The MGA With An Attitude
Mission Impossible

Someday you may be stuck on the roadside in need of a part that you don't have, or in your own shop in need of a tool that doesn't exist, or maybe you just don't have the money needed for the customary repair.  At times like these, necessity is the mother of invention. Such are the origins of

Grapes of Wrath Repairs
broken crankshaft
Changing a crankshaft in Motel-6 parking lot in Pensacola, Florida
For more details see the Four day tale of woe

After reading a few of these stories, you may recall an experience of your own along similar lines. If you have a Grapes of Wrath story that you would like to see posted here, please send it along to the e-mail address at the bottom of the page. The only requirements are that the repair had to have been done at little or no cost and with limited resources.

"The Grapes of Wrath" is a novel by John Steinbeck on the perils of people living in the Dust Bowl

Addendum, February 3, 2014:
improvized puller for main bearing cap.
Improvized puller for main bearing cap. You may recognize this as an MGA rear bumper bracket. Where there's a will, there's a way. Photo courtesy of Bill Jeffries.

MGA 1500 - Lada conversion

I couldn't stop grinning, and had to put this one at the top of the list, just as it was received. Once we get past the language barrier this is a heart warming story about Keeping It On The Road.

From: "demis aguilar" <>
Subject: I have an MGA. I want to join to your Club
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 22:20:44 +0000

Hello, my name is Demis I live in Havana, Cuba. I am 22 years old and I am owner of a MG MGA '58 and I have read much of the information that you have put in their web site. That has helped me a lot with some problems that I have had. I Wanted to know that possibilities have to join to their Club. Please I request I apologize but my English is not perfect. Awaiting your reply. Demis


From: "demis aguilar" <>
Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2002 22:09:27 +0000

hello. thank you for the explanation. Pardon if I ask many questions but it is that I have the car very recently. I buy it for $8000 and this under very good conditions except for the engine that I had to repair it. It is a 1500 and I adapted him pistons at 76.40mm (LADA) for not having the originals. Now recently repaired it throws away me it oils between the engine and the gearbox. We will see for where it really throws away it. I believe that if I have to take out the engine again I will commit suicide. for everything the rest I am very delighted with the MG. I should say that the crankshaft was left and I almost have to take out it "of under the earth" but the luck accompanies and thanks to god I found it. Here in Havana there is several MGAs but I believe that the most original is mine. the whole mechanics is original. the carburetor is a Weber 40DCOE32. tell me that you believe of all this and tell me in that price this valued in their country my car. thank you for the whole support that you have offered me. thank you. Demis

There was a longer exchange of information, as auto parts are very hard to find in Cuba. This young soul is well on his way to driving his very admirable MGA, and I suspect he will cherish it as much as anyone in the world.

For more information, and a chance to help this fellow out, check out

Radiator Tank Mashed

Slide hammer attached to radiator cap The radiator in my TD had been modified for the Volvo B16B that was in the car when I got it. Attempts to unmodify were not being successful. I finally found an unmodified TD radiator at a good price. Problem is -- it had been dropped on its head. the filler neck was caved in. The TD has a hefty screw-on radiator cap. I drilled a 1/4" hole in the center of a cap, put a bolt through it with the head backed up by a couple of fender washers; attached the slide hammer to the bolt; sat down with the radiator under my knees and started banging away. Took about an hour, but it worked. The brass of the top tank was forgiving enough to reshape itself without creasing or splitting.

BTW, when I finished with that application, I put a MotoMeter through the hole in the cap.

Bud Krueger
52TD (only child)

Dizzy Dizzy

My daughter's car died on the street. The center contact had fallen out of the inside of the distributor cap. I used a blade of grass as a shim to hold the contact in the cap, put it back on, fired right up, got it to the parts store.

Barney Gaylord
1958 MGA with an attitude

Another way to lick this problem is to use the spring out of a ball point pen....what about the old trick using panty hose as an emergency fan belt??


Picky Dizzy

How about a whittled down guitar pick to replace the broken rubbing block on a set of points? I had to bend the pick to get an attachment point, but fortunately the exhaust pipe was still hot enough to heat the pick so it would bend without breaking.

This was in my "impoverished student" days, and was done on a '59 VW Beetle. Held up for almost 6 months!

Never get to use that trick on my Midget, though, since it has a Crane/Allison electronic system. (Obligatory MG content)

Chris Kotting
'77 Midget (..has been used to go get parts for the...)
'93 Saturn

Spark Plugs and Corn Cobs

My Dad was great at that kind of stuff, he told me once broke a spark plug on a model T when he was young in the depression and fashioned one out of a corncob and piece of wire!

Pat Bailey

Ring Around The Piston

For those of us who have actually read "The Grapes of Wrath", we'll remember that Tom Joad used some brass wire to replace the broken piston rings on his truck!

Glen Eldridge

Wooden Indian

I think that the best DPO story I have seen, was on an Indian Motorcycle. We wondered why it shook more than any others we saw, but as it was going ok, it was left alone. When it finally stopped (About 2 years after it was purchased). we pulled one of the heads off, and inside was a perfect replica of a piston made out of Redgum. This thing had been working for 2 years on a wooden piston. I wouldn't have believed this if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

Hose The Valves

In lieu of the suction cup method, which I find frustrating when constantly losing suction, for valve lapping ..... another "shade tree" method that I employ. Slide a piece of the appropriate size hose or gas line over the stem of the valve on the top side of the head and twirl it in your hands, pulling the valve up toward you with the appropriate amount of pressure to effectively lap the valve much the same way you would with the suction cup method. Hope it works for you as well as it works for me.

Frank Krajewski

Armstrong Fuel Pump

A friend's fuel pump failed on the expressway. Didn't want to pay towing fee and had to get it off the road quickly (local law).

He walked off to a nearby hardware store, bought weed sprayer and flexible hose, put 1/2 gallon of fuel in the sprayer jug, connected hose from carbs to sprayer jug on the passenger seat, pumped the jug up and drove off. The car kept goin' as long as he kept pumpin'.

Paul Hammarstedt

Thumb Push Fuel Pump

On 5/21/20150, Ed Bandy in Tehachapi, CA wrote:
"The following story was told to me by Paul Westerlund (we worked together on Space Shuttles in Palmdale, CA. I bought his MGB). Driving in Boston (where traffic is so forgiving) the fuel pump failed. Paul re-routed the hose from the windshield washer tank to the carb input line and filled the washer tank with gasoline. His MG had a manual pump (on the dash) for the windshield washer. By pumping as required, he made it home!

Flashy Fuel Pump

I had a fuel pump fail once while more miles from home than I cared about. Pulled the cover off and discovered the points had welded themselves together. I recalled a tip I had seen in an article many moons ago, and pulled the hazard flasher and cobbled it inline with the pump power lead. Clicked lots slower than the pump normally did, but by holding the speed down, it got me back home.

Rick Morrison
74 Midget

Fuel Drips Doped

...... VW Bug pulled up which was leaking gas. It turned out the gas tank had a pin hole rusted through the bottom. ..... Mixed up some epoxy, let it harden a little, and smeared it on a sheet metal screw. Rolled up my sleeve and tightened the screw gently into the dripping pin hole. Stopped the leak completely right there in the driveway. I've always wondered how long they went with that makeshift repair.

Matt Kulka

I had a 67 Firebird once that had a similar problem. I took a bar of soap and smeared some soap into the leak and it stopped. This got me around until I fixed it using the same epoxy - screw trick. I wonder if that meant I had a new detergent gasoline. ;-)

Larry Macy
78 Midget

(More Grapes -- click green arrow)
HomeBack HomeNext
Thank you for your comments -- Send e-mail to <Barney Gaylord>
© 2000-2015 Barney Gaylord -- Copyright and reprint information