The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (March 1 - March 15, 2017)
Wednesday, March 1, 2017:
Having a couple hours to spare, we hit a couple of shops on the way out of Knoxville, TN. First up was Sports Car Parts LTD in Knoxville, TN. They retail British car parts, but no service. The cars you may see sitting around here mostly belong to the owner(s), and maybe a couple of parts cars. Notice the MG RV8 sitting on the hill. They are beginning to supply parts for this model, now that a few are sneaking into the USA after 25 years old.
Then we stopped at Knox Custom Chrome in Knoxville, TN. These folks speialize in chrome plating and come highly recommended by a number of happy customers. Yes they do a lot of British car parts. Check with your favorite on-line bulletin board for experience and recommendations.
Having to hustle, heading east for an early evening appointment.
The next idea has been brewing for years, but the opportunity just popped up a few days earlier. By some odd combination of coincidences we happen to be in the right place at the right time with no other immediate commitments,
so we hit the expressway heading east a few hours. We arrived early evening at the Hilton Garden Inn in Charlotte, NC to crash the gate for the annnual conference of the British Motor Trade Association. Some of these folks are old friends some new acquaintances. I will try to introduce you and will endeavour to (eventually) get all of the names and businesses correct (going to be a time consuming process for me). Meanwhile, see how many of these faces you can already identify.
A bit later about 25 people were boarding a bus (to be common in the next few days) heading for the home of John and Ann Jones, owners of Na'Da Dawg Racing. This is a personal racing shop for the owner's cars, primarily Austin Healeys. It is also headquarters for the local Austin Healey club (nice club room). It is also a commercial service shop sometimes, but never more than two customer cars at a time in the shop.
We were here for the garage tour, a casual dinner (including Road Kill Stew), a bit of a chat about Na-Da Dawg Racing experiences, and a chance for the conference early arrivals to get acquainted.
After the get acquainted party we headed back to the hotel for late night chat and tall stories. Since I am not strictly speaking "in the business", my general purpose for being here is to squeeze in and walk a thin line between the businesses and the customers. I regularly find myslelf dealing with technical questions about "problem parts", coming mostly through email from my web site visitors. Hopefully this new relationship will improve communications with the vendors for better results in resolving problems, which should benefit the vendors as well as the customers. A few of the parts suppliers are occasionally a bit edgy about my presence and my "consumer advocate" type activities. But in the end most of them actually like me when I can do long mileage road testing of parts, help determine why they may be faulty, and lend some engineering advice on how to resolve the problems. A lot of the service shops are fully behind me, having to deal regularly with the same problems.
Thursday, March 2, 2017:
Start the day with a visit to Streetside Classic Cars (Sales/Consignment) in Concord (Charlotte area), NC. This place is the largest of five locations in Charlotte NC, Dallas-Fort Worth TX, Atlanta GA, Tampa FL, Nashville TN. Imagine 250 classic cars in inventory, and 15% inventory turn-over per month (just at this location). Go ahead and drool. There must be something here for everyone. Find lots more photos and notes for Streetside Classic Cars in a following page.
Then we were off to visit Windshear, Inc in Concord, NC. This is a wind tunnel testing facility with a "rolling road" (thin steel conveyor belt) that runs up to 180-mph along with the wind speed. After the first picture of our guide we were informed that there would be no pictures allowed inside the facility, so the rest of the photos come from the Windshear, Inc web site. The conveyor assembly wih the car on it can be skewed up to +/- 12-degrees left or right to simulate driving at speed in a cross wind. Testing is done on all kinds of race cars, street cars, and even a 1/3 scale model of a semi truck. We were intending to see Stewart-Hass NASCAR team testing today, but the steel conveyor belt was broken, and it requires a few days and a quarter million dollars to change the belt.
Lunch break was aa Carolina Ale House in Concord Mills Mall. Nice group, good service, and very good food.
Then we were off again to visit Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts. We had about an hour and a half for a tour, followed by another hour or so for a presentation and question session with Dennis Carpenter, and also Matt Agosta from Steele Rubber Products. This tour wasn't just interesting, it was highly informative on what goes into making reproduction parts. Once we got through the museum we were quickly into the factory, beginning with extruded rubber parts.
Then into die casting aluminum and zinc (pot metal) parts, punching out and stitching interior panels,
Stamping and embossing threshold plates, press forming large sheet metal parts, even one-step forming of the "roller coaster" moldings for the side of pickup trucks.
Ever wonder how wheel covers are made? How about carburetors? Windshield wiper drives made here too. If it's a vintage Ford part, it is probably made here.
Molded plastic parts too. In fact it was on of the smallest plastic parts that got Dennis started in this business, dash knobs originally made out of soybeans.
At tour's end there was the huge collection of Cushman scooters, followed by a nice presentation by none other than Dennis Carpenter himself, relating the history of his business and a prediction that it will likely be growing more for the next ten years. No one should pretend to know what will happen any farther than that into the future. Dennis say he will stick to Ford parts, just to busy to get into any wider line of products. There was additional presentation by Matt Agosta of Steele Rubber Products, also making reproduction parts for the restoration business. So far business is very good. For many more photos and notes from this tour see a following page.
Friday, March 3, 2017:
A trip to Joe Gibbs Racing for the annual business meeting of British Motor Trade Association, and a seminar on engine rebuilding, oil flow and Zinc and filters, a session on motor fuel and the affect of alcohol, and a session on air filtration, not necessarily in that order.
The business meeting was off to a good start with introduction of all first timers to the convention. Then a start
around the room for each of the BMTA members to introduce themselves and what they do. This was ultimately divided into two sessions to allow the guest speakers to do their thing and leave at a reasonable time for other commitments. There was otherwise no rush to the introductions, plenty of time for everyone. While this was going on it dawned in me that the 50 or more BMTA members in the room likely have over 1000 years of collective experience with vintage British cars. If the answer to your question is not found here, there is no answer.
In the evening we were off to Autobarn Classic Car Consignment sales and storage facility. This was accompanied by a catered BBQ dinner followed by presentations by Tom Marshall, Autobarn, and Tom Cotter, TV personality and vintage racer. If you can't find something to drool over here, you're not a car guy. I suppose I should start with the British cars first.
And a smattering of other stuff we may remember from yesteryear.
The BGT was parked outside, perhaps some visitor's or employee's ride.
The highlight program of the evening here was a photo review of Cuba's Car Culture, like turning the clock back 50 years.
Then we had a tour of the warehouse and workshop out back, which contained a surprising number of British cars.
And a few other bits perhaps of interest, like a line of ex-NASCAR waiting patiently for new owners.
As every night, there was late night networking in the hotel lobby. We had squeezed a lot into a long day.
Saturday, March 4, 2017:
Today began with breakfast in the hotel conference room, and no need to be bused out of the hotel (although most of us did later in the day). The morning seminar was all about resto-mod trends in the collector car hobby (and business), engine upgrades, overdrive, 5-speeds, and replacement wiring harness with extra fuses and relays. There were presentations on Koolmat insulation, and Flying Circus English Cars parts.
Taking a short break there were hands on a few engine conversions in the car park.
A 460 cubic inch hemi in the Jaguar, a 302 V8 in the yellow BGT, and a small V6 in the red BGT.
After a quick "picnic lunch" in the hotel, the first afternoon seminar was a presentation from Auto-Wire on custom wiring harness with extra relays and fuses.
Next up was a presentation on Kool-Mat high temperature insulation, which you can lay directly against the exhaust manifold. Think woven fiberglass mat with silicone rubber cover fused together.
Following that another presentation on selling your classic ride through internet sales, consignment, and auction options, and also collector car financing (if desired).
A couple hours in mid afternoon went to a number of folks who took advantage of the NASCAR driving experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Others spent the later afternoon touring the now defunct Sports Car Salvage operation, once one of the largest salvage yards on the east coast (which still has a lot of stuff in inventory). I took about 40 pictures, but man I'm tired of posting photos and notes. So have some new ones here, and then click on the link to see pictures I took here two years earlier. It hasn't changed much, except a few less cars and the owner is getting a bit slower.
There was also a tour of Elite Vehicle Restoration. In business about three years now at this location. I was there two years ago when they were doing a good job of getting the business started (now going gung-ho). Nice bit about this place is it is run by the younger generation, so hopefully it may be here for a long time to come.
Late evening the tour bus was off to NASCAR Hall OF Fame for the museum tour and dinner in this facility. For the young of heart there were NASCAR driving simulators where you could haul ass around the speedway track at up to 200 mph. It is not easy driving 800 horsepower with a light foot, and pity the bloke who pulls in front of you at a crawl (and yourself when you have to call for the tow truck). I left my camera battery charging at the hotel, but you can find NASCAR Hall Of Fame information on their web site.
Late night again back to the hotel lobby, last chance for networking (and tall tales). Most of the participants would stay over and depart in the morning.
By the way, I have signed up as a bonafide member of British Motor Trade Association. I hope you don't hold it against me as conspiring with the enemy. I am still very much a consumer advocate, and I have hopes this will improve communications, especially those related to bad service parts.
Sunday-Monday, March 5-6, 2017:
Two solid days on WyFi to catch up photos and notes since first of the month. Hoping y'all enjoy the pictures. CMGC March newsletter just came in and needs to be posted to the club server. That should kill another day. No fixed appointments yet, but a couple are pending.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017:
After normal morning BBS and email chores, I managed to post a new web page on repair of pedal clevis pin holes (with brass liners that may serve as bearings). Then more than half the day spent converting the CMGC March newsletter to web pages (12 of the 20 pages). Hoping to get that finished tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017:
Well I didn't get to touch the newsletter today (bummer). Something interesting slapped me in the face and shook my lapels, so I bit the bullet and spent the whole day posting about 75-MB worth of PDF files and an index page
for the complete "Lucas Master Parts Catalog 400E - 1945-1960". There is a separate PDF file for each book section (so you don't have to download the whole 75-MB in one go). And the pages have been OCR'd during scanning so they are searchable text files. This seems to be breaking new ground for MGAguru.com, and I'm kind of hoping it doesn't happen again (because of the time required to do it). After it was all configured it took more than 2-1/2 hours to upload it to the server (1/2-MB/minute at best on the local WiFI connection).
You might like to check it out here: http://mgaguru.com/mgtech/books/lucas400e.htm
This happened because someone asked a question about terminal configuration on a Lucas relay that was not an original MGA part number. He wasn't satisfied with, "Just buy the right relay". Now you can find the original Lucas part number for the hooter in your MGA, as well as a part number for the contact points inside for repair. This may remind the world that there was a time when we used to repair things rather than throwing them away.
Also today I received a message from the new owner of what may be the only MGA Coupe with removable steel hardtop. He purchased it almost a year ago, shortly after I had posted a new web page with lots of pictures of this derilict variant of MGA. It has moved from Illinois to Holland, and there are a few new pictures of the restoration work. He is restoring the removable roof (which apparently works very well) while many of the DPO bodges are being set back to original configuration.
You can check it out here: http://mgaguru.com/mgtech/variants/vt107f3.htm
Thursday, March 9, 2017:
Here is how an entire day can go away without getting anything done. I finally finished posting the CMGC newsletter on line. That alone may be good accomplishment for one day. Then spending way too much time on email with someone who thinks there is something wrong with my tech article on ignition coil polarity and what happens when the spark jumps wrong way across the spark plug gap. After wasting hours on the discussion, I suggested it would be a quicker resolution to let him rewrite the article, and I would post it with his name on it. He declined, so that was the end of the time wasting. But it opened a couple new questions which I may have to post on the BBS for comments. Then there was another discussion about using MGB front shock absorbers on the MGA with body reversed and arms inverted. That makes the shaft rotate opposite directions, which should royally screw up the differential damping forces for bump and rebound directions (which everyone seems to want to ignore). I recon I will have to post another tech article on this subject (when I might find time to do it). It is easy to spend a LOT of time trying to reason with someone who has a mental block.
Friday, March 10, 2017:
Almost recovered from last week's 4-day BMTA conference (2-days for photos and notes), and newsletter upload (most of 2-days), and uploading the Lucas Master Parts Catalog (1-day). We can finally get back to the intended purpose of the road trip. Today we got to visit Flying Circus English Cars Ltd in Durham, North Carolina.
Up front the owners, Toby and Caroline Slade, dealing with the customers and scheduling and business organization. I met them at the BMTA conference last week. Show room and parts department.
In the first few minutes this customer walked in for a chat (while looking for parts). Eric Russel from Mebane,NC. We met him on a prior pass in 2014. Time flies, but it seems like yesterday.
In back there are currently four full time mechanics and and one part time helper, and I don't recall if that counts the guy in the parts department. As dedicated vintage British car shops go, this place is huge. You should ignore the Toyota, which is a grey market import being serviced for a friend (definitely out of place here).
At same location for 23 years, business is regularly increasing. I chuckle when I think the first MG/Austin BMC dealer I dealt with in 1968 had two service bays, one lift, one mechanic, and only a few cars in the show room. When they moved to larger quarters in 1969 they had a few more service bays, two mechanics, and a full time parts person. Full service available here, everything needed for your British Cars, including full restoration work (painting contracted to a local pro shop).
Some other smaller shops have gone out of business in recent years, sending more business this way. Local Rover and Jaguar dealers also send business this way when they prefer not to deal with older cars. The dealers seem to think that anything built before about 2005 is vintage. Really. This "forces" Flying Circus to deal with the electronic cars post 1981, where many other vintage car shops do not want to go there. New car dealers do not have to deal with this wide variety of different models (and the more scarce vintage parts). And people bring their English cars here for service when they do not like dealing with the new car dealers.
Out the side door, more customer cars, and along the back fence some parts cars that are increasingly more important as time passes. Out front, a customer (with a big grin) picking up his TR6 after service. Life is good for British cars in North Carolina.
Saturday, March 11, 2017:
After the daily chores, it was finally time to replace the heater blower. Been carrying the new one around for nearly two weeks, and nights are getting chilly in North Carolina heading for Tennessee
(and then points farther north). I hate to say goodbye to an old friend.
I believe the expired blower motor has been with the car since new in August 1957. I rebuilt it with restoration work in 1986, rewound the armature once in the late 90's, replaced brushes a few times over the years. Recently it was running so slow and weak that I could easily stall it with one finger on the shaft. I could repair it again, but this time I figured it would be easier to just install a new one, keeping fingers crossed that the new one might actually work.
Moss didn't have one when I needed it, so this one came from V.B. It is not as original in that switching the wires will make it run opposite direction.
I suspect permanent magnet field, which may actually be a stronger (faster) motor. One size fits all, but okay for function if it works. On first fitting the blower cage extended about 1/8-inch in front of the front face of the heater box, so the inlet flange could not be installed. The expedient fix was to stack some flat washers between the motor flange and mounting ring. That meant, pull it apart and do over, but at least I had the necessary fasteners in the travel bag.
Then to deal with a substantial air leak gap between the mounting ring and motor body. I recon that is as original, so maybe there was originally a thick rubber gasket to seal it here. not having such a gasket handy, a generous dab of "blue stuff" works wonders.
Then the now familiar scrape a bit of paint off the firewall exercise, but that's a lot easier than R&R the heater box from the car. I connected the motor return wire (green this time for correct direction of rotation) to a mounting screw rather than back to a black wire in the harness (just easier to reach). I also extended the harness power feed wire for easier access, and deleted the bullet connectors (for more reliable connections). The blower cage is now nicely inside the cabinet where it will not rub the inlet screen, and happy to report it blows up a small hurricane. This then cancels my thought about installing a bilge blower in the intake duct.
Next move will be to evict the 160dF thermostat and get back to one with higher normal running temperature. Does anyone make a 180dF thermostat that will actually open at 180dF? The 190-195dF stats were opening at 205, and the last 180dF stat was opening at 195, but then the 160dF stat does open at 160 (which is too cold for normal engine running temperature and stifles the heater output).
Sunday, March 12, 2017:
Mocksville, NC this morning. We must be in the wrong place. There were salt crystals under foot to melt ice. Really? At least we were spending the day catching up on WiFi. Spent some time posting a new tech article about a hybrid rear axle
fabricated with the central part from a banjo axle and outer hub parts and halfshafts from a tube-type axle. Apparently racer types like this for light weight, ease of swapping final drive ratios, and the stronger halfshafts of the later models. It is sometimes used on the entire range of MGA and MGB for vintage racing. Cute.
I have a follow-up note on the new heater blower. First, it works well. Second, it has permanent magnet field. With the engine running, and the blower going, if I switch off ignition the engine keeps running for a couple seconds while the blower is spinning down, because the blower motor works like a generator to push feedback power into the ignition circuit. Once the blower spins down the engine will stop running. If I switch the blower off first, then switch off ignition, the engine stops immediately. No harm done I guess, but it will take a bit of getting used to.
Looking toward Nashville, but also checking what lies in between. Wow. Found a bunch of shops in northwest North Carolina that we have not visited, like just "right over there". So we pulled up short tonight near Marion, NC to see if we can put another dent in the shops list tomorrow.
Monday, March 13, 2017:
Should be a good day for shop hopping. First is a little side trip to visit "The Old Carb Doctor" in Nebo, NC. Can you say "third generation"? His grandfather was rebuilding carburetors farther back than I want to think. First example below is the venerable SU carb familiar to us MG folks. Second up not so familiar, but to the Old Carb Doctor its just another carburetor. I was getting a nice tour of the tools and toys and techniques, Berryman B-12 being his favorite carb cleaner.
Just to show some of the versatility here, the big black beast in the last photo is an updraft carburetor from a late 20s or early 30's fire truck.
Back on I-40, making our way west, doing the mountain pass in 3rd gear with a bit of occasional sleet. The brown sign says Leaving Pisgah National Forest, and we are bit above 2000 feet altitude. Yes that's snow up here.
Easier going down the other side of course. This was followed by a quick visit to Asheville Powertrain Inc in Asheville, NC. Mostly big truck driveline service here, but they can replace your universal joints and resurface flywheels.
Then we were off to visit Made In England Sports Car Repair in Candler, NC. Now we're talking little Brits again. Been here since 2005, growing, and looking to build more shop space.
In the first door, an MG TC getting a new wiring harness, new bulkhead and tunnel parts. The Jaguar XK150 is in for brakes upgrade.
Next door a MG TD being restored, a TR3 windscreen, and some TR7 wheels.
Plenty more work lined up, but space is at a premium here. Looks like they may have to tear down a hill to build the next shop.
Then we had a quick visit at International Auto Works in Fletcher, NC. This one used to be into little British cars, but these days is mostly into the new stuff and tends to avoid LBC's (except on rare occasion for a friend, maybe). I recon this one needs to turn into a "no" on our Shops list.
Next visit was James Auto Upholstery also in Fletcher, NC. I keep seeing the upholstery shops as generic, like radiator shops. But when you think about it, upholstery shops commonly work with vintage cars, because new cars may not need the service. This place digs old cars, and they have serviced many vintage British cars. LBC's are definitely welcome here.
Next up was Tommy’s Radiator and Air Conditioning in Hendersonville, NC. Yup, that's Tommy. He definitely understands the significance of Cell Core radiators, and he has the kids into the business so it should have some staying power.
Then we had a strike out while looking for British Connection in Hendersonville, NC. The listing says, "Call for directions", but the call came up short, no contact, out of area and no voice messaging available. Will have to try that one again some other time.
Then there was Portable Welding Service in Mills River, NC. Again no answer on the phone, but we had the address, and it was not much out of the way, so we took a shot at a visit. There may be a reason why the service is portable. Just call to have him come to your place. Otherwise I can recommend you do not try this in your LBC. That narrow black top lane was easy going down between the trees, but hard first gear getting back up the hill when leaving. Don't ask how we got turned around down there Good thing the sleet had stopped by this time.
One more programmed stop for the day at Basically British in Brevard, NC. This was going to be fun.
Apparently Basically British does not mean Strictly British. There are a few other things sneaking in here, some Italian, some German, maybe whatever needs TLC in this town. I can't remember the last time I saw a Fiat 128 still alive, and this one has a lot of money in it for what looks like serious upgrades for road rally.
Oh, the Vista Cruiser. You can bring in the marching band to step off the length of this one, and then put them all in the car along with their band instruments. Definitely requires an oversize paint booth. This is another restoration project for a friend. The shop owner used to be a machinist, and old habits are hard to break, so you can get some machine work done here as well.
And a quick walk around the building for a few more toys. Most of this is customer cars. The MGB is a stalled restoration project (money problems I guess). The Lotus Europa has a lot of money in the chassis and new engine, waiting for the owner to pick it up. I think the Datsun 510 vintage racer is for sale.
All good fun, but lots of pictures means too much time required for postings, so we ended up sitting way late tonight before getting out of town. Now 11-pm, and the target Knoxville, Tennessee is still two hours away.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017:
We did make Knoxville last night. Driving in rain all the way, dealing with a few large snow flakes in the higher altitudes, winding through the hills with a lot of trucks. Good thing it didn't turn into black ice, so we made it okay. Getting used to waking up to frost the past few days. Overcast and intermittent rain is the regular thing here in the mountains. Sitting in Farragut, TN this morning, heading west again for Nashville where we plan to visit a couple more shops. May be a shorter day for a change. Forecasts think we should have better weather for the Swap Meet in Chicago next Sunday (subject to change of course).
Rolling into Nashville mid day, first stop was JD's British Cars in Nashville, TN. Nice shop, huge 20,000 square feet of space fully crammed with British car projects and repair work.
Any service needed will be available here. Full restorations can be done, while the finish paint work is farmed out to another contract shop. They like to talk about all the project cars that arrived in boxes after disassembly an partial work elsewhere. They always get reassembled here.
Only one more programmed stop today, a visit to Bradley's Import Service in Nashville, TN. I was a little worried from outside appearances, Toyota/Lexus Honda/Acura. The first step inside was better, but trust me they are not going to put the Triumph engine into the MGB. This is a father and son operation with the line right down the middle. Son want's nothing to do with the vintage cars. Father works on them occasionally for friends, but otherwise not a regular Brit car service shop.
Quick stop at a NAPA to pick up a quart of Hydraulic Jack Oil (future use for shock absorbers), an oil filter (for the next oil change whenever), and a 180dF thermostat to replace the 160dF thermostat (whch doesn't cut it in cold weather). Late night change of plans, heading north 11-pm. Getting colder and more windy as we go ripping up the expressway. Stopped once about midnight to put on another sweat shirt, better but hardly enough. Soldier on. Need to do some better sealing around the side curtains. Arriving Louisville, Kentucky 2-am, good time for hot chocolate and late dinner at Waffle House.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017:
Ah, the reason for the late night run, say hello to James Hurm from Prospect, KY. We met him first time Septenber 13-14, 2014. Gave his MGA a little tune up at the time. Just stopped for a social lunch today. Then a quick stop at a big-box store to pick up a couple more sweat shirts. (No winter coats, as they are selling Spring fashion clothes already). Then a fuel stop, and took a few minutes to install the 180dF thermostat. Immediate improvement in heat from the heater with running temperature 185dF rather than 160dF. That and the new blower motor that actually works.
Continue on north by daylight, thinking to stop in northwest Indiana which we did (momentarily) about the time we lost the sun. Nearly broke my foot on a big chunk of ice stepping out of the car. Okay, another late night change of plans, since Illinois was just "right over there". After a few phone calls we decided to soldier on, arriving Naperville, Illinois 11-pm. Book it in to some place warm or the duration.
Oh, the speedometer quit working just a few miles before destination. The drive cable is not turning at the top end so that's the first suspect.