The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (September 1-September 15, 2014)

Monday, September 1, 2014:
Today we get to work bit on Larry Benson's MGA 1600 (Greenback, TN). This one has an 1800 engine and taller final drive ratio (3.91:1 I think). It has recently had bad running problems, sometimes not running on all cylinders. Larry wants to start it using no choke, claiming it usually starts that way from cold (which means it must run too rich). No go today, so pull the choke, and it starts (reluctantly). Very rough running, shut it off. Choke mechanism is not properly adjusted, requiring abnormally long pull for choke, rear choke comes on before front choke, and front choke is sticking badly. A couple of adjustments set that right in short order (except for the sticking problem), and it is idling well, so try a test drive.

We don't make it up the first hill, running on two cylinders. Pulling the choke makes it run better, so must be a fuel starvation issue, back to the garage. Disconnect fuel hose, stick in catch vessel, switch on, and we get a gusher, so it is not a fuel supply problem. Check screens at carburetor inlets, look clean, so reassemble the hoses, and it seems to run okay. Feeling a little more confident we carry a few tools and head for town to do some shopping. It runs okay until we are doing 65 up hill on the highway, in which case it reverts to running on three or maybe two cylinders for a little while. Slow down for a traffic light, and it runs normally. Has to be a fuel flow restriction somewhere.

Get groceries, get a little fuel, and head back down the highway. First long hill it reverts to running on two cylinders. Larry nurses it along until we get off on a side road, then open the bonnet for investigation while it is still running on two cylinders. Shorting plug leads reveals it runs on 1 & 2 but not firing on 3 & 4. Give the rear float chamber a couple of taps with a wrench, and a few seconds later it runs normally. Finish the drive home for further investigation, but it is then running on two cylinders again.

Pull top off of rear float chamber and find stuck float valve, cannot blow air through the valve. Larry thought these were Gross Jets, but I find a conventional float valve with rubber seal tip and spring loaded tail end. The valve pin is stuck tight, difficult to extract with finger pull. Once it is out I clean the seat, blow it out, reassemble, and the valve pin can then drop in/out by gravity. Reassemble all, and it starts and runs perfectly. Time for an ale, and it will get another work out later. There ensues an extended discussion about dirt in the fuel system, rusty fuel tanks, in-line filters, Gross Jets, and how to avoid the problem in the future.

Later evening we do some work to free up the stuck choke on the front carburetor. This turned out to be the lower jet bearing off center and binding. Centering the jet cured the sticking problem. Giving it a tune up, both carbs are adjusted full lean and it is still running slightly rich. Check needles, #5 on front carb. Float level looks good, so lower the needle 1/32-inch to get a little more adjustment range. Adding oil to dashpot dampers, I notice one dustless carburetor (vent hole in damper cap) and one later stye carburetor (vent hole in the dashpot cover). They seem to work okay together, but the mismatched arrangement might confuse some future mechanic. I also notice the rear damper has much less damping force than normal. Trying the front damper in the rear carburetor has the same result, so it appears to be (perhaps) too large bore in the top of the air piston (note to check that later). Then found the rear float valve sticking again, so we tossed it in the dust bin and installed a different one. Then took it for a 20 minute cruise around the "country block" on winding roads through the hills, and it is running much better now.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014:
This was mostly a grunt work day for the guru, starting with data backup to a remote hard drive. Then a friend turned up a lot of Technical Service Bulletins from British Leyland (117 of them) for MG Midget, MGB, and Austin Marina, which I have just uploaded to the CMGC club web site. I am finding that internet data via cell phone connection is slow and stumbling in fringe areas of the mountains, so this was time consuming. I suppose the lightning and thunder storm was not helping. For the curious, the data links are:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014:
Tonight we attend a meeting of the Tellico Village Vintage Vehicles club at the Tellico Yacht Club in Loudon, Tennessee. Go early for dinner about 40 people in the dinning room (but not many vintage vehicles in the car park that early). Later more than 90 people in a conference room. It seemed a bit odd that I might be the youngest person there. Report was 102 registered club members so it was amazing to see most of them in attendance at the meeting. They seem to be big on car shows and touring, some questions on where to get their cars serviced, perhaps not so much interest in hands on tech information.

On the way out we were kind of on the fly, and I didn't get pictures, but there were more vintage vehicles there. It was mostly older American cars some 50's through 70's machinery, and a mix of newer cars including Corvettes and a Viper. There are some older British cars in the club. You can see more of the cars on their web site (link above).

Thursday, September 4, 2014:
Tonight we take two MGA for a cruise going to a club meeting with English Auto Society of Knoxville, TN, but meeting this time at Litttle Joe's Pizza in Farragut, TN. We arrive a bit early with not many LBC in the car park. Ultimately having about 35 friendly chatty people in a room barely large enough, they manage to chow down and have a business meeting. Chat after the meeting runs a bit long, so not many LBC are left in the car park as we are leaving. But a good time was had by all, and it was a nice cruise back in the dark warm summer evening.

Friday, September 5, 2014:
Today I got to play some with a 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulietta. This one is all original low mileage, nice original paint, no rust, a sweet example of a survivor car. Not MG, not British, but a nice rare collectible car.

The primary chore today was to rebuild the water pump. There was a complete replacement water pump, but the cast housing and front pulley are not like original so we want to move the shaft and bearing and seal from the replacement pump into the original housing (as it is important to keep this survivor car as original as possible). For this effort we lean on some shop facilities of a friendly farm neighbor a mile down the road. We use his hydraulic press, the drill press and abrasive cut-off saw to make special fixture plates for the hydraulic press, and the large bench vice for much of the reassembly process. We also made a quick trip into town to buy a large pipe nipple to press the seal into the housing.

Assembly was not particularly difficult, but getting the replacement pump apart without damaging the needed useful parts was a bit tricky. We didn't mind breaking the cast iron belt pulley and the cast iron impeller, but we did dearly want to save the new seal (which is largely sheet metal stampings and somewhat delicate). In the end we did succeed, finishing with the original pump housing, front pulley and impeller, all connected together with the new shaft, bearing and seal. So it is still the original Alfa water pump, now rebuilt.

We then set out to rebuild a windscreen wiper motor that would not run. Here the commutator was badly burned and worn down. SOP is to chuck up the armature to spin it while resurfacing the commutator segments. Got to say we struck out on this one. Just before the commutator would clean up one of the copper segments broke away and took a flying leap. The parts were burned and worn too thin and would not take resizing again. We will guess that this one may have been rebuilt once before. In any case this motor will need a new armature.

There were some other small success for the day. We soldered together two turn signal light bulbs with some wire and alligator clips to make a test load for turn signal flasher units. After testing a number of used flasher units, and two new ones, we disassembled a couple that did not work, repaired one and put the guts of a new one into a vintage housing (for originality of appearance). One of those ultimately went into Larry's MGA to get the turn signals working, while a couple more working flashers are in reserve for future needs.

Saturday, September 6, 2014:
When there is nothing pressing on the schedule, we sometimes turn into tourists. Today we left the trailer behind momentarily while we turned south from Greenback, TN, to run US-129 from US-411 to North Carolina - NC-143. In he middle of this 47 mile stretch of winding road is Tail Of The Dragon, an 11.1 mile section with 318 curves. Traffic was not quite as heavy as I expected, so it was a rather pleasant drive. Approaching the Tail section we were following a Mustang Cobra that was following a Toyota Celica (a bit if a foot dragger). The Toyota turned off, and we soon caught up with a Harley Davidson (also not particularly quick). We took a few pictures here, figuring it would be too busy driving a few minutes later. The Harley pulled over at a view site just as we entered the tail section, and the chase was on (so to speak).

The Mustang was feeling rather frisky, buzzing that wonderful V8 at every opportunity as we paced along about 100 yards behind. There were some tight 180's at 20 mph tops, and plenty of sequential switch backs dodging left and right with irregular rhythm. Speed limit was 30-mph, and for the most part it was generally difficult to exceed the speed limit through the twisties. One nice feature of this road is well banked curves, so you can toss the car in and out of the turns almost with reckless abandon (and not too much tire squeal). There were also plenty of hills with twisties, up and down. I recon the MGA used more gear shifts than turns. All the while the Mustang was dead ahead. I suspect the driver was somewhat surprised that something very small and red was keeping up with him. At end of the 11.1 miles we crossed the North Carolina border, and shortly thereafter found an intersection with commercial attractions. The Mustang pulled over (among a hoard of Harleys), and we took the opportunity for another photo.

From there we continued south to Robinsville, TN, then heading west on NC-143 which is called Snowbird Road, then Santeetlah Road as it climbs to higher altitude. Encountering rain here, we stopped long enough to put the top up. The road then becomes Cherohala Skyway, going back into Tennessee as TN-165 as it follows along mountain ridges for many miles. Then it looses some altitude as it drops into a valley town called Tellico Plains.

From there we turned north on TN-360 (also named Ballplay Road). This is a more relaxed road winding through the mountains at a casual 45 mph. A little to the north we have sun and heat, and we stop to put the top down. A mere 22 miles gets us back up to US-411 at Vonora, TN. From there a short 8 miles back to our starting point. Total distance was just under 150 miles in 3-1/2 hours. In retrospect, it seemed like a rather long drive just to run 11 miles of Tail Of The Dragon. But it was jolly good fun. And we did want to say goodbye to Larry's chickens.

Sunday, September 7, 2014:
First order today is a visit with David Anderson in Harriman, Tennessee, who has a 1953 MG TD. This is a recent acquisition, being an older restoration in particularly good condition. David has done some work on it, like touching up the paint and installing a replacement prop shaft (which was badly needed). His concern was rough running and vibration from the engine, particularly at road speed. With fingers crossed, we hope it is not some imbalance in the engine or clutch assembly. Fortunately there is nothing seriously wrong with the engine or clutch. Rough running was only a tune up problem, The dual carb chokes were out of synch and needed a linkage adjustment. Fuel mixture was a bit rich and it smoothed our and ran much better after mixture and idle speed adjustments.

Then we took it for a test run through a few winding streets with some hills. The clutch pedal has excessive free play which needs to be adjusted to minimum. The 1250cc engine runs and pulls quite well. It produces 175-psi with compression test, so it must have flat top pistons. Not sure, but it may also have some uprated camshaft, as it loves to rev freely well past 5000 rpm. Steering produces a slightly unpredictable over-steer, implying that it may have excessive toe-in. Lots of body roll with the turns, which I suppose is normal for a TD. My first reaction is, "You might like to put a sway bar on this thing". There remains a significant amount of vibration transmitted from engine to chassis during normal driving, The engine stabilizer link seems to have particularly thin and stiff rubber washers. This may benefit from loosening up the retaining nuts, or/or fitting thicker and softer rubber grommets.

When David and his wife and Elliot and I shuffled off to lunch at a local eatery, I thought Larry should have a ride in my MGA for comparison, as he had apparently never ridden in another MG. My MGA with lower CG, a thick front anti-sway bar, more comfortable seats (relatively speaking), and more power, is a LOT different than the TD. On the return trip Larry drove the MGA, and was significantly impressed. I hope this doesn't lead to him selling the TD.

By 2 pm we were on the road again heading south down TN-58 (for about 90 minutes). The next stop was a visit with Gil Dupre in Chattanooga, TN, who has an MGB GT, and an MGA 1600-MK-II.

This MGA is almost notorious, having seen a lot of prior play on the BBS. I seem to recall this car was the test horse for "ease of installation" for one of the first Moss Motors Stainless Steel Exhaust by Tourist Trophy. I notice it also has an original style cell core radiator, which is very nice for good cooling. Gill tells me the radiator was re-cored some years ago, so I was really impressed that it got a cell core for the rebuild. It also has a fan shroud and an electric fan, which may not be needed with the cell core radiator.

The Escalade Taxi Jr. luggage trailer is also well known. Gill has had to add a lot of rubber around the box front end to make a good seal for the front hatch door. Otherwise, all peachy keen (but 250 pounds empty weight).

We were shortly joined by this nifty MGB carrying a GM 3.4L V6 engine, air conditioning and cruise control. It is very nicely done with factory fuel injection and all electronic engine controls. We all went to dinner at the local buffet, and a good time was had by all.

Monday, September 8, 2014:
After a long day catching up with internet work, we attended an evening meeting of the Southern British Car Club of Greater Chattanooga. This was a chatty bunch, about 25 people squeezed into a room that seemed a bit too small. They talk about car shows, tours, picnic, and cars of course. The MGA Guru crew was introduced with the typical 5-minute explanation of what we were doing. After the meeting adjourned the discussion resumed in the car park, for at least another half hour. Apparently the MGA motor home is a big hit here. Then we are back on WiFi to post these notes and photos.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014:
Today we take a few hours to shuffle up the road to Nashville, replacing broken throttle cable along the way. We are here to visit Micah Trotti, one of those MGA owners who does not have gray hair. He owns a 1961 MGA 1600 with older restoration still in very good condition. After a bit of chat about the cars he mentions "no front sway bar". So when we go off to dinner later he drives my car while I drive his car. I suppose he is impressed by a smooth running engine and crisp suspension. I find his vinyl seats a bit slippery, the engine running rough and sluggish (but of course we can fix that), and the fuel gauge doesn't work.

After dinner we set to fiddling a bit with his engine tuning. It doesn't want to accelerate without choke, but it runs rich otherwise. First guess is one carburetor running rich and the other one running lean. On investigation, the rear carb mixture nut is screwed all the way up and is so tight that it won't budge with the SU wrench. We have to remove the rear air cleaner for access and use a longer wrench to break the mixture nut loose. Otherwise it is a straight forward tune up. Still running a little rough, so we short out spark plugs one at a time, and find #2 and #3 cylinders a bit weak on firing. We R&R spark plugs, check plug resistance and HT wire resistance, do a compression test, but all looks well. Distributor cap has corroded terminals, which may account for the weak spark. Note to owner, install new cap and rotor. While fiddling with the distributor, I notice his 1600 car has low starter position, meaning it has a 1500 type gearbox and prop shaft and engine rear plate (oops). Also notice 1500 type coil mount on top of generator, missing the cradle plate so the coil wobbles.

A test run reveals sluggish acceleration at low speed, better running at higher speed. Return to shop to advance spark timing and reconnect vacuum advance. Car runs much better, pulls well at low speed, but pings some on acceleration (running with regular grade petrol). Retard spark a little, most of the pinging goes away. Note to owner, try a switch to premium fuel. Use a tie wrap to attach coolant temperature signal pipe to radiator hose to stop pipe vibration, heading off another expensive repair of broken pipe. Time to put the car to sleep, and it's midnight (time flies when you're having fun). Also time to put the people to sleep, or in my case, catch up with WiFi work before sleep.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014:
We hung out in Nashville most of the day, Music City and all that, but we're not really tourists, so no photos worth posting today. With the time zone change it gets dark a little earlier here. Late evening we cruised north an hour to Bowling Green, Kentucky, just sailing up I-65 in the dark.

Thursday, September 11, 2014:
The National Corvette Museum is in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and so were we, so we stopped in briefly for a few pictures. "Corvette Only Parking" right up front managed to bag a few pictures of private owners visiting.

At the front door, thousands of commemorative bricks in the sidewalk and a vintage Corvette on the turn table.

Inside up front, the new stuff on display, as they do like to sell these things. The more vintage cars are deeper inside. Not my cup of tea, so we move on, and we do not take the assembly plant tour.

Right across the street is Art's Corvette. Not all Corvettes, but definitely all Chevrolet. I suppose they like to sell some of these occasionally as well. Beyond the gift shop there is a $5 entry fee for the"Museum". Yup that's Art, a jolly old soul. He seemed to like my MGA with the tag along.
A few miles downtown gets us a look at Standard Oil #1, the first Standard gas station, now restored.

Driving north by daylight, we prefer the side roads for the scenery. Quite roads, old trees, and pretty sure that is the remains of an old grain grinding windmill.

Some redeeming social value here in Kentucky, tobacco drying barns, old and new.

But we are on our way to visit Charley Huff on the east side of Louisville, at the end of Sleepy Hollow Road in rural Prospect,KY.

We think this must be the right place, and he must be in here somewhere. He did say end of the road.

We are quickly running out of road as we begin to find some of his toys. And there's Charlie! We get to sit on the rear deck over looking the creek, watching wildlife in the woods, and chat until late night. I can catch up with the WiFi work tomorrow.

Here's bit of a challenge. Does anyone recognize the paint colors on the 1946 Chevrolet flat bed stake truck?

Friday, September 12, 2014:
Slow idle day. Catch up on WiFi work, and touch up some wiring on Charlie's MGB.

Charlie's MGB-Charlie's MGB GT-Charlie's Deer (find four in the picture).

Saturday, September 13, 2014:
Cars and Coffee get together in Prospect, KY.

British cars in abundance.

A Mini, A row of blown Cobra Mustangs, a Porsche 356 D-Type and a 911.

Visitor's choice curiosities.

Classic Chevy and Ford, a Buick Grand National V6, and a kit Cobra.

A variety of V-Dub's, and a nice Alfa Romeo.

The Rotary engine Bug-eye Sprite.


James Hurm's MGA 1500, factory aluminum hardtop, and wire wheel car trailer.
The MGA guru introduces James to Charlie, and we give the elbows a workout on Charlies deck.
James and Charlie live three miles apart and had never met.

Sunday, September 14, 2014:
Charlie takes the vintage equipment to do some mowing, while Elliot and I take another trip to James' place to work on his MGA. The car as been running badly, very rich at idle but dying (going lean) with a poke at the accelerator pedal. I suspect one carburetor running rich (possibly a stuck choke), and the other carb running very lean.

Sure enough, the front carb choke is sticking about half on, while the rear carb is turned full lean (and tight needing a wrench to loosen the mixture nut). The front carb has to come off for access to the jet gland nut. Polishing the jet and centering the jet bearing does the trick, allowing the jet to move freely. Then it is only a matter of reassembly and standard tune-up to get it purring like a kitten. End result is a permanent grin in James' face after a test drive. We go out for dinner and chat until sundown. Then back to Charlie's place for more chat until small hours of the morning.

Monday, September 15, 2014:
Today had some extra WiFi work, including sending a Webmaster's Report to the Chicagoland MG Club before their monthly membership meeting. These days the Webmaster's report includes a progress report on our MGA and the road trip.

Then James Hurm wanted to haul us off (after dark) to visit his more remote warehouse and part time workshop where he keeps two more MGA. One is a family heirloom (used to be his father's car) which is undergoing a painfully slow professional restoration. It has been in three different restoration shops (all now out of business) and is awaiting an appointment with a fourth shop. The other car is a "less attached" project car which James intends to restore himself after the first one is finished. It was a little bit painful to tell him the rocker panels on both cars were incorrect shape too tall, interfering with the doors and needed to be redone.

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