The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (October 1 - October 15, 2017)
Sunday October 1, 2017:
Off to visit Austin Healey Club of Manitoba today. There are MGs in this club too. They would be meeting at someone's home in the country for a business meeting and social. Rainy day, sloppy roads. Figured we must be going in the right direction when we were following the MGB GT, and we were. I think we had 25 people for the club meeting, some spilling over into another room. They were rather entertained or amazed by what the MGA guru was doing all over North America. We managed to collect another shop address, and invitation to a club tech session on Wednesday (if we happen to still be around by then).
Monday October 2, 2017:
No appointments. Working on some tech stuff.
Tuesday October 3, 2017:
Having some fun today. Dropped in on Tom Struthers in Winnipeg, MB. Here's a guy who has his priorities in order, lots of garage and workshop space up front, and house tucked in behind.
He has quite a collection of vintage British cars rather well stuffed into available garage space. The Lotus 7 replica is some kind of 1098cc Austin or Morris underneath, and may be up for grabs. Making my way past the Jaguar XK 120, big Healey and Triumph Stag, I smiled at the 70's something Land Rover, all original and looks like new. To the left of the Stag was a Land Rover trailer to match.
A bit more elbow room in the workshop. The Healey chassis and body in back is finished and about to go out for paint. That one was reassembled with new chassis frame and nearly all new underbody sheet metal, using the original body cowling on top. A story for every car, and lots more cars in a past life with a photo album to keep the memories alive.
Then we were off to visit Red Bearing Automotive Service & Restoration in rural Stony Mountain, MB. This shop used to be in Winnipeg, just moved out to larger quarters a couple months earlier. They provide service and restoration work, specializing in vintage British cars (with a few other things on the side).
The rolling chassis is for a Jaguar, something fairly large (but can't remember which model). Some more "feed stock" outside, and a peek at some of the indoor storage space. The tough jobs come here.
Wednesday October 4, 2017:
We had an 8-am appointment with some Brit car enthusiasts at the home shop of Graham Lowden in rural St. Clements, MB. No one there that early, so we had time from breakfast before the gang began to arrive after which they turned out in force. Not a commercial shop, just an invite for friends to get together to work on the cars every Wednesday (which means they are mostly retired folks). Big shop with drive around space inside. Nice lounge in front, followed by a kitchen.
More cars rolling in by mid morning.
Eventually we had 19 people squeezed into the lounge for lunch.
Behind the kitchen was the engine assembly room and upholstery shop. Slipping through the side door into the workshop space the first car in view was the resident Lotus belonging to the prior engine and gearbox. Restoration work is well into the reassembly stage.
Next to the Lotus was a Triumph Stag ready to fit the carburetors. A couple of TR6's for tune-up work and other minor tweaking. I think the big Healey is resident, completely restored, finished.
Stepping into the back bay, mostly for storage space, a few complete cars and a few restoration projects. In another month or two most of the space will be filled with friends' cars for winter storage.
Another big Healey disassembled and waiting, and a TR3 in mid restoration. There was a nice aluminum cargo trailer that is reported to be easy towing just big enough to carry most of the little British cars, although the big Healey didn't quite fit when bumpers were installed due to the taper at front of the trailer.
In early afternoon we took a short side trip to visit Classic Motor Works in rural St. Andrews, MB. This used to be a larger commercial shop in Winnipeg, but more recently moved to the owner's home in the country. The small building with the Mini in front is the Morgan shop, or the home of one Morgan.
The slightly larger building is a large inventory of spare parts serving almost everyone in the area.
Say hello to the owner, Dyrk. There is some engine building going on here.
The place specializes in racewear and safety equipment, and is a stocking distributor for race tires for Mini and Formula Ford and other sport racer cars.
Then we headed back to Graham's place where the gang was finishing up their work. After everyone had left and we were about to go, the phone rang with a message that one of the MGAs was dead on the road a few miles away. So we took my car for the rescue run. Five minutes of diagnostics revealed a dead ignition coil with open circuit in the primary winding.
I had a spare coil in the magic trailer, so another ten minutes tinkering had the car back on the road. Then back to Graham's place to pick up a good used coil to restock the trailer.
In the evening we were back in Winnipeg for a "Tech Session" with some members of the Triumph Drivers Club of Manitoba. Actually a natter "N" noggin, but "Tech" sounds better for the wives. They do talk about the cars, so it is sort of a tech session. As I have been collecting stickers for the car, I was offered a very nice grille badge for TDCM, but I don't hang stuff in front of the radiator, and try not to add too much extra weight, so the offer was respectfully declined. I did however collect another club window sticker.
Thursday October 5, 2017:
We picked up another shop referral yesterday so this morning we had another appointment to visit British Motors Garage in Winnipeg, MB. Meet the owner, John Beaty. I suppose there were a few phone calls and email messages floating around, so there were a couple more MG enthusiasts here to meet us.
This shop is almost exclusively for MG service and restoration. A few of the MGAs on the side have been waiting in the queue for something like 40 years. I think this place closes for the winter months, so call ahead for information or appointment.
Friday October 6, 2017:
Headed south out of Canada today, landing temporarily in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Put away Canadian currency, get out U.S. currency, charge up stateside cell phone, number is now 630-946-3841 (again). Catch up with trip log photos and notes, email, BBS, a few tech page updates. Fuel price is back to $2.59/gal.
Saturday October 7, 2017:
Just 80 miles farther on, stopped in Fargo, ND today, staring at the Minnesota state line. Spent rest of the day looking forward to Minnesota friends, clubs and shops (did ND fairly well a couple years ago). Substantially warmer today with temps in the low 60's (F) and full sun. All around nice day.
Sunday October 8, 2017:
A casual 156 miles up the road, sitting in Avon, Minnesota this morning, spittin' distance from St Cloud. Looking forward to a number of shop visits around Minneapolis on Monday. Keyboard is whacky with dysfunctional left "Ctrl" key and "X" and "C" keys not working (not the first time). Where am I going to find a capital "X" to copy and paste? Rebooting the computer doesn't help. Looks like I will have to tear the keyboard apart to try to fix it. Hope I don't break the computer in the process. --- Well, disassembling and cleaning a few keys didn't help. I did find what looked like a little corrosion under there. So I ordered a new keyboard (cheap). Rest of the day searching for a couple of shop addresses, making a few phone calls, getting ready to roll in the morning.
Monday October 9, 2017:
And roll we did. About an hour and quarter due east for our first stop at BMC British Automobile in Isanti, MN.
This is the new shop occupied a bit less than two years ago after our last visit to the old shop in Stacy, MN. The new building sort of goes on forever, with the front office space being larger than the entire prior complex.
Up front we had a display of some of the new products they are making for your pleasure. There is the business of LED tail lights they have taken over, now expanding into more models for different cars and some motorcycles. Also complete wiring harnesses with extra fuses and relays, with wire colors suitable for the vintage British cars (and some non-British stuff). Also lots of parts and materials for service and restoration work.
The front shop has room for at least a dozen cars with plenty of walk-around work space.
The back shop has space for several more cars and a paint booth. In the paint boot was most of an MG Midget (which will soon be looking for a new home).
The kicker for this visit was a restored MGA that is the recipient of
roller cam serial number 3 for the Austin B-series engine (although there is #4 hanging around somewhere not running yet). I hopped in for a quick trip around the neighborhood (the key word being "quick"). With some head porting and 1-3/4-inch SU carbs, we're guessing something like 140-HP (not dyno'd yet), and it does like to rev (scream?). Not exactly a bolt-in kit, it requires reaming out the lifter bores and some grinding to clear pushrods. But I can see some more of these coming down the pike soon.
Then we were hauling back west about 45 minutes to Special Interest Auto in Minneapolis, MN. Say hello to Jeff Flynn. The special interest here is mostly Jaguar, although they do work on other vintage British cars occasionally, notice the Ferrari on the lift and the MG TC in the shop today).
Our next "intended" visit was Precision Classics in Minneapolis, MN. Alas not to be, the current occupant has been here for five years. Will investigate further but suspect P.C. is long gone. On the flip side, the current occupant is a body shop called Midwest Auto Customs who do some nice body and paint work (and install electronics), and will work on vintage British cars (including rust repair when necessary). Two doors down in the same building was Best Body Shop, not open on Mondays, but reportedly specializing in restoration of vintage cars. We will call this one later.
In the middle was Alexander's Import Auto Repair, which was locked, but was reported to be spill-over for a larger shop a few blocks away. So we went there to investigate. Sure enough, they work on Import cars, including vintage British cars if you like. Mechanical and electrical work only, no body or paint work. They also have some neat loaner cars.
Enroute to our next appointment we got a return call from Steve Rixon of Strictly British. Pull over and chat for a few minutes. Steve used to have a service shop in Hudson, Wisconsin, but closed that shop when he moved to the Minneapolis area a few years ago. He now lives in Shoreview, MN on the north edge of Minneapolis (about 40 miles from where we were sitting), and he runs a mobile repair service for our British cars. He was a bit under the weather today, so we would not be bugging him in person this time. But it was good to verify that he is still in business. He can travel within a few hundred miles of Minneapolis to service your British car.
Next a brief stop at APT Instruments International in Bloomington, MN, otherwise know as The Gauge Guys or The Speedometer Shop. I suppose they were somewhat busy, not much time to chat, but they are definitely still in business with the open shop.
The next stop was more of a challenge, finding Advanced Distributors in rural Shakopee, MN. Apparently this is not a road, just his driveway, but it's a good quarter mile back to his property. That nice old barn is the workshop. Say hello to Jeff Schlemmer, the guy who works magic rebuilding distributors, and making condensers and rotors that actually work.
By coincidence, he was just drying off some freshly cleaned MGA distributor bodies as I was arriving. Lots of little bits on the assembly bench as he was about to put some of them back together. And the Sun distributor testing and calibration machines, well, it seems he has at least a dozen of those sitting around somewhere.
On the side there was this Austin B-series engine (think MG Midget), with a roller cam. And it that wasn't enough, also a BMW dual overhead cam cylinder head. Say WHAT? How fast did you say you wanted to go? The tool in the center is a special multi-step reamer used to enlarge the tappet bores in the engine block to fit the smallest size roller tappets available. Had to go, but at least picked up a a few good condensers on the way out.
We had one more shop on our list, New Life to Classics in Mankato, MN, supposed to be a restoration shop specializing in MGA. But it was an hour out of town and getting on in the evening, so we should call first. The phone number was disconnected, so we found a WiFi spot to do a little research. Turned out the shop owner Dave Wintz had died in 2015. Apparently his son was in business with him, so we will inquire some more (later) to see if we can find him and if the shop might still be open.
Then it was time for a (very) late lunch, and the daily chores of email and BBS, and to begin posting the day's photos and notes. Also the CMGC newsletter electronic copy arrived this morning, so there will need to be some time aside to post that on the club web site (huge issue this time). I also posted a reply to an email message from a local club member, which happened to be addressed to multiple members, noting that we were sitting in Prior Lake, MN.
Some time after 9-pm the phone rang. The call was from Gene Cooper, a long time member of Chicagoland MG Club before moving to Minnesota for job assignment some years ago. He was also one of the local club members in that last email message, and he noticed where we were sitting, which happened to be very close to his home in Prior Lake, MN. Wow, small world. So run right over there and say hello, get to watch a little Chicago Bears football, and where has the time gone?
Tuesday October 10, 2017:
Catching up a long day's worth of photos and notes, and two days email. Also looking forward to the net few days appointments (and it looks like busy). Out for dinner, followed by a Chicago Blackhawks hocky game (must be getting close to Chicago again). Get some sleep; gotta get an early start tomorrow.
Wednesday October 11, 2017:
Off early today, two hours out we stopped in Eau Claire, Wisonsin for a visit to Eau Claire British Car. We missed this one two years ago with a slight schedule mismatch. Say hello to Steve Rindt, a master of all things British. That's a Series-I E-Type engine to go with the Jag under the drop cloth. The white MGB is about as classy as they come.
The bug eye Sprite is now a 1275 engine upgrade with a bunch of matching later model parts. There is an MG TD, another MGB, and an MG TD-MK-II. In the trailer a very nice Triumph Spitfire. We arrived late, chatted too long ,and have to get moving.
Another three hours down the road we had a one hour pit stop at World Wide Auto Parts in Madison, WI. Just time enough time to swap out a pair of front shock absorbers to do some more road testing. I was also introduced to the juice that Peter uses and recommends for use in hydraulic shock absorbers, Redline Synthetic 30W Suspension Fluid.
Our net stop was in interesting fizzle. We were looking for Foreign Car Specialists when we ran across "Lucky's 1313 Brew Pub" at 1313 Regent Street in Madison, Wisconsin. The vintage car service specialist is gone since 2015 when this micro-brewery took over the building. Their menu cover relates the history of the building beginning with Meiers Garage (Yellow Truck Franchise) in the late 1920's, then became General Motors, hen GM Truck, and a repair center for Badge Bus. In 1966 it became rental property, to be occupied by Foreign Car Specialists in 1969 continuing until 2015 (a 46 year run) when it became Lucky's 1313 Brew Pub.
The funny bit is that if we had visited this place early in our trip in 2014, we would still have this address listed as a service center for vintage British cars. More importantly, we know they have moved to 6805 Seybold Rd in Madison, and we blew it and didn't get there, so will have to keep this one on the list for a later visit.
In the evening we had a meeting with Madison British Car Group in McFarland, WI. We hadn't even rolled to a stop when we were "found out" by a few of the local club members. What a jolly good greeting. Inside we had just enough time to grab dinner before the club meeting with two dozen people. Being guests of honor, so to speak, stories of the MGA guru had a warm reception. We picked up another business card for a shop we had visited two years earlier, Sports Car Madison, now with a new address. We will make time to visit that one again later. After the meeting no hands up, so we had another short run on WiFi before heading northwest into the night.
Thursday October 12, 2017:
Start the day with failure of the little Lucas condenser, lasted 4-months, 17,500 miles. Not good, but better than some recent condensers. Giving Mallory one more try (even though I have not much confidence in them these days).
The morning appointment was a visit to the premises of Fox Cities British Car Club near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I've been wanting to see this place for years. The facility is owned by one of the club members, but is treated largely as the clubhouse. Today our tour guide was Dennis Plaunt, and that is one of his TR8's.
There is substantial indoor heated storage space, which in another month or so will fill up with more cars for winter storage. The BIG British car in the middle is an award winning 1958 Jaguar MK-VIII.
In the right end of the building is a large workshop with three lifts and lots of tools.
In front a nice club room for business meetings, a kitchen (behind the Foosball game), and the pub lounge.
Then we were off to visit Gunner's Great Garage in Manawa, Wisconsin, advertising restorations, books, gifts, appraisals. Shop was closed when we arrived, so we made the phone call. All the fun was happening 15 miles away at another facility in Waupaca, WI, so off we went. The sign says "Hansen", but that was the previous owner, recent acquisition, no time to change the sign yet. Say hello to the owner John "Gunner" Gunnell. This building has a 100 year history, so hang on.
John has a fondness for old Oakland cars (among other things). He bought this garage a while back before he found out it was a dealer and service shop for Oakland cars 100 years ago. Very recently he bought the 1917 Oakland that was in the shop today. It is currently engaged in a run of the Yellowstone Trail Tour, raising funds for disabled children. Twenty-five miles into the run the car lost oil pressure with a failing connecting rod bearing. The car was then loaded onto a trailer to continue the tour, subsequently landing here at the shop, which coincidentally happens to be on the tour route. With plenty of helping hands a new rod bearing was installed, and the oil pan was cleaned and painted. That resulted in a leak in the pan which was quickly patched before the car was to continue the tour.
Gunner's "Hansen" garage is quite nice for its age with plenty of shop space and the requisite facilities. The poster is from John's younger years when he used to be a motorcycle daredevil rider. No British cars here today, but there is at least one in his shop in Manawa.
I had to take a shot at visiting British Sports Car Center in Seymour, Wisconsin. This is a huge "junk yard" for British cars and car parts. It was (used to be) on a rural road near Seymour, Wisconsin. I had been there a few times in the mid to late 90's to get parts for my MGA. More recently all of the cars and huge inventory of used parts has been relocated, and the property has been sold. But the good stuff still exists. You can still contact Chris Mills for parts you may need. I placed a call and left a voice message. Chris called back later while he was visiting a friend, and we had a nice chat. All is well with the stash of good used British car parts.
Getting late in the day we needed to hustle a bit to visit APS Tower Paint Company, Inc in Appleton, WI. Surprise, another name change, two years ago the place changed hands and is now Finishmaster (Branch #24). As far as I an tell it is the same shop with same products and services. They can custom mix automotive paints to your specifications. If you have an original paint code, no problem, mix to match, package in bulk containers, aerosol cans, touch-up bottles, whatever you like, and likely ship it out same day. If you don't have a paint code, but can supply a sample part, they can scan it for a perfect match. So I put it to the test. My MGA was repainted 18 months ago, having "matched" the color sprayed on seven years earlier. I pulled the boot lid off (remember my thumb screws) and had is scanned, ordered two spray cans and a touch-up bottle to be shipped to a friend's home in Illinois. Order was placed 4-pm Thursday, was processed and shipped on Friday, and arrived Saturday mid day. Nice service.
After a little WiFi time, navigator says we head south, need to be in Milwaukee tomorrow.
Friday October 13, 2017:
Lots of shops and miles to go today, so off to an early start. First stop was Mraz Import Automotive in Brookfield, WI. This is a thoroughly modern service shop that deals a lot with modern cars, but likes to service vintage cars as well when they come along. There was one MGB in the shop today. Mechanical and electrical work only, no body or paint work here.
Next up was a shot at Fred's Automotive in Milwaukee, WI. We had some reason to believe this was likely to be a dud, and it was.
No one knows how long this shop has been closed, and there seems to be no trace of it on the internet. While searching we found another shop named Fred's Auto & Body Repair in Milwaukee. This one is in my opinion not the place you want to take your vintage British car (even though they claim to work on everything).
Then we had an interesting stop. We were looking for British Auto Service in Milwaukee, WI, which was supposed to be a fairly well known and recommended shop. That would be under the blue awning, except it is no more. It has been closed for a few years, and the space has been bought up by the shop next door named Bennett Coachworks, LLC. This place specializes in restoration of vintage cars, it is huge, and they have some interesting things here, including some British cars.
That would be a Jaguar E-type Coupe, a Cobra (and a couple of Datsun Z cars), a very vintage Rolls Royce (I think), and something rare and very Italian.
Since we were in the neighborhood, we thought we should drop in on MG Limited in Greenfield, WI. We were here before, more than three years ago during our third day of this road trip. Door locked and no one in the office (gone to lunch I suppose), so we didn't stay long.
An hour south we made a brief stop at Autosport By Steve, Inc (previously Pucci Autosports?) in Kenosha, WI. Say hello to Steve Tredup. I think they were rather busy with no time to chat, but I did get the business card. At least they are still there.
We were then looking for Sports Car Center in Kenosha, WI. We struck out here, as the shop has been replaced by Augie's Autos, which has naught to do with vintage British cars. We don't know how long SCC has been gone.
Finally finished with Wisconsin for now, late evening heading south for a visit with our old friends Victor and Penny L'Heureux in Crystal Lake, Illinois. You might recall this is the place where I swapped out my gearbox, then rebuilt the gearbox later, then changed the cylinder head on another visit. Nothing special happening this time, just to enjoy dinner out and have a nice chat. The news this time is the start of a new screened in deck in back to replace the old leaky one (and that the basement remodeling is still not finished). Late night heading farther south, as we have an early morning appointment.
Saturday October 14, 2017:
Lisle, Illinois this morning for Free Car Safety Inspection For Seniors, hosted by Naperville and Lisle Townships TRIAD. Who ordered the flooding rain storm? Most of the safety inspectors were volunteers from Chicagoland MG Club, and two MGs showed up for vintage vehicle display. Coffee and mini-muffins for all the guests as the staff was busy registering and processing cars.
Business began a little slow, but as the weather changed from deluge to just steady downpour the traffic increased a bit. By mid day we had inspected 50 cars in 4 hours. Good results this time with mostly good cars, one a bit low on oil, a couple with no license plate lamps, and just a couple low tires.
In the evening an hour north to the Home of Ray and Sue Hansen in Libertyville, IL for "Thank You Reinout and Henneke Vogt" going away party. Nice turn-out with about 60 club members and friends present. Still raining , all day and all night, but good time was had by all.
Later night run back south to Naperville, terminating with a flat tire on the trailer in the pouring rain.
Trying to sit it out, but no luck. Restaurant closed at 11-pm, and we ended up changing the tire in the rain. Amazing what one tiny little brad nail can do (and I pulled it out with my fingers). These tires have only 10,000 miles but are just about toast. Looks like too much tire pressure with 1-inch wide wear band in the center and very little wear on the shoulders. Looks like we will be shopping for trailer tires again in the next day or two.
Sunday October 15, 2017:
Catch-up day. Navigator spent the day with his friends while I was catching up with (most of) the photos and notes form the past few days. A few tech questions, and another appointment for tomorrow.