, but it runs well and is reliable transportation.
Then another hour south we dropped in to see Bob Howard in Guilford, CT. We met him at the club meeting the night before. He has a very nice MG TD, and an MGB GT. Nothing needed here, just an opportunity for a chat on a nice day, and all is right with the world. Bob had an evening commitment, but we may get back to this later.
Thursday, October 6, 2016:
Bob Howard brought his TD out in the light today. We took it for a test drive to listen for a naughty noise.
I think it has one slightly loose rod bearing, not a big job, but will require a parts order and work for another day. While we were chatting about it, we had more walk-up visitors. Always nice to hear the "we used to have one" stories.
Then we were down the road a bit to visit Cardone & Daughter Automotive in Old Saybrook, CT. Lots of classic cars here today, BMW Isetta, Fiat 2000, new Mini, vintage VW Beetle and a bunch of other non-British stuff. They do work on MGs and other vintage British cars just none in the shop today.
Then we ran north a ways to visit D&J Car Care Center in Manchester, CT. Say hello to Dave Icaza. Certainly no shortage of British cars here.
For more photos from D & J Car Care see following page.
After some WiFI time and a couple of phone calls, in late evening we cruised a half hour farther north to visit David Cobb in Enfield, CT. We had to do some diligent searching to discover we had been here in June 2014 (as we were not keeping such detailed records that early in the trip). At that time we gave his MGA some carburetor cleaning and a tune-up, while finding a broken rear choke lever.
The choke lever has since been replaced, but now there was some issue about being difficult with cold starting. That was traced to maladjusted choke wire and fast idle link. After a few (relatively) easy adjustments it runs well again. I also replaced some (cheap) rubber grommets on valve cover and float chamber to stop some leaks.
Friday, October 7 2016:
After traditional morning WiFi we did a mid day run to meet Jim Vibert at Farmington Motorsports in Farmington, CT. There wasn't much British outside, but inside one end of the shop was stuffed with British cars. There was a spotlessly clean MG TD, and a Singer nearing finish of restoration. On the racks a TR6 and an MG TD. Don't miss the vintage fire truck (and Toyota Range Rover in the background). These guys are dyed in the wool British car enthusiast.
Getting late in the day, no time for lunch break, we had to make a short sprint to Quantum Mechanics, Ltd in Oxford, CT before closing time. The building is a bit challenging to find, with entrance around a corner from the official street address, and no number on the building, in a complex of various other businesses. But persistence pays off. The Healey gearbox drying paint outside and a tiny sign in the window were good clues, so soon we were greeting John Esposito in the flesh. And then there were parts, and PARTS, and more parts.
I was feeling a little like a kid in a candy store, as I like gearboxes, and parts, and oily hands, and things that go click and whiz. That's a Spridget differential standing on on its nose.
There was a Toyota 5-speed about ready for installation in a Triumph, and a fresh MG TD gearbox ready to ship, and an Austin overdrive gearbox. The next one took me by surprise I didn't realize the Jaguar E-type (with inboard disc brakes) had a cast iron differential that weighs 120 pounds (yikes). They shipped 400 rebuilt gearboxes and 5-speeds out of here last year, and apparently no slowing down in sight. Also some automatic gearboxes, some steering gears, differentials.
A recent development (out of necessity) saves hundreds of dollars on a single part. MG TD laygears are being "repaired" by welding a brand new 1st gear cog onto a good used laygear. There are bellhousings and matching parts being readied for kits to install 5-speeds. And amidst all this, they are rebuilding carburetors as well. Very busy here, maybe a bit shorthanded, and maybe looking for another "experienced" hand.
Before closing time we head for the nearest WiFi spot to catch up some of our own backlog of work. Now up to date on these photos and notes, but alas still a ton of time ahead to put the Chicago club newsletter on their web site. No rest for the guru.
Saturday, October 8, 2016:
Slow day today, bit of WiFi time early, then a run 30 miles northwest to visit Charlie Lumb in New Milford, CT. The roads up here are delightful, CT-67 running through the mild mountains, then several miles on more minor roads. The last leg an single lane unpaved Indian Trail Road was slower but somewhat amusing.
We were here two years ago in June 2014, but felt like a return to see how his MGA project was coming long. Rather slowly, unfortunately. I think he set the frame aside and started over on a different one.
There was a postal Jeep rear axle with Positraction differential, all clean and painted with some time spent to adapt it to the MGA chassis. It looks somewhat like the late model MGB Salisbury axle, maybe a bit heavier. In retrospect, Charlie thinks this one may also be set aside and not used. In the end I recon we all felt like BBQ and chatting rather than grubbing around the shop, so nothing more done on the car today. In the evening we were off again heading more northwest into upper northeastern New York state.
Sunday, October 9, 2016:
Play day today, one detour for a closed bridge, but eventually we landed early in Woodstock, New York for the Woodstock British Car Show (at the Woodstock Playhouse). I think they usually get 100 cars for this event, but this was a rain date due to rain out the week before, and the weather was not particularly promising today either. Heavy overcast in the morning but no rain. I see at least 37 cars in the pictures, and must have missed a few..
I put the MGs first, and then the TRs. The Z-Magnette was very nice (could use a pin stripe on the paint color split line). The MGA Coupe was spotless, and everyone would drool over the blower on the TD.
Over-abundance of Swedish Volvos at the Brit car show. Apparently the organizer has a couple. The red wagon had a nice Chevy V8 (but it was coupled to a 2-speed automatic slush box).
Quite a varied "other British" class, Lotus Lotus, Sunbeam, TVR, and a Jenson I think. Not sure how theThing and the Bimmer got in there, but the Land Rover was properly intimidating.
Star of the show was a "continuation" car, the Cobra Datona coupe. This may be as close as you get to one of the original six. There was a batch of ten commissioned some years ago, and this one is a near perfect copy of the first Datona coupe. Seems like Shelby recently cut a deal to produce 50 more in the near future. Overpowering demand (and money) I presume.
Amphicar in the flesh. I've always wanted to see one of these things swim (or sink). Apparently it has to be running and moving for the bilge pump to work. The Tesla is nice, but not sure why it was here. The Healey 3000 is a combo of polished aluminum cowling and intentionally buffed primer wings, and the Chevy V8 appears to have done a proper hack job on the body (maybe intentional impression. The TVR Grantura (MG 1800 engine) was very nice.
Tucked away on one corner was this 1972 Bond Bug (later to be Reliant), 700cc light alloy 4-cylinder 4-speed.
Not to forget this was held at the Woodstock Playhouse, so we got bit of play for entertainment as the show was winding down. Then we were off to cruise some of the nice New York hills again.
Monday, October 10, 2016:
We had a couple tentative appointments for Monday, so we took couple of hops north 90 miles Sunday evening and night late. Sitting in Saratoga Springs, NY today, got a lot of WiFI work done. Both appointments fell through, one out of town on a motorcycle cruise and the other just busy. And it was turning very cool up here, forecasted temperatures in the upper 30's (F) overnight. So late night we turned southwest to cruise for a while on I-88, hung a left at Binghamton to go south on I-81, landing in the small hours of the morning 170 miles down at Great Bend, just onto Pennsylvania. Still cold there, so we were not long to dawdle.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016:
65 miles on to Wilkes-Barre with the PA mountains looking a lot like the NY mountains. If we have to do interstate highways, this is at least nice scenery in daylight, while the hills and turns are entertaining. Then a long day on WiFi, lots accomplished but not quite caught up yet. More late night cruise another 95 miles to Grantville, PA and a good night's sleep.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016:
A very short hop of 25 miles to Mechanicsburg, PA where we stopped to review a few possible appointments we may be blowing past. Not quite so cold in southern PA. Another day on WiFi, and I think now caught up with the work. Finished posting the CMGC newsletter on line and a new tech page or two. Some BBS discussions about the Shops list, now exceeding 700 records. I recon we get to back track slightly (mostly easterly) for a couple appointments tomorrow. Got a call from a shop in Arkansas working on an MGA with fuel overflowing from the carbs, which we managed to fix by remote. Now it looks like another day in eastern Pennsylvania, followed by a day or two in Maryland, on the way to Virginia, then through the Carolinas on the way to western Georgia. Should definitely be a bit warmer down that way, no?
Thursday, October 13, 2016:
Today we get a special treat, three shops in one stop. Triumph Rescue, British Wiring, and Bally Auto Care in Bally, Pennsylvania. One very pleasant surprise when I walked in was an old friend Bill Hoffner who we last saw more than two years earlier (Aug 11, 2014) in Philadelphia, PA. He has his MGA here in the final stages of reassembly after complete restoration, expecting to drive it away in a few weeks. It is always good to see a project progress to completion. Then I nearly stumbled over a transmission testing machine with a vintage Churchill tool number on it, JRM-2001. Not being used today, but it certainly looks the business.
Then we see how this place got its name, with Triumphs being "rescued" all over the place. The first light blue car is an Elva Courier, and there is an MG TD hiding in the second picture.
There are also an Austin Healey in for restoration.
And a bunch more British cars outside waiting their turn.
Then I had to check out the second sign on the building. Some years ago British Wiring was in Itasca, Illinois, not from from my home town. Now with the new owner in Bally, PA, it is going better than ever. Notice thousands of yards of wire in every color combination you can imagine (and can buy it by the yard), and racks full of complete wiring harnesses ready to be delivered. Look in the right place, and you can even find the "Flash To Pass" accessory wiring harness for the MGA.
The third sign on the building is Bally Auto Care, which is another business adopted from down the street. So now some non-British cars sneak into the place for repairs occasionally, as can be seen in a couple pictures above.
Then we ran 30 miles east to Chalfont, PA to visit Clarke Spares and Restorations. Unfortunately we stuck out here, as Todd Clarke was "out of the office" as we weren't making connections for a few hours.
Running out of day here, we made a couple of phone calls to rearrange some scheduling (not unusual).
Then we were off again heading south on PA-309S, I-476S, I-95S, I-495S into Delaware, a long stretch on US-301S through Delaware and into Maryland, then crossing the "William Preston Lane Memorial Bridge" (more commonly known as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge), and several miles farther landing in Arnold, MD. This was a deceptively long three hours for 140 miles (mostly due to some rush hour traffic crawl). We were here (about 8:30 pm) to see Victor Knox who has a nice 62 MGA 1600-MK-II. Aside from a short scratch and sniff session around his MGA, he was busy with family and his birthday celebration, so we bid our departure before it got too late.
Friday, October 14, 2016:
Today's hop was just 50 miles south to St. Leonard, Maryland to visit Dick Masse and his wife. Last time we saw them was about 2003 when they were circumventing the eastern USA in a boat. Yes, a small power cruiser. They had toured up the east coast, down the St Lawrence Seaway, through Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and through Chicago. We met them briefly on the Illinois River at Joliet, IL before they cruised on down to the Mississippi River, then north to the headwaters, then south to the Gulf of Mexico, around the south end of Florida, and back up the east coast to home. That trip took two years, so we have some old time soul mates here.
This is Dick's MGA 1500 that he bought in crates and boxes. He was new to the car and visiting my web site in 2002 (prior to the long boat cruise) It took about 10 years to get reassembled in good order, during which time he was taking good advantage of information on the MGAguru.com web site. The Masses have been enjoying cruising in the MGA in recent years, making good use of the car while working out some bugs.
Worried about the fuel gauge not working, we spent some time with a test light, jumper wire and ohmmeter, and determined that it is working, just somewhat non-linear.
Then topping up the coolant we found it to be two quarts low. I swapped out his 4-psi pressure cap for a 7-psi part (factory recommendation). Not sure yet if that will fix the problem, but time will tell. The new cap also has a top rim seal so it can work for coolant recovery if he wants to install the catch bottle later.
With the car complete, there is a body nose piece left over. At first glance it looks straight like it was never damaged. On closer inspection the radiator mounting flanges have been cut, like someone used a torch to remove the radiator (at a time when it wouldn't have dawned on them that the body part might be worth saving). This piece could be looking for a new home if anyone may be interested.
Catching up with old times, new times, long chat, nice dinner, more chat, and finally time to crash for the night (which is of course when I go to work so you can see these photos and notes).
Saturday, October 15, 2016:
Off again, but not too far. Hanging out in northern VA for some planning time. We intend to hit Moss Motors on Monday to restock some minor parts, but now have coupe days to kill on the week end. We have already touched nearly all of the car clubs in VA, so now looking seriously at the Shops list. There are lots of shops in northern VA, so this is going to be a bit of a challenge.