The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (August 1 - August 15, 2017)
Tuesday August 1, 2017:
Continued north on Vancouver Island, pretty much to end of the road at Port Hardy.
Had a nice tour of town, and lunch, but no good WiFi here, so we headed back south.
Stopped at Campbell River where we found a short term WiFI spot that worked (until we ran out of battery).
Wednesday August 2, 2017:
Finally found a A&W in Nanaimo, BC with a power outlet and poor WiFi, but managed to sponge off of a better WiFi next door. Spent the whole day catching up email and tech questions, and managed to post trip photos to date, but didn't get to these notes until three days later. While fielding a tech question from Thomas Schneider, it turned out by coincidence that he was just across the bay back in Surry, BC, so we made another appointment for a day later after the return ferry ride. Late night ran farther south within 15 miles of Victoria.
Thursday August 3, 2017:
Met four guys from Victoria MG Club for lunch at Zanzibar Cafe in Brentwood Bay, BC (on Vancouver Island). Only two brought their MG, so the other two don't count? Had a good chat for a couple hours. Too bad we didn't get more people from Victoria MG Club. Will keep them on our wish list for a club meeting, in case we may get back this way again. For immediate plans, it looks like we will be missing most of the clubs in BC for now, so will plan on returning to western BC maybe in a week or two.
Then a visit to Owen Automotive in Sidney, BC (still on the Island, closer to the ferry terminal). Full Service and restoration shop here. Plenty of nice British cars in process here, and a fairly large number more outside waiting their turn.
This is the stuff taken over a year earlier as "All British Cars" was being spun off from Classic Restoration And Preservation after they had acquired it from someone else.
Then the return trip on the Ferry. Found this neat Mini mud dauber waiting for the ferry. On the ferry for hour and a half, took advantage of the time for some WiFi work. Also spotted some Orca whales in the bay.
Off the ferry, we had an evening visit with Thomas Schneider in Surrey, BC. He has a nice MGA project car which he bought recently from the second DPO who had failed to finish it. Already fitted with MGB front suspension (but no sway bar yet), the chassis and body were originally MGA 1600-MK-II, but the rear of the body has been modified to delete the horizontal tail lights and install 1500 style rear lamps (personal preference of the DPO). So now the new 1600 wiring harness may have to be returned in favor of a 1500 harness, and a 1500 type turn signal relay box would be installed. Alternately, maybe an additional turn signal bulb socket can be installed inside of the 1500 type tail lamp assembly (been done before). Also considerable discussion about how to massage the frame to fit a late MGB 4-synchro overdrive gearbox.
Late night, ran 30 miles farther east (which in retrospect turned out to be a mistake) before retiring for the night.
Friday August 4, 2017:
Ran another 15 miles east to use a known good WiFi spot in Chilliwack. Half a day spent on WiFi trying to catch up, but still three days behind on photos and notes. Received the Publisher copy of the August issue of the Chicago club newsletter, which will eventually kill a full day to be posted on the club web site (sometime later since I am currently way behind). Since it was Friday, and we were going to be heading out of the area very soon, it was time to take the opportunity to visit some shops here (especially since a few of then were within a few miles of where we were sitting). After mapping our a tentative route, around 2-pm we set off to see how many shops we might get to before closing time.
First up was Fortin's Engines in Chilliwack. This was a bit tricky, not exactly as it first appears. In front
it is Fortin's Home hardware. Inside, way in the back, there was Fortin's Supply, which is a full auto parts store as well as some industrial parts. There is another building in back housing Fortin's Engines, which has been in business in the same location since 1946 (but with the new larger engine shop building in back in 2014). Exclusive for engine machine work, they also do crankshaft re-grinding in house (which is usually a sub-contracted specialty business). Great for vintage British engines.
Then a quick stop at Valley Radiator in Chilliwack, BC. Ask for Jim Robertson. In business here for decades, this place definitely knows their way around vintage radiators, including cell cores. The owner has some plans for retiring in the near future, so not sure if the shop will continue with a new owner or not.
Also in the neighborhood, a nice shop called The Carburetor Guy in Chilliwack, BC. The owner Jim Reimer has been rebuilding carburetors for many years, and will likely be here for many more years to come. Our vintage British carburetors were common contemporary stuff when he opened shop, so easy fare by modern standards.
Then we were off to visit Bent Wrenches Auto Service in Mission, BC, a half hour loop around a mountain to the west. Sign on the front door says, "No walk-ins on Thursdays or Fridays", because they are busy and have to get the work done sometime. So I violated the rules and walked in, screwed up their work day a bit, but they didn't seem to mind.
They have some rather eclectic cars here, and I won't remember all the models, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, and I will fix it. In some cases you will have to guess, because I have no clue. I couldn't walk past the MGA. This one had a restoration started many years ago, stripped to bare metal, then stalled. For a while it was left outside under a tarp. By now it is rusty all over and will need to be blasted before the restoration continues. Car at right below is (I believe) an Alfa Romeo GT, getting all new body sills and floor pans.
Below left is either a Fiat X19 or Lancia X1/9, in for a little body work and repaint. Outdoors a LOT more cars waiting in the queue. If you see something you like, give them a call and maybe they will get it together for you.
Inside there was this moderately rare Fiat 850 coupe, getting an engine-out repaint. And there was the Fiat Luxe 600 (being the "Deluxe" version of the Fiat 500). Behind it in the paint booth, most of an MGB, and another X19.
On the lift a TR8 nearing full restoration. When they asked me how I knew it was TR8 (not TR7), it was a matter of playing the odds (that few people would be restoring a TR7). And I think a Lancia front drive coupe with battery relocated to the boot to make room for a fresh air box for some electronics under the bonnet.
There is a place called British Bigfoot (Classic British Car Parts) also in Mission, BC. They supply parts for a large variety of classic British cars. Nice web site with email address, and phone number, and PO Box number, but no street address. When I called there was a recording saying "Closed until July 24th". Really? Next year, maybe? For their negligence, better luck next time, and maybe we will inquire again later.
With one eye on the clock and fighting rush hour traffic, it took us nearly an hour to make 34 miles back west to Surrey (again). We lucked out and caught Senco Brake & Mechine Works (the way it is spelled on the sign)
still open in the evening. 34 years in service, they put friction linings on almost anything that moves, and also machine brake drums and rotors. Add sales of starters and alternators (and generators).
It was getting late in the evening, but we made another phone call, followed by another half hour "dash" due south through traffic to visit Oliver Bienz in White Rock, BC, south of Surrey near the U.S. border. Oliver provides instrument rebuilding services, nice clean functional reconditioning (not necessarily concours quality), quite well known in the business. Having had some problems with shipping back and forth across the country border, he is now accepting only Canadian customers please.
One more on the list, but out of time today so we will miss Octagon Motor Group in Vancouver, BC. (Sorry no pictures). In business since the early 1980's, they can do minor service or a full restoration for your vintage British car, and some more European models).
Good day this one with a visit to six of eight shops on our list, and all eight of them still in business (well, at least seven). Then one fuel stop and 115 miles east we were climbing hills through smoke in the mountains, and finally stopped to nest (still in the smoke) 40 miles east of Hope a bit after midnight. Forest fires all over this part of the country (although we haven't actually seen any of the fires yet).
Saturday August 5, 2017:
Another 100 miles on this morning we stopped for late breakfast (and WiFi) in Westbank, BC. We had hopes of visiting another shop, Drakes' British Cars in Kelowna, BC, but so far no response to my phone call voice message. But they are well known, and they do have a good web site. So we will likely use most of the day for WiFi work, and toddle on farther east tonight. We are supposed to be in Calgary sometime tomorrow, and it is still several hours away. At least I finally got caught up on photos and notes in this trip log today. And I can catch up on BBS but now can't download email again, or FTP files to my web site server. Oh well, maybe you will see this stuff in another day or two.
Late night we headed east and put down another 180 miles climbing through more mountains. We hit a rest stop 25 miles short of Golden after midnight with a mostly flat tire. Not knowing the rate of leakage, we used the little inflator to pump it up to 30-psi and got some sleep.
Sunday August 6, 2017:
Woke up to mostly flat tire again, which answered a few questions With that leak rate the puncture had to have happened after we left Hope the night before, and we needed to fix it immediately. So jack it up, remove the wheel, and the problem was immediately apparent. We had picked up a Robertson screw, one of the square drive flat head screws used to assemble trailer homes and camper trailers. In short, not too long to plug it, air it up, get it back on the car, and drive on into Hope for breakfast.
A long stint on WiFi finally got us caught up with photos and notes, and a good download of email (like three days worth). Lots of notes from Calgary, and we lost an hour to a time zone change, so tally on about 2-pm (or was it 3-pm?). There followed a long stint of 6% to 8% grades, sometimes having trouble hauling the trailer up the hills in 3rd gear.
Coolant temperature was higher than comfortable, something amiss, so we made a cool-down stop at the oversight spot for the Spiral Train. This had lots better visibility 20 years earlier when the trees were not so tall.
After a short cool down the car took two quarts of coolant, consumed sometime in the past 10 days. I think I found a tiny leak in the solder joint on the front face of the radiator top tank, to be looked into later. Back to common running temperatures, we made good time on the expressway (hills and all). By 6-pm we were greeting Azim Bhatia in Calgary, AB. I think he has an MGB stashed somewhere, but we were busy recuperating from the day's heat, and there were a few friends over for BBQ.
After dinner and some friendly chat, we ambled around the block for a surprise visit with a neighbor Bob Clark with an MGA that he has had for decades and used to drive a lot. Seems like a good time to get it running again, so start with putting the battery on a charger overnight, and get around to draining the stale fuel out of the tank, and we will check back later. He was obviously quite excited about this prospect.
Late enough tonight. When play time was over out hosts got to turn in while I got to work, mostly to bring you these photos and notes.
Monday August 7, 2017:
After a good night's sleep (for a change), I had a late morning telephone interview with Greg Williams, who is a freelance writer doing regular automotive articles for Calgary Herald and sometimes a couple of magazines. Will wait to see where this one may ultimately appear.
By mid afternoon, on the way out the door, we got to see Azim's MGs, two or them. He has a nice MG RV8, not seen much in the USA, but there are some of these in Canada. Inside the garage, up on the lift, was his MGB. The garage has a rather low ceiling, but with the MGB backed in with the top down and lifted very close to the ceiling, the RV8 can be parked underneath the lift. Have to smile at the close quarters double stacking.
In early evening we were off to visit Brian Linley in Calgary, where we were joined by 4 or 5 other MG enthusiasts for a BBQ (and friendly MG chat). We were immediately distracted by the beautiful MGA Coupe belonging to Roger Childs. This one has a very well done engine conversion with a BMW slant-4 engine that snuggles right in with plenty of space for the dual Weber side draft carburetors and large air cleaners. There is just a small bite out of the heater shelf and goal post to clear the distributor base, all properly welded in to retain the structural integrity (and keep the frame sealed). Looks like late model MGB radiator with electric fan and the polished metal coolant recovery bottle.
Then we had a look at Brian's MGA which was reported to have a severe coolant loss and overheating issue. This required a ten second diagnostic to discover the incorrect radiator pressure cap, whereby I immediately pulled the correct pressure cap out of the magic trailer, problem solved.
As a return, Brian soon produced a good used bumper overrider.
Alright! Remember the Alaskan moose encounter with my MGA? This was about to be a fairly easy fix. An angle grinder made quick work of removing the distorted overrider. After slight straightening of the bumper bottom flange, and a bit of correcting twist with a pry bar, the replacement overrider was installed in short order, and the daily drive MGA was looking much better.
Then someone magically produced an original Lucas dipper switch, April 1960 (close enough). This was less than ten minutes to install, and the Guru's headlights were working again. This was turning out to be good day. The failed dipper switch (third one failed in as many months) was destined to be dissected to find why they were failing.
Then the BBQ was on, but the weather turned to blustery and rain, so the party moved indoors. Nice chat with friendly folks, and I got them to ante up names, addresses and phone numbers for our Friends list, so we may be able to visit and check out their toys as well.
As the evening was winding down and folks were leaving, Brian and I strolled out to the garage to do an autopsy on the failed dipper switch. Not long to drill out two rivets in back and one in front to disassemble the switch, and then a few more minutes to get some photos of the internal bits.
The moving parts are a forked yoke with square neck for alignment in the housing, and a rotating square bobbin carrying the moving electrical contacts. Fixed position parts are the pot metal housing and phenolic rear plate, and three phosphor-bronze spring contact fingers. The center finger is the power input terminal, and it has a hook at the bottom end. When the switch is kicked, the square bobbin is pushed downward where the hook catches a corner of the bobbin to make it rotate 1/4 turn, which in turn presents moving electrical contacts alternately to one or the other of the output fingers.
One of the contact fingers was curled up, like maybe the bobbin had over-traveled and caught underneath it before returning upward. The forked yoke with square shank was a very loose fit in the housing, so the yoke could wobble around a lot. The only thing restraining this wobble would be the step cap that was riveted to the top end of the yoke. In some combination of motion the yoke came into contact with one of the output contact fingers, resulting in short to ground on the housing (through the yoke), as witnessed by the badly burned contact and a mating burn mark on the yoke. Additionally, it looks like the ends of the square rotating bobbin may not be exactly perpendicular to the rotational axis, and the two arms of the yoke may not be exactly parallel. Result of all that is binding of the bobbin in the yoke at one point of the rotation. This binding point is illustrated in the picture where the supporting axle pin is lying on the table while the bobbin is still stuck in the yoke.
There was a prior report of short to ground. The Moss Motors response (as noted by Kelvin Dodd in a message on a public bulletin board) was reportedly to add some thin Mylar insulator between some electrical parts to prevent shorting. This switch certainly had no such Mylar insulator parts, so this may be a case of "specification creep" when a successive production batch of parts was not made the same way. That may be a different issue than the fact that these switches have a repeating habit of not switching when actuated. That is, they may have two different failure modes.
We had one last look at Brian's MGA with a bit of discussion about the original steering wheel. Brian had ground out some cracks in the phenolic of the rim, filled them with JB Weld, sanded it smooth and repainted it. Unfortunately some of the cracks had returned, which was a significant disappointment.
Tuesday August 8, 2017:
This would be a busy day. Back around the block to see what we can do for Bob Clark's long idle MGA. Drain the stale fuel, reinstall the drain plug, add a gallon of gas, drip, drip, oops. Drain the fresh gas, put a new fiber washer on the drain plug and reinstall it, put the gas back in the tank, then on to the engine.
Old battery was very dead, so Bob ran off to pick up a new one. Reinstall a disconnected ignition switch, and fight the tight space and set screws behind the dash to get it reconnected. Get a catch can to purge the fuel lines.
Installed new battery, and took the opportunity to set it up for negative earth and re-polarize the generator (and swap wires on the ignition coil). Fuel pump not running, so pulled it out to check it. ECCO aftermarket pump, vintage 2007, Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic structure with screw-in replaceable hose barbs. It turned out to be electronic and polarity sensitive. Swapped power and ground wires, and it works, so reinstalled it, purged the pipes, and reconnected hose to carbs. Adjusted choke link cable, pull full choke, apply a little throttle, pull starter switch, and produced an instant grin on Bob's face as it fired right up. Good oil pressure, temperature stabilized, running a little rough. Out of time, but will return later for the tune-up.
Then we were off for an evening meeting with Calgary MG Car Club. The Vintage Sports Car Club of Calgary moved their meeting up from Wednesday to Tuesday to have a joint meeting of the two clubs (maybe for my benefit). It was a wonderful meeting with about 40 friendly people and lots of club activities on the agenda. Last up was a guest speaker, the MGA guru, who apparently had everyone glued to their seats followed by questions and answers.
The party then retired to the car park to kick some tires, where the MGA motor home turned out to be a major attraction. I count more than two dozen vintage cars in these pictures, mostly British, lots of MGs and TRs, and few mixed marks including a nice Opel GT. Maybe you can spot some more.
Wednesday August 9, 2017:
Back to Bob Clark's MGA, now that it runs (roughly) it was time for some diagnostics and a tune up. Quick to do a compression test for reference. Result is 120 +/-3 psi for all cylinders. Not bad for a long idle used 1500 engine.
Bob's neighbor dropped in for a while with his TVR 3000 Taimar, and hung around long enough to observe a valve clearance check and adjustment on the MGA. The valves were all a little tight and needed to be backed off a few thou, but nothing serious.
The carburetors were running quite rich, but that was an easy adjustment, along with flow synchronizing and idle speed adjustment, after which it ran well (resulting in another large grin). One float chamber was dripping just a little at the banjo bolt, so a new set of Viton rubber grommets came out of the magic trailer. Considering time allowed, we decided those bits could wait for later installation.
The master cylinder had crystallized glycol on it from long term wet cover (possibly leaky gasket), and the brake side of the reservoir was almost empty. The clutch worked okay (surprise), and it moved under its own power for the first time in 10 years, just out of the garage and back in, while the brakes were dragging with no hydraulic pressure. The hand brake pulled up tight without locking the wheels, and went slack when released while the brakes were still dragging. Diagnosis was frozen rear wheel cylinders, and dragging front disc brakes. Note for required service, new rear wheel cylinders, packing kits for the calipers and clutch slave (and maybe the master cylinder as well) and four new hydraulic hoses. Also to change all fluids, but this stuff looks minor when the momentum is cranked up. We had a few minutes to check out a nice AM/FM radio, Pianola Symphonic, which I think is circa 1970 or so.
In the evening we were off to visit Steve Bryant in Calgary, AB. He has an MGA 1500 that has been undergoing restoration for a couple of decades (maybe more). Steve made the steering wheel that looks nearly identical to the factory optional Bluemels wood rim steering wheel. There is also an original type factory aluminum hardtop, and a period correct Judson supercharger (drool if you must).
Time for BBQ with more friends, after which we were tire kicking the street cars for a short while. When others had left, Steve and I were talking shop until late night. When play time was over, I got to go back to work.
Thursday August 10, 2017:
We were going shop hopping today, but first one of our friends was just along the programmed route. Say hello to Matthew Fox. We have been chasing him for a while. When we put him on our Friends list he was living in Alaska. When we got to Alaska he had already moved to Calgary Alberta, Canada. Fortunately he still has his MGA. Nice driver type car that doesn't need much, so we had a had a short chat then had to be on our way.
Then we stopped to visit Sports Car Parts Automotive, British Auto Repair in Calgary. Say hello to Todd Cathcart, president. Lots of good fun toys here.
They had just bought the Jaguar E-type V12, going through checkup and full service prior to looking for a new owner. Quite a number more cars outside waiting their turn.
Next up was Auto-Mann, British Sports Car Specialists in Calgary. Say hello to Bill Ridge. Busy place. I estimated about 20 cars in process today, that many more in another bay waiting their turn. Below right is a Austin Seven in process of full restoration. Follow that with one of my favorites, the early MGB pull handle car (100 pounds lighter than the MGA). The Ford Cortina was very popular if you wanted to carry four people. More Brits and a Datsun Z-car outside.
One more shop to visit today, a quick stop at British Auto Specialists in Calgary. This place was loaded with British cars (and a few others) in for mechanical work and/or body-paint-restoration work. On request of management, no pictures inside, apparently in the interest of customers' privacy, and perhaps security issues.
After a couple calls we connected with Terrence Walters in Calgary. You may recognize him or his MGB from prior photos and notes, as he seems to get around to lots of local club activities (including meeting us in days past). This time I got a short ride in his MGB and that thing is rather quick.
But we were really here to check out his MGA project car, kind of early in the process. Body sills have typical tin worm issues, not too difficult to handle once you get the hang of cut and weld. The frame has cancer in a few places, but it looks repairable. When he mentioned thoughts about converting it to suicide doors I had to crawl all over his ego to talk him out of it. We had a nice chat with some good ideas about how to proceed.
We made another short stop to visit Marlow Ramsay in Calgary. He has a 1975 MGB that has been converted to twin HS4 carburetors. Much of the original emissions control parts have been deleted, including air pump and carbon canisters. This led to an extended discussion about how to restore crankcase ventilation, including filtering the incoming vent air. I rather like the high back bucket seats and the wind blocker (although wondering how much they block the rear view). We did tune the carbs.
Friday August 11, 2017:
Late breakfast followed by a few hours of WiFi catch up. By mid afternoon we were in for a visit with Dean and Joan Sandham in Calgary. I was immediately impressed by the workshop containing Dean's 1959 MGA 1500. This had some tune-up issues which we would tend to later.
Meanwhile a neighbor dropped in briefly with his 1958 Chevy 348 tri-power. For those too young or who may have forgotten, that is typical American iron from the 50's.
Then we had another slight diversion. Dean has this neat Glasspar G2 body shell tucked away in the workshop, with no particular plans for its future. Seems like he received this as part of a package deal for something else. It was the first production all-fiberglass sports car body built by an American fiberglass manufacturer.
These were usually built on Ford chassis, but eventually had a special chassis frame available. This was the beginning of the do-it-yourself kit car craze. Last picture is what it should look like finished.
Friendly chat led to a 5-pm BBQ. When Dean had to run off for the evening, I went along with him a half hour away as he was to be playing banjo in a 7-piece combo at Pioneer Acres of Alberta Show & Reunion in Irricana, Alberta, Canada.
Being a prior farm kid I rather enjoyed checking out hundreds of old trucks and tractors and other farm equipment, some dating back to early in the prior century. If you like the vintage equipment you can find more photos on a following page. Otherwise, continue below.
Saturday August 12, 2017:
Back to business? Today we got to tinker some on Dean's MGA which was not running so well, didn't want to idle, wanted to stall when the clutch was depressed. Both carburetors were way too lean, so we did a bit of carb tuning and balancing, a compression test, and valve lash adjustment. Approaching timing adjustment I noticed the distributor was mis-oriented, so we puled it out to re-oriented the distributor drive gear, flip the base clamp over the right side up, reinstall the distributor right way around, and then set the timing. She runs much better now.
There was mention that the turn signal switch had to be held on to prevent instant cancelling, so it was time for a bit of fettling. One knob, one bezel nut, three wires, and it was on the bench. Six more screws and one set screw, and it was disassembled for cleaning. As usual the the leather vacuum cup was not sealing in the cylinder, so we cut a thin strip of card stock to insert behind the edge of the leather cup (or in this case two strips) to bring it into intimate contact with the cylinder wall.
Add a smear of silicone grease to the leather flange and cylinder wall. With the vacuum piston working it was time for reassembly, along with the felt button and set screw in back to control the air bleed rate for timing. Installation is the reverse of removal, so in short order the self-cancelling turn signals were working for the first time in many years (insert big grin here).
Off for a test run but power was not up to par going up hill, and the throttle pedal didn't depress far enough,
so back to the shop. Crank arm on the throttle shaft was set at the wrong angle, and torsion springs on the throttle shafts were not tight enough. Quick adjustments put all that right, and we were back out for another test run. Woo-hoo! It runs like an MG, does not stall when clutch is depressed, pulls up hill in the grass at idle in 1st gear, revs freely to the red line, pulls like a train and zips around like an MG should. Another big grin and time for an ale, and to contemplate what an MG really is.
Sunday August 13, 2017:
After some late night chat, and later night WiFI work, this was supposed to be a day to get caught up with
the grunt work. Sleep in, breakfast, a little bit of computer work, and the door bell rang. A couple of neighbors wanted to chat about the MGA motor home and our adventures, and there went a good part of the day. Follow this with inside chat, and dinner, and more chat, and there went most of the rest of the day. I was once again sitting past midnight on the keyboard, but am now caught up with trip log photos and notes for the first time in more than a week. Now about that pesky club newsletter, .... Zzzzzzz.
Monday August 14, 2017:
Getting caught up with photos an notes, but had a short interruption. There was another motor vehicle that would crank over but wouldn't start, so we had a tinkering session with an Evinrude. No spark, and the story was they had recently replaced the ignition switch. Ten minutes to figure out how to disassemble the control box to get to the ignition switch. Typical old vehicle that was reworked with all blue wiring, so get the test light. Just when I found the hot wire the test light shorted to another terminal on the switch, one very short spark and then no power, so I recon it blew a fuse. No shop manual, no wiring diagrams, no idea where to find a fuse box or harness connectors. Then it started to rain, so the boat got backed into the garage. Rather that searching the net for a workshop manual, the owner decided to take it to a local boat shop for service, so this one got away without being finished.
Tuesday August 15, 2017:
Short story for a long day. Spent the whole day converting the CMGC newsletter to HTML format and posting it on the club web site. Caught up with email and BBS, and finally got some sleep.