The MGA With An Attitude
MGA Guru Is GOING MOBILE - (March 1, 2015 - March 15, 2015)
Sunday, March 1, 2015:
Travel day (mostly). It took is an hour and a half to get out of Abbeville LA when we ran into two closed bridges and some detour signs directing us in the wrong direction. But we did finally get to take the scenic route LA-82 along the Gulf coast for about 130 miles (all of what was left of Louisiana). We hopped on a ferry for all of three tenths of a mile, then encountered a few sporadic bursts of heavy rain while being entertained by the waves being whipped up some moderate winds.
About the time we crossed into Texas the rains let up an the speed limits jumped up. After a fuel stop in Port Arthur TX the rest of the trip was a flit. Just after sun down we landed in Deer Park, Texas (east side of Houston) for a visit with Pete and Nancy Newton. Pete is an internet friend from several years past as he has been restoring a MGA 1600-MK II that has been in the family since new. Texas BBQ ran into late night chat, and all is well with the world.
Monday, March 2, 2015:
Good day for carousing. One quick trip to the Post Office, and lots of car talk, great way to spend a day with a friend. I did manage to take a few pictures, and this car is a real photo op. As a matter of personal preference, non-standard colors and roadster seats being dressed to look like Coupe seats. Also vintage AM (looking) radio with a USB connector to plug in a thumb drive for music or anything else you may have recorded).
Tuesday, March 3, 2015:
I was just going to check and maybe tune his car in the morning, as it was running a little rich. But it turned out the fuel jets were stuck so bad they could not be moved with force meaning no choke function and no fuel mixture adjustment possible.
Cause of the problem was dried fuel gumming up the works like tree sap, because the car wasn't driven enough recently. So we ended up removing the carbs and mostly disassembling them for cleaning and oiling to free up the main jets and dashpot pistons. All back together and properly adjusted, it runs like a charm, and it shows on the face of the driver.
About noon we were off an running again, heading west via the scenic route (US 90A rather than I-10). I seem to have screwed up with Mapquest this time, blundering onto a toll road around Houston that cost us $10.50 to go 24 miles (double the tolls with the trailer). And it turns out it wasn't even the quickest way out of town. Man, I gotta stay off these Texas tollways. We arrived in San Antonio TX 4-1/2 hours later including a lunch break and fuel stop, having driven through a bit of rain along the way. We had about 90 minutes to spend on WiFi before our next appointment, after which we discovered we had left the lights on and had to push start the car (again). Just a gentle reminder that I still need to install that $3 piezo crystal for the lights on warning buzzer.
Ten minutes later we were cruising into the Alamo Cafe for dinner and business meeting with Alamo MG Association (about 30 people here). Now there's a friendly bunch of car enthusiasts. After the business part of the meeting I was invited to chat a bit about my life with the MGA and our current venture. Now either I'm really entertaining or there was something interesting about this story, because the jollies and questions went on for a long time until half the people had to leave. Then the meeting and questions resumed in the parking lot for another 20 or 30 minutes while they were checking out the car.
In the end it seems we were temporarily adopted by Larry and Pam Rogers who wanted to take us home for the night. That was jolly good fun chatting about cars and clubs until late, and then me working WiFi into the small hours to answer email and to bring you these photos and notes. Another long day but nothing unusual.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015:
After a few hour sprinting down interstate 10 today, hello, Houston, we're BACK! This time we seem to have a few hours to catch up with "work" (some of it). Then we have a meeting with Houston MG Car Club (with about 30 people present) at Christie's Cafe. Being early for dinner we had a chance to chat with several people before the business meeting. Then the club had a lot on it's mind for new members and guests, past, present and future events, finances, membership, regalia and door prizes. In the end we have a couple more appointments lined up.
Not much rubber-necking in the car park this time, because it was dribbling again. After a bit of web searching we finally ducked for cover for the night.
Thursday, March 5, 2015:
Today I paid a visit to Ray Holtzapple and his MG Shop in Houston. The first car to see was a 1975 MGB GT Golden Jubilee special. Only a small number of these cars were produced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of MG cars, and there may be only three of these in the USA. When the restoration is finished it should look like the photo below center. They were all British Racing Green with wide gold stripes, alloy wheels, and special badging. He has the Heritage information sheets to show this one is real.
Next up is an MG PA (finished), an MG TF (mid-restoration), and a 1964 pull handle MGB (a very nice car).
Ray seems to be rather fond of MGB-GTs, as there are several of these around his shop, including one with an original factory V8 engine (but not in the original car).
I think this is a MG TC in restoration. Next is an MGB engine with overdrive gearbox almost ready for installation. Last is a European specification late model MGB engine with dual carburetors and air cleaners to clear the brake booster (very slick and seldom seen in America).
While I was chatting with Ray he started pulling out some original documentation for MGA cars, including an original factory copy of the Engineering Technical Data for EX-187. This is the project that spawned the production MGA Twin Cam and all of its changes and updates during production. At one time he loaned the documents to MG Car Club (England) so they could reproduce it, then never got it back. But he does have a copy of it and the original cover. It is not for my immediate consumption, but he promises to scan it so it may be published on my web site.
Ray gave me a copy of the full list of MGA Twin Cams containing production dates, original colors and accessories, and last known owners. We do not know the production date of this document, so many of the cars may have different owners or may have been scrapped. He also gave me a copy of a report written by Russell Lowry in June 1955 detailing the personal and activities involved in the 1955 24 Hours Of Le Mans race with the then new (prototype class) MGA cars. This I hope to have posted on my web site soon.
Friday, March 6, 2015:
Today I had an appointment with Karen Hallett in Houston TX to do a bit of work in her 1954 MG TF (which ran when parked). The battery was pretty dead on arrival, but a charger was handy and brought it back to serviceable condition in short order. It cranked well, but didn't start. Good spark from the coil, decent spark at all four plug wires, no fuel in the tank (but the tank is very clean inside). So we transfer a gallon of fresh fuel from my MGA to the TF. In the process the fuel filler cap got a new cork seal (which came from my magic trailer).
The fuel pump would chatter loudly, but still no start, as there was still no fuel flow to the carburetors. This turned out to be a badly clogged in-line fuel filter, which was replaced by another new part from my magic trailer. Then the engine would then start but ran badly, as fuel was overflowing from the front carburetor. Off with the float chamber cover to R+R the float valve for cleaning, and reassembly, after which the front carb was still overflowing badly. Oh really? Remove the cover again to discover the float was barely floating, almost 99% submerged. Remove the float to discover it had fuel sloshing inside. Bummer. No spare part available this time, so I might take a shot at repairing this one.
I drug out my camp stove to boil up a pot of water, shut the heat off and drop the brass float into the hot water. In a few seconds it began to produce small bubbles from the solder joint around the girth of the float. This was apparently a very small leak, and it would likely take a long time to boil off all the fuel inside (before soldering up the leak point). I took one attempt at heating the float a bit quicker on the hot plate. This managed to destroy the float (one pop as the solder joint let loose), but no we didn't burn the garage down. Add one fuel float to the next parts order.
While the engine was running I noted that the ignition light was full on, meaning the generator was not charging the battery. Since the fuel float was not fixed we couldn't run it more, so the generator problem will wait for another time. Notice in the last picture above, the air cleaner cover bolts are a bear for access (on top of the fact that there were different hex head sizes requiring three different wrenches). With a new fuel float this car will run again, but probably needs a tune-up. A lot of the wiring harness connectors are in bad shape, mostly bare with no covers on the snap connectors, some of the connectors having been soldered together. That would be the result of 60 year old rubber-covered wires and a DPO making some shoe-string budget patches. Many of the rubber grommets passing through the firewall are missing. It is a nice car needing some more TLC (and begging for a new wiring harness).
Off to find a WiFi connection for the rest of the evening, and to Walmart late night to buy a pair of halogen sealed beam headlamp bulbs, as one of mine has given up the ghost.
Saturday, March 7, 2015:
Catch up day. Spent half the day answering email and reviewing bulletin boards, the other half day finishing the CMGC newsletter converesion to web pages. It was past midnight before we headed west out of Houston, driving in the rain.
Sunday, March 8, 2015:
When the rain got to us we stopped in Columbus TX for a breather, then heading northwest. Next stop was in Garfield TX on the outskirts of Austin for a breafast break being the first customers of the day when McD's flipped their lights on at 6-am. There we bumped into a nice bloke who wanted to talk cars, and we blew another four hours off the clock (when we should have been sleeping).
Cruising on west through Austin we finally arrived in Dripping Springs TX for our next appointment with Phil Auldridge who runs Austin Classic Limo. We parked next to the Hudson Hornet. My father owned one when I was young, but this is the first on I have seen as a 2-door Coupe. Inside we find the Cadillac, which I think may be the Super 8 (definitely with a V8 engine). There is also the big Jaguar which just got an alternator transplant (with power steering pump behind the alternator) and is having the AC compressor re-mounted.
Then we drove a few miles to visit Phil's other "garage" (workshop) where he keeps some of his personal toys.
There is a Metropolitan inside (and another one outside by the fence). There is a vintage Chevrolet truck, and a Pontiac, and the (little) MGA parked on the lift. A few more cars of not much consequence today are parked under wraps back in the same corner. It is a fun treat, but since the MG doesn't need much we don't spend too much time here. Beat a retreat back to the house for more chat time.
After late night chat I checked email but not much else. Having missed sleep the night before it was time to catch up on the important commodity.
Monday, March 9, 2015:
Today a late start, but not far to travel. In 90 minutes or so we go to Boerne TX (pronounce it like "Bernie"). We were here to visit Don and Jane Greer who have a 1952 MG TD tucked away in storage somewhere, which I may attempt to revive. After due introductions (and parking the navigator with his computer) we take the MGA (with its small tool box) five miles off to visit the locker.
There are also some tools here so the locker serves as an impromtu workshop. There was introduction and cursory inspection of the vehicle, which seemed to be in reasonable order. The battery had good charge so it would crank over quite well. With good spark and good fuel feed, all it took was a LOT of choke, part throttle and some patience cranking on it, and it was soon running (sort of running). Even after warm up it would not idle without holding considerable throttle opening, although a bit of choke could keep it running (along with fast idle setting). It was apparently running very lean. Standard tune-up procedure cranked the fuel mixture nuts down about three turns richer, and all was right with the world (purring like a kitten).
Weather was sprinkling a bit on and off, so Phil was hesitant to take it for a test drive. I managed to encourage him to at least take one lap around the storage lot. So he backed it out and I hopped in for a ride. About 100 feet into the test run Phil's eyes lit up with a grin and he said, "Want to take it home so Jane can see it"? Sure, why not. So we did. This was kind of like grins and giggles and old home week, getting the top-down scenic tour of the local Texas hills. On arrival home Phil parked the TD under the shed roof while Jane popped out for more grins and giggles. Then Phil decided to leave it here so he could work on it and drive it more now that it was running well, so we took his truck back to the locker to retrieve my MGA.
All was well with the world tonight, with a nice down home family dinner on the ranch accompanied by chat about what the MGA guru was up to, and the parts catalog taking over the dining room table the next morning.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015:
Late afternoon appointment today, so we got to sleep in a bit followed by some effort to get caught up on the guru's web site documentation. Around 2-pm we headed out, but 10 miles up the road we had to hang a U-turn, because navigator somehow left his computer back at the ranch. Oops.
After the retrieval and restart we were heading northwest again through beautiful Texas ranch and hill country, this time without the rain. Yee-Haa! These pictures come from route RM-473 for about 20 miles east from Sisterdale TX. It is a rather narrow and slightly rough 2-lane tarmak road with grass shoulders, nice roller coaster hills and enough turns to keep me alert at the wheel. The 60-mph speed limit seems more than generous (like most of the "brisk" roads in Texas). Don't ask me what the three cars are, but they will greet you if you pass this way.
Today's destination was the northwest corner of Austin TX to visit Chris and Heather Spence. Chris has a nice MGA 1600 tucked in underneath a classic Chevy Nova (which was his first car and he still has it). Some astute MGA guru fans may recognize the wheels on this MGA as Maxxim Verse wheels.
There never seems to be enough time for such things, but dinner and evening chat leads to the inevitable crash hour where the hosts turn in while the guru goes to work on the keyboard (so you can see these photos and notes).
Wednesday, March 11, 2015:
First visit today is at Jeff's Resurrections in Taylor TX. The third picture would be Jeff, a friedly bloke not afraid to get his hands dirty. This shop has lots of vintage cars inside, but the pictures stop here, as we will not infringe on privacy of the customers' cars. The place is truely full of eye candy with dozens of cars in process, some of them quite rare.
Then after another hour's cruise through oil and cattle country the next stop is Scott's Automotive Salvage Yard in Bryan, TX (near College Station). That would be Scott, a man truly enjoying his business.
The rest of the pictures are mostly British cars (and a few others) that I found here on a half hour stroll through the woods. Let's see if I get the models right (starting with the easy ones).
One MGA and seven MGB.
Triumph 2000, Spitfire, TR6, and three TR7.
Three Morris Minor.
Rover 3-Litre, Rover 2000 TC, Jaguar XJ6.
Austin 10, Austin America (I used to own one of those), and two Sunbeam Rapier.
At least three Datsun Z-cars (I'm sure I missed a few).
Fiat 2000, and a Kaiser Manhatten (Dad had two of those when I was young).
Tonight we kept plying north including long hauls up I-45 and US-75 until we ended up resting in Durant, Oklahoma, 375 miles for the day.
Thursday, March 12, 2015:
It was a late night last night, so we slept late today. Too late. We got rolling about noon, pushing it consistently 80-mph up the expressways, US-69, I-40, and I-49. At 4:15 pm we rolled into Bill Watkins' law office in Rogers, Arkansas. Short introductions, less than half an hour. I like his sign, he likes my car (but can't fit in it), and the things he likes to drive (Jensen Interceptor and a large vintage Jaguar). Will tell you why I'm here in a minute. With no advance notice we discover there is a local club meeting tonight, so we part company (to resume later).
Off to the nearest WiFi spot for an hour, followed by a short sprint back south. While escaping Rogers we stumbled across this rubber bumper MGB but no time to stop. Down the expressway a bit to Springdale, Arkansas, where we crashed the monthly club meeting of British Iron Touring Club of Northwest Arkansas at Jim's Razorback Pizza. Here we met with more than 30 jolly souls with a common interest, and I didn't have to do much more than smile and wave as we will be returning here later (much later). As it happens, this club has commissioned me to be guest speaker at their charity car show in September. I think this is the first time in this trip that I have stuck a pin in the map with a specific date more than a week in advance. If y'all can hang in there for another six months, we'll let you know what happens.
After the meeting we point it north again to continue up the experessway, I-49 to start. Not so rushed now, we can hold it down to 70-75 in the rain. We were getting some significnt dribbles from above the windscreen due to having used open cell foam rubber there. So just 15 miles on we stopped momentarily at a Lowe's store to pick up some more weather stripping
(different kind this time). Then a short stop under lights at a gas station to apply some of the sticky stuff. New material for the rag top to windscreen joint is soft hollow vinyl with double-D section, but only 1/4-inch thick. Better seal, but not quite perfect yet. From experience decades past, I also applied some foam rubber around the side curtains. This reduced wind noise and air infiltration considerably, so a successful experiment, and I think we will keep it for a while.
We think we would like to put one day back on the calendar, so we continue north in the night high tailing it up US-71 and I-44 until we land at Rolla, Missouri in the small hours of the morning 514 miles for the day.
Friday, March 13, 2015:
We have an appointment Saturday, but not today. Nonetheless we intend to make tracks to make up or reserve some future time. So after a short WiFi stint in late morning we continue north up the expressways, usually in the fast lane following whatever is moving well. That means 75 minimum and occasionally quicker, hauling up I-44, I-64 (through St. Louis MO and into Illinois) and I-55 for hours on end. Two fuel stops today, and we arrive at my storage locker in Romeoville, Illinois at 6-pm. Here we toss the ice chest out of the trailer to make space, and load in the spare rebuilt gearbox and some more tools, beating the 7-pm closing time by a few minutes. As of this report we are back on WiFi catching up on a few days backlog of photos and notes and BBS and email, 375 miles for the day (1262 miles since Wednesday morning). We are now close to 34,000 miles since early May.
Saturday, March 14, 2015:
Supposed to be a day off in Illinois, and I thought I would wash the car, but that didn't happen. Fairly early morning (8-ish) a short trip back to the locker in Romeoville to grab a cable jack I forgot in haste the night before. Then drop by my daughter's digs in Lisle to pick up the PO box key I mailed here a couple weeks earlier. Then up to College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn to drop off navigator so he can spend the day with his friend. Then off to the Post Office in Naperville to order up a new PO box key to replace the one that was lost. ETA two weeks? Such is life. Then on to WiFi for a while with little activity, but I did make an appointment with a friend to borrow his garage to work on my car later. Then a side trip to Ace Hardware to buy a lag screw eye bolt tough enough to hang an engine, and a few minor tools.
Then a trip to my favorite NAPA store in Lisle, which turned out to be vacant. What's this? I leave town for 10 months, and the store goes out of business? Did I really spend that much money there? Okay, then try Walmart in Glen Ellyn for engine oil, drain pan, antifreeze, followed by a short hitch on WiFi to find the next nearest NAPA. Then the phone rang, and navigator wanted a pickup, so back to COD, followed by NAPA in Glen Ellyn for an oil filter and a short friendly chat, followed by a late lunch break. Where has the time gone? Take a little hustle over to DuPage County Fairgronds in Wheaton by 6 pm to help the club set up for tomorrow's swap meet (less than 2 hours), followed by dinner with the gang at Alfie's in Glen Ellyn. But we're not finished yet.
After dinner another 40 mile drive NxNW to visit Victor L'Heureux in Crystal Lake where we get to check out his toy shop (garage). Two cars wide and two cars deep, with a two story climbing wall in the back (DPO endeavour), and a nice storage loft. I was immediately sizing up the upper floor joists to pick out a good spot for the lag screw eye bolt to be used to pull my engine. Enough of that, getting late, time for the hosts to crash while I spiffy up these photos and notes. Long day.
Sunday, March 15, 2015:
Arise at 4 am, depart Crystal Lake 4:30, heading for Wheaton IL for 5:30 opening of the CMGC swapmeet for vendor entry. Multiple buildings, famous guests, bargains galore, and a few cars for sale.
Visitors in by 8 am, folding shop around 2 pm, clean up to follow, then back to Crystal Lake. After about 2-hour cool down, head for the garage to drill a timber and install an eye bolt.
It didn't take too long to remove the engine and failed gearbox. Found a broken exhaust manifold in the process. Failed gearbox at left, replacement unit installed at right. Picture in the middle should be self-explanatory.
I stood the old gearbox on end and removed the failed layshaft long enough for pictures and measurements, then reassembled into the old gearbox for safe keeping. If I had a new layshaft handy it might be a good bet to install the new part and put it back on the road, as the unit was functioning perfectly with good synchronizers and finger tip shifting. It was just very noisy in first gear, and I wanted to fix it before catastrophic failure.
This gearbox was rebuilt fresh and installed in August 2006. In May 2014 it had accumulated 51,500 miles and already had a significant whine in 1st gear. During this road trip it has an additional 34,100 miles for 85,600 miles total, until the 1st gear whine had become intolerable for fear of catastrophic failure. This is the consequence of a layshaft with sub-standard hardness and 11-roller caged needle bearings (vs. 18-roller original bearings). The replacement gearbox has similar parts, so I know pretty well how long it may last before I have to do this all over again. For the miles I am currently driving that may be about two years. Original full compliment needle bearings are now avaiable again (for limited time perhaps), but I am still pleading for availability of better hardened layshafts. You can find tech articles about this problem in the MG Tech section of this web site.
I continued on to install the replacement gearbox and interior trim by midnight. Will resume in the morning after some shut-eye. I think that was just a 20-hour work day, about 6 hours of that working on the car.